A weekend to savour for fans of jumps racing as Cheltenham has opened its gates for the new season with their traditional two-day Showcase Meeting.
Plenty to get stuck into on a strong card at Prestbury Park on Saturday and here are three worth thinking about.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Gumball showed some smart form last season, despite the yards’ runner generally not firing on all cylinders. He began with easy wins Stratford and Chepstow but then played second fiddle to Apple’s Shakira at Cheltenham.
A soft-ground Triumph Hurdle wasn’t his thing in March but he produced a season’s best in chasing home We Have A Dream in an Aintree Grade 1 the following month, then signed off with a decisive Ludlow win.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson is in tremendous form right now and has suggests he feels Gumball could improve this term. Receiving 8lb from main market rival Redicean (just 1lb separates them on official ratings) could be crucial here.
David Pipe had to endure a slow season last term but it isn’t hard to envisage the Pond House supremo getting back on track this term.
His Dell’ Arca has enjoyed a good summer campaign, winning on the Flat and over hurdles, prior to running right up to his best form in last month’s Kerry National at Listowel, beaten less than 5L behind the highly-promising Snow Falcon having been ridden quietly by Robbie Dunne.
That bodes well for a horse that has gone well over the Cheltenham fences on his last two visits and stable jockey Tom Scudamore – amongst the winners here on Friday – takes over and Dell’ Arca looks overpriced here compared to the likes Shantou Village – which finished behind him last time in Ireland.
The appropriately named Earlofthecotswolds is fancied to go well in this bumper for locally-based trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, whose runners tend to be more forward than most come the October meeting at this track.
This four-year-old ran well enough on debut at Fakenham in the spring, finishing third, before returning last month with a win at Market Rasen.
Sam Twiston-Davies was on board then and he made a race-winning move on the home bend, though his mount appeared to have a bit left up his sleeve crossing the winning post. The third and fourth home have both given the form a boost since and, while this is tougher and he’ll need to settle early on, there could be more under the bonnet.
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