Sizing up the Sunday stars
Nic Doggett highlights four horses running on Sunday who could light up the Cheltenham Festival in less than a month's time.
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My Tent Or Yours
Nicky Henderson's Champion Hurdle hope runs in the Kempton.co.uk. 'Jumpers' Bumper' NH Flat Race at 4.40. The son of Desert Prince has not encountered the all-weather surface (on the racecourse) but his sire's progeny have an identical record on turf and the all-weather (22%).
There's absolutely no reason to suspect that the JP McManus-owned runner won't win this on the bridle, given he has 27lb in hand of his rivals on jumps form.
His pace and ability to travel strongly is what distinguishes his Champion Hurdle challenge from that of most of his rivals and this should be a great pipe-opener for his Festival opening day assignment on March 11.
Bright New Dawn
Dessie Hughes' son of Presenting runs in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase at 3.10. A progressive novice hurdler last season (running Champagne Fever to within two lengths in the Deloitte Hurdle), the seven-year-old made a winning transition to fences at Punchestown in December, before finding three miles too far at Leopardstown later that month. There was more promise in his second to Djakadam in January although this drop to an extended two miles might not be ideal. Whatever the case, a decent showing could see him cement a place in either the JLT Novices' Chase or the Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham; something his current British mark of 142 would appeal in the latter.
The current ante-post favourite for the National Hunt Chase, Ted Walsh's six-year-old has stamina in abundance and will relish the testing conditions in the Ten Up Novice Chase at 3.45. The Flemensfirth gelding stayed on best of his rivals when winning at Naas in January and although he has to give weight to all of his rivals, it shouldn't be a halting factor. He may only be young but the former point-to-point winner already looks a bit of a pro and is a worthy favourite for the four-mile race at Cheltenham, with that future assignment more likely than the RSA where they might go a stride too quick for comfort.
Henry de Bromhead's 12-year-old had a warm-up over fences for the Cheltenham's Cross Country Chase last season, but this year the New Frontier gelding will take on the smaller obstacles in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle at 4.20. Connections will be looking to build his confidence after he unseated his rider in the Becher Chase at Aintree and it's interesting to note that he won his most recent handicap hurdle start back in October. Winner of the ever-opinion-dividing Cheltenham race back in 2011, as well as finishing fourth in 2012 and fifth last year, this looks another step towards a return to Gloucestershire.