Feeling Foxy at Cheltenham
Chris Wilson fancies the Paul Nicholls-trained Fox Run to further enhance his reputation at Cheltenham this afternoon.
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CHELTENHAM: 1.10 His Excellency, 1.45 Hada Men, 2.20 Sprinter Sacre, 2.50 DARLAN (NAP), 3.25 Fox Run, 4.00 Hannibal The Great
CORK: 12.45 Champagne Fever, 1.15 Staying Article, 1.50 Shinrock Paddy, 2.25 Fernhurst Lad, 3.00 Thunder And Roses, 3.30 Echo Bob, 4.05 Thekingofconnemara
FONTWELL: 12.25 Oscargo, 12.55 Meet Me At Dawn, 1.30 Dolatulo, 2.05 Incentivise, 2.40 Overlay, 3.10 Storm Alert, 3.40 Don Pooleoni
PUNCHESTOWN: 12.35 Pride Ofthe Parish, 1.05 Oscars Well, 1.40 Back In Focus, 2.15 Hurricane Fly, 2.45 Courtncatcher, 3.20 Maxim Gorky, 3.50 Redundant Man
DOUBLE: Darlan and Fox Run
Darlan can further emboss his Champion Hurdle claims by winning the feature race of the day at Cheltenham.
The five-year-old gelding may have top weight in the Racing Post Hurdle - better known to most as the Greatwood - but that should prove no considerable burden for a horse who looks sharply on the upgrade.
Trained in Lambourn by Nicky Henderson, Darlan had looked a sleek individual last season until he fell with the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury arguably at his mercy.
That led to accusations in certain quarters he perhaps lacked the necessary substance to get up the Cheltenham hill in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
The dissenting voices were noticeably hushed in March, however, as he slalomed up the exacting incline to finish second behind Cinders And Ashes.
A bad mistake at the last unquestionably exaggerated the manner of his defeat as nothing in the field was finishing with as much zest as Darlan.
Next up was a trip to Aintree in April for the Grade Two novices' hurdle, in which everything came together with such fluency that a three-and-three-quarter-length defeat of Captain Conan was not necessarily a fair reflection of his supreme control.
Although he is saddled with 11st 12lb here, the JP McManus-owned hurdler is likely to have strengthened up considerably for a race which is not historically dictated by weight issues.
A big display would make him hot property for the Champion Hurdle next March.
This fixture will be extremely significant for the Henderson team, who will be hoping for nothing other than a Sprinter Sacre cakewalk in the Shloer Chase.
The electric six-year-old was one of the biggest draws of last season, having won the Arkle and the Maghull Novices' Chase, and should easily carry on the good work in this two-mile assignment.
With the Arkle form now watertight - runner-up Cue Card has since bolted up in the Haldon Gold Cup - it would be a huge surprise if he were to come unstuck back in the Cotswolds.
The Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle is less cut and dry, but it could pay to side with Fox Run from the Paul Nicholls yard.
Although it is very early days, the style in which he won on his British debut at Worcester last month indicated he could feasibly take very high rank amongst the Ditcheat battalion this winter.
His Excellency has also been cherry-picked a nice Graded opportunity in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase.
The former Irish inmate showed plenty of tenacity to overcome the likeable Third Intention over this course and distance in October to take his record over fences to three wins from four starts.
He might not be the most straightforward of customers, but it has to be of significance the usually guarded David Pipe is already giving him a chance to flaunt his wares at this level.
Staying in the name of the game in Fontwell's feature, the freebets.co.uk Southern National Handicap Chase, which plays to the strengths of Incentivise.
Richard Lee's inmate won at Bangor over an inadequate three miles and half a furlong last month and is not badly treated on his best form, despite having gone up 5lb for a one-length victory.