20 fillies contest Cheltenham’s finale, the High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire´S Mares´ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race. It’s the fourth renewal of the race, and only one favourite has landed the prize; that was Harry Fry’s win with Copper Kay last year.
IN SUMMARY: Irish Roe and Queen Odessa both go into the race off the back of a very encouraging victory. But I’m selecting Brillare Momento, whose recent second at Cheltenham is one of the strongest bits of form on offer. Martin Keighley will have her sharp after a few weeks off the track, and she’ll have no issues with the ground or the course.
1 Brillare Momento – Martin Keighley has given champion jockey Richard Johnson the ride on this promising five-year-old. She’s a two-race maiden, but has shown some encouraging form. In her last run, she came very close with Paul Nicholls’ Brahms Du Clermont, who had previously destroyed a field by 16 lengths. She had obviously improved a lot for that run, and she’ll have no problems handling the track. She’ll be race sharp from last month’s run and if she improves once again she is in with a big chance.
2 Canoodle – Hughie Morrison’s four-year-old hasn’t been seen on the track since a debut win at Newbury. She looked good that day beating a next time out winner by two lengths, but to come back and take this after an eight-month absence is a tough ask. She looks like a horse who could be good, and good enough to win a race at this level, but she may need the run today.
3 Carlita Moriviere – Rebecca Curtis’ chance finished third on her debut last month, she finished third that day with ten lengths separating her from the victor. Like others she will need to improve from that run at Aintree, and beating this field may be too tough an ask.
4 China Grey – Not seen since her ninth place finish at Uttoxeter back in May, Jonjo O’Neil has opted to give his four-year-old a very difficult seasonal bow. She was a long way off the pace in a much smaller contest, and that form puts her far from good enough to compete with some of today’s rivals. But her half-brother Olofi followed a similar route and finished third in a Grade Two contest in 2009. It seems unlikely but she could have an outside chance.
5 Eloped – After a lacklustre debut at Ludlow, Ben Pauling’s filly ran much better to finish third at Uttoxeter on her second start back in May. That run was a long time ago, and even still it is way below the standard of class shown by some of the favourites. She needs to produce something she hasn’t shown on the track before to even compete at this level.
6 Hitherjacques Lady – A winner at this track back in April, Oliver Sherwood is represented by a filly who won her sole victory in good style seven months ago. She only won narrowly, and she will have to come back from a long break. But knowing she has already won at Cheltenham is a huge positive. There are plenty of doubts about her and this is a more challenging test, but she battled hard to win that day and must be respected for a top yard.
7 Irish Roe – Graham Lee will ride in only his fourth race in the National Hunt in the last five seasons. He takes the ride aboard Peter Atkinson’s five-year-old who made it two out of two at Sedgefield in September. That win at the Northumberland track was impressive, defeating the field by five lengths; prior to that he landed a maiden stakes on debut by six lengths. He’s looked impressive so far and despite today’s test being harder you’d fancy him to be a leading player.
8 Make My Heart Fly – Ali Strong is represented by this four-year-old filly who has raced twice in her career so far. On debut she finished a lengthy second, before once again earning the runners-up prize last month at Ludlow. That form is well below the average here, and she looks out of her depth in this field.
9 Melangerie – Nicky Henderson is represented by this exciting newcomer, in the famous colours of Bob’s Worth she’s a half-brother to useful prospect Cultivator who has won two of his five races to date. It’s always much harder for her to come out and win against horses who have already gained racing experience, but Henderson took this three years ago and will be hopeful she can introduce herself with a good run.
10 Miss Night Owl – Tom George’s six-year-old comes into the race as one of the most experienced. She finally broke her maiden at Aintree last month following places on her last three starts. It’s encouraging that she got her head in front, however this requires even more from her.
11 Moorstone – Giles Bravery’s four-year-old demolished the Fontwell field on her seasonal bow by 15 lengths. Yet her follow up effort at the same track was very disappointing, as she defeated only one rival that day. This is much harder than that last race, but if she can reproduce her maiden winning form she could have an outside chance.
12 Ms Parfois – Following an excellent point-to-point win in Ireland earlier this year Anthony Honeyball took over training this exciting prospect. In her first rules race in Uttoxeter she easily defeated the field by ten lengths, and makes her seasonal bow at Cheltenham. The big issue for her is the ground, both her wins have come on heavy ground and whether she will be as effective on this going is in question. She’s shown some real quality in the past but needs to find something to make the first three.
13 My Khaleesi – She’s probably the best of two runners for Alan King, and that’s why jockey Wayne Hutchinson has chosen to ride her. Following an encouraging debut, she broke her maiden at Huntingdon this February. In a Grade Two contest at Aintree she only beat one rival, which suggests she may not be good enough at the top level of juveniles. This race is easier, but she is still up against some very strong rivals.
14 Naranja – Jamie Snowden’s filly proved a shock winner on debut at a price of 25-1 when winning at Market Rasen. Her pedigree isn’t too bad, and she won quite nicely on that debut; but to go from a poor maiden to a listed race is a big jump and without a run since April it could be asking too much from her.
15 Oscar Rose – She was only half a length off tasting victory on debut for trainer Fergal O’Brien before a below par effort in a Stratford bumper. That form makes her very hard to fancy.
16 Pearl Royale – Nigel Hawke’s four-year-old finished third on her only racecourse appearance. But she was only a length off second place Senatus who has since gone on and won a maiden in good style. The form of that race is quite strong with the front two having gone on to better things; if she can improve from the experience then she could be a big priced each-way bet.
17 Pique Rock – She’s Alan King’s second string, but this newcomer has some good pedigree, the King’s Theatre filly is a half-sister to Imsingingtheblues who won a Grade Two contest on this card, and went onto be an excellent handicapper. For a debut it will be difficult, but if things go well she could take a place; but she may be one just to watch for the future.
18 Queen Odessa – She ran a decent race as a maiden before winning narrowly to lose her maiden tag. She got the better of Kayf Grace by a head that day, who has since gone on to win a Grade Two juvenile race at the Grand National meeting. The form from that race at Doncaster is very strong, and she is being touted as a top prospect for this season. But so far all she has done so far is win a maiden, so she needs to prove how good she really is. If she’s well at home and primed for this race, then she will be hard to beat.
19 Sugar Storm – Fergal O’Brien and Phillip Donovan are represented by this Kayf Tara filly. She’s from a good family, who often produce good young horses however to win on debut in such a competitive field is a very big ask and I doubt she’s up to that level just yet.
20 Tokaramore – Iain Jardine’s filly returns to the track after notching up her second successive win at Kelso just a week ago. She won in good style there and will go into the race in brilliant shape from her recent outing. I don’t think she has the same quality as some of her rivals, but as she is going into the race with a run under her belt she can easily be a threat at good value.