Cheltenham Festival Day 1
  • Cheltenham Festival Day 1
  • Cheltenham Festival Day 2
  • Cheltenham Festival Day 3
  • Cheltenham Festival Day 4

Five Key Questions ahead of the International Hurdle

Sam Spinner takes his chance in a Grade 2 Novices' Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
Sam Spinner takes his chance in a Grade 2 Novices' Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

Ahead of an intriguing weekend of racing at Cheltenham and Doncaster, Alex Stearn looks at the five key talking points surrounding the action...

Can Brelan D’As go one better? 

Last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup saw Brelan D’As produce a career-best performance over this C&D, when he only just ran out of yards in his attempt to collar in Happy Diva close home, and despite being handed a 5 lb higher mark, he looks to have strong claims of going one better. The ground was truly terrible on that occasion, and saw the field get strung out all over Prestbury Park, but the J.P. McManus-owned gelding creeped round in mid-division before starting his challenge two fences out. He had every chance when jumping the last, but couldn’t quite get past the eventual winner, going down by an ever-diminishing neck. Paul Nicholls’ charge showed he handled the soft ground, though, and with it forecast to be more in his favour on this occasion - his previous best form has come on quicker surfaces - he looks like getting conditions to suit and can gain compensation for that excellent effort and enhance his trainer’s record in recent years to six wins from the last 11 renewals.

As ever, it is an ultra-competitive race, and following the rather unintentional withdrawal of Riders Onthe Storm due to a processing error, the market is headed by Secret Investor, Not That Fuisse and Cepage. The latter has been raised a total 8 lb for a promising reappearance run to finish second at Aintree last month, having been retrospectively raised further after the third that day, Oldgrangewood, won really well at Aintree last week, though the rise in the weights may stop him from winning. The biggest danger, however, may come from the bottom of the weights in the shape of Not That Fuisse for the Skelton brothers. His jumping will be put to the test on just his fourth start over fences, but his effort to finish second at this track to Al Dancer back in October reads well, and he could prove well-treated in his first try in a handicap over fences. Meanwhile, Secret Investor is also worthy of a mention dropping into handicap company after contesting graded affairs, but a mark of 150 may be a touch too high for him to be competitive.  

Will Pentland stay on best up the Hill? 

Nicky Henderson saddles the third of his Champion Hurdle contenders on Saturday, with Pentland Hills heading to Cheltenham for the Grade 2 International Hurdle. A recruit from the Flat, Owners Group acquired the son of Motivator from Chris Wall in Newmarket and they were rewarded with two Grade 1 wins as a juvenile last term; scoring over this course and distance in March when charging up the hill to take the Triumph Hurdle on just his second start over obstacles, before then following up at Aintree a month later. Despite starting his season later than others, he has the chance to shoot straight to the head of the ante-post market for the Champion Hurdle after several well-fancied types have faltered so far this season. His closest rival looks to be Ch’Tibello for Dan and Harry Skelton, who has previous in the race, finishing a close fourth back in 2017. After a dip in form, he returned to his best towards the end of last season - winning the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and finishing third in a Grade 1 contest at Aintree - and he can put his experience to use. Both Elixir De Nutz and Call Me Lord have claims, whilst Big Blue adds International spice now making his first start on these shores having conquered the best Australia has to offer. However, they all look to have various amounts to find to challenge Pentland Hills, and he can stake his claim for a repeat success in March. 

Can Platinum prove to be worth the wait? 

Nicky Henderson looks to hold a pair of aces in the novices’ chase at Cheltenham on Saturday (12:45), when Mister Fisher and Champagne Platinum are set to take each other on. Mister Fisher was a Grade 2 winner over hurdles back in January, and despite his progress somewhat stalling since then, he had always looked as if chasing would be his discipline. He has the benefit of experience under his belt having finished a solid second at Warwick last month, when only one real mistake blotted his copy in terms of jumping that day. He will be the highest rated in the race, and with him getting weight from his closest rival on official ratings, he can step forward with that outing under his belt - though he may well find a couple too good.

Henderson’s other runner, Champagne Platinum, lines up in the familiar green-and-gold hoops of J.P. McManus, and despite being rated 7 lb inferior to his stablemate, his lightly-raced nature over hurdles strongly suggests his future was always going to be over the larger obstacles. He posted two impressive performances in minor hurdle events at Newcastle and Newbury last December, before finding Grade 1 company too hot at Punchestown. Connections had to shell out a huge £250,000 at the sales after his point-to-point win, and now back over the larger obstacles, he is open to any amount of improvement and can start to repay some of that price tag with victory here - with a step up in grade highly likely before the season is out. 

Nigel Twiston-Davies also saddles a pair of challengers, and despite a 5 lb penalty, Good Boy Bobby looks to be the one with the strongest chance to chase home Champagne Platinum given he is the mount of Sam. He was only just collared on chase debut behind a highly-regarded type, before making light work of an above-average field at Wetherby. He’s got strong form over this trip from his hurdling days, and this looks to be a good stepping stone again for a horse likely to be able to hold his own at a higher level for owners Paul and Clare Rooney.

Whose unbeaten record will be broken?

Now Doncaster has resurfaced from their brief stint underwater, they play host to a Grade 2 Novices’ Chase, in which two good horses put their unbeaten records to the test. Representing Middleham’s Jedd O’Keeffe is Sam Spinner, who has been sent over the bigger obstacles after two productive seasons plying his trade at the top level over hurdles - winning a Grade 1 contest at Ascot during that time. His chasing debut came at Wetherby in October over a trip short of his best, and after being badly outpaced and detached around the home turn, he finished with a wet sail to win quite cosily and produce an impressive performance. The second start saw him improve again - despite having to make all - and with his usual jockey, Joe Colliver, suggesting he would be better with a lead, he could well improve again. 

Brian Ellison, based in Norton, saddles Windsor Avenue, who is attempting this trip for the first time under Rules. His two chase starts have seen him win by a total of 33 lengths at Sedgefield and Carlisle respectively, where he has jumped well and made all on both occasions. The two tracks suggest that the form may not be as strong as some shown by his main rivals, but he couldn’t have been more impressive and being a point-to-point winner, he may have plenty more to offer over fences yet and at this trip. Despite Sam Spinner being a popular servant, he may find the imposing Windsor Avenue too good and may have to settle for second best. 

Flat or French to come out on top?

Thirty-five minutes later at Doncaster, the hurdlers take centre stage, with recruits from differing spheres battling to come out on top. The French raid is solely represented by Nicky Henderson and Tombee Du Ciel on her first start on these shores. She receives a 7 lb fillies’ allowance at the bottom of the weights, and it’s eye-catching that she starts off in Grade 2 company given that her French form is not quite near the level of form you’d normally expect for a new recruit at Seven Barrows. It is also worth noting that after the injury to Daryl Jacob, French champion jockey James Reveley extends his stay to take the ride, making it likely that connections likely think that this horse has plenty of ability. 

Flat recruits are more widely represented, and are headed by Lord Lamington for Netherfield House Stud. Alan King’s excellently bred son of Australia is a multiple winner on the Flat, and despite his debut over obstacles coming only nine days ago, he showed his aptitude for hurdles when running out an impressive winner at Market Rasen. Meanwhile, Donald McCain saddles Navajo Pass off the back of two starts over hurdles. Also a winner on the Flat, he’s shown himself to be a quirky sort when getting revved up and sweating in the prelims before his latest start at Newcastle, when frost threatened to call the card off, so it can hardly be blamed on the weather. He did only go down by a neck behind a horse that connections had just paid £105,000 for, namely Tavus, and if he can keep those antics in check, he looks to be capable of a prize at graded level. However, that doesn’t look to be today as Lord Lamington is the more likeable, straight-forward type and he can take this prize for the flat recruits at the expense of Tombee Du Ciel. 

Today's Tips
Advert Disclaimer is a free online resource which endeavour to provide helpful and useful content and odds comparison to its visitors. Please be advised that accepts affiliate commission from the companies appearing on the site, and agreed commission levels impact the location and order in which the companies (and/or their products) are presented on the website. Any ratings that appear on this site is determined by our subjective opinion of the brand but also based on market share and reputation, each brand's conversion rates, commission paid to us and general consumer interest. Company listings on this page don't imply our endorsement. We do not feature all providers on the market. Except as expressly set forth in our terms and conditions, all statements and warranties regarding the information presented on this page are disclaimed. The information, including odds, which appear on this site is subject to change at any time.
Bet £10 & Get £50 in Free Bets
#AD Bet £10 & Get £50 in Free Bets for new customers at bet365. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. The bonus code SPTS365 can be used during registration, but does not change the offer amount in any way.
Bet £10 Get £20 + £10 Casino Bonus
#AD New UK customers (Excluding NI) mobile only. £30 in FREE Bets (FB) as £20 in sports bets & a £10 casino bonus (CB). Min stake £10. Min odds Evs. FB applied on 1st settlement of any qualifying bet. FB 7 day expiry. 1 FB offer per customer, household & IP address only. Payment restrictions. 14 days to accept £10 CB, then active for 3 days. CB 5x wagering & max redeemable £100. Game restrictions apply. Cashed out/Free Bets won’t apply. 30 days to qualify. 18+. T&Cs apply
Bet £10 Get £30 In Free Bets
#AD 18+. Play Safe. New customers using Promo code R30 only, Min £10/€10 stake,  min odds 1/2, free bets paid as 3 x £10/€10, free bets credited after settlement of first qualifying bet, free bets will expire 30 days after the qualifying bet is placed, payment method/player/country restrictions apply.
Bet £10 get £30 in Free Bets
#AD New customers on mobile only. 7 days to claim and stake £10 minimum bet at odds of 1.5 or greater to qualify. Free, void, cashed out or partially cashed out bets do not qualify. Max 3x £10 free bets credited on bet settlement. Free bets must be used on 4 or more selections with selection odds of 1.3 or greater. Free bets are non-withdrawable, and stake not returned with winnings. 7 day expiry. T&Cs apply.
Double the odds, any sport, any bet, any odds!
#AD 18+ Only valid for new registrations to Grosvenor Existing members do not qualify, Bet must be placed using real money in combination with the Odds Boost Token, Offer applies to Sport bets only. Max stake is £10. Each way bets are a maximum of £5 each way (£10 total). Customers have 60 days after registration to use the Odds Boost token. T&Cs apply.
Bet £20 & Get it Back As CASH If It Loses
#AD 18+ Max £20 refund on first bet. Bet must be placed in first 7 days of account opening. Only deposits made via Debit Card will be eligible for the promotion. T&Cs apply.  
Bet £10 Get £40 in Bonuses
#AD New 18+ UK customers only. Register using the promo code WELCOME40, deposit and place first bet of £10+ on Sports (cumulative Evens+) within 7 days of registration. First bet must be on Sports. £30 in Free Bets and £10 in Free Spins (50x20p) credited within 10 hours of bet settlement. Free Bet stakes are not included in any returns. Bonuses have a 7-day expiry. Payment restrictions apply. SMS verification and/or Proof of I.D and address may be required. Full T&Cs apply.
Bet £10 Get £40 In Bonuses
#AD 18+ New customers only. Opt in and place a £10 bet on Horse Racing at odds of 2.00+ within 7 days of opening a new account; excludes cashed out bets. Receive 3x £10 Horse Racing Free Bets, valid on set events only at odds 2.00+. Plus, a £10 Slot Bonus, selected games, wager 20x to withdraw a max of £250. Bonuses expire in 7 days. Card payments only. T&Cs Apply. Please Gamble Responsibly.
Bet £10 Get £10 Free Bets (APP Only)
#AD New UK, IE & Malta customers only. 18+. Min £10/€10 first deposit using Debit Card or Trustly. Place a bet of £10 at min odds of 1.5. Free bets expire in 90 days. Full T&Cs apply.
Bet £10 Get £30 Free Bets + £10 Casino Bonus
#AD Minimum deposit of £10 using deposit code 30F - A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £10 placed on any sports market - Minimum odds of 1/2 (1.5) - Free bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days - Free bet stakes not included in returns - Casino Bonus must be claimed within 7 days • To withdraw bonus/related wins, wager bonus amount x40 within 14 days • Wagering req. vary by game • Withdrawal restrictions and Full T&C’s apply. 18+
Bet £10 Get £30 Free Bets
#AD Offer includes a free £1 Race Index spread bet to try out our exciting 50-25-10 race markets. Place a £10 fixed odds bet at minimum odds of 1/2. Get 2 x £10 free fixed odds bets + 2 x £5 free Winning Favourites spread bets. Bet with live streaming on all racing and greyhounds! Ts&Cs Apply. 18+
£35 Free Bet + 10 Free Spins
If your account has Sportsbook losses at the end of your first day's betting, QuinnBet will refund 50% of your losses as a Free Bet up to £35 (min 3 bets) Plus 10 Free Spins. Even if your account is up, you're guaranteed a £5 Free Bet Plus 10 Free Spins provided you place at least 1 bet of £10 or greater at the minimum odds. T&Cs apply | 18+ New UK Customers Only |
50% Up To £50 Welcome Bonus
#AD 18+; New bettors get 50% of deposit up to £50; Once per household; Min deposit £15 (no Skrill/Neteller); Wager a total of 8 times deposit + bonus, with max qualifying bet stake equal to your initial bonus amount; Bonus expires after 60 days; Min odds of 4/5 on singles, or 2/5 per leg for acca; Some bet types excluded; See full terms.
Latest racing results
1stDuhallow Tommy
3rdPush The Button
1stWestern Diego
2ndSuttons Hill
3rdWill Do
1stRussian Virtue
2ndBridge Road
3rdEdgar Allan Poe
View All Today's Results