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Our Through-The-Card Tips For The Cheltenham Showcase Meeting Opener On Friday

Cheltenham’s first meeting of the new National Hunt season gets underway on Friday, with plenty of cracking jumps action to get our teeth into. With the Grade 2 Sky Bet Novices Hurdle being the feature contest of the day, it’s for the younger prospects who could have quite productive seasons ahead of them.

GG writer Jake Russell is on hand to guide us through his selections for all seven races on the competitive card. See who’s he’s siding with and back his selections with Copybet, who are offering new customers £40 in FREE BETS when they place a £10 bet!

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1.35pm – Foundation Developments Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 3)

A tricky and competitive contest to kick start the new Cheltenham season, quite a few of these arrive into this race off the back of some decent runs previously, and a mixture of horses who have ran recently or haven’t been seen since last season. Kerry Lee does very well with the smaller string of horses she has, and although Black Poppy has an 167 day break to deal with, he is the one to side with for me. A four time winner over hurdles, he finished last campaign off with a decent victory at Haydock, with Teddy Blue just under 2 lengths in behind. His record fresh isn’t to bad, and the booking of the young and exciting Patrick Wadge is a real eye catcher, he is a jockey who could have a very good season, with 40 winners to his name already in his short career.

Foundation Developments Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Challenger 2m Hurdle Qualifier)

2.10pm – Squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase (Class 2)

Just the four runners head to post for the second contest of the day, and it is quite an intriguing race. My Mate Mozzie was a short priced favourite last time when coming 2nd on Chase debut, he would have learned a lot from that effort, but I do feel he probably should have won that contest. Therefore Jetronic is a very eye catching entry. Once trained by Patrice Quinton in France, he had three runs for previous connections, two over Hurdles and once over Fences, which was a winning effort at Compiegne. That was a very good introduction to chasing, and the horse he beat that day has since run well and placed in Grade 3 company. Recently purchased by Chris Giles, Paul Nicholls has trained plenty of winners in the past for him, which includes Greaneteen who has since gone on to Grade 1 glory. He could be a decent prospect for the team, and being the youngster in this contest, he gets plenty of weight off the rest of the field. However he might want it a little softer, so any rain before the race is very much welcome. But no matter the result, he is one to keep an eye on going forward, for quite a shrewd owner.

squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase (GBB Race)

2.45pm – Trustatrader Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2)

There are some nice horses in this contest, and one of the main market leaders currently is a horse I very much like the look of for the season ahead. Lucinda Russell has some very nice types this season, and El Elefante is very much one to firmly add to this list. Second on her only point-to-point run, she ran just the twice in bumpers which result in two nice victories at Musselburgh and Perth respectively. She then lined up to make her hurdle debut at Perth last time, where she could not have won any easier. Jumping well in 2nd place, she joined the leader 3 out and soon pulled well clear to win very comfortably indeed by 24 lengths. The form is a little questionable as a 125/1 shot finished in 2nd place, however she won with that much conviction I just think she was worlds apart from the rest and does look a potentially patterned Novice Hurdler in the making. This will be a good test for her, so we get to see what she is really about, as she takes on a few nice types here. She gets the usual mares allowance, which again will very much play to her strengths on Friday.

Trustatrader Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race)

3.20pm – 2023 Thoroughbred Census Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (Class 3)

This is a very tricky contest on paper, with many of these seeing a fence for the very first time in public. Therefore there wouldn’t be much conviction in this selection. However if unsure, I tend to go for the top weight in a race of this nature, as they tend to be the best horse in it. Ginny’s Destiny was once trained by Tom Lacey, and he got him to win a bumper and novice hurdle before the horse was sent to Paul Nicholls. That could prove to be a good move by connections, as there probably isn’t a better trainer in the game to get a horse to become a top notch chaser. So that is the thinking behind this selection really. Connections have wasted no time in getting him over fences, so that must mean they think he is a real good chaser in the making. He could ultimately end up being better than the 135 rating suggests.

2023 Thoroughbred Census Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (GBB Race)


3.55pm – Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)

A really nice contest for the feature, as every single one of the eight runners won last time out, some winning on more than one occasion already. Toto Too is the most lightly raced of them all, he really could be anything, but he only made his racecourse debut a few months back so others might be a little more clued up than him. With Williethebuilder being in my 10 to follow this new NH season, it would be silly to go against him here. He was a decent bumper performer in Ireland, before heading over to the Skelton’s. He was a very easy winner on debut at Uttoxeter, jumping well to pull clear, beating a much more experienced rival by 12 lengths. He has a similar profile to another yard horse in Rock House, who has won a Novice Hurdle and then went on to come 2nd in the Grade 2 Persian War at Chepstow the other weekend. I think Williethebuilder is better than Rock House, and they will have him primed and ready to go for this on Friday. He is most definitely the one to side with for me.

Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Sharp Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race)

4.30pm – Close Brothers Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (Class 3)

Mole Court has been in very good form of late, and I think that winning form could continue here under Jack Andrews. Ben Pauling’s horse has won his last three races, rising up from a rating of 92 to his current rating of 115. That is very much a career best for Mole Court, however the manner that he won last time when beating Tiger Orchid by 4 lengths at the first attempt over 2m6f, suggests there could be more to come from him still. He tackles the 3 mile trip for the very first time, which will be quite a hard task, especially being at Cheltenham with the hill. However he is clearly thriving at present, and the performance last time suggests he still has a little more to offer, now stepping up in trip which looks like it could suit.

Close Brothers Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase

5.05pm – Abu Dhabi Digital Markets Handicap Hurdle (Class 3)

Probably the hardest and most competitive race on the card, don’t expect me to call this the lucky last. The Sam Thomas horses have really started the season well, where the yard sent three runners to Chepstow for the opening NH meeting, and all three of the runners won. His runner in this Angels Breath was a nice type for Nicky Henderson previously, and landed a Grade 2 Novice Chase on his last start for seven barrows. However that was back in 2019, so he had a huge 1100+ day break to overcome when making his stable debut for Sam Thomas last season, which was a pulled up effort in a Grade 2. He then went on to run in a handicap chase at Chepstow where he was well beaten by Not Available. He might need the run this season, however the yards horses are going well at the moment, and the fact connections have still got him in training might suggest he still has something to offer. He was a decent winner of the Grade 2 The Kennel Gate Novices Hurdle back in 2018, but that was a long time ago and plenty has changed since then. But if he can re-produce that effort, he might be back to his best.

Abu Dhabi Digital Markets Handicap Hurdle

Through-The-Card Tips

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