Cheltenham’s Open Meeting represents the true start to the National Hunt season.
From now until Christmas the jumps action comes thick and fast as old favourites and aspiring champions battle it out across the racecourses of the UK and Ireland to what, everyone hopes, will be a fantastic climax back in the Cotswolds for the four-day Festival next March.
There’s so much to look forward to. From the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday that has thrown up future Gold Cup champions, the old pros going toe-to-toe in the Betfair Chase at Haydock a week later, future Grand National types in Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup at the end of the month, then onto the Christmas Festivals where the pecking order becomes clearer as the season reaches its half-way point.
Every journey starts with a single step though and here’s seven races over the three-days that could throw up future stars next Spring.
Cheltenham, Saturday, November 14
12.40pm JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (Grade 2)
An interesting Triumph Hurdle trial and I really fancy Alan King’s OCEANE who has made the switch from the flat to hurdles with two impressive wins at Fontwell and Kempton last month. He is stepping up in class here, but looks more than capable of winning this.
Big Mac’s Tip: Oceane ()
1.50pm Murphy Group Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Rebecca Curtis’s THE ROMFORD PELE is among the entries and he won well last month over 3m here. This looks the perfect race for him. I just hope Barry Geraghty is back in the saddle, as there are few jockeys who know Cheltenham as well and looks to have found the secret to getting the best out of the horse.
Big Mac’s Tips: The Romford Pele
2.25pm Paddy Power Gold Cup (Grade 3)
Well as always it is a wide open race for the Paddy Power Gold Cup this year, but I can’t get away from KINGS PALACE for David Pipe. He ticks every box for me and with four wins from six runs at Prestbury Park. Tom Scudamore has ridden him for all four of his wins and is back to ride him again in a race where Paddy is paying the first 5 home.
Big Mac’s Tip: Kings Palace ()
Cheltenham, Sunday, November 15
1pm Supreme Trial Novices´ Hurdle (Grade 2)
A decent renewal this year and if conditions stay as they are then Mister Miyagi has to be my bet for the race. A good course and distance win last month, on his hurdles debut, beating the well-fancied Drumlee Sunset, he looked a really progressive type and one to follow this season on the run in to the Festival.
Big Mac’s Tip: Mister Miyagi (each-way)
2.10pm Schloer Chase (Grade 2)
I have to admit that my heart is ruling my decision on this year’s Schloer Chase, with Sprinter Sacre back out for Nicky Henderson. I know you will all be shouting that he did very little last season and he is not the horse he was, but if anyone knows how to get him back to his best it is Mr Henderson. Watching Simonsig and Bobs Worth pull away in the Betfred Hurdle last weekend, gives me renewed hope that Sprinter can come back a different horse this season.
Big Mac’s Tip: Sprinter Sacre
2.40pm Greatwood Hurdle (Grade 3)
My main interest on the Sunday will be in the Greatwood Hurdle and I’ll be at Cheltenham as one of the patrons of the Greatwood Charity, to support the gang for all their hard work re-training and re-homing ex racehorses as well as working with children with special needs.
My highlight of the final day and a race which always used to throw up a few potential Champion Hurdles horses for the notebook. I am sticking with David Pipe’s BIDOUREY each-way at a decent price. He was fantastic last season bar being pulled up in the Imperial Cup at Sandown. He had won five races from five outings up until then and is definitely worth another chance on Sunday.
Big Mac’s Tip: Bidourey (each-way)