Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival team – Main Festival hopes from the leading trainer

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. We pick out some of the Somerset handler's big chances of success at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. We pick out some of the Somerset handler's big chances of success at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival team

Top trainer Philip Hobbs is always a name to note around the Cheltenham Festival and while the Somerset handler might lack some of the strength in depth of Paul Nicholls or Nicky Henderson amongst the home guard of trainers his runners are invariably always fancied to run well. We look at some of the Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival team who can post big runs.

Hobbs is no stranger to big race success at the Festival where he’s saddled 19 winners including a Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and four Triumph Hurdles. His last win at the greatest show on turf came in 2019 when Defi Du Seuil won the Marsh Novices’ Chase under its’ previous moniker of the JLT Novices’ Chase.

The top trainer will have another select team of Cheltenham Festival runners across the four days and we’ve highlighted some of the Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival team who could post big efforts and may be capable of giving the master of Sandhill further Festival success.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners on day one

Ultima Handicap Chase

While the handicap entries aren’t yet know it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hobbs’ DEISE ABA in the line-up enroute to a crack at the Aintree Grand National and the Mahler gelding would go to the Cheltenham Festival day one handicap with a live chance.

A dual winner in the 2019/20 season he contested the Kim Muir Chase at the 2020 Festival where he finished a good fifth behind Milan Native and while he took a couple of runs to get going this term he did turn in a much improved performance when fitted with cheekpieces for the first time at Sandown in early-February where he beat Coo Star Sivola by four lengths.

Back on an official rating of 142 following that success he would be contesting off the same mark as that Kim Muir effort last term. Assuming though he comes here where the typically quick pace would suit and the headgear retained given it seemed to benefit him last time he could be one to be interested in as a potential each-way play with some Cheltenham free bets.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. Deise Aba has a couple of entries at the Festival.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. Deise Aba has a couple of entries at the Festival.

National Hunt Chase

ST BARTS could line up in this extreme test although he also holds an entry in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – the former RSA Chase – and it remains to be seen which race Hobbs will ultimately target with his progressive staying chaser.

He was always likely to make his mark over the larger obstacles as a former point-to-point winner while he won two of his four raced over hurdles racing up to three miles.

Although he didn’t make last year’s Festival he’s had two runs this term over fences and he looked a decent chase prospect despite meeting with defeat behind Ofalltheginjoints at Exeter on his debut although the winner did have the benefit of fitness.

He then ran out a ready winner of a handicap contest at Newbury, beating Versatility by two lengths having made all the running and there’s likely further improvement yet to come from the High Chaparral gelding who could thrive over this even stiffer test.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham day two Festival runners

Cross Country Chase

Hobbs could sell send both his Sporting John and St Barts into battle in the former RSA Chase contest, but the suspicion is both will end up elsewhere and outside of the Cheltenham Festival day two handicaps Philip Hobbs looks pretty light on runners on the second day.

However he will likely have at least one runner in the Cross-country chase where BEAU DU BRIZAIS could line up to lock horns with Easysland and potentially Tiger Roll over the banks.

The Kapgarde gelding would be making his Cheltenham Festival debut, but he’s twice taken part in these races at both the November and December fixtures where he’s acquitted himself well both times over the obstacles.

We do have to go back to May 2019 to find the last time he won, but he could make his presence felt in this discipline where he’s still relatively young to have made the switch and he can progress. He did finish runner-up to Kingswell Theatre on his first try over these obstacles and he finished ahead of the same rival next time out when fifth to Some Neck where he was giving the winner 5lbs.

Competing of level weights in this contest come Festival Wednesday will represent a whole new challenge but it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him running well if turned out.

Philip Hobbs day three Cheltenham Festival runners

Marsh Novices’ Chase

Thursday could prove a decent day for Philip Hobbs and his day three Cheltenham runners where he looks to hold two live chances, starting with SPORTING JOHN in the Marsh Novices’ Chase where the Getaway gelding could line up in preference over the former RSA Chase.

A point-to-point winner he won his first three starts over hurdles last term before finishing seventh behind Envoi Allen in last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle although he was later found to have finished distressed and that run can perhaps be forgiven.

Only third on his Exeter chase debut behind Fiddlerontheroof he looked an unlikely winner when next seen out taking in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown where he was detached from the field for quite some way before staying on strongly from the last to overhaul Shan Blue and win a shade readily in the end.

There’s likely more to come from him and while he looked a strong stayer at Sandown he might find this race more suitable than the former RSA Chase given they might just go a shade quicker which may help. One slight worry would be all his winning form has come when going right-handed and given what happened twelve months ago he may not be entirely suited by this track.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. Sporting John looks to hold decent claims of Festival success.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. Sporting John looks to hold decent claims of Festival success.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Hobbs’ biggest chance of a winner at the meeting will likely come from THYME HILL in the day three feature race and the Kayf Tara gelding can’t be left out of calculations.

Third in the 2019 Champion Bumper behind Envoi Allen he’s thrived over hurdles since, winning his first three starts which include the Challow Hurdle before being beaten just over one length into fourth behind Monkfish in last season’s Albert Bartlett Hurdle.

He might have won there had he not twice met trouble in running late on and he’s continued his improvement this campaign where he beat Paisley Park in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury before being run down late by the same rival in the Long Walk Hurdle when beaten just a neck.

Perhaps the heavy ground on that occasion attributed to his defeat and a less testing surface will surely suit better; he could well be the one to side with in the day three feature race given he’s run really well on all starts at this venue and he’ll surely be in the mix.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival day four runners

Hobbs’ Cheltenham Festival team on day four of the Cheltenham Festival are likely to be kept to the handicaps on the card with the yard holding no entries in any of the major Graded races including the Gold Cup.

County Hurdle

One who might be worth a second look should he take his chance is OAKLEY who hasn’t been seen since finishing sixth to Not So Sleepy in the Betfair Exchange Hurdle at Ascot back in December, but the Oscar gelding could run well at a likely big price if lining up here.

A two-time winner over hurdles earlier in his career he’s held his own in a number of competitive handicaps and he found only one too good at this venue back in December 2019 when narrowly denied by Repetitio after which he was a staying on seventh in the 2020 Betfair Hurdle and he finished in midfield in this race twelve months ago.

That was a better run than it appears at face value as he was badly outpaced before running on late; while he ran well on his return at Wetherby in October when finishing third to Anemoi with that run possibly just needed.

Heavy ground might not have suited when last seen and a less testing surface at Cheltenham in March should be more suitable although he does handle soft ground. He’s been competitive in the past from his current 136 rating and if lining up he could run well in the competitive County Hurdle.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. Thyme Hill could be Hobbs' biggest chance of a Festival winner.

Philip Hobbs Cheltenham Festival runners. Thyme Hill could be Hobbs’ biggest chance of a Festival winner.