Friday Preview: Cheltenham

Attention turns to the jumps on Friday, with Cheltenham’s two day Showcase Meeting set to begin. The Grade 2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle is the highlight on the first day of the fixture, supported by competitive handicap chases.

Racecourse : Cheltenham
Racecourse : Cheltenham Picture: (Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

With all of the eight runners in the 2m½f Grade 2 Sharp Novices' Hurdle (3:55) having won their previous start, it may prove difficult to work out which horse is capable of improving to Graded level. Olly Murphy's Act Of Authority catches the eye at the current prices (4/1), a point-to-point winner in Ireland before making his rules debut in January 2023.

The gelding started favourite for a Musselburgh bumper but showed signs of inexperience in the closing stages and hung right, finishing second behind Florida Dreams. He filled the same position on his second run at Taunton, appearing outpaced in the closing stages and could only get within four-and-three-quarter lengths of the winner. It was a different story on his hurdling debut at Bangor-on-Dee at the start of the month, where the gelding ran out a fourteen length victor with regular rider Sean Bowen aboard. Act Of Authority was enthusiastic from the outset, pulling hard in the early stages to draw clear by the third flight before coming home in a canter. Although he made a mistake at two out when alone in front, the gelding put in a fair jumping performance and it would not be a concern in a tougher contest.

WIN: ACT OF AUTHORITY

In the 2m4f Class 4 Trustatrader Novices' Hurdle (2:45), Encanto Bruno could be an interesting prospect on his first start for trainer Gavin Cromwell. A winner of his point-to-point, the gelding won both his bumper starts last season, including at this course when ridden by Tom Scudamore, before finishing unplaced in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the Festival. Although he was well-beaten (eighteen lengths), he came home midfield in the twenty-one strong field after weakening with a furlong to run.

The gelding shaped with promise on hurdling debut for previous trainer John McConnoll, easily taking a Bellewstown maiden hurdle by thirteen lengths with a clean display of jumping. The same could not be said for his subsequent run at Galway, where the five-year-old clouted the first hurdle before being pulled up with a flight to go. The ease in which Encanto Bruno won his maiden hurdle would suggest he is fully capable of taking on this level of competition, and a line can be drawn through the Galway run, especially if Gavin Cromwell is able to find any further improvement from the gelding.

WIN: ENCANTO BRUNO

The feature chase on the card is the 2m4f Class 3 2023 Thoroughbred Census Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (3:20), which has attracted a field of eleven runners. Although Atlanta Brave remains inexperienced after only four career starts, Kerry Lee's charge is potentially well-handicapped after winning twice over hurdles.

The five-year-old, winner of a point-to-point in May 2022, has always displayed solid jumping credentials and his only disappointment came when a well-beaten fourth in a Newbury novice handicap hurdle in late March. He has demonstrated a tendency to be a little lazy in the closing stages but jockey Richard Patrick has ridden him in all starts for the trainer, and will be wise to any idling.

WIN: ATLANTA BRAVE

RACING & SPORTS SELECTIONS 

RACE 1: BLACK POPPY

RACE 2: JETRONIC

RACE 3: ENCANTO BRUNO

RACE 4: ATLANTA BRAVE

RACE 5: ACT OF AUTHORITY

RACE 6: MOLE COURT

RACE 7: BUCKO'S BAY


Racing and Sports