The Cheltenham Open Meeting is always a key weekend at the start of each jumps season with plenty of useful information, and this year was no different. A week of mixed fortunes for big name trainers, with Jonjo O’Neill breaking his cold spell in style by taking the BetVictor Gold Cup (although not with the horse many expected!) while Nicky Henderson had bad news about not one but two of his stable stars.
Cheltenham Open Meeting – Key Points
- Fox Norton was the most impressive winner of the weekend, taking the Shloer Chase by 9 lengths from Simply Ned. His price contracted from 20/1 to 6/1 for the Champion Chase, aided by the announcement of Sprinter Sacre’s retirement.
- O O Seven hacked up on Friday for Nicky Henderson, and has been installed at 25/1 to land the RSA Chase in March. The form of Jer’s Girl (beat O O Seven by 10 lengths) has been massively boosted.
- Defi Du Seuil, owned by J P McManus, comfortably won the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial following strong support. Cut to joint 16/1 favourite by most bookies.
- Taquin Du Seuil won the BetVictor Gold Cup for Jonjo O’Neill impressively. He looks set for a crack at the Ryanair Chase and is currently 16/1.
- More Of That, sent off clear 7/2 favourite for the same race, was pulled up after the last and will be difficult to place next time out
- Ballyandy was backed like defeat was out of the question in his rematch with Moon Racer but it was the latter – 2015 Champion Bumper winner – who won well with the favourite back in third. Moon Racer is now joint 8/1 favourite for the Supreme Novices Hurdle while Nigel Twiston-Davies may step Ballyandy up in trip.
- Le Prezien took home the Arkle Trial but was unconvincing and is just 25/1 to win the big race at the festival. Some Plan ran well for a long way before falling but isn’t currently available on the antepost markets.
Thistlecrack’s Winning Chase Debut
One of the main attractions at the weekend was last season’s World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack who is going over fences this season. He impressed over the larger obstacles on his first start of the season at Chepstow but didn’t particularly impress at the weekend, going off the 1/7 favourite.
Although he got the job done, he looked like a novice chaser in the jumping department. There is no doubting the engine he possesses but there has to be question marks as to whether his jumping will win him a Gold Cup. He has plenty of time to improve but at the current prices of 4/1, he offers no value whatsoever. Best of luck to the Tizzard stable with him this season and we hope it works out for them.
Sprinter Sacre & Simonsig
This is a week that Nicky Henderson will want to forget. The reigning Queen Mother Champion Chaser Sprinter Sacre sadly had to be retired at the weekend due to a minor leg injury. To compound the misery, former Arkle winner Simonsig sadly lost his life during the Shloer Chase. Our thoughts are with connections.
In our tribute article to “the Black Aeroplane” Sprinter Sacre, we celebrate the best moments of the superstars’ career
This Week’s Racing
The Betfair Chase is going to be a sublime watch this coming weekend and on paper it looks like a match up between Cue Card and Coneygree: the horse that should have probably won the Gold Cup last season versus the horse that won it as a novice in 2015. The latter, trained by Mark Bradstock, has a long absence to overcome following injury and there are plenty of challengers in the wings ready to pounce if the big two fail to show, not least Silviniaco Conti.
Read our Betfair Chase Tips & Race Preview for thoughts on every runner.
This year’s Price Rush Hurdle also looks atight contest, with My Tent Or Yours taking on Irving.
Before either of those races, there is an intriguing Beginners’ Chase at Fakenham on Tuesday featuring three potentially very good novices, and the frustrating Vaniteux is due to run on Friday on his seasonal reappearance. Nicky Henderson will be hoping he can get the 7 year old back to winning ways. Our tips will be posted every morning at 8.45am as always, with early value tips posted by 8pm the evening before.