2019 Cheltenham Showcase Meeting tips – Race-by-race selections for day one of Cheltenham’s seasonal curtain raiser

Brian Healy takes a race-by-race look at the day one racecard for the Cheltenham Showcase Meeting this Friday.

On Friday we pay our first visit of the season to Cheltenham for day one of the Showcase Meeting, and a fantastic seven-race card awaits punters as the new jumps season cranks up another notch.

The Cheltenham curtain-raiser may lack the allure of the big Festival next May, but many of the top trainers will be eyeing up a big prize early in the season, and some of their bigger guns might get a run-out over the course of the two-day meeting.

2:00 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 2m5f

2:35 – squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase Cl2 (4yo+) 2m

3:10 – Two Farmers Crisps Handicap Hurdle Cl3 (3yo+ 0-140) 2m5f

3:45 – Matchbook Most Trusted Betting Exchange Novices’ Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 3m½f

4:20 – Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+) 2m½f

4:55 – Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-125) 3m1f

5:30 – Matchbook Betting Exchange Podcast Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Challenger Series Qual’) Cl3 (3yo+ 0-140) 2m½f

Brian Healy takes a look ahead to Friday’s opening day racecard at Cheltenham and gives his race-by-race selections for what promises to be an exciting afternoon of jumps racing action.

2:00 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 2m5f

Irish raiders have done well in this event in recent years, and DOCTOR DUFFY (10/3, Unibet) could take the prize back to Ireland for Charles Byrnes.

The Craigsteel gelding has shown plenty of useful form over hurdles, winning his first two starts over timber at Killarney and Kilbeggan last Summer, and he continued to acquit himself well in defeat with runner-up efforts at Killarney and Listowel in September.

However, he returned to winning ways with a defeat of Lethal Steps at Navan latest, and cheekpieces seem to have helped deliver some improvement judging on that win where he struck with something to spare.

The fourth from that race has won since and he is only 2lbs higher in the weights following that success, while the booking of Davy Russell for this assignment suggests connections are hopeful of a big run, so every chance he can deliver here with the advantage of race-fitness over most of his rivals.


Davy Russell can get on the scoresheet at Cheltenham on Friday


2:35 – squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase Cl2 (4yo+) 2m

Caius Marcius has been prolific of late, but he faces no easy task to give 8lbs to AL DANCER (Evens, Ladbrokes) who looks worth chancing on his chase debut to get back on the winning trail.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has his runners in good heart at this early stage of the season, and the Al Namix gelding showed plenty of progressive form last term over hurdles where he won four times which included at this venue before disappointing in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

He also has some smart bumper form to his name, and he had the reopposing Getaway Trump well behind when winning the Betfair Hurdle so could well take that one’s measure again if taking to the larger obstacles.

With the size and scope to make his mark over fences, he rates an exciting chasing prospect and if translating his best form over timber to these obstacles then he can make a winning chase debut for his in-form yard.

3:10 – Two Farmers Crisps Handicap Hurdle Cl3 (3yo+ 0-140) 2m5f

SMARTY WILD (8/1, Coral) ran up a hat-trick of wins last term with successes at Ludlow, Exeter and Taunton latterly where the Fair Mix gelding ran out a six lengths’ winner over Putting Green, scoring readily.

That form looks solid with the runner-up, third, fourth, sixth and eighth horses home in that contest all finding the winners’ enclosure since and there’s every chance that the five-year old could have even better to come this term as he returns from the thick end of eight months off.

That last win suggested he had more to offer and it came just six days on from his earlier win, and while he’s been hit with a 10lbs rise in the weights ahead of his reappearance he could show plenty of improvement.

The Hobbs yard is in decent form at this early stage of the campaign, and the Fair Mix gelding could be worth siding with under champion jockey Richard Johnson to make a winning return.


Trainer Philip Hobbs can saddle a winner on day one of the Showcase Meeting at Cheltenham.


3:45 – Matchbook Most Trusted Betting Exchange Novices’ Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 3m½f

This is much tougher than WHOLESTONE‘s (9/4, William Hill) chase debut where Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge beat only one other rival at Perth; but the Craigsteel gelding was the best of these over hurdles, and he could be worth siding with to step up on that initial experience of the larger obstacles to double up his win tally in this discipline.

A multiple Grade Two winner over timber, including over course and distance, as well as making the frame in the 2018 Stayers’ Hurdle, the selection boasts four wins and five places from eleven starts at this venue, and he has the scope to develop into a very decent chaser despite facing a penalty kick on his debut over fences last time.

Perth’s fences aren’t the easiest to jump, but he did the job as his cramped odds suggested and he was in command when his sole rival pulled up. He had made a couple of slight mistakes in that contest, jumping left early and he should be more at home going this way around; and likely to improve markedly for that outing he could progress.

This is no easy task he faces, but if he can translate the pick of his hurdles form to this discipline then he ought to prove a very tough nut to crack.

4:20 – Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+) 2m½f

GETARIVER (4/1, Bet365) is unbeaten in two bumper starts for Dan Skelton, and the Getaway mare could well make a winning transition to hurdling.

A winner between the flags last November for Damian Murphy, she sported a first-time tongue tie on her debut for Skelton at Ludlow where she ran out an eight lengths’ winner over Perfect Predator. That success was followed up by another win at Newbury where she beat Dylans’ Sea Song despite pulling hard early.

She looks a useful prospect for hurdling, and if her energies can be better focused then it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see her go close here.

She has a first-time hood which might help her to settle better, while she has also had a wind operation which might unlock some further improvement, and with Harry Skelton taking over the reins then she could post a big effort on her return to action and hurdles debut.


Team Skelton can get on the scoreboard at Cheltenham.


4:55 – Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-125) 3m1f

PLANTAGENET (9/1, Bet365) might just have needed the run behind the reopposing Doing Fine at Fontwell earlier in the month, but with a run now under his belt then Seamus Mullins’ charge could turn the tables.

The Midnight Legend gelding won two of his first three starts over fences last term, scoring at Taunton and Plumpton prior to a pair of incompletions in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival here in March where he was pulled up, and then when taking in the Devon Stayers’ Handicap where he fell having perhaps finding the trip too much of a test.

This is more suitable, and judging on his latest outing he has come back to something like his best. Of course, he has to back up that outing, but he was giving the winner weight as well as lacking a fitness advantage, and things could be different now if he can build on that return.

5:30 – Matchbook Betting Exchange Podcast Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Challenger Series Qual’) Cl3 (3yo+ 0-140) 2m½f

OAKLEY (10/3, Ladbrokes) progressed well over hurdles last term, rounding off his campaign with a pair of wins at Ludlow and Kempton respectively, and Philip Hobbs’ charge can land a hat-trick of wins on his reappearance.

The Oscar gelding latterly ran out a two lengths’ winner over Magic Dancer back in January, and that form looks strong with the winner since finishing runner-up to Al Dancer in the Betfair Hurdle, while the third, fourth and fifth horses have all scored wins since.

That win came from a mark of 127 which might have underestimated him, and his subsequent 5lbs higher mark is largely offset by his rider’s claim so he remains with scope at the weights to do better still.

Likely to have further improvement this term, he can continue his progression on his reappearance for an in-form yard, and every chance he can land the three-timer here under his good claiming rider.


2:00 – DOCTOR DUFFY (10/3, Unibet)

2:35 – AL DANCER (Evens, Ladbrokes)

3:10 – SMARTY WILD (8/1, Coral)

3:45 – WHOLESTONE (9/4, William Hill)

4:20 – GETARIVER (4/1, Bet365)

4:55 – PLANTAGENET (9/1, Bet365)

5:30 – OAKLEY (10/3, Ladbrokes)