The treble on Thistlecrack, Un De Sceaux and Unowhatimeanharry on Trials Day at Cheltenham tomorrow pays 3/1. If all three horses deliver the ante post multiple will return much more than the 60/1 you can get now for each to win their chosen targets at the Festival. The bookies usually get one result but in the short term the odds look worth taking for the trials races at the home of the jumps. However, Un De Sceaux will let the bet down at the Festival as Douvan is a banker in the Champion Chase.
There is a cross country race on the card this weekend which will be informative in the context of the race in that discipline during the four days that matter most. Any Currency was first past the post at Cheltenham in March but lost the race some time later due to a rules infringement. It was more a technicality than an attempt to enhance the performance of the horse with illegal medication. Any Currency will be targeted at the cross country race at the Festival but Cantlow will be hard to beat and is a worthy favourite for the trial on Saturday.
Thistecrack was the best staying hurdler last season and has graduated to chasing with no bother. The horse’s regular jockey, Tom Scudamore, has said that Thistlecrack has made one and a half jumping errors over fences and they were early after the move from jumping hurdles. The Gold Cup favourite over jumped one fence in a run at Cheltenham and returns to the track to get some practice around the unique layout and demanding fences. If Thistlecrack stays on his feet he wins on Saturday and back at Cheltenham in March in the Gold Cup.
Coneygree proved in 2015 that a novice can win the most prestigious chase of the season. Thistlecrack is the only novice to win the King George at Kempton (As an aside I wonder if in the future I will be writing those words!) and that race is seen as the ultimate test for a steeplechaser. Kempton and Cheltenham are like chalk and cheese but Thistlecrack was so impressive at the former that two wins at the latter over the next seven weeks is feasible.
Unowhatimeanharry has emerged as the horse most likely to inherit the crown of best staying hurdler. The horse won the novices event for long distance hurdlers at the Festival last season and has moved up the division seamlessly since. Some good judges had identified Unowhatimeanharry’s potential long before it became obvious in races and the horse can continue the rise through the division at Cheltenham on Saturday. However, the Irish contingent will be a tough nut to crack in March.
The Clarence House Chase could not be run at an abandoned Ascot last Saturday so has been added to the Cheltenham card. There will be nine races at the track which brings back memories of 2008 when the Wednesday of the Festival could not take place due to high winds and the scheduled races were run over the next two days which made for marathon cards of nine and ten races. Un De Sceaux has maintained the status of favourite but the absence of Ar Mad takes something away from the race.
Ar Mad went off like the clappers in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December but was halted by some jumping errors on the back straight. Un De Sceaux took charge of the race but the manner in which Ar Mad stayed on after the last obstacle suggests he has the beating of Un De Sceaux. That clash could have happened on Saturday but a more likely scenario is an encounter in the Champion Chase but the horses will be running for the places behind Douvan.
This year Trials Day truly is a trials day and several horses can win and double up in the big ones in March. Un De Sceaux looks the most vulnerable in the Champion Chase but Saturday’s meeting at Cheltenham could see three winners in March justifying favouritism on the day of the trials.