Cheltenham’s two day December meeting, better known as the International meeting, takes place on Friday 13th & Saturday 14th of December with ITV covering both days action.
The feature race on the Friday is a Grade 3 chase at 2:30 with Colin Tizzard’s West Approach looking to follow up on last month’s Grade 3 success during the November meeting at this course.
Since pulled up in the Grade 3 trophy chase at Newbury, won by the popular Emma Lavelle trained De Rasher Counter, this gelding by Westerner most certainly has something to prove off 8lb’s higher than when scoring at this course in November but has won off this mark of 150 in the past. While jockey bookings are yet to be confirmed, it would be a surprise not to see the in form Robbie “Pup” Power in the saddle for Colin Tizzard.
One booking we can be certain of is Sam Twiston-Davies aboard Cogry for Nigel Twiston-Davies with the 10-year-old back to defend the crown he won last year, with the son of King’s Theatre appearing to return to form when a close third in a class 2 chase at this course in October. Now back on the same mark as when winning this race 12 months ago he rates as the main danger to West Approach.
There are 3 Graded races on Saturday’s Cheltenham card with the 3.05 Grade 2 International Hurdle contest the feature race of the entire two day meeting.
Pentland Hills will be looking to continue his incredible recent run of form, scoring in 5 of his last 6 starts with the last 2 wins coming at the top level with the neck defeat of Fakir D’oudairies at Aintree the highlight. Nico de Boinville has been in the saddle for 3 consecutive wins aboard the 4-year-old and the North Hampshire native will be looking to scoop the £78,778 winning pot for Nicky Henderson & connections here.
Henderson also saddles up Call Me Lord who landed Grade 2 honours at Sandown last year and went close again in the Ascot Hurdle off 3lbs higher last month (beaten ½ length by If The Cap Fits). Racing off the same mark (160) again here Daryl Jacob’s mount adds to Henderson’s chances of making it 3 wins in a row in this contest having saddled up winners My Tent or Yours & Brain Power in recent years.
Elsewhere on Saturday, there are back to back Grade 2 events (chase & hurdle) towards the rear of Doncaster’s card (2.10 & 2.45) while there’s Irish action from Fairyhouse.
Focusing on Doncaster however, the 2.10 Novices Chase over 3m looks a potential cracker with Sam Spinner, Windsor Avenue, Diablo De Rouhet and Stoney Mountain all chasing hat-tricks!
Henry Daly’s Stoney Mountain is an exciting newcomer to fences having scored in a Grade 3 stayers handicap hurdle at Haydock last month, while Jedd O’Keeffe is very much an in-form handler and his 7-year-old gelding Sam Spinner is expected to go off a warm order having taken like a duck to water over fences (2-2) after going close behind the brilliant Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival.
As for the 2.45 juvenile hurdle race, Langer Dan is seeking a hat-trick for the Skelton’s and was a listed winner at Wetherby latest, while Nicky Henderson sends out a yard and British newcomer in Tombee Du Ciel who finished 3rd of 8 in a listed race in France when last seen in April.
There’s plenty of last time out winners involved here with Goobinator, Lord Lamington and Scorched Earth all scoring on respective debuts, while Oliver Sherwood’s Paseo has progressed with each of his 3 starts over hurdles culminating in a 2m3f win in a handicap at Fontwell last month.
John Queally’s Sacchoandvanzetti also looks an improver having kicked on from a decent hurdles debut at Listowell to score the last twice in a maiden at Punchestown and a 3-year-old’s only race at Punchestown latest.
Donald McCain’s Navajo Pass also earns a mention having won by 20 lengths on hurdle debut in a maiden at Bangor before going down by a neck as a runner-up in a Newcastle juvenile at the end of November.
Finally, on Sunday there’s an excellent card at Navan with a Grade 2 novice hurdle, a Grade B handicap hurdle and a listed bumper playing their part in a fantastic 7 race card from County Meath.
Gordon Elliott dominates the entries for the 12:30 novice hurdle contest with Gigginstown charges Abacadabras, Fury Road, Conflated and Easy Work all being saddled up by Elliott who also sends out the unbeaten Andy Dufresne and last time out winner Thatsy (Elliott holds 6 of the 9 entries).
There’s currently 24 entries for the 2m4f Grade B handicap hurdle at 1.00 which carries a winning prize pot of €29,500 while at 3.10 there’s €16,225 on offer to the winner of the listed bumper.
Again, Gordon Elliott features heavily here with Bigbadandbeautiful looking to complete a hat-trick of listed bumper wins with Jamie Codd in the saddle for all 5 of the Mares career starts to date (3 wins & 2 places). If Codd gets up on the 5-year-old Mare again it will be interesting to see who takes the ride aboard Pencilfulloflead who was also guided to success by Codd on debut at Down Royal last month.
All in all, we are in for yet another cracking weekend of racing with price boosts, extra places & cash back offers all on offer as always at your number 1 bookmaker Bar One Racing where the customer is number 1!
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