Don't miss Simon Holt's selections for Sunday's racing at Cheltenham, with Le Prezien selected to land the Shloer Chase.
Recommended bets: Sunday November 18
Last month's Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las, in which SILVER STREAK beat LE PREZIEN, could well provide the solution to the two feature events at Cheltenham on Sunday.
In what looked a quality contest, Silver Streak travelled smoothly into contention at the West Wales course before quickening clear on the run-in to prove that his victory in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May was no fluke.
The Evan Williams-trained grey is clearly a fast improver and, up 6lb now, could take another big prize under Adam Wedge in the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle with the Ffos Las form given a good boost when third-placed Ozzie The Oscar gave Gods Own a tough race switched to fences in the Haldon Gold Cup.
Considering that Silver Streak was quite ordinary on the Flat, racing over six furlongs as a three-year-old for Ann Duffield, he has made tremendous advances since switched to Williams and, from four starts last season, the six-year-old won at Chepstow first time out before chasing home the gambled-on Hunters Call in another hot handicap hurdle, then departed early in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and would not have enjoyed testing conditions behind Mr Antolini in the Imperial Cup.
Clearly, Silver Streak is much more at home on good or good to soft ground and should find conditions ideal here.
Of the opposition, Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Midnight Shadow probably appeals most as he too looks firmly on the upgrade and should strip fitter for a recent outing at Wetherby while Western Ryder boasted some strong novice hurdle form last season, in particular when sixth after being badly hampered two out in the Supreme Novices at the Festival over this course and distance.
The latter's trainer Warren Greatex reckons a strongly run two miles on goodish ground is ideal for the son of Westerner so a big run can be expected.
Verdana Blue is bound to be well fancied under a 5lb penalty for her impressive Elite Hurdle win at Wincanton last weekend and could well prove too classy with ground conditions remaining in her favour but this stiffer course is probably not quite so suitable.
Stable-mate Charlie Parcs is also of interest as he has tended to run his best races first time out and also likes a dryish surface as he showed when fourth to Midnight Shadow at Ayr. This highly-regarded horse now gets a 6lb pull for about four lengths with the winner but has yet to truly deliver on his earlier promise and was reduced to the role of pacemaker for stable-companion Buveur D'Air when a 100-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle last March when he was eventually pulled up.
In that Welsh Champion Hurdle, Le Prezien will have delighted connections with his finishing effort which should have set him up nicely for a return to fences in the Shloer Chase.
The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old has a few pounds to find conceding 1lb and 4lb respectively to likely main rivals Sceau Royal and Brain Power but could be worth taking a chance with as the former returns from nearly 300 days off the track and the latter has failed to get round in three of his last four chases.
Le Prezien can make the occasional jumping error himself but has developed into a very useful two-mile chaser and stormed clear up the hill in the Grand Annual over this course and distance at the Festival. That was a very fast-run race and, with no obvious front-runner here, I wonder if a change of tactics might be in order.
It's difficult to say how it will unfold but, at the likely odds, he is just preferred to Sceau Royal who would take all the beating on his Henry VIII Chase win at Sandown last December in which Brain Power looked held when blundering David Mullins out of the saddle at the final fence.