Race Time: 1.10pm Meeting: Cheltenham Day: Friday 11th December 2015 Full Race Name: The CF Roberts Electrical + Mechanical Services Handicap Hurdle Class Three
Just the two winning favourites (and a joint favourite) in the last ten years as well as winners at odds up to 20/1, though generally speaking single figures prices are the norm and come race day we ought to at least start there if at all possible. Starting with the top yards and Paul Nicholls will be relying on Some Buckle (9/1) this afternoon as he looks to add to the victory of Dark Lover in 2012, with Sam Twiston-Davies riding. Although he did win a point to point over three miles he has failed dismally on both attempts over hurdles when stepped up from the minimum trip, but ought to be able to get home over two miles and a furlong this afternoon and would have decent enough chances on the pick of his efforts. His fourteen length maiden hurdle win over Mad Jack Mytton (at level weights) has been franked with the runner up now rated 136, which if taken literally would mean the Nicholls beast is well in here off a mark of 135, and as this is his first run since leaving the Tom George yard, it will be more than a little interesting to see if they can squeeze some improvement out of the six year old gelding.
Trainer Ben Pauling is not a household name as yet but he runs A Hare Breath (9/4) here where his followers which will include us will have to risk the dreaded bounce factor? After close to two years off the track he finally returned at Cheltenham when taking a novice hurdle over this sort of trip by a couple of lengths from Galizzi but he will either improve or “bounce” (put in a bad run after a return from a lay off), though a glance at his form sees a four length second to Irving and a nine length fourth to Josses Hill, both of which make him looks very leniently handicapped off a rating of 132 today, and the late booking of jockey Barry Geraghty certainly catches the eye!
Meanwhile, suggesting a horse who could be short of a run isn’t our normal way but last season saw Cappielow Park (33/1) run some decent races that saw him slowly climb the weights, including a win on heavy going at Wincanton. He seems unlikely to get those conditions here but has won on good going at Plumpton while his fifth of thirteen over a mile and a half on he Kempton all-weather was just the pipe opener he may have needed and would leave him expected to run a decent race this afternoon.
If you like coincidences then look no further than Starluck (16/1) from the David Arbuthnot stable, now a veteran at the age of ten, but the winner of this race last year from a handicap mark of 134 – exactly the same rating as he is allocated again this Friday. He has only raced a total of five times since and won on the flat at Epsom in September, but has to be called well handicapped today if he has won off the mark (he also won off of 147, but that was in 2009!), and is one to consider each way perhaps, though he carried a lot less weight in a better renewal in 2014.
Lastly, for now at least, and Martin Keighley will be hoping that Solstice Star (12/1) is fully recovered from his recent win on heavy going at Lingfield last week that sees him shoulder a seven pound penalty as he looks to make it four on the bounce. Soft going or worse seems to bring out the best in him and although this is a step up in class against these rivals, if he gets his conditions no one can argue that he isn’t the form horse, and with the handicapper likely to put him up more than his penalty for future races he could be effectively well in off a low weight this afternoon, even if connections will be praying for even more rain.