The Scottish challenge for this week’s Cheltenham isn’t as strong as it might have been, and a couple of days before the start of the meeting the conditions could be an influence on how many runners there are. A few could be keeping their powder dry ready for Aintree, Ayr and Punchestown in April.
Talented Conditional Jockey Lucy Alexander has a number of rides lined up for the meeting, possibly here best chance of victory lying with DE BOITRON for Ferdy Murphy.
BLENHEIM BROOK has entries on the first three days of the Festival. He should get into the JLT Handicap Chase on the first day but the stable’s favoured entry is for the National Hunt Chase on Wednesday as he’s always looked a potentially serious staying chaser improving with distance. The concern is the ground and Blenheim Brook has the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter as a back up in case the Cheltenham surface proves a bit quick. The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase is another alternative.
DEGAS ART should have conditions to suit in the Pulteney Land Investments novices’ Handicap Chase on Tuesday. Purchased out of a claiming last year, he put in a solid round of jumping to see off stable companion Kai Broon in a novice chase at Kelso recently. Degas Art is well exposed though and the likelihood is that there will be a few progressive sorts in this contest.
TAP NIGHT won the Grade 2 Kelso Premier Hurdle in decent fashion, seeing off Tolworth winner Captain Conan in impressive fashion. That performance would put him up in the mid 140s rating wise and looks nicely treated off 137 here. He’s progressed well over the winter, will have no problems with the ground and will have a fair chance. A note of caution is that he may wait for Aintree or Punchestown. There won’t have been many Cheltenham contenders who have wins at Belmont Park and Delaware Park on their CV!
BOLD SIR BRIAN is aimed at the Jewson Novices’ Chase and I get the impression he’s really fancied for this contest. He was far from the finished article last season and early this season, but he looked to have bloomed over the winter when cruising up at Musselburgh in February. There is a doubt about his participation if the ground gets too quick, but if he runs I’d expect him to be in the mix.
BRINDISI BREEZE looks the stable’s best prospect in the Albert Novices’ Hurdle having won with consummate ease at Haydock from a decent field. He’s unproven on the quicker ground, but I think the stable are keen to have a go and he might prove an alternative to the hyped up Boston Bob.
DEVOTION TO DUTY is entered in the Pertemps Final, but he’s a long way down the weights and probably won’t get a run. I note he’s entered in a Beginners’ Chase at Hexham the same day.
QUITO DU TRESOR misses the Grand Annual Chase after suffering a training setback. He will be rested until the autumn.
Ewart gives the meeting a miss, but he has a few decent sorts and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has sound contenders at Aintree.
The small Hawick yard have RED TANBER entered in the Jewson Novices’ Chase. This one has been progressive over the winter, recording five wins in handicap chases. His latest win was off a mark of 115, so he has much to find in this company, but that win suggested that he still hasn’t been tested fully over fences. I suspect he’ll rate in the 130s in time, though that would still give him 15 to 20 lengths at this level. He jumps really well though and that will be a help.
ARCTIC COURT has three handicap entries, but needs a fair few to come out of each event to get a run. The Martin Pipe hurdle in particular is oversubscribed and the same trainer’s LOS NADIS might struggle to get a run in that. I think both can acquit themselves well if they get a chance.