Cheltenham Festival clues at Cheltenham's International Meeting

Cheltenham Festival clues: Mister Fisher holds a strong chance in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase
Cheltenham Festival clues: Mister Fisher holds a strong chance in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase

Steve Chambers looks at Cheltenham's two-day International meeting, which kicks off on Friday, and picks out those horses that could sparkle in March at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival - with Goshen and Chantry House two of the star names lining up this weekend...

Cheltenham 13:50, Friday (Peterborough Chase)

A superb addition to Cheltenham's two-day extravaganza is the rescheduled Grade 2 Peterborough Chase, which was lost at Huntingdon on Sunday, but has been given the green light to take place at Cheltenham on Friday afternoon at 13:50, and it's attracted a stellar cast. Nicky Henderson has a fine recent record in the race, as the master of Seven Barrows has won four of the last seven renewals, and he will unleash a dual-pronged attack in the shape of the hat-trick-seeking Top Notch and classy second season chaser Mister Fisher.

Top Notch claimed glory in the Peterborough Chase in both 2017 and 2019, and will look to become the first horse since Edredon Bleu to win three renewals of the race, and he is a prominent figure in the betting. However, he will lock horns with stablemate Mister Fisher, who is set for this test instead of Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, and the former Grade 2-winning novice chaser will look to throw his hat into the Ryanair Chase picture with a win in Friday's 2m 3f 168y contest. 

The last horse to win the Peterborough Chase and then go on to Cheltenham Festival was the mighty Best Mate, who won the 2002 Peterborough before going on to claim Cheltenham Gold Cup glory a few months later. While no Gold Cup contender will emerge from Friday's event, there may be some notable Ryanair Chase clues on offer, with Mister Fisher currently a best-priced 40/1 for that event. Shorter than that is the Tom George-trained Clondaw Castle, who was a taking winner at Newbury last time out, which saw him priced up as a 20/1 chance for the Ryanair on day three of the Cheltenham Festival. Paul Nicholls, who last won the Peterborough Chase with Le Roi Miguel in 2004 will saddle Dolos, while Fanion D'estruval and former Supreme Novices' Hurdle runner-up Kalashnikov add more depth to the event.

Cheltenham 15:00, Friday (Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase)

In the absence of reigning Cross Country Chase hero Easysland and Welsh Grand National hero Potters Corner, Friday's Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase provides a golden opportunity for the remaining 11 runners to gain a notable victory in the unique jumping test at GL50. The aforementioned Easysland and Potters Corner sit as favourite and third favourite for next year's Cross Country showpiece, so Friday's task is made a lot easier for those lining up, and Kingswell Theatre will be looking to emulate his sparkling victory in the Cross Country event in November.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Handed a 13 lb rise, Kingswell Theatre will have a tough ask to follow up that victory, but it's well known Michael Scudamore's veteran excels over the unique obstacles and is a leading player. As big as 50/1 for the Cross Country event in March, which is not run as a handicap, Scudamore's charge will likely have his last chance of landing a prize over the course this season.

Jessica Harrington's Neverushacon is more likely to play a prominent role at the Cheltenham Festival, and the Irish raider is likely to be sent off favourite for Friday's event at 15:00. Eighth in the 2020 Cross Country Chase at the festival, Neverushacon kicked off his campaign with a fine 11-length win in the Risk Of Thunder Chase at Punchestown. Having gained some valuable experience in the cross country sphere, Harrington's nine-year-old will sit just behind the hat-trick-seeking Step Back at the head of the weights for this event, but with more improvement to come he could star on Friday. As big as 33/1 for the Cross Country feature in March, Neverushacon could be worth backing before Friday's event in a division that has a cloud hanging over former winner Tiger Roll, who flopped in October over the course, and favourite Easysland, who was a disappointing fourth. With the division wide open, the 33/1 about Neverushacon could be a stonking each-way play come the spring.

Cheltenham 12:05, Saturday (JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle)

Defi Du Seuil tasted victory in the 2016 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at the December meeting before returning in March to win the four-year-old Grade 1 showpiece, and Gordon Elliott's Duffle Coat may look to emulate that class act in Saturday's opener at Cheltenham. Unbeaten in his four career starts over timber under Rules, Duffle Coat was last seen bounding to a five-length victory in another Triumph Hurdle trial which earned him a 10/1 quote for the 2021 Triumph Hurdle.

Now, the Irish raider could be set for another visit to Cheltenham this weekend and if taking his chance will be a hot favourite to land the prize. He could lock horns with the Paul Nicholls-trained Monmiral (also entered for Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster), who is a 25/1 chance for the Triumph, while Alan King's Son Of Red is currently available at 40/1 for the Triumph, but Saturday's contest should provide some notable clues for the juvenile showpiece in March, should the leading protagonists take their chance.

Cheltenham 12:40, Saturday (Jockey Club Cheltenham And SW Syndicate Novices' Chase)

A fine third in last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Chantry House made a winning novice chasing debut at Ascot last month, as he defeated Up The Straight and Pic D'Orhy in fine style, and Nicky Henderson's exciting talent is set to test his chasing abilities at Cheltenham on Saturday in a fascinating novices' chase. Currently a 10/1 second favourite behind Envoi Allen for the Marsh Novices' Chase, Chantry House will need to produce a phenomenal display if he is to get anywhere near Envoi Allen at the head of the Marsh betting, but the Seven Barrows inmate is certainly a potential top notch chaser in the making.

Stablemate Fusil Raffles got the better of the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Sir Valentine in a novice chase in October, but the former then flopped at the November meeting, so will need to bounce back, while the likes of Quel Destin and Captain Blackpearl add more depth to the race, but the sole focus will be on Chantry House and whether he can make it two from two over the larger obstacles.

Cheltenham 15:00, Saturday (International Hurdle)

Saturday's big punting conundrum is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, but the Graded highlight of the card is the International Hurdle, which is the penultimate race of the afternoon at 15:00 and will see the hotly-anticipated return of Goshen, who will be looking to face his Cheltenham demons. Miles clear in the Triumph Hurdle in March, the four-year-old fell at the final hurdle and dreams of Cheltenham Festival glory went soaring into the turf. Well, after a couple of runs on the Flat, Goshen is set to return to the hurdling sphere and look to push his name into the Champion Hurdle picture.

Having bypassed the Elite Hurdle and Coral Hurdle in the last few weeks, the Moore team are all set for a return to Prestbury Park, and Goshen is sure to be sent off favourite. Currently a 10/1 fourth favourite for the Champion Hurdle, Goshen will face some solid yardsticks in the International Hurdle with Alan King's Sceau Royal and Dan Skelton's former County Hurdle winner Ch'tibello both set to line up. 

Last year's International Hurdle winner Call Me Lord will attempt to retain his crown, while Silver Streak and Ballyandy add more depth to the race, but Goshen is the potential class act of the field, and while he has a long way to go to become a notable adversary to Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante, Moore's stable star has shown glimpses throughout his fledgling career that he could be special, and he is ready to show those talents at the weekend.

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