Race Time: 2.45pm Meeting: Cheltenham Day: Saturday 24th October
Distance: 2m 87yds Full Race Name: Masterson Holdings Hurdle Class Two
If this doesn’t get your adrenalin flowing nothing will as the National Hunt season really does move up a gear with the second and third from the 2015 Triumph Hurdle both declared but as they are in the care of Nicky Henderson, it seems fair to assume a maximum of one will actually run! Early jockey bookings certainly suggest Hargam (9/4) will be the one with Barry Geraghty on board, and if he is race fit he is the obvious and most likely winner. Our man visited the yard pre Cheltenham last season and it was pretty clear that they were struggling to decide between Peace And Co, Top Notch, and Hargam, and so it proved as they finished one two three at the Festival, and ten lengths clear of the fourth, so the form looks solid and we are eagerly awaiting all three in action for the new season.
Naturally, the weights mean he will not have it all his own way (though we are quietly confident he will be an even better horse this season), and Devilment (4/1) tops our early list of potential threats in receipt of eight pounds and with the John Ferguson yard in such good form in the early part of the season he seems sure to have his say. Aidan Coleman is booked to do the steering on the four-year-old son of Cape Cross who was fourth at Cheltenham and it will be interesting to see if he can turn around the ten lengths on these better terms. In April he confirmed that run was no fluke with a second to All Yours in the Betfred Hurdle at the Grand National meeting at Aintree and if the probable favourite isn’t 100% he seems the most likely to take full advantage.
As mentioned regularly at this time of year it can be a battle of fitness versus form and right down the bottom of the weights we have the bang in form Tea In Transvaal (12/1) who has already won four races this season including last time out at Chepstow when making most of the running and holding off all challengers for a half length success. She isn’t really as classy as the others mentioned on what we have seen so far but is fit and receives lumps of weight all round and if she is an each way price, who could blame anyone for thinking about her as a possible bet for those who like that sort of thing?
Anyone who has followed jump racing in the last few years will be fully aware of the impact of French breds and ex French racehorses on the scene of late and Dan Skelton has an interesting import in the shape of Fou Et Sage (6/1) who could make his British debut this afternoon with Harry Skelton in the plate. Assessing his form was never going to be easy but the son of Sageburg has won a couple of races already at Compiegne and Auteuil and place on numerous other occasions and if he improves as can happen when they move to our set ups and facilities, he would be of interest either as a potential winner this afternoon or one to keep an eye on for the rest of the season and beyond.
To end with Alan King is a trainer we know well and he has always thought a lot of Karezak (6/1) who used to be with John Oxx in Ireland on the flat before trying his hand at the winter game. One win at Chepstow is all he has to show for all that ability and a run of four runners up spots which makes us wonder if he is one of those horses who doesn’t have the desire to get to the front, but Alan won’t hear of that sentiment and is convinced he has him at his best now and after a comeback run that gives him the beating of Tea In Transvaal today at the revised weights.