Mission Accomplished At Cheltenham?

November 15th, 2014

The third and final day of Cheltenham’s always brilliant Paddy Power Open Meeting is upon us, and if it’s as good as days one and two – which have thrown up starring roles for the likes of Champagne West, Parlour Games, Balthazar King, Kings Palace, Sam Winner, Caid Du Berlais, Katkeau and Golden Doyen – then we’re in for a treat!

Couch potatoes and armchair jockeys will be pleased to know the Channel 4 team are back in action for the third day on the trot, with a six race broadcast featuring action from Fontwell and Punchestown as well as jump racing HQ live on air from just before the 1.35pm race.

That is the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle, run over an extended two miles on the Old course, and set to be contested by a field of seven…

Paul Nicholls has made no secret of his intentions for overnight favourite Emerging Talent as a chaser further down the line, and in the meantime he could be a hurdler to follow.

Available at 33/1 for the Supreme Novices’ in March, he was a solid second on his debut for Nicholls at Chepstow last month, going down a couple of lengths to Dan Skelton’s Shelford who has boosted that form by winning again a couple of weeks later.

Emerging Talent is unpenalised here and receives five pounds from a couple of his key rivals, but on the flip side he made a flurry of minor errors last time out, and that could hand the initiative to a horse laden with Flat speed in the shape of John Ferguson’s Commissioned.

Rated 94 when he won over a mile and three quarters at Musselburgh, this horse has far more experience than Emerging Talent, finishing a highly creditable second in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton back in February, before a Grade 1 fourth at Aintree.

Is he at his best on a flat, speed track in that case??

It didn’t appear that way when he hacked up at Cheltenham at the October meeting, before following up at Kempton with an equally facile stroll.

Granted Commissioned has to try and concede weight to a promising rival, but he’s already a winner at the track, has bundles of Flat speed to exploit at this trip, is on a hat trick, and might well be too streetwise for the favourite.

Soft ground is unlikely to be a problem given how well he went on it in the Adonis, and it seems something of an anomaly that at 9/2 he is nearly three times the odds of Emerging Talent, despite at 25/1 being shorter than him in the antepost betting for the Supreme.

Ferguson’s team struck a mighty blow at Cheltenham on Friday with the 10/1 Grade 2 success for Parlour Games, and there could be more celebrations to come at the yard of this hugely in form trainer.

On the subject of Parlour Games his win on Friday provided a weighty pointer to the chances of Dan Skelton’s Blue Heron in the day’s feature stanjames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at 3.15pm.

Skelton was on the mark with his only runner on Saturday afternoon, as What A Good Night defied a huge market drift to scorch home at Wetherby.

With his team on a high it’s worth remembering Blue Heron earned a mark of 146 when seeing easily off Parlour Games by four lengths at Kempton Park last month, and with that form so handsomely franked he could well be a big each way player here.

This will be only his seventh ever start, with three wins already in the bank, and it’s heartening to recall how easily he won on Soft going at Chepstow back in March.

In the last eight runnings of the Greatwood the likes of Detroit City (top weight), Sizing Europe, Khyber Kim, Menorah (top weight) and Brampour have all successfully carried in excess of 11 stone to victory, and Blue Heron looks a big threat at 14/1 each way with either Ladbrokes or Paddy Power, despite his big weight.

Elsewhere, gruelling conditions are the order of the day on Totepool Southern National day at Fontwell Park.

The big one is off at 1.50pm, but a little later in the day a horse who takes to wet conditions with similar aplomb to a cross channel ferry is Charlie Mann’s Lord Of House, who returns to hurdles for the first time in over 18 months, with his shrewd trainer keen to exploit a handicap mark of 132, five pounds more favourable than his rating over the larger obstacles.

That enables him to line up as top weight in the Totepool Racing’s Biggest Supporter Salmon Spray Handicap Hurdle at 2.55pm, a test which could be perfect given that all of his four wins in this country have arrived on ground officially given as Heavy.

His Christmas time win at Wincanton last season proved he’s more than capable of lugging a big weight to victory in deep ground, and the six-year-old is likely to be available at generous odds at the West Sussex venue.

Finally, peerless Punchestown’s €80,000 Morgiana Hurdle is the headline act on a glittering card at the County Kildare track, and provides us with the latest instalment of the Hurricane Fly versus Jezki tug of war.

Four times the great rivals met last season, with the score at 2-2.

Hurricane Fly was winning a stunning 17th Grade 1 when taking this race for the second year running in 2013, but that was in the absence of Jezki, and though he then beat him twice at Leopardstown, it was the four years younger horse who came to the fore at both Cheltenham and Punchestown.

You won’t find many bigger fans of ‘The Fly’ than me, and I’ll gladly rip up my betting slip if he wins this, but the pragmatic selection has to be reigning Champion Hurdle winner Jezki, who is only six and comes here on a hat trick

What’s more, he’s unbeaten in two starts at Punchestown.

Good luck!

Sunday’s best bets:

1.35 Cheltenham – Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – 1 Commissioned (win) @ 9/2 (Ladbrokes)

2.15 Punchestown – stanjames.com Morgiana Hurdle – 2 Jezki (win)

2.55 Fontwell – Totepool Racing’s Biggest Supporter Salmon Spray Handicap Hurdle – 1 Lord Of House (win)

3.15 Cheltenham – stanjames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – 2 Blue Heron (each way) @ 14/1 (Ladbrokes or Paddy Power)

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