Race Time: 2.10pm Meeting: Cheltenham Day: Saturday 24th October
Distance: 1m 7f 199yds Full Race Name: winner.co.uk Handicap Chase Class Two
And so to the jumps again (many would say “at last”), and one of the few National Hunt races we know of (other than bumpers) that is less than two miles, all be it a few yards, though by the look of it, all those winning over two miles have been credited as a distance winner. Every year at this time we have the balancing act of those with the most long term potential versus the race fitness of others which is never easy but always a challenge.
Our first of many interesting options has to be Dr Newland’s Boondooma (13/2), still only an eight year old and thus relatively young in jumping terms. Only just out of the novice stage, the son of Westerner has some decent enough form to his name that includes a win at Haydock when last seen in action, as well as places at Bangor and a fourth to the highly regarded Puffin Billy at Ascot on his first attempt over fences under rules. He will need to go on from that to get involved here, but he has more room for improvement than most and his Grand National winning trainer does remarkably well with his small string and he certainly looks to have place chances at a minimum.
Meanwhile, trainer Michael Scudamore reports Next Sensation (9/1) to have returned to training bigger and stronger than before and eager to go, and he is hoping the eight year old can progress up the ranks to the bigger and better races. Only time will tell if that dream becomes a reality or not, but for now we know they think he is better than a handicapper in which case he could be ahead of his rating of 151 though we would be wary that if he has other targets ahead of him he may not be 100% fully wound up for this afternoon. He did break his trainer’s duck at Cheltenham last March when taking the Grand Annual Chase by four lengths from Eastlake, though he was put up eight pounds for his sins and won’t find handicaps that easy, in theory at least.
With Richard Johnson looking at winning his first jockeys’ title after the retirement of the legendary A P McCoy, and most likely to be on board Dunraven Storm (12/1), who last ran less than three weeks ago and will be cherry ripe this afternoon. Fourth to Simply Ned at Kelso, he weakened rapidly from two out that day implying that he needed the run despite being sent off the 7/2 joint second favourite, and with improvement likely, we can expect a better run today, though not necessarily enough to win regardless.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has always thought a lot of Astracad (9/1) but sadly the horse has failed to live up to those expectations so far with just the four wins over fences from twenty-seven starts. He continues to work and school well at home apparently and did win last time out at Chepstow when running on strongly over two and a half miles, which does raise questions over the minimum trip this afternoon.
Lastly, Dan Skelton has done remarkably well with Workbench (15/2), racking up as total of four wins over fences and a total prize fund of over £55,000 (though that does include his time with Paul Nicholls). His last win at Fontwell was comfortable but perhaps shows his real level (famous last words), and although we can expect a big run and others may want to consider him each way for his in form yard, two or three of these at least ought to be a lot too good for him here.