CHELTENHAM RACEDAY PREVIEW: Dr Richard Newland, Evan Williams, Henry Oliver, and Emma Lavelle Assess their chances on day one of The April Meeting.
Henry Oliver has reported The Big Bite to be in “good order” as he bids to sign off his season on a high in Wednesday’s feature at Cheltenham, the Grade Two Ballymore Silver Trophy Handicap Chase.
The eight year old looked likely to win last month’s Grade Three Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury before hanging left on the run-in and Oliver is hopeful that his charge can build on that run with another good performance here.
He said: “He ran a creditable race off his mark last time and unfortunately it just didn’t all go to plan. Once he hit the rail (at Newbury) he straightened up but obviously his chance had gone by then, but he’s come back in really good order and he’s good to go again.
“The track here is a bit of an unknown, he has run there once before, but most of his form is on flat galloping tracks. His owners were keen to see if he handled the track just for future reference so we can make a bit of a plan for next year.
“It was pretty decent ground at Newbury the last day so I don’t see why this ground wouldn’t suit. He’s not had a busy season and seems to have come out of his last start well – he has a 4lbs higher mark here but the form is working out well and he’s in good order.”
Oliver also sends out the popular veteran Singlefarmpayment in the sixth race, the Weatherite Handicap Chase. The 11 year has been a regular fixture in competitive handicaps over the years and picked up his first success since December 2016 when winning at Ascot last month.
His trainer is now hopeful the gelding will have gained some confidence from that run last month and said: “He had his day last time and we were delighted for the old boy.
“Adrian gave him a lovely ride and everything came together and he won nicely to be fair to him. Hopefully that’s given the horse a bit of confidence and he seems bright and well this morning.
“The handicapper has been fair to him by putting him up 4lbs for that win and I think looking at some of his really good form he is well in. Hopefully he’s got a little bit of confidence now he’s got his head in front and he can go well again.”
One runner who is proving popular in the betting for tomorrow’s feature race – the Ballymore Silver Trophy Handicap Chase – is the Evan Williams-trained Coole Cody, who will be bidding to sign off a fine first season over fences on a high.
The 10 year old was an impressive winner of the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at the November Meeting, and Williams is hopeful that his runner can give another good account of himself here.
He said: “He’s been in great form all year and his Festival run was fantastic when you look at how well the winner ran at Aintree last week.
“He’s been a great horse this year and winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup was brilliant, so whatever he does he’ll always be the Paddy Power winner. He’s done very well for us and hopefully he runs well again.”
Williams also sends out Winds Of Fire in the Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle and is hopeful that the drop back to two and a half miles will play into the hands of his six year old.
He said: “He’s had a good solid season. He’s found one or two horses a bit too good for him at times but he’s been going the right way and we just thought it was worth upping him in class off a featherweight because he has been so progressive this year.
“I think a stiff two and a half (miles) is probably his ideal trip – he’s got a good racing weight and although it’s a very competitive race, if he handles the track he’s got a good chance.”
Also represented in the feature race is the Emma Lavelle team, who send out Manofthemountain. The eight year old bounced back to form with a good effort to finish second at Kempton Park on the back of a break last month and his trainer is hopeful that this assignment will suit him.
She said: “He’s come out of his last run great and he probably just took a blow at the back of the second last on what was his first run after a winter break.
“He will definitely have come on from that. He loves to jump and travel and although his winning has been done over three miles I think round Cheltenham with the hill I think it could play to his strengths. He didn’t get home when we ran him over further so I’m looking forward to seeing him run tomorrow.”
Lavelle also runs The Domino Effect in the Jockey Club Cheltenham and South West Syndicate Handicap Hurdle, a horse who opened his account over hurdles in good style at Chepstow last month.
His trainer feels he deserves to take his chance in this competitive heat now switched back to handicap company and said: “He’d knocked on the door a few times and has been a bit of a slow learner, so it has all started to come together and I think the cheekpieces probably helped him at Chepstow.
“He travelled well, jumped well and won the race nicely, but clearly going from novice company to handicapping is a big change and hopefully over three miles it will give him time to travel and jump and we’ll see where we are with him. Chasing will be his game next season, but he deserves a crack at a nice race like this.”
Elsewhere on the card, Dr Richard Newland is due to have three runners, including Captain Tom Cat in the Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle. The six year old racked up a hat-trick on good ground in the early part of the season and his handler is hopeful of a good run here after being given a mid-season break.
He said: “He’s in good form. He’s been trained for the race and I think he probably wants better ground, we obviously had a very good season, had a nice break to freshen him up and the plan will be to go for the handicap hurdle tomorrow and then almost certainly we’ll be going novice chasing fairly soon after.
“He should hopefully go well – there’s no easy race at Cheltenham as we know, but he’s in good form and he’s ready to go. Cillin (Leonard, jockey) knows the horse well and has lots of confidence on him, so I hope he’ll run a really good race.”
Newland also sends out Aaron Lad in the Jockey Club Cheltenham and South West Syndicate Handicap Hurdle, who will be able to line up off a nice racing weight with his jockey Cillin Leonard taking off a useful 7lbs.
His trainer added: “He’s come out of the Newbury run really well. He had a little niggly problem at the start of the season and we’ve just been playing a bit of catch up to get out there, so we’ve decided to go over hurdles just for now.
“He ran a solid race last time, he’s trained nicely and he’s a really genuine animal. He’s been high enough in the weights and I’m pleased they’ve dropped him 3lbs here. The reason I’ve taken 7lbs off is purely to give every chance to the horse and he’s won round there before so we’ll have a go.”