Turf Talk: Cheltenham meeting fit for a King

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This week is all about CHELTENHAM, the spiritual home of National Hunt racing, and the season unofficially kicks off in real earnest here with the Cheltenham ‘Open’ Meeting.

One of the more competitive looking races at the meeting is the Rewards4Racing Grade 3 Handicap Chase, with some very good horses lining up including the likes of Hey Big Spender, Fair Along and Reve De Sivola. However, I think we can take a chance with recent Cheltenham winner BALTHAZAR KING for the in-form Phillip Hobbs yard, a stable that seems to have a wealth of talent this year at their disposal for the upcoming season.

Since being switched chasing, the King’s Theatre gelding has thrived, seemingly having a penchant for Cheltenham, winning a Grade 3 handicap last month as well as previously having finished behind Wayward Prince, Chicago Grey and Time For Rupert in good quality novice chases. Although not suited by Ascot, he still showed great heart plugging on for fifth in the United House Gold Cup two weeks ago and, back on his preferred stage, he should get back to winning ways,

The Gary Moore team seem to be in fantastic order at the minute and his star performer VIA GALILEI runs in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle on Sunday in what looks on paper to be a mouth-watering affair. Won last year by Menorah, the race has attracted the big boys with top horses from the Henderson, Nicholls, King and Hobbs yard among the entries.

Via Galilei ran well in the Listed Handicap Hurdle at Ascot two weeks ago, looking unfortunate to run into Brampour, who was given a fantastic ride under young claimer Harry Derham. He should run his usual game race here and looks one to beat.

The showpiece is the Paddy Power Gold Cup, a race with a whopping £85,425 first prize. The star attraction is the Paul Nicholls trained MON PARRAIN who looks to be an extremely promising chaser and could be anything. He has been punted off the boards in the past week, and is the most likely winner.

That said, 5 year olds and, in particular, favourites have poor records, and value looks to lie elsewhere. Poquelin is a good yardstick, and should appreciate the drop back in trip, however carrying top weight could be a hard task even though he does love Cheltenham. Wishful Thinking goes for an in form stable and his jumping is usually flawless, which should aid his efforts.

DAVES DREAM has an excellent record fresh, and is 4/4 returning from a 150 day absence or longer, including winning at this meeting last year. I also like Alan King’s ARALDUR, who made a promising reappearance behind Fistral Beach after a year out last month at Wetherby. He showed promise as a juvenile, winning a Grade 2 novice chase at Sandown. Both these have shown evidence of possessing a little class and both may still be on the upgrade on the upgrade. I’ll be on both each-way at current prices.

1.55 Cheltenham (Saturday) - Balthazar King (Nap)

2.35 Cheltenham (Saturday) - Daves Dream (Ew) & Araldur (Ew)

2.20 Cheltenham (Sunday) - Via Galilei