With the Cheltenham Open meeting now just 2 sleeps away it’s the perfect time for us to get our appetites whetted with a little taster of the action to come over the 3 days at Prestbury Park.
For that ‘appetite whetting’ I’m pleased to introduce the latest NTF guest blogger in the shape of Miss Cathryn Fry.
Cathryn has been a regular contributor to the fabulous JP Festival blog for some time now and you can view a selection of her writing talents by visiting jpfestival.com
For now though enjoy some of Cathryn’s thoughts on the 2011 Cheltenham Open meeting –
The Open Meeting 2011
The biggest three days in Cheltenham’s calendar outside of the Festival take place this weekend. It gets serious from here on in! The ten to follow has been entered, the summer clothes are packed away and we will ride a roller-coaster of highs & lows over the next five months.
Here are a few horses I am keeping a close eye on over the Open Meeting with both the season and those four magical March days in mind.
Steps to Freedom – Jessie Harrington, Ire. (Sharp Novices Hurdle, Grade Two.) I really hope we get to see this horse at Cheltenham on Friday; it seems likely with the Festival as his seasonal target. One assumes he will head for the Supreme Novices or the Neptune. He will also have an entry in the Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse on December 4th. He won the Grade Two Bumper at Aintree in April, beating the highly regarded *Montbazon. Ran with credit at Listed level on the Flat in the summer and won a Grade Three Hurdle at Punchestown in October.
*Montbazon holds an entry in Sundays Listed Bumper
Theroadtocroker – Denis Murphy, Ire. (Cross Country Chase) So unlucky at Punchestown in May, not just once but twice! Ran out when in with every chance in the Kildare Hunt Cup and then fell at the last when in the lead in the Irish Field Chase. He came second in a Cross Country Chase in France in June. I am excited to see him here, obviously with the Cross Country at the Festival in mind.
Restless Harry – Robin Dickin. (Steel Plate & Sections Novices Chase) Has Grand Crus, Champion Court, Mossley, Saint Are and possibly Cue Card to contend with but this fellow is my each way fancy for the RSA. Put in a brilliant return to form in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby last time out. This race has been won in recent years by Time For Rupert, Weird Al & Imperial Commander and is often used as a stepping stone for the RSA.
Fine Parchment – Charlie Mann (Paddy Power Gold Cup, Grade Three) Underrated & overpriced but facing a highly competitive field in which you can make solid case for most of the runners. I totally respect the challenges of the classy duo Wishfull Thinking & Noble Prince. The first three home in the Centenary Novices Handicap Chase namely Divers, Quantativeeasing and Tullamore Dew are also looking dangerous on featherweights. I believe both Wishfull Thinking & Noble Prince can go right to the very top. Wishfull Thinking wouldn’t look out of place in the King George and the way he is going Noble Prince would be at home in the line up for a Queen Mother. I think the favourite Mon Parrain is too short in the market for a race of this nature, Impressive at Sandown but emptied alarmingly at Aintree. I’m not saying Fine Parchment will win but he won a Grade Three at Newbury last season and before that won a Conditional Jockeys Chase at Cheltenham; to me he represents great each way value at 20/1.
Berties Dream – Henry De Bromhead, Ire. (JLT Hurdle, Listed) The 2010 Albert Bartlett winner. This is a big ask carrying top weight but I am certain there is another big prize in this horse. His run into sixth place behind Big Bucks in the World Hurdle was remarkable considering he had been an ill horse all last season and got squeezed up on the bend when travelling well. Main dangers look to be Cantlow, Battle Group and you couldn’t rule out Golan Way. This is the ideal distance for Bertie, with ground likely to be providing a little cut by Saturday, I’m quietly confident.
Moon Dice – Paul Flynn, Ire. (Greatwood Hurdle, Grade Three)
To me the Greatwood Hurdle is all about the Galway Hurdle winner Moon Dice. Cast your mind back to Ballybrit at the end of July. He had The Real Article beaten into fourth by seven lengths. Since then The Real Article has won two Grade Two races in impressive fashion. Further back in the field that day came horses such as subsequent Listowel winner Plan A, QMCC Chase 3rd Captain Cee Bee & the Pertemps Final runner up Son Amix. His trainer Paul Flynn believes him to be the best horse he has ever sat on. If he won this it wouldn’t just open the door to the Festival, it would smash it off its hinges. Over the past week his odds have been tumbling and at the time of writing he is now second favourite behind Pateese who won at Sandown on Saturday. Moon Dice has a lot more weight to carry this time but will handle the Prestbury Park undulations. The each way alternatives to me look to be Kumbeshwar & Via Galilei but Moon Dice will be my main bet of the weekend.
Fingal Bay – Philip Hobbs (Hyde Novices Hurdle, Grade Two) So impressive in the Grade Two Persian War at Chepstow on his first start over hurdles. Certain to be en route to the Neptune in March & he already looks just the type for that race. Another in the line up who I will be watching is Letter of Credit, winner of a Galway maiden in October and his trainer Ger Lynch holds him in high regard.
Be lucky and enjoy, we are truly blessed with three days of top class action.
I am honoured to appear here on the NTF blog as a guest and I must say a huge thank you to Ben for asking me to write this.
Cathryn Fry 9th Nov 2011
@cathrynfry on Twitter
Many thanks to Cathryn for today’s guest post.