The selection was switched to his new handler from Kerry Lee in the summer after his last campaign stalled a little, although he still managed to run a blinder in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup on the New course last December, a run which came hard on the heels of a narrow defeat at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance.
Both of those performances were achieved in healthy speed figures and his new trainer has clearly identified his new recruit goes pretty well fresh, preferring to arrive at Cheltenham without the benefit of a recent run. There looks the prospect of a strong gallop with the likes of Double Treasure, Days Of Heaven and Foxtail Hill in opposition so Noel Fehily should be able to gain a nice tow into the race before delivering his challenge.
MINELLA ROCCO (Cheltenham, 1.50) should be a lot straighter for his recent trip to Ireland and narrowly gains the vote courtesy of some strong figures over staying trips.
The Gold Cup runner-up is the class act in this field so deserves his rating of 166 and his four runs beyond 3m when completing have yielded figures of 1324 including when third in this race last year when only beaten a length.
The cheekpieces which he wore at the Festival haven’t been fitted but he must still run well.
The combination of Caspian Prince and Mythmaker should ensure the prospect of a frenetic gallop in an intriguing Listed contest and that could play to the strengths of MAZZINI (Lingfield, 2.45) who has the toe for six furlongs and the stamina to win over seven.
Although this is the selection’s first competitive trip to the Surrey venue, his run style suggests it shouldn’t be an issue and the fitting of cheekpieces and use of the in-form George Wood in the saddle make him appear a fair bet in this field.
The fantastic weekend action continues on Sunday when THE NEW ONE (Cheltenham, nap, 3.00) should be a tempting price in the Grade 3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
About to head into his tenth year, the smart gelding is set to pass the £1,000,000 prize money mark on Sunday if he can follow up his Welsh Champion Hurdle victory from last month. Well backed, the The New One’s ageing legs kept on pounding away in the mud as he made all at Ffos Las to hold off the rising star Clyne in a tight finish, with the third Sire De Grugy](https://gg.co.uk/racing/form-profile-1388855) toiling 16 lengths in arrears.
He gets another stern test today lumping top-weight in a fierce contest against mostly younger rivals but he has a tremendous record at Prestbury Park, has a top track speed figure and looks double-figure value.
Sunday’s Cheltenham opener should be a spectacle as 24 are set to participate, with LIP SERVICE (Cheltenham, nb, 1.15) fancied on debut for Fergal O'Brien. The selection posted some decent form over both hurdles and fences for Tony Martin in Ireland and found the hurly burly of an 18-runner Punchestown maiden hurdle to his liking when not beaten far earlier this year.
The in-form Richard Patrick (rode a winner at the meeting on Friday) is booked to do the steering and, with the hood/tongue-tie combo applied, Lip Service is taken to open his UK account at the first time of asking.
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