We were back at Cheltenham for the opening day of the International meeting and sometimes you look at a card before racing and find it all a bit confusing, that was the case on Friday. Bar the cross country race, every race looked wide open – and as usual these middle graded races were devilishly difficult to predict on ground so unusual for December. Colin Tizzard fired in a double on the big stage once again, as his challenge to Nicholls and Mullins continues to bubble below the surface. Theatre Guide chinned the longshot Perfect Candidate on the line in a thriller of a Grade Three and Pingshou was a gutsy winner of the finale in a tidy novice’s hurdle.
Runs of The Day: Cheltenham
2 05 CANTLOW (E Bolger) 13/8, C2 Cross Country Chase, 3M6F, Good To Firm
The one race that wasn’t much of a surprise was when we witnessed another JP McManus owned and Edna Bolger trained cross country winner at the home of jumps. Bolger has a knack of bringing back horses that appear on a unending downwards spiral. He targets these throughout the year, with his strongest cohort always heading to Cheltenham in March well fancied. The 9L success could have been much greater; the 11YO took the race up after a spluttering pace came about after the fall of a couple of rivals. Josies Orders remains the ones to beat – also trained by Bolger – but Friday showed Bolger could be heading into March with at the least a strong double hand.