Cheltenham Trials Day Preview 2013

reve-de-sivola-ascot-2-full_2877196[1]With the likes of Grands Crus, Oscar Whiskey, Imperial Commander and Sprinter Sacre all set to make appearances at Cheltenham this weekend, racing fans are set for an explosive day of racing.
That is however if the wintery weather holds back after devastating the racing last weekend.
In one of the most important meetings in terms of festival preparation in the calendar, there are top class races which will give clues for the Gold Cup, Champion Chase and World Hurdle amongst others.
The biggest race of the day is the Argento Chase which features a whole range of Gold Cup fancies from the Lexus Chase winner Tidal Bay, to the returning 2010 Gold Cup conqueror Imperial Commander.
Despite the withdrawal of this year Gold Cup favourite Bob’s Worth, the Argento looks set to be a cracker with a star studded field led by Tidal Bay (9/4).
The resurgent 12-year-old has shown glimpses of class in his early career when winning the Arkle by 13 lengths at the 2007 festival but he has never since shown any consistency. That is however since his move from Howard Johnson’s to Paul Nicholls’ yard last year.
The champion trainer eased him into the season last year opting to leave out Cheltenham festival and go straight to Aintree where he was a distant 4th behind Big Bucks in the Liverpool Hurdle.
However that lesson seemed to do him wonders as he followed with a thumping 15 length win in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
He started this season with a return over hurdles and comfortably saw off Crack Away Jack and odds-on favourite Smad Place at Wetherby.
A valiant display in the Hennessy Gold Cup when staying on to finish second to Bob’s Worth when given 6lbs to the Gold Cup favourite.
The best was still to come when he again stayed on superbly in the Lexus Chase against Ireland’s best, to beat First Lieutenant by a head in a superb finish involving Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar.
The torrid autumn and winter may well have helped Tidal Bay as he seems to love the soft ground but even still his form is tremendous going into this race and is a worthy favourite.
Nicholls still reiterated even the night before the race that he was only 50/50 to race so should you fancy him, don’t move too early. Nicholls appearance on the Morning Line should give more of an idea whether or not he runs.
Tidal Bay’s main rivals are Grands Crus (9/2) and the returning Imperial Commander (6/1).
Grands Crus’ disappointing Paddy Power Gold Cup was followed by a solid performance when finishing 3rd to Long Run in the King George on Boxing Day.
That run come very soon after a wind pipe operation and he could well improve on that performance.
There is no doubting Grands Crus’ class but he seems to struggle when the race becomes a battle and the soft ground doesn’t help that but he definitely is in with a big shout.
Imperial Commander has had a very long layoff through injury and returning at the ripe old age of 12, he has a very difficult task ahead of him.
However trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has never lost faith in his Gold Cup hero and has always insisted that the old spark is still there and could not be happier with him leading into the race.
A horse which is blessed with as much talent as Imperial Commander is always a threat and should you fancy him to return with a bang, his ante-post odds for the Gold Cup in March of 50/1 may also appeal as they will be considerably slashed should he bag this race.
The torrential weather last weekend forced the Victor Chandler Chase to be rescheduled for this meaning fans will get the chance to see the emerging superstar Sprinter Sacre.
Blessed with class and speed Sprinter Sacre has torn the 2m division apart for a season and a half now and questions are now been asked if he can even be beaten never mind when.
Priced at 1/5 bookmakers will not be taking any gambles after seemingly holding him too big in the Tingle Creek when he won at odds of 8/13 from Kumbeshwar.
Never before have I seen such an energetic chaser jump with so much style and accuracy. It is scary to think the level in which Sprinter Sacre could reach.
Rarely does the 7-year-old make mistakes but should he get too close into a fence for example he simply adjusts himself and gobbles up the rest like a true athlete.
He leaves jockey Barry Geraghty motionless on almost every run coming off the bridle only a handful of times during his career and tomorrow will no doubt be the same.
With the race result seen be by many in little doubt, the market of betting without the favourite will most probably be the most popular.
Sanctuaire is the 13/8 favourite and will probably take the beating providing he doesn’t try to take on Sprinter Sacre on with a gallop again.
When lining up in the Tingle Creek a lot of punters believed that he could indeed beat the favourite and galloped off early on to draw out a nine length lead on the unbeaten chaser.
However Sprinter Sacre was simply toying with him and when the railway fences came around the final time he drew him in and Sanctuaire had nothing left when travelling into the final furlong.
He responded with a gutsy effort in the Desert Orchid at Kempton when looking at one point defeated to reverse the form on Kumbeshwar.
Somersby (12 win 5/2 without favourite) is making his season return after an up and down season last year concluding with defeat to Sanctuaire at Sandown. On his day he can produce a big performance but lacks any sort of consistency.
William Wishes (14 and 7/2 without the favourite) produced a fantastic performance despite making a big mistake two out staying on to win by two lengths.
His form is fantastic bearing in mind the run Champion Court gave in the King George and at 7/2 without the favourite, is an appealing price.
With the absence of the invincible Big Bucks, the staying hurdling division has been blown wide open and tomorrow will see top two-and-a-half-miler Oscar Whiskey return with another crack at 3m.
After a very disappointing run in his maiden attempt at 3m in the World Hurdle, trainer Nicky Henderson will hope he can prove he can stay the trip in the Cleeve Hurdle this weekend and is 13/8 to take the Grade 1 race.