Part of the Challenger Series, this Class 3 handicap sees 20 runners declared for a crack at the £12,000 prize. Run over 2m 5f on the old course, it’s a conditional jockeys handicap with extra allowances for those jockeys who have ridden only a small number of winners.
With Zara Hope now unfortunately a non runner the Nigel Twiston-Davies Ballyarthur looks to have an excellent chance this afternoon. Ryan Hatch is booked to ride and as stable jockey, gets a bonus 3lb allowance. He was on board for the horse’s last race at Carlisle, when finishing an odds on second to Ryedale Racer just over a month ago. The winner that day was turned out in a similar race last week and hacked up by 36 lengths eased down, and with the front two pulling well clear Ballyarthur could well be better than his 119 mark suggests. His trainer is in excellent form and the stiff Cheltenham hill should help given he was a three mile Point to Point winner.
Looksnowtlikebrian was raised a huge sixteen pounds by the handicapper as a penalty for back to back wins in the space of six days over 2m 3f less than three weeks ago, but is sure to be strong in the market to make it three in a row. Shane Shortall has been booked by trainer Tim Vaughan, who has extensive Irish experience riding for A J Martin. The way he won last time out was extremely impressive givne that was a twelve horse contest but this is far more competitive. He’s still lightly raced, can be a little quirky and made two jumping mistakes when winning last time out so may not offer the best value here.
Bryan Drew had a winner at Cheltenham in the last race on Friday with What A Moment, and will be hoping Chic Theatre can carry his colours home again. A record of two wins and a place from eight starts so far is solid enough, but he’s been poor on his last two runs. He was highly tried in a Grade 3 Sandown Handicap Hurdle in March when finishing a distant 9th after trying to make all, and under similar tactics finished last of five on his seasonal reappearance over just under two miles on Good to Firm. Good to Soft ground should be more up his street here and any more rain would be of benefit to him. He’s well regarded by connections who will hope he can bounce back.
Jonjo O’Neill took the BetVictor Gold Cup on Saturday – albeit not with runner expected of many – and while his string have been in poor form this season so far he’s always worthy of respect. Stable jockey Killian Moore is booked to ride Call To Order, and therefore receives the additional 3lb allowance. A maiden after five starts so far, he has however placed four times in large fields. He was beaten only five lengths by Winter Escape in December 2015 (now rated 142) and was close behind a very good bumper horse of Paul Nicholls’ last time out when finishing third at Chepstow, beating those behind him by a good margin. He was a little one paced that day but appeared to stay to the line so the further step up in trip should help and a mark of 120 is fair.