Race Time: 3.20pm Meeting: Cheltenham Day: Saturday 24th October
Distance: 3m 1f Full Race Name: winner.co.uk Trophy (Handicap) Chase) Class Two
Personally, we are really looking forward to this race with two of our favourite horses engaged and a possible choice to be made, though others also enter the equation being a handicap. Champion Court (9/1) has always been the apple of trainer Martin Keighley’s eye, and used to be thought of as a Cheltenham specialist, but this season he has already racked up three wins out of three – at Kempton, Worcester, and Uttoxeter, which disproves that theory! Sadly, the handicapper has done his job and he carries a stone more this afternoon than he did at the start of his little winning run, and with this three mile one furlong trip almost certainly stretching his stamina to the limit, we will sadly pass him by for now as we think he could be weighted out of it.
Lower in the weights, Nigel Twiston-Davies will be hoping for a decent effort from Big Casino (10/1) who has always been held in high regard but has rarely re-produced it when asked. After hacking up in a bumper first time out at odds of 33/1 for his previous trainer he failed to live up to connections lofty expectations with just the one win over hurdles and one over fences in his next sixteen starts but with the slate wiped clean for the new season, he reappeared with a comfortable win at Haydock where he made all and drew clear over two and three quarter miles. If the same tactics are employed here he could well cause a few jumping issues in behind as they try to keep tabs on him which can only be of benefit to his chances, and if he wears his visor again he may well take some catching.
Looking at the younger trainers and Charlie Longsdon is a man going places and he may well send Azure Fly (8/1) here where at the age of seven he could well have more to offer in the long term. Despite trying to throw the race away at Ludlow on his reappearance he ran on well to get back up close home and with that run under his belt (paddock watchers felt he might need it), he can only improve again this afternoon which may offset the seven pounds extra the handicapper has given him here. His novice form is a bit in and out sometimes but he clearly has plenty of ability and a new found desire to win as witnessed last time and if he can get to Big Casino up the home straight he won’t lose for a lack of effort.
Emma Lavelle is another supremely talented trainer and has her small string in superb form in recent days meaning if we ignore the chances of Fox Appeal (9/1) under those circumstances we would be very naïve to put it politely. Personally, we feel the marathon trip could be a major issues as the son of Brian Boru is yet to win over anything further than two and a half miles over fences, but he has won over this sort of trip over hurdles, so that seems a little strange? To be fair, he has only tried to the once when unseating at Kempton at the sixth so there is a possibility it could even bring further improvement, but we do have to wonder why he hasn’t tried it more than once before in thirteen races over the larger obstacles?
To round things off, Tom George is an up and coming young trainer worth keeping on side and he sends Whats Happening (12/1) here, and has booked the excellent Noel Fehily to ride the eight-year-old gelding. A bit in and out last season, he did at least sign off with a course win over a furlong further under Paddy Brennan, will stay further if it turns in to a battle, seems sure to win more races, and is an each way price as well!