Cheltenham Friday – Analysis of the Four Races Live on ITV4

Cheltenham's December Meeting gets underway on FridayCheltenham's December Meeting gets underway on Friday

Selections for the First Day of the Cheltenham December Meeting

Cheltenham’s December meeting gets underway on Friday, with four races from Prestbury Park being screened live on ITV4. We’ve previewed all four races and their antepost entries, delivering our verdicts.

TIMELESS BEAUTY (1:50pm CF Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Services Mares’ Handicap Chase)

Madera Mist was the lowest-rated horse of the century to win a race at any Cheltenham meeting and this mares’ handicap does give those of lesser stature a chance at the home of jumps racing.

That said, the very talented Ms Parfois is also on this roll of honour so there is a chance for a useful mare to progress. Fontaine Collonges could well be that horse for Venetia Williams, whose horses are running so well at the moment.

However, of more appeal is TIMELESS BEAUTY who won her first race for Fergal O’Brien on her comeback. What makes that win more impressive is that she had had wind surgery since her last start which, combined with the change of stable and 248-day layoff, suggests she shouldn’t have won as she did.

Moreover, she briefly raced lazily before eventually winning her race quite cosily. She has been raised 6lbs, but there should be more to come from her, not least because she was a point-to-point winner before starting out under rules. 

THE MIGHTY DON (2:25pm Betfair Handicap Chase)

Nick Gifford will be aware that the ground won’t be good all season and so despite THE MIGHTY DON having raced at Sandown the weekend just gone, there is a chance he will take up his entry again here.

A sounder surface is key to his best efforts, but so too is Cheltenham. All three of his runs here over fences have been up there with his best, including at the November meeting when second to Yala Enki.

He will be running off the same mark here and will definitely be staying on up the hill. The biggest dangers include Enrilo who was still travelling well in the Ladbrokes Trophy when falling on the second circuit, and Badger Beer winner Rocco.

The Mighty Don has put in some of his best chase efforts at Cheltenham

The Mighty Don has put in some of his best chase efforts at Cheltenham

DIESEL D’ALLIER (3:00pm Glenfarclas Crystal Cup Cross Country Handicap Chase)

The first eight home from the cross country handicap last month return for the December version. Any of the initial six could be recommended for various reasons.

There’s little change in any of their marks here. Back On The Lash, the winner, has gone up 3lbs, with Singing Banjo up 2lbs for finishing second. Only narrowly behind them though was DIESEL D’ALLIER on his first run for Richard Bandey and he is able to race off the same rating of 137 here.

He is a course winner from his days being trained in France and his new trainer issued a word of caution as to whether he’d be truly ready for his race last month. That he ended up involved at the finish suggests he really does have a love for this special test and he now looks the best treated to have run in the November running.

Plan Of Attack looked like he enjoyed his first go at the track too, while Midnight Maestro did not run in the race a month ago, but has gone well over the banks in Ireland.

SPORTING JOHN (3:35pm Citipost Handicap Hurdle)

Despite being a Grade 1 winning novice chaser last season, it has already looked like a shrewd move by Philip Hobbs to reroute SPORTING JOHN to hurdles.

He was top-weight for a Listed handicap over course and distance last month, but made light work of that to win by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths. He is only 5lbs higher here and in a similar quality of race.

Given that he could turn into a Stayers Hurdle contender, he looks set to go very well again. The runner-up and third from the previous contest, Onagatheringstorm and Kansas City Chief, return to face him and have a 4 and 5lb swing respectively to potentially get closer.