Unowhatimeanharry: one of a host of starts at Cheltenahm
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By Mark Scully 6:00PM 27 JAN 2017
IF ANY one of Thistlecrack, Unowhatimeanharry or Un De Sceaux were running tomorrow, most racing fans would be a little bit excited.
But with all three of them lining up at Cheltenham – as part of a sensational nine-race bonanza that includes a Grade 1, three Grade 2s and a Grade 3 – it is time to strap yourself in.
Racing’s faithful could be forgiven for rubbing their eyes in disbelief as they run them down the card for the meeting at National Hunt HQ on Saturday, with the disappointment of losing Ascot’s meeting last weekend more than made up for.
With a superb supporting cast featuring Doncaster, Kempton, Lingfield, Uttoxeter and Naas, this has all the ingredients of a day to savour.
Why has this happened?
Nine-race cards are more usually to be enjoyed from places like Flemington or Sha Tin but last weekend’s freezing weather means we are treated to the bumper offering on Saturday.
With the Clarence House Chase an important stepping stone along the road to March’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, the BHA quickly switched the race from Ascot’s cancelled meeting to this weekend’s Cheltenham Festival trials card.
Plenty of work to do
There is no time to waste on Saturday so get out bright and early to pick up your Racing Post, featuring the exclusive views of Sam Twiston-Davies and Willie Mullins, or alternatively download it on your iPad and get studying.
By 10.30am, The Opening Show team will be with you from Prestbury Park on ITV4 (Freeview: 24, Sky: 120, Virgin: 118) – and with star riders Ruby Walsh and Nina Carberry joining host Oli Bell it is a show not to be missed.
Half an hour later ITV4 will bring you nine live races, with the broadcast beginning at 12.45.
Who can we look forward to seeing at Cheltenham?
The star name is clearly Thistlecrack, who won the Grade 2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle on this card 12 months ago en route to World Hurdle glory, and is hoping to take the Grade 2 Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase (2.15) this time with the Timico Cheltehham Gold Cup seemingly at his mercy.
He lines up against fellow King George hero Silviniaco Conti, as well as Grand National winner Many Clouds and Hennessy Gold Cup scorer Smad Place on what is a small but mouthwatering field.
Thistlecrack: is the Gold Cup favourite unbeatable on Saturday?
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Unowhatimeanharry is favourite to take the stayers crown this year and he sets the standard in the Cleeve Hurdle (4.00) this time around in a 15-runner field not short on talent.
The switching of the Clarence House Chase meant we lost Ar Mad from the race but former Racing Post Arkle winner and Champion Chase runner-up Un De Sceaux will take his chance, along with the fascinating Uxizandre, off the track since winning the Ryanair Chase at the festival in 2015.
Opening up the card is the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (12.00), in which Charlie Parcs is likely to advertise his festival claims once again. Should the ground go heavy, Defi Du Seuil could come into the picture too.
Not enough festival clues for you? Make sure you catch the Grade 2 Neptune Novices’ Hurdle to see if anybody can loosen the grip of Finian’s Oscar and Neon Wolf at the head of the market for March.
What about elsewhere?
Doncaster’s card is not to be sniffed at either, with the £80,000 Listed Sky Bet Handicap Chase (3.40) the feature. Last year’s winner Ziga Boy is back for another shot at the prize in a wildly competitive field.
Vroum Vroum Mag: a rare British raider for Willie Mullins this season
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
The support card features Vroum Vroum Mag, who will bid to follow in stablemate Annie Power’s footsteps and land the Grade 2 olbg.com Doncaster Mares’ Hurdle (3.05).
Good luck splitting the four runners in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Lightning Novices’ Chase (2.30), while Give Me A Copper will be among those out to book a spot at the festival in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett River Don Novies’ Hurdle (1.25).
Uttoxeter features on AT The Races and for Flat fans, there is all-weather action from Kempton and Lingfield and there is even Meydan to ponder if that is your thing.
What about the Scoop6?
This week’s Scoop6 win fund is expected to top £100,000 by the time racing gets underway and the bet takes in races from Cheltenham and Doncaster this week.
The races are: 12.35 Cheltenham, 1.10 Cheltenham, 1.25 Doncaster, 3.25 Cheltenham, 3.40 Doncaster and 4.00 Cheltenham.
Spare a thought too for the six winners of last week’s £204,054 win fund, who will be hoping to add a further £32,334 to their £34,009 haul of last weekend by picking the winner of the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
Don’t forget the late treat
If you thought this remarkable day was all over by tea time, think again. At 10.40pm, the world’s best horse, Arrogate, goes up against the world’s second best horse, California Chrome, one last time before the veteran retires in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
Can California Chrome bow out on top?
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Arrogate came out on top when the pair clashed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November but with him drawn in 1 this time and California Chrome out in stall 12, this is sure to be a tactical battle to savour.