GALVIN, Fusil Raffles, and Rouge Vif are just some of the star names in action as top-class national-hunt racing returns to Cheltenham this afternoon, for day one of The Showcase.
Leading trainer Gordon Elliott sends over Galvin, who will have Robbie Power aboard for the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Novices’ Chase. It will be run over an extended three miles.
Runner-up to Imperial Aura in the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase at The Cheltenham Festival, Galvin has been in red-hot form, with three consecutive victories over fences, most recently in a G3 event at Tipperary on October 4.
The brilliant Chicago Grey landed this race for Elliott in 2010, before providing the trainer with his first success at The Festival in the 2011 National Hunt Chase, with the same contest reportedly the target for Galvin this season.
The contest also features G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle fifth, Mossy Fen; another Irish raider, in Doctor Duffy, for Limerick trainer, Charles Byrnes and east Cork jockey, Jonathan Burke; and it also includes prolific summer performer, Soldier Of Love.
Also lining up is progressive mare Clondaw Caitlin, who is in the care of Ruth Jefferson and will have the assistance of Brian Hughes in the saddle.
The five-year-old was undefeated on all three of her outings over hurdles last season, culminating in a five-length victory in the G2 Premier Novices’ Hurdle, at Kelso, in February.
North Yorkshire-based Ruth Jefferson said mid-week: “This race looks very competitive, but we have to start Clondaw Caitlin off somewhere and this looks as good a starting point as any.
“She has schooled really well over fences at home and we are looking forward to seeing how she gets on.
“She would like some cut in the ground, so, hopefully, Cheltenham get the rain they are forecast, but she is in good form and is an exciting horse for the season ahead.”
Rouge Vif will line up this afternoon for the partnership of trainer, Harry Whittington, and rider, Daryl Jacob. The talented contender is one of the leading fancies for the most valuable race on the card, the £48,000 Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase, over two miles.
A magnificent winner of the G2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, at Warwick, in February, Rouge Vif was last seen finishing a pleasing third over the course and distance in the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase, at The Festival,in March.
Market leader, On The Slopes, will represent handler, Chris Gordon, and jockey, Adam Wedge. He was also in fine form before the national hunt season ended prematurely, winning a pair of novice handicap chases in fine style at Kempton Park in February and March.
Trainer Chris Gordon said earlier this week: “On The Slopes is in great order and the plan is to run.
“I would like some more rain for him; the ground would preferably be on the easy side of good. It is tricky at the declaration stage, but we would obviously like to run and he will, as long as they get some rain.
“He finished last season really strongly and this looks a nice first target. He is in fine form at home.”
Three other hopefuls on the back of a win are the impressive Fontwell handicap victor, Beat The Judge, Newton Abbot winner, Scardura, and Hatcher, who has been kept fresh since winning at Southwell in July.
Top-class hurdlers Fusil Raffles, who is trained at Seven Barrows by Nicky Henderson, and Getaway Trump, who is handled by champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, are set for an exciting clash in the Two Farmers Crisps Novices’ Chase over two miles.
Both horses come into the race following victories over fences, at Uttoxeter and Warwick, respectively.
This weekend’s meeting at Cheltenham has been the platform for a host of talented horses that have taken to the unique track during the two-day meeting, and then returned a few months later to take their chance in one of the Cheltenham Festival races.
Promising contenders and seasoned campaigners are on show this weekend and come tomorrow evening we will have a few Cheltenham Festival pointers in the notebook.