Sametegal progress pleasing Nicholls following long layoff
BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase (Grade 3) | 5yo+ | 2m4½f | ITV/RUK
The latest in the diet of valuable handicap chases over this sort of course and distance has typically proved weaker numerically than the BetVictor or Caspian Caviar that precede it, but it is arguably above average in terms of the profile of those turning up.
Ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddles Sametegal, who missed 20 months after winning another Grade 3 at Newbury in March 2016 and has run well in defeat both times he has faced the starter this winter.
"We've been pleased with him since he came back," said Nicholls. "He was second to Guitar Pete at Wetherby and then ran third in the Grand Sefton.
"Like my other horses running at Cheltenham, he probably doesn't want it really heavy, but it was testing at Aintree and he seemed to handle it. He's had three weeks since then, which we think should be enough."
Nigel Twiston-Davies has no such monkey on his back as far as this race is concerned. He has won it three times, including twice in a row in 2014 and 2015.
His latest winner of the race is Splash Of Ginge, who caused an upset when landing the BetVictor Gold Cup with testing ground seemingly the key. His trainer is therefore pleased with what has fallen on the course in recent days.
He said: "Splash Of Ginge has gone up quite a lot in the weights but the ground has come in his favour enormously. He loves heavy ground. The conditions will hinder others more than him and that could give him a shout again."
The trainer is double-handed, and added: "Ballyhill is a novice and I like running novices in this sort of race. The worry is the ground for him, which is going to be pretty extreme."
Burtons out to do well
Burtons Well is probably the least exposed and runs for the first time since October, when he was beaten a neck by Romain De Senam.
That horse has since run with credit in defeat in both the BetVictor and Caspian Caviar, so a rise of 3lb need not hold back Burtons Well.
His trainer Venetia Williams has a history in this race that is nearly as illustrious as that of Twiston-Davies. She has won it twice, first with The Outback Way in 2000 and then with Stan nine years later.
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