A full field and the spectre of amateur riders up top make this race a difficult one to solve, but with some desperate for the test this event will provide we think this dozen are the ones to take against the field.
JP McManus has a strong hand as usual, while Irish trainers are out in force looking to land a contest that can make or break the punters’ day on the penultimate day of the this year’s festival.
Any Second Now
Ted Walsh perhaps doesn’t get the winners he used to with a real change of the guard in Ireland over the last 5-10 years in the training ranks, and this horse hasn’t won in nine attempts over fences so all in all things look bleak at a first glance.
A closer look however reveals a few positives for the seven-year-old. Any Second Now’s form in his last two runs overall looks strong in the context of this race; he’s weighted well and is improving as this season goes on. No Comment has a strong chance here of that there is no doubt (see below), so the first choice colours of JP McManus going onto this chap perhaps tells us something we need to know.
Henry Oliver should be confident of a big run from his Kilfilum Cross after a successful debut for the stable in a Ludlow handicap recently.
On the one hand he seems the type to improve, but enthusiasm is just tempered slightly by the fact that when he does win he just keeps getting there grittily and never seeming to have a lot to spare, so going up 7lbs and in a higher grade he may just have his work cut out to grab the win.
Well touted and strongly fancied after an improved performance on his debut for Gordon Elliott following a shift from the Noel Meade yard, Measureofmydreams hasn’t won for a few years but put up a decent show in his race at Fairyhouse and has to enter calculations.
Third here in the National Hunt Chase back in 2016 and a winner of a Grade 2 on heavy ground the same year, it seems he has been waiting a while for a stronger test and so he should stay on right to the line unlike some in the field.
His impressive record of 3 wins and 4 seconds from 9 hurdle starts hasn’t transferred to the chasing scene just yet but given that the ability is locked away somewhere he can’t be ruled out, especially after his third three starts ago in Grade 1 company behind Terrefort.
His Cheltenham form, such as it is, leaves a little bit to be desired and despite the confidence in the market for Philip Hobbs’ horse in recent days the owner’s other representative is preferred this time.
Lady Bamford may have her eye on the Derby this year at Epsom and this race is a far cry from that, but winning it would provide the same sort of thrill and she may not be far away with this Sky Pirate, trained by Jonjo O’Neill.
Four solid runs over fences give him a squeak here on the numbers, but the total sum of two seconds in that time means he’s perhaps not as well handicapped as connections would like although he ran well for a long way round the new course here in November before falling.
Coming along nicely after a win and a third over 2m5f at Leopardstown recently but more to the point, he will most likely appreciated this extended trip as well as the softer ground which puts him in with some sort of a chance.
It’s easy to see why Gordon Elliott’s Measureofmydreams has been well backed in the lead-up to this race, so if the return to a stiffer test brings about the sort of improvement expected since his last outing he’ll be bang there at the finish.
It seems though that the Cheltenham Festival’s top owner JP McManus holds the whip hand in this race, No Comment looking strong based on his soft ground Grade 1 third to Terrefort but the one to be on may well be his first choice ANY SECOND NOW who ticks plenty of boxes and is a value price.