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David Cormack – Cheltenham Festival 2020 Day One Selections

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Nicky Henderson holds a strong hand with none of his three runners, Shishkin, Chantry House and Allart, discounted.

Gordon Elliott’s Abracadabras would be undefeated over hurdles had he not met his stable companion Envoi Allen and he makes some appeal at the 13/2 he is currently trading at. He looks definite first four material.

But the performance of ASTERION FORLONGE (3/1 with various firms) when romping away with a Grade 1 Novice race at Leopardstown in early February really caught the eye. It wasn’t the strongest Grade 1 but the way he responded and powered home when asked for an effort couldn’t have left a stronger impression. The second, Easywork, had won by 22 lengths the time before while the third Mt Leinster had also won impressively prior to Leopardstown.

Mullins has a fantastic record in the race and Asterion Forlonge looks just the type to stay on right up that famous hill. He is my nap on day one and one of my bets of the meeting. Abracadabras could be the main danger although there are several who could progress further.

Arkle Novices’ Chase

Notebook heads the market but supporters of both Fakir D’oudairies and Cash Back, who have finished second behind Notebook on his last two starts, are hopeful of turning the tables. Fakir D’oudairies’ connections appear particularly keen for another crack at Henry De Bromhead’s star novice but this is a race that is all about the prices and CASH BACK (7/1 William Hill) finished closer to Notebook than Fakir D’oudairies and he is taken to give Willie Mullins a sparkling start to the meeting.

Notebook will be no pushover and deserves favouritism but with only ¾ lengths between him and Cash Back the extra juice in the price of the latter makes the possibility of a turn-around a tempting bet.

Champion Hurdle

This looks an open renewal. Epatante hasn’t done much wrong but looks short enough. Pentland Hills looks a bit quirky, Cilaos Emery is of interest and has been backed encouragingly but again now looks a bit short. Sharjah would be the selection if the ground was the good side of Good To Soft but the horse I think is worth chancing is FUSIL RAFFLES (16/1 Coral, William Hill, Bet Victor).

Fusil Raffles  has had only four runs since joining Henderson from Guillaime Macaire and won his first three, including an impressive win over Fakir D’oudairies at the Punchestown festival last April. You have to forgive him his last effort, pulled up behind stablemate Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle. That run was simply too bad to be true and the fact that Henderson is running him here suggests he has him back. He is still unexposed and, in a year when there are no real stand outs in the race, he is one that still has the potential to develop into a real star.

Mares’ Hurdle

Benie Des Dieux

A fascinating clash between Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle in what looks a match. BENIE DES DIEUX (8/11 Bet365) looked all over the winner when falling at the last here in this in 2019. She’s won all three starts easily since and there is nothing to suggest she should be opposed. Honeysuckle is unbeaten in all her 7 starts under rules and is most likeable. She has some good scalps too with Darver Star (runs in the Champion Hurdle), Bacardys and  Easy Game all seeing her backside in recent runs. But Benie Des Dieux is a different proposition. Despite the fact that it looks a two horse race this could develop into one of the highlights of the meeting and is perhaps a race best watched without an investment.

 Other races –

Ultima H’Cap ChaseDISCORAMA (9/1  Coral, Bet Victor) has run well here at the last two festivals. He looks on an attractive enough mark and should be one of those battling after the last. Mister Malarky may well be dangerous if his last win hasn’t taken too much out of him while Mulcahys Hill looks like one who could go well at a big price.

Nothern Trust Company Novices’ H’Cap Chase –  CHAMPAGNE COURT (16/1 SkyBet, bet365) put himself in the right weight range for this with two wins in the space of 8 days last November. He was given a sighting over the fences when running here in January but this clearly the target. Galvin and Trainwreck are the two I fear most.

National Hunt Chase –  Carefully Selected is the one to beat but Kim Bailey has booked top amateur Barry O’Neill for NEWTIDE (10/1 generally) and the horse has an encouragingly progressive profile. He’s won his only two starts over fences and shapes as though a trip might bring out the best in him. He’s a sporting selection against the short priced fav.

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