National hunt racing is finally back and although we are still months away from the Cheltenham Festival, the biggest meeting of the year in the sport, there are plenty of good meetings to look forward to until then, including the Open Meeting at Prestbury Park this weekend.
It’s this time of the year that many of the stars of national hunt racing make their seasonal reappearance and we can expect to see many of them at Cheltenham for the three-day meeting. Here are a few tips for the meeting.
Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle – Day One – Friday, 13th November
Irish trainer Willie Mullins was so dominant last season on both sides of the Irish season and any horses he takes to England for the big meetings have to be respected. We like the look of Long Dog in this one in the familiar colours of Rich Ricci.
Mullins chose to keep Long Dog going throughout the summer and he has gained some experience by doing so, meaning he goes into the business end of the season sharp and ready to go.
Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase – Day One – Friday, 13th November
The Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham is one of the most unique races in national hunt racing. If you have never seen it before, you are in for a treat. The race takes place across the centre of the racecourse and the runners have to negotiate all kinds of obstacles, including timber, hedges and water.
In these races it is important to look for horses who have experience of doing well over this course and distance. Although he is 14 years old now, there aren’t many records in cross country races than that of Uncle Junior. Mullins’ runner was a success at the Punchestown Festival back in April and finished third in the big cross country contest at the Cheltenham Festival a month earlier. He can be good enough to score again for the 13th time in his career.
Gold Cup – Day Two – Saturday, 14th November
The feature race of the three-day Open Meeting is the Gold Cup which the betting suggests is wide open this year. The good news is if you have an opinion you are likely to get a decent price for it.
Kings Palace is the horse that stands out to us at 8-1 in the betting at the time of writing. His record in rules races is exceptional as he has won seven of his 11 starts with three wins from four over fences.
David Pipe’s runner has not been seen since finishing sixth in the RSA Chase at the Festival back in March. That was a disappointing end to his novice chase season where he was successful at Cheltenham twice and once at Newbury in his final prep run before the Festival.
At the age of seven, the best is likely yet to be seen of him so we think he could be a star of the future.