Michael Dorgan takes a look ahead to the weekend racing where star hurdlers The New One and Rock On Ruby will be on show at Cheltenham today.
At Cheltenham today, last year’s unlucky Champion Hurdle third THE NEW ONE aims to cement his place at the top of the 2015 Champion Hurdle market where he takes on seven others in StanJames.com International Hurdle. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable star was badly hampered when OUR CONOR took a fatal fall in the race in March and was staying on strikingly up the hill. He readily swept aside the 167-rated ZARKANDAR in this contest 12 months ago and is expected to take this one in his stride on the road back to the festival. His record of 12 wins from 17 starts speaks for itself and he took his reappearance in decisive fashion when winning on ground softer than ideal at Haydock last time.
Nicky Hendersons VANITEUX may give the favourite most to think about. He finished third behind VAUTOUR in last season’s Supreme Novice Hurdle and finished runner-up off top-weight, in the Greatwood Hurdle here last month. That run should bring him on an awful lot and receives a handy 8lb from the favourite, although is still rated 13lbs inferior on official ratings. However the Greatwood was only the fifth start of his career and he is progressive.
Venetia Williams ZAMDY MAN may be next best after running so well behind The New One at Haydock last time, albeit from an enterprising ride
Selection: The New One
Former Champion Hurdle winner ROCK ON RUBY takes on three runners in the Grade 2 Osborne House Relkeel Hurdle. Harry Fry’s nine-year-old reverts back to hurdles this year after an uninspiring stint at chasing last season where he never really recovered from an early mistake in the Arkle. Rock On Ruby beat OVERTURN in the 2012 Champion Hurdle and was denied back-to-back victories 12 months later when he was beaten into second by HURRICANE FLY. After a satisfactory reappearance at Wincanton, he now steps up to two and a half miles although he does have good form over this distance.
However, he is quite vulnerable and is nearly ten years old but no horse over the age of seven has ever won this.
His biggest danger may come from Paul Nicholls who is scintillating form at present having taken the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown last weekend with DODGING BULLETS. He saddles LOC FONTANA here. The five-year-old completed a double at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festival’s last season and a finished a creditable third behind current Champion hurdle favourite FAUGHEEN at Ascot three weeks ago. He wears first-time cheekpieces today and is 01411 at Cheltenham but has to concede 4lb to his other opponents.
The Nicky Henderson trained VOLNAY DE THAIX created a very favourable impression after he won his reappearance at Huntingdon with any amount in hand in early November. Jockey Barry Geraghty reported that the 5 year old had progressed physically over the summer and was quite bullish about his chances 11 days later prior to the three-mile Fixed Brush Hurdle where he was a beaten favourite under a penalty. However a combination of a an inadequate three miles and very demanding conditions played against him and he can be forgiven for being beaten by about eight lengths. He drops back to two and a half miles today and has reported to have done some good work at home in the meantime. He’s now off 158, which is 9lb higher than his rating at Haydock but is potentially quite progressive and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this clash.
Hughie Morrison’s 140 rated BROTHER BRIAN makes up the field and has a lot to improve to get into contention here.
Selection: Loc Fontana
Twelve go to post in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (December Gold Cup) over 2 miles 5 furlongs and I think the two to focus on here are again with the two top yards. Recent Paddy Power Gold Cup winner CAID DU BERLAIS represents Paul Nichols and ERICHT flies the colours for the Nicky Henderson yard. He pitched on landing two out just behind Caid Du Berlais in that race and with a sounder round of jumping may be the value bet here.
Selection: Ericht each way
For our banker bet well head to the bumper in Tramore where Nina Carberry’s mount Altiepix should take the spoils dropping back into a bumper having finished runner-up over timber at Punchestown last month on his seasonal return
This article first appeared in Pundit Arena on December 13, 2014. To view the original version, click here.