It’s a day marked in the calendar for any fan of National Hunt racing as Cheltenham springs into life for another season on Friday.
Day one of the Showcase Meeting in the Cotswolds is the centrepiece on a busy Friday, with further action from Sligo over jumps, as well as Doncaster, Newbury, Newcastle and Dundalk on the level.
Amongst our Friday fancies Music Drive is tipped to lead Gordon Elliott’s charge on the first day of term at Cheltenham as he and Davy Russell bid to get on the scoresheet.
- Cheltenham 14:45 – Music Drive @ 5/2
- Newbury 15:45 – Bell Shot @ 13/2
- Doncaster 16:05 – Almuhit @ 4/5
- Newcastle 20:15 – Desert Land @ 5/1
The raiding party from Ireland have a strong hand to play here with recent Listed novice winner She Is Electric representing Norman Lee and MUSIC DRIVE (5/2) bidding to score for Gordon Elliott in this Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (14:45).
The former won nicely against her own sex last time at Gowran Park and has plenty stamina going back up in trip, but she was keen the last time and will need to settle better against these males.
Music Drive, meanwhile, has course experience having run eighth in the Champion Bumper here in March and he impressed with his hurdles debut win at Galway earlier this month. The way he met the rising ground at Ballybrit bodes well coming here and Davy Russell’s mount should now improve plenty for that.
A return to Newbury will be just what BELL SHOT (13/2) relishes and Michael Bell’s charge could well make it 3-3 over C&D in 2022 with Frankie Dettori for company this afternoon.
The Dark Angel gelding notched his most recent win here in August from 6lb lower, scoring readily, and has equipped himself well since at Newmarket when finishing a very close fourth in a blanket finish.
Dettori is up today and, with just a neck to find on re-opposing Mount Kosciuszko, the return to this favoured venue can prove ideal.
He was sent off favourite on handicap debut at Kempton (1m3f, AW) last month and only finished second, but that wasn’t a bad effort from ALMUHIT (4/5) and he may well go one better in this vertem.co.uk Handicap (16:05) at Doncaster.
The gelded son of Sea The Stars was slowly away last time and ran down all bar one of his dozen rivals, finding only front-running Nao Da Mais too strong.
Though the handicapper put him up for that effort, he’s a 3YO taking on his elders now and gets plenty of weight accordingly. There should be improvement from that first run in four months for John and Thady Gosden’s inmate and he has also shaped as though this extended journey will be well within reach.
Jim Crowley should be able to pick his position in a field of five now and Almuhit can prove too good up the Town Moor straight.
Evening racing from Newcastle is a Friday night staple for the winter and DESERT LAND (5/1) looks primed to strike in the Gosforth Park finale for Keith Dalgleish and Billy Garrity.
The Kodiac gelding finished second behind a well-backed improver on his most recent start a week ago.
His record on the all-weather is excellent (6-24) and he’s got two wins and a second from four starts at Newcastle, his only blip came when chancing his arm in a valuable handicap last month.
He bounced back from that last week and is due a 4lb hike in the ratings after tonight’s outing, so it’s no shock to find him on the Most Napped table via the Betfred Betfinder for this assignment.