Cheltenham: course set to stage a cracking Saturday card
Get ready for a cracking Cheltenham card
THERE will be plenty of pointers towards the destination of the big prizes at the Cheltenham Festival when a whole host of jump racing's stars head to the track for the Cheltenham Trials day meeting on Saturday.
The eight-race extravaganza features the £100,000 Grade 2 Argento Chase, three more Grade 2 races, headed by the £60,000 Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle plus the rearranged Grade 1 Victor Chandler Chase which features jump racing's brightest star Sprinter Sacre.
Hunt Ball will bid to enhance his Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup claims when he lines up in the Argento Chase.
The eight-year-old, trained by Keiran Burke, features among 12 declared runners for the race and goes their on the back of a second in the rearranged Grade 2 Peterborough Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
Burke said: "Hunt Ball is absolutely buzzing and is in really good form. The weather has been rubbish but we have been able to get him out every day and we had him ready to run at Taunton so he has just been ticking over.
"I am hopeful of a big run and I think he has come forward for his run at Kempton. He is a big horse and it does him good to get a few runs into him.
"Obviously, the step up in trip is a little bit of a concern but he got three miles around in Aintree in a Grade 1 at the end of a long season so I'm not too worried.
"He is going to have to finish in the first three to warrant running in the Gold Cup. If you think he is going to have any chance in the Gold Cup, he will have to finish really close up."
Hunt Ball's credentials will be tested by 2010 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander, who is having his first start since March 2011, and rejuvenated 12-year-old Tidal Bay who hopefully teams up with Ruby Walsh for trainer Paul Nicholls if the chaser gets over a minor foot problem in time.
Two of this season's most exciting novice hurdlers, Coneygree and The New One,will put their winning records on the line in the £30,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, while the opening £30,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial should throw up Festival pointers with unbeaten juveniles Irish Saint, Rolling Star and Knight Of Pleasure all facing the starter.
Cheltenham is fit for racing and passed an inspection at 8am on Friday morning ahead of Festival Trials day. The racecourse remains confident of racing going ahead but, in the interest of taking all possible scenarios into account, is holding an inspection at 7am on raceday morning.