Race Time: 1.40pm Meeting: Cheltenham Day: Friday 13th November
Distance: 2m 4f 78yds Full Race Name: Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase Class Two
Denman, Imperial Commander, Time For Rupert, Grand Crus, Dynaste, Taquin De Seuil, and Champagne West could just be a list of top class staying chases in recent years, and includes a couple of Gold Cup winners, as well as numerous other high profile events. Fact is, they all won this race in years past, and we cannot help but look at this field and wonder if anything anywhere near to that calibre is entered for 2015. The answer to that poser would almost certainly be More Of That (2/1) now that Jonjo O’Neill has had a change of heart and decides to send him here, and we are eagerly awaiting his debut over the larger obstacles as he has the class and build to go all the way to the top. Unbeaten in his first five races over hurdles, culminating in the World Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival when he beat the wonder mare Annie Power by a length and a half, staying on strongly and if anything, going away at the line. Last season was a bit of a write off with the one run seeing him finish third at Newbury, but on long term potential we are pretty sure he is the best horse – but maybe not after such a long lay off or over such a short trip when stamina looks to be his forte.
With his possible fitness issues, the other yards aren’t as scared as they may be to take him on, and we will be watching the progress of David Pipe’s Dell’ Arca (9/1) with plenty of interest for today and in to the future. He has had the one winning run over the larger obstacles at Uttoxeter in May which he took with the minimum of fuss, beating Germany Calling by six lengths, which isn’t bad form as the runner up went on to win next time out. Over hurdles he was rated substantially less than the favourite but we the transition to fences seems to suit and looks to have brought about big improvement.
Paul Nicholls can never really be written off in these events and his horses look to be running in to form after a quiet start by his standards, with As De Mee (7/2) perhaps the best of his duo of early entries. Yet another import from across the Channel, he won three of his seven races over hurdles and reached a rating of 141 at his peak, and looked like a decent recruit to fences when second to Cocktails At Dawn at Chepstow, keeping on well without ever really threatening the winner over two and a half miles plus. In our opinion, quite a few of the stables horses have been improving for a run this season, regardless of their place in the betting market, and there is every possibility he will come on considerably for the experience, and wit this two and a half mile trip perfect for him, we will be looking for his price with interest.
Poor old Ballyalton (13/2) was going well enough in third to suggest he might have taken a hand in the finish on his fencing debut at Warwick before unseating jockey Will Kennedy after knuckling on landing three from home. His hurdling form puts him close to Dell’ Arca at these weights but experience could be the key so we will stick with our first choice in what looks like a tricky race to even try to call.
Looking for a dark horse to round things off, and Nicky Henderson must think a bit of Might Bite (6/1) to send him straight over fences after just the three career starts, a third at Newbury in a bumper and two novice hurdle wins at Newbury and then here at Cheltenham. He has the look of a chaser we admit, and his state of the art yard will have him well schooled ahead of his chase debut this afternoon, and although perhaps a few pounds behind his rivals on hurdling form, he has so much more room for improvement and could well go on to much bigger and better things from here.