Looking for Festival clues at Cheltenham's November Meeting

There's three days of top-class racing at Cheltenham this weekend.
There's three days of top-class racing at Cheltenham this weekend.

Nick Seddon takes a look at this weekend’s three-day November Meeting at Cheltenham, which is set to feature some big names, and looks at where we may find some pointers for the big festivals next spring...

Cheltenham 12:30, Saturday (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle)

The opening race on Saturday's card is a trial for the Triumph Hurdle, and it proved to be fairly informative last season considering that it was won by the Dan Skelton-trained Allmankind, who went on to finish third in the Grade 1 contest at the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, several smart types have won this race since the turn of the century, though only two horses have gone on to win the Triumph after winning this - Katchit (2006-07) and Defi Du Seuil (2016-17).

This year's renewal looks set to feature several nice types, including the Paul Nicholls-trained Hell Red, who's an 18/1 chance for the four-year-old race at the Festival at the time of writing. An emphatic winner of a juvenile race at Chepstow last month, Hell Red will be hoping to show his credentials here, while the Irish raider Duffle Coat is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles to date for the Gordon Elliott team and is a 33/1 chance for the Triumph. Meanwhile, Overpriced Mixer (33/1), Adagio (50/1) and Historic Heart (66/1) are three others with early quotes for the Triumph that are due to line up. 

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Cheltenham 13:40, Saturday (November Novices' Chase)

The first of two Graded contests on Day Two of the November Meeting, the November Novices' Chase is seen as a good early season pointer for the Arkle Trophy,  and some smart novices have won the race since the turn of the century, including the Grade 1 performers Best Mate (2000), Seebald (2001), Al Ferof (2011) and Dodging Bullets (2013). However, only two horses have gone on to win the Arkle after striking in the November Novices' Chase this century, Azertyuiop (2001-02) and last year's winner, Put The Kettle On. 

This year's 10-strong line-up is dominated by the Nicky Henderson-trained Fusil Raffles, who's a 5/4 favourite at the time of writing. The five-year-old has done very little wrong in his two starts over fences so far, winning on both occasions, and will be a popular choice for punters, though each of Eldorado AllenProtektorat, Quel Destin and Zarkareva arrive here as novices with interesting profiles - and this Grade 2 contest should prove informative. 

Cheltenham 14:15, Saturday (Paddy Power Gold Cup)

The Paddy Power Gold Cup is one of the biggest Jumps betting races this side of Christmas, and several winners of this race have gone on to shine at the Festival - including last year's winner Happy Diva, who finished a gallant second in the Festival Plate in March. Indeed, it generally takes a smart horse to win this, and some notable recent winners include Exotic Dancer (2006), Al Ferof (2012) and the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander (2008). 

This year's renewal is chock-full of star performers, including the last two Festival Plate winners Siruh Du Lac and Simply The Betts, plus the Grade 1 performer Aso. Meanwhile, each of Mister Fisher, Al Dancer and Slate House all have some smart form under their belts, and should merit serious consideration on Saturday. 

Cheltenham 14:25, Sunday (Shloer Chase)

Sunday's card features no less than four Graded contests, and the most eye-catching as far as the entries are concerned is the Grade 2 Shloer Chase over two miles, which usually provides some early clues for the following year's Queen Mother Champion Chase. It's been won by some smart performers since its inception in 2009, though to date only one horse has gone on to scoop the Champion Chase after winning this, the great Sprinter Sacre in 2015-16. 

It looked to the world as though Defi Du Seuil would add his name to that list in March, but he suffered a shock defeat as a 5/2-on favourite behind Politologue, and he'll be hoping to put that right this season for the Philip Hobbs team. He'll face some stiff competition here, though, and a stellar field of seven includes two Arkle Trophy winners in Put The Kettle On and Duc Des Genievres, as well as the Grade 1 winner Riders Onthe Storm. Meanwhile, both Rouge Vif and Sceau Royal will arrive here with all guns blazing after impressive victories last time out, while the 20/1 outsider Forest Bihan is no mug, and has won at this level in the past. 

Cheltenham 15:35, Sunday (Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle)

Sunday's penultimate contest serves as a trial for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and the recent roll of honour is an impressive one, featuring the likes of Cue Card (2010), Dodging Bullets (2012), Moon Racer (2016) and Slate House (2017). The winner of this race generally proves to be a smart performer, though only one horse has gone on to win the Supreme after striking in this trial since the turn of the century, a certain Altior, who completed the feat for Nicky Henderson in 2015/16.

A select field of seven is set to go to post for this year's renewal, and it's the Dan Skelton-trained Third Time Lucki who looks to be the one to beat. He's won each of his two starts over hurdles to date and must be respected, with the prospect of more improvement to come from him yet. The biggest threat could come from the more experienced duo of Courtandbould and Fidelio Vallis, with the former winning three of his five outings over timber since beginning his campaign in July, while the latter showed some useful form as a novice last season and can race in this due to an extension to novice statuses triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Jungle Junction unseated his rider in a Grade 3 contest at Navan at the weekend, but was fairly well found in the market that day and would warrant respect if none the worse for that incident. 

2021 Cheltenham Festival
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