12.05 - JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (2m1f)
Three of these are going jumping hurdles for the first time - Pawpaw, Shake A Leg and Simply True. Market moves for any of them would be notable, as they all have degrees of promise on paper for the job in hand. Given the impressive nature of the Skelton's season and the fact they have plenty of excellent novice hurdlers at home, confidence behind Shake A Leg would be eye-catching.
A winner at Warwick on his hurdling bow, ADAGIO got closest to the impressive Duffle Coat in a C&D contest last month. He was beaten five-lengths by the Gordon Elliott inmate, who was making it 4-4 over timber and is now a leading candidate for the Festival's Triumph Hurdle itself here in the spring.
David Pipe's charge sets a good standard on that run and can take this ahead of last weekend's promising Sandown scorer Elham Valley.
A useful Flat performer, no more than that, he was quietly fancied in the betting despite the presence of some useful French imports for that heavy-ground contest. He did the job well on testing ground and may do even better on this sounder surface. It is a quick enough turnaround however and he's forced to concede 3lb to Adagio, who has that proven course form to lean on.
Alan King's Son Of Red also made a winning start over timber last month at Newcastle and is open to further progress, though the percentage call remains with Adagio.
12.40 - Jockey Club Cheltenham And SW Syndicate Novices' Chase (2m4f)
Both Quel Destin (second, beaten 19-lengths) and Fusil Raffles (pulled-up) are upped in distance here after being put in their place last month over two-miles at this course.
Paul Nicholls' charge has never really been crying out for this extra yardage, but he must be respected no less, aided by the fact he gets 5lb and more from this two main rivals in the betting.
Fusil Raffles has always been a well-touted Seven Barrows horse and must now attempt to emulate stablemate Mister Fisher, winner of this race 12 months ago. He, too, was defeated over two-miles on his previous start before taking this prize.
Daryl Jacob's mount can likely rebound from his disappointment here last month. The pacesetting Gumball put his jumping under pressure in that race and it soon came apart. He should have more time to measure the obstacles now, but he concedes weight to these three rivals and that's a big cause for concern.
His Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate CHANTRY HOUSE, an excellent third in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle here in March, began his chasing career with a facile success at Ascot (2m3f, soft). Main rival Pic D'Orhy (stablemate of Quel Destin) crashed out three fences from home just as the pair looked set to engage in battle.
Nico de Boinville's mount made short work of his sole remaining rival, pinging the two fences in the home straight, as he stretched 26-lengths clear for a winning start. His Festival defeat here remains the only blot on his copybook and he can enhance that record now.
Lieutenant Rocco made a solid start for new connections on his chasing bow at Chepstow (2m, heavy) last month and can build on that here without necessarily getting his nose in front.
1.15 - Spreadex Handicap Chase (2m)
Top-weight Magic Saint was a C&D winner at the November Meeting, form that may be enhanced by the second Fanion D'Estruval lining up here on Friday, and Paul Nicholls' challenger is set to go well back here having run another solid race (fourth) at Ascot (2m1f, soft) from 7lb higher in the interim.
A tongue-tie goes on this afternoon and Bryan Carver's claim can alleviate a portion of his weight burden.
Stablemate Capeland, the mount of Harry Cobden again, improved in first-time cheekpieces when one place and two-lengths ahead of Magic Saint in that Ascot contest three weeks ago. He's exposed enough at this stage and has not delivered his best work in two previous visits here.
After running pleasing races behind Eldorado Allen (fourth) and Allmankind (second) in novice contests to launch his chasing career, Zanza was a good winner on handicap bow at Newbury (2m½f, good) late last month for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson. He's up 7lb in a deeper race now but clearly is open to further progress in this sphere.
IBLEO gets the nod for Venetia Williams. After more than two years out, he won his first outing over fences last season before a fine second behind Canelo over 2m4f at Huntingdon in March. He returned at Ascot (2m1f, soft) in late October and lost out to the progressive Amoola Gold on the nod in what amounted to another step forward for Ibleo.
That rival was clear of Capeland and Magic Saint next time at Ascot with another improved showing in a narrow defeat behind First Flow. A stiff two-miles around here should be exactly what Ibleo wants and he remains on the up. Any rain that arrives will be to his liking.
Brian Ellison will be hoping Nietzsche can tee him up for a big afternoon with a positive run in this.
He's made the frame in both starts at Wetherby and Doncaster this term over further. The drop in distance could be just what he wants and his hurdles form in three spins around here at this distance early in his career is promising. He remains low-mileage as a chaser in comparison to some of these and looks to still be on a very workable mark, while he gets the assistance of Nico de Boinville here.
1.50 - Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m4½f)
The Evan Williams-trained Coole Cody will attempt to become only the fourth horse to complete Cheltenham's big handicap chase double, having taken the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the November Meeting. He had something to spare last month and a 6lb rise is entirely fair. He may go well again.
Al Dancer (third) and Saint Sonnet (fell) re-oppose from last month's contest. Nigel Twiston-Davies' challenger is again much-respected. Some very minor jumping errors cost him momentum last time and he's got the class to go well if finding more rhythm.
Paul Nicholls has won this race more times than anyone and Saint Sonnet now joins stablemates Master Tommytucker and Southfield Stone in a three-pronged assault from the Ditcheat supremo.
Master Tommytucker was behind Al Dancer on his return at Newton Abbot in October but has delivered impressive successes at Huntingdon and Haydock since. He could be good enough to defy top-weight, though his jumping record (three falls in seven chase starts) remains a worry. His supporters, rightfully, will contend he hasn't put a foot wrong in those recent wins.
The one that appeals most is WINDSOR AVENUE for Brian Ellison. He won nicely at Sedgefield and Carlisle last season on his first two chase starts before being put in his place over three-miles at Doncaster in a three-runner race won by Sam Spinner. A lacklustre Haydock run in January saw his season cut short, with Ellison surmising breathing was a problem.
He had wind surgery in the downtime and returned last month with a good second to Imperial Aura in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial at Carlisle (2m4f, heavy). The trainer was 'very pleased' with that run behind a smart type (won again since) and Windsor Avenue looks set to progress now.
A mark of 148 is workable for him and he would give champion jockey Brian Hughes a very welcome Saturday afternoon winner around the home of jumps racing - a track at which the jockey has ridden just five winners in his career.
Huntsman Son saw off promising Two For Gold at Wetherby (2m3½f, good to soft) in a Listed Handicap Chase, a fine effort on what was his first start for 538 days. He's gone up 9lb for that win but could still represent a solid each-way proposition in this ultra-competitive event.
2.25 - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 3m)
Ashtown Lad just about sets the standard here on the back of his Uttoxeter success 20 days ago. Dan Skelton's runner appreciated the step up in distance in that contest and has a good future ahead of him seemingly. The market has identified his claims.
Ask A Honey Bee has beaten Ashtown Lad this season already when they clashed over shorter at Wetherby in October. He was odds-on for that contest but Fergal O'Brien's charge had to dig deep to repel the runner-up. Ask A Honey Bee has twice finished second-best since at Exeter and Newcastle having started favourite in both instances. He's a solid player but three-miles on this stiff track poses a question for him.
Danny Kirwan won a maiden hurdle at Ascot (2m3½f, soft) last time out in impressive style for Paul Nicholls. He hasn't always relished a scrap in his career to date and, over this track and trip, he's likely to be asked to dig deep.
Irish raider MAKE GOOD opened his account at the sixth time of asking over hurdles at Gowran Park (2m, heavy) last month for John McConnell and the booking of Richard Johnson is noteworthy now, the former champion boasting a 50 per-cent strike-rate for this canny trainer (9-18). There's plenty of reason to suspect Make Good will handle this increased trip and, in that scenario, he's a huge player.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this five times, three victories coming since 2014, and the Naunton handler has another lively contender now in Took The Lot. He swarmed all over his rivals at Bangor last time before coming easily clear to win despite the concession of a penalty. He looks exactly the sort to thrive up in distance and, given the record of the yard in this contest, is deemed to be a big player.
3.00 - Unibet International Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m1f)
Call Me Lord won an underwhelming renewal of this contest 12 months ago, just holding off Ballyandy. They return but face a tough exam now.
Daryl Jacob prefers the look of Alan King's Sceau Royal from the two Simon Munir/Isaac Suede-owned contenders. After a Grade 2 score in Wincanton's Elite Hurdle last month (after having easily beaten Ballyandy on his comeback) he finished 'best of the rest' in the Fighting Fifth behind Epatante on his last run.
That Grade 1 was something of a mess on the day, but the eight-year-old is very reliable and should give a good account. Silver Streak was a victim of the early carnage, carried out by a loose horse as early as the second flight of hurdles in that Newcastle race. His earlier defeat of Verdana Blue (beaten again next time) was noteworthy and he's a player here after that luckless experience up north.
Summerville Boy and Song For Someone have impressed in their successes at Aintree and Ascot over longer trips last month but aren't sure to be suited with the drop back now.
Ch'tibello wasn't good enough to win this race in 2017 or 2019 and, admirable as he is, doesn't look to have the creditnials now either having finished behind Song For Someone and Summerville Boy in his 2020 efforts.
So to GOSHEN. Gary Moore's would-be star was in the process of routing his Triumph Hurdle rivals here in March when he managed to inadvertently 'clip heels' with himself on the landing side of the final flight and come down. Amongst the pantheon of luckless Cheltenham Festival defeats, it sits high.
Before that he had swept all in his three hurdles wins, doing so in emphatic front-running style. He showed in that Festival run however that's he's far from a one-trick show, sitting off the speed before cruising clear. He was ante-post favourite for the Champion Hurdle in the aftermath of that defeat and he returns to jumping after two reverses on the Flat this autumn. Fitness-wise, they can be taken as positives.
Goshen and his partner Jamie Moore deserve redemption. Racing doesn't always grant such luxuries and many fingers have been burned following promising juveniles into open company. This son of Authorized is given the vote to buck the trend.
3.35 - Close Brothers Mares' Handicap Hurdle (2m4½f)
Dan Skelton has a strong hand in the finale with handicap debutante Aggy With It (ridden by Harry Skelton) coming here seeking a quick-fire hat-trick over timber and Molly Ollys Wishes far from out of the picture with William Marshall taking 7lb off on the recent Hereford winner.
Heavy ground at Sandown wouldn't have been to the liking of Eglantine Du Seuil last time, she can close the gap on her Wincanton conqueror The White Mouse (also had Molly Ollys Wishes in seventh in that race), with Bryony Frost's mount likely to go well again.
CROSSGALESFAMEGAME was only sixth in that same Wincanton contest but she's likely to strip fitter for this contest and Fergal O'Brien's mare is still low-mileage. She drops in the ratings and will enjoy some cut in the ground today, with any rain a plus. She can go well at an each-way price in a tough finale.