Clarence House Chase preview, plus three to follow on Festival Trials Day
Edwardstone feels like the young pretender here, but he’s actually the same age as Energumene, and has had almost double the amount of career starts as Willie Mullins’ superstar, so Alan King’s horse might not be open to as much improvement as people are anticipating.
On official ratings, Energumene is 6lb clear of Edwardstone, so there’s no doubt the latter will have to take his form to a new level to take this. He’ll also need to bounce back from an uncharacteristic jumping error when unseating Tom Cannon at Kempton last time out.
Gary Moore’s improving chaser Editeur Du Gite showed that his handicapping days are over for a little while with a comfortable victory in that Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. Edwardstone’s mishap came too early in the race to know whether he’d have beaten the winner, but the way Editeur Du Gite put Nube Negra to the sword with such ease suggests he should be up to holding his own at this higher level.
The other contenders have plenty to find with the principles, and look set to fight it out for minor honours. The most interesting of them could certainly be Joe Tizzard’s improving chaser Amarillo Sky. Although his official rating of 151 leaves him with plenty to find here, he looks the type to keep on progressing, and he could be a lively contender in some of the graded two-mile chases during the spring.
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Three to follow at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day
11:40 Cheltenham – Scriptwriter
Scriptwriter showed a very useful level of form on the flat in Ireland when with Aidan O’Brien, and thankfully for his new connections, he looks to have translated plenty of that ability to hurdling.
Recently described as ‘’the best horse I’ve ever trained’’ by Milton Harris, Scriptwriter is now 2-2 over hurdles after a comfortable win here In the Grade 2 Triumph Trial back in November. He showed his versatility with a win on the flat at Wolverhampton last month, and although this race requires another step forward, he looks the type to keep on improving.
15:00 Cheltenham – Paisley Park
Emma Lavelle’s much-loved hurdler has plenty in hand on the figures here, and with the race likely to be run to suit, it’s difficult to see him not winning a fourth Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday.
He showed he still retains all of his ability when winning the rearranged Long Walk at Kempton on Boxing Day, and in what looks a much weaker race, it would be a surprise were he not to register his 12th career victory.
16:10 Cheltenham – Hacker Des Places
Hacker Des Places proved himself a horse to follow when winning a big-field handicap on Ladies Day at Aintree back in April.
He’s only been seen once since then when finishing second to Highway One O Two at Ascot last time, and off just 4lb higher than for that Aintree win, Paul Nicholls’ grey could take all the beating with Angus Cheleda once again taking off a very valuable 5lb.