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Thursday, 12 November 2015

3.25 Cheltenham, Friday, November 13

The Opus Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (3.25) at Cheltenham on Friday is numerically the most competitive race on the first day of the Open Meeting and, with plenty of winning form on offer, may take some winning.

Trendsetter made a promising start to his hurdling career when third of nine, beaten 1¾ lengths, in a maiden hurdle at Wetherby on Boxing Day and, although failing to build on that effort in two subsequent starts, he’s shown improved form on the Flat in recent months. The prevailing good going should suit him and he starts life in handicaps off a fairly lowly mark if able to translate his recent improvement back to hurdles.

At the other end of the handicap, French import Baraka De Thaix also made a promising hurdling debut when third of nine, beaten 2 lengths, behind Golden Doyen in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham last November. The Dom Alco gelding subsequently finished well beaten in the JCB Triumph Hurdle proper, in which he jumped poorly, but remains one to keep an eye on, despite the ‘steadier’ of 11st 12lb on his handicap debut.

Lightly-raced 7-year-old A Hare Breath has been off the course for nearly two years and was only recently transferred to Ben Pauling from Nick Gifford. However, the winning point-to-pointer showed decent form behind Irving (now rated 162) and Josses Hill (now rated 158) on his two starts under rules and could be extraordinarily well handicapped if retaining his ability. Of course, he’s obviously had his problems, so he’s not with risks, but that’s what this column is all about and he’s too tempting to resist.

Selections: Cheltenham 3.25 Trendsetter, Baraka De Thaix, A Hare Breath

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