Saturday’s tips at Cheltenham – Through the card tips on bumper first day of November Meeting

Jon Vine takes a look through the bolstered card for the first day of Cheltenham November Meeting, providing readers with his selections in each of the eight races.

After Friday’s card was cancelled due to flooding, racegoers rejoiced today when the news came through that there would be racing at Cheltenham on Saturday. The Grade Two Hyde Novices’ Hurdle was supposed to be the final race on Friday, but that’s been slotted into the proceedings on Saturday, meaning attendees on BetVictor Gold Cup day have eight excellent races to take in.

I’ve taken a close look through the fields set to contest each of the eight races at Cheltenham on Saturday and thrown up my best bets in each race.

2019 November Meeting Day One Tips

12:05pm Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Hyde Novices’ Hurdle) 2m5f

Thyme Hill is undoubtedly the class act in this race and I would fancy him to carry a penalty to victory if the ground wasn’t as treacherous as it is. I K Brunel and L’Air Du Vent are well worth following this season too, but I think the conditions of Saturday’s opener will suit CHAMPAGNE WELL (15/2 BetVictor) perfectly.

Fergal O’Brien’s charge failed to secure victory in any of his five starts over hurdles last season, meaning he retained his novice status for the entirety of this campaign. Under an excellent ride by Paddy Brennan, Champagne Well finally got his nose over the line at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting, beating L’Air Du Vent and Irish raider, Braid Blue.

Champagne Well won on heavy ground between the flags and will have no trouble at all seeing out this trip. Fergal O’Brien’s stable have started the season in excellent form and there are few better riders of Cheltenham than Paddy Brennan. 15/2 is an excellent each-way price.~

Paddy Brennan rides Champagne Well clear when winning here last month.

12:40pm JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Registered As The Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle) (Grade 2) 2m½f

This looks far from a vintage renewal of the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle and I’m finding it hard to look beyond newcomer MICK PASTOR (2/1 BetVictor), who should relish the underfoot conditions more than Gary Moore’s talented youngster, Botox Has.

On his only start over obstacles in France, Mick Pastor bolted up to carry odds of 27/1 into the winners’ enclosure, earning an RPR of 131 which far exceeds anything his rivals on Saturday have managed thus far. This son of Meshaleer will now run in the colours of JP McManus for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t eventually go off odds-on.

1:15pm Novices’ Chase (Class 2) 3m½f

If this was run purely on ratings, then Wholestone would comfortably have the beating of this field. However, I haven’t been totally convinced with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge on either of his starts over fences thus far and I’m keen to take the market leader on.

Minella Warrior looked beat a long way from home at Cheltenham, but plugged on to finish just six lengths behind Mulcahys Hill and Wholestone in third. He’s sure to come on from that run and has a five-pound swing with the market leader. That being said, I’ve been waiting for POKER PLAY (9/2 BetVictor) to fulfil him immense promise for two years now and it seems David Pipe’s charge may be at the start of a big upward curve.

When Poker Play arrived in England as a juvenile, he was expected to reach the very top of the game. An underwhelming 18 months then followed, with his only victory over the smaller obstacles coming on heavy ground at Uttoxeter back in the spring.

Poker Play seemingly faced a tough-task on his chasing debut at Ffos Las and made a serious error at the third-last. Pipe will have been delighted to see his charge recover his composure at the head of affairs and Poker Play was going clear of future winner Sensulano as he crossed the line a three-length winner. I’m sure he’ll stay three miles and heavy ground won’t be a huge concern. Poker Play could go very well again.

Ramses De Teillee wins comfortably over hurdles at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting.

1:50pm BetVictor Smartcards Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m3½f ITV

West Approach was my selection during the Showcase Meeting and I was counting my winnings as the field turned for home. Sadly, Colin Tizzard’s charge found nothing when he hit the front and offers very little value in the straight-win market, as he rarely gets the job done.

Big River could be a player on ground which it likely to suit. RAMSES DE TEILLEE (3/1 BetVictor) won’t be inconvenienced by the going either and I’ll be siding with a David Pipe runner for the second race on the spin.

Pipe’s dazzling grey carried 11-10 to a comfortable victory in the Welsh Grand National Trial at Chepstow last season, before going on to place second behind Elegant Escape in the main event. Another runner-up finish followed in the National Trial at Haydock, but things didn’t go to plan at Aintree, where Ramses De Teillee was pulled up when struggling in the Grand National.

After hacking up to secure an easy victory over hurdles on his reappearance here at Cheltenham, Ramses De Teillee should be primed to strike in this handicap and I’m hoping top-weight won’t prove to be his undoing.

2:25pm BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m4f ITV

A clear love for the course makes Slate House a very dangerous prospect. However, Tizzard’s seven-year-old has never experienced the rough-and-tumble of a handicap of this ilk and I’d rather side with a runner with more handicap experience.

Only three of the last 12 BetVictor Gold Cup winners have carried 11-00 or more to victory, so I was delighted when COUNT MERIBEL (8/1 BetVictor) was handed a weight of just 10-13 and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge will be my main punt.

> READ: My full preview of the BetVictor Gold Cup here…

Count Meribel was victorious at the November Meeting last year, staying on gamely to deny Le Breuil and Mr Whipped in a thrilling renewal of the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase. Twiston-Davies’ chaser ran a screamer behind Lostintranslation up at Carlisle on his reappearance, passing the post a three-length runner-up, some nine lengths clear of the classy Kildisart.

Mark Grant’s favourite mount has previous on the Old course here at Cheltenham and his trainer has won this handicap on four previous occasions. Count Meribel comes into the race on the back of an excellent run, likes softer ground and looks extremely well handicapped.

3:00pm Spinal Injuries Association Big Buck’s Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) 3m ITV

Considering he’s a nine-year-old running off a career-high mark, on devilishly dodgy ground, I think you have to take favourite Tobefair on. Both Smackwater Jack and The Butcher Said boast obvious claims, but I’m going to take a chance and back confirmed mud-lark EMINENT POET (12/1 BetVictor) at an each-way price.

Seven of Eminent Poet’s eight career victories have come on heavy ground, including a superb six-length triumph on his reappearance at Sandown last December. Things didn’t go well for Venetia Williams’ eight-year-old in two big Graded handicaps thereafter, but Eminent Poet has dropped back to a workable mark of 140 and will relish the conditions on Saturday.

Eminent Poet hacks up to win at Sandown last December.

3:30pm BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m5f ITV

Remastered has more to offer than what he’s produced so far during his short career and could be a danger. Jessica Harrington wouldn’t send Conron over to Cheltenham if she didn’t think he had a chance under top-weight, and he must be watched carefully too.

I was, however, rather taken with JATILUWAH’S (NAP) (10/3 BetVictor) performance at Wetherby last month and I think Philip Hobbs’ has a very classy young horse on his hands.

A winner over fences as a four-year-old in France, Jatiluwah has won four times in novice hurdles since making the move to England in the spring. At Wetherby, Hobbs’ charge had to carry a triple-penalty in with some talented youngsters, but made eye-catching progress coming down the back-straight and kept on gamely to secure a five-length triumph.

Jatiluwah has plenty of experience running on heavy ground and jumps hurdles really nicely. David Maxwell’s claimer means Hobbs’ charge will have just 11-7 on his back as he bids to land a five-timer and I don’t want to side against him.

4:00pm Karndean Designflooring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) 2m

Cill Anna features on my list of tracker horses for the upcoming season and I would be surprised if she didn’t improve greatly on the poor fifth-place finished she registered as the favourite on debut at Aintree. On this occasion though, I would rather side with one of the four last-time-out winners to make it two on the bounce and the one who appeals most to me is LEGENDS RYDE (11/2 BetVictor).

Jamie Snowden’s four-year-old finished third and fifth on his two starts in bumpers last term, finishing ten lengths behind Get In The Queue at Carlisle. On his first start of the new season, Legends Ryde proved himself the class act and his move to the front of the field blew the field apart, allowing two hold-up horses to come through and claim the minor honours as he secured a five-length success.

The third-place horse from that bumper has come out and won since, so it clearly wasn’t a bad race and the fact it came on soft ground bolster’s Legends Ryde’s chances significantly. Gavin Sheehan could be in the winners’ enclosure after the final race of the afternoon.