Cheltenham 1st January 2016

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”15:05 – Relkeel Hurdle” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]top-notch-medicine-hat-haydock_3264486A very interesting Grade Two hurdle, which pits the 2015 World Hurdle, Cole Harden, winner against former Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, along with the well regarded youngster Top Notch. The field is also boosted by multiple Grade One winner, both in the Silver Cross at Aintree, Whisper.

We can add to that four with the lightly raced Virgilo, who has won his last three races all handicaps by a combined twenty-six lengths. Lil Rockerfeller brings Listed class hurdle form to the table with his win in the December Handicap at Sandown. Camping Ground has good form on soft and heavy from his time in France. The race also sees the return of Aurore D’Estruval after almost a year off the track, this was a horse that looked to be going places after she won a listed mares hurdle by ten lengths and then finished second to Irving in the 2014 Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

This horse has never been out of the front two in eight starts (five wins), he finished second to Peace And Co in last seasons Triumph Hurdle, the form of which may have taken a hit in the last few weeks after Peace And Co raced keenly on his return to action and finished last in The International Hurdle. However Hargam who finished third in The Triumph and then again in the International also managed to finish third in The Christmas Hurdle, he was never going to beat Faugheen however to finish within three-quarters of a length to The New One can still go down as a good run.

On Top Notch’s last run he finished second to Identity Thief, who has since gone on to run six time Grade One winner and the only horse to beat Faugheen, Nichols Canyon ‘close’. The softer the ground, the better for this horse. Although it’s his first try at 2m 4f, he’s always been ridden like he has stamina and the step up may bring improvement out of him.

I think he should be the favourite for this race and have priced him at 3.00 (2/1).

Back TOP NOTCH at 3.50 (5/2) with William Hill

Cole Harden
My feeling is that 2m 4f is too short for this horse, his best two pieces of form are over 3m+ on good ground. Last time out he was beaten over six lengths by Thistlecrack, we all thought that was a poor show however Thistlecrack has gone on to show that he’s a potential superstar staying hurdler. I would price Cole Harden up at around the 4.50 (7/2) mark to win this race.

Whisper, like Cole Harden, is another horse who looks like this trip may be on the sharp side for him. He shouldn’t have any concerns regarding the ground though. He was sent of 2.50 (6/4) favourite on his last start in the Long Distance Hurdle, where he finished last after never looking right. Although I don’t think that was a true showing of his form, it’s hard to be confident in backing him. He has less question marks over him than Cole Harden does in these conditions (heavy ground, 2m 4f) but I would also price him up at around the 4.50 (7/2) mark.

Bobs Worth
Although Bobs Worth’s run at Aintree looks good on paper, the form has to be questioned. He stole ten lengths at the start  and probably would have been beaten if Simonsig hadn’t been having his first run in almost two years. I make him 17.00 (16/1) to win a much more competitive race, where he is unlikely to be given a head start.

Lil Rockerfeller
This is a huge step up in class compared to what he has faced already and is also over a distance that he hasn’t won at before. I make him the outsider of the field at 34.00 (33/1).

Aurore D’Estruval
On past form she has a chance in this race as he run in the 2014 Fighting Fifth and the subsequent form of Irving and Emily Gray give her a rating of the low 150s , for a comparison Bobs Worth is officially rated 152, so after a year off the track I would price her up at the same mark of 17.00 (16/1).

Camping Ground
Has winning form on soft and heavy ground in France. He finished ahead of Thistlecrack in last seasons Imperial Cup, but the general form of that race doesn’t look very strong. Of the three that finished in front of him that day only Gassin Golf has gone on to win a race and I therefore have him priced up at 26.00 (25/1).

This horse missed the whole of 2014, but has won three on the bounce in 2015. He was sent off favourite in all of those starts and looked a long way ahead of the handicapper, winning by a combined twenty-six lengths. Those three wins did come against lesser oppositions and on easier tracks (Aintree and Warwick) however. They don’t have much option but to try him in this class now, but it’s a tough ask and I’ve priced him up at 17.00 (16/1).

Predicted 1-2-3
1. Top Notch
2. Whisper
3. Cole Harden

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