Cheltenham Preview: Pure Theatre At The Home Of Jumps Racing

If you're anything like me, you'll probably be starting to panic on the Christmas shopping front, not knowing what to get your loved ones or how you're going to afford it.

Cheltenham Preview: Pure Theatre At The Home Of Jumps Racing

If you're anything like me, you'll probably be starting to panic on the Christmas shopping front, not knowing what to get your loved ones or how you're going to afford it.

Sadly, inspiration remains hard to come by in the first instance – bar recycling the biscuits I received from last year's Secret Santa at Timeform – but there are still a few opportunities, from a betting perspective, to boost the bank balance between now and the big day, not least on the good card that kicks off Cheltenham's

International meeting on Friday.

Theatre Territory
Theatre Territory Picture:Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The most valuable event on the card is the Grade 3 handicap chase at 14:30, a race with a roll of honour that features Marlborough (2000) and Kingscliff (2003), both of whom went on to show top-class form over fences, as well as the 2009 Grand National winner Mon Mome. His win in this contest had come just four months earlier, but a winter lull saw him sent off at 100/1 on Merseyside, where he proved better than ever to spring one of the biggest shocks in the race's long history.

Worthy Farm
Worthy Farm Picture:(Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Rock The Kasbah Horseform is already a third of that price for the 2019 National, having produced a career best to win his most recent outing at this venue – a race in which Singlefarmpayment (fourth), Cogry (sixth), Doing Fine (seventh) and Coo Star Sivola (eighth) were all behind him. It was certainly hard not to be impressed with how professionally he did it that day, jumping well in the heat of battle from the outset, and it would be no surprise if there was even more to come from him, with his general trajectory in this sphere being a positive one for Philip Hobbs, who will be hoping that his charge can enhance his Aintree claims further with another big run.

The Alan King-trained Kerrow is also worth a mention, having looked likely to win when falling at the last at Bangor last time. That represented an encouraging return to action after 20 months off and a 5 lb higher mark is unlikely to prove beyond him given his lightly-raced profile – he has had just 15 starts under Rules, the last five of which have come in this discipline.

However, the one who makes most appeal at this stage is the only mare in the field, Theatre Territory. She proved at least as good as ever after seven months and a wind operation when chasing home Ibis du Rheu in novice company here four weeks ago, jumping fluently in front and only run down once the lack of a recent outing began to tell close home (beaten a length). That form sets the standard on weight-adjusted ratings now reverting to handicaps and, with Sam Waley-Cohen taking a further 3 lb off her back, she looks sure to give another good account in what is, admittedly, an open heat – seven of the nine runners are covered by only 3 lb on ratings.

Trained by David Cottin, he was most impressive when winning a similar event at Compiegne (by 18 lengths) last time, but his standout effort remains his fifth over C&D at the 2017 Festival, when he was beaten 16 lengths behind Cause of Causes. A BHA mark of 128 is certainly workable on that evidence and the concession of 23 lb to that rival looks too tough a task for last year’s winner of this race, the 13-year-old Bless The Wings, while Josies Orders also looks weighted to the hilt, arriving here on a mark 3 lb higher than when narrowly recording a fourth C&D success at the November meeting (by three quarters of a length from Facts of the Matter).

The novice events that open Friday’s proceedings should both provide plenty of clues for the future – the popular Blaklion and recent Ladbrokes Trophy winner Sizing Tennessee feature on another illustrious roll of honour for the novice chase (12:45) in recent years – but the only other race on the card that looks worth getting involved in financially is the concluding handicap hurdle at 15:40.

Irish raider Great Tango is undoubtedly a leading contender, having caught the eye when second on his most recent outing at Listowel, but the forecast spot might be the best he can hope for once again if Worthy Farm Horseform continues the progress he has made in his three starts over hurdles to date, finishing third on his first two starts at Bangor in April and Warwick in November, before showing much improved form to get off the mark on his handicap debut at Taunton last time.

He was value for far more than the neck-winning margin that day, likely to have won by nearer five lengths but for hanging violently length on the run-in, and a BHA mark of 124 is unlikely to prove the ceiling of his ability; he has lots about him physically and looks sure to go on improving as he gains in experience.

Recommended Bets:Theatre Territory

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