Talking Horses: Cheltenham gets the go-ahead for Saturday's big card

Chris Cook
The Guardian
<span>Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Cheltenham’s BetVictor Gold Cup card on Saturday, the highlight of the track’s prestigious November meeting, will go-ahead after the track passed an inspection on Friday afternoon.

Officials had been forced to abandon Friday’s card owing to a waterlogged track, following 37mm of rain in 18 hours, but were happy with conditions when looking at the course following a day of mainly dry weather.

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Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “There was significant improvement since we looked at it at 7am. I’m confident there won’t be any issues at all.

“We’ve passed the afternoon inspection. We’re going to have to make some amendments out on the track to enable us to get down the old hill on the chase course.

“That will involve bypassing that fence and taking the chasers on to the hurdles course and in order to do that we have to take out the third-last hurdle. Otherwise, the chase and hurdle tracks are unaffected. The ground remains soft, heavy in places.”

He added: “We’ve also given the go ahead for the cross-country chase on Sunday, although we will omit fence four, which is the Aintree fence, which is jumped twice and is also fence 27.

“We were encouraged early this morning to see that most of the flood water had receded. There was still some surface water lying around the site. The false ground coming down the hill had improved sufficiently on the hurdle track for us to be able to give the meeting the go-ahead. The forecast, other than a few showers, is for two dry days.”

Friday’s best bets

Today’s action is not quite so high-class as we hoped but let’s be grateful to Newcastle and Southwell for supplying some. My main interest is at Newcastle, where Speak Of The Devil (12.30) is mostly 100-30 for his chasing debut, though you might find a bit of 4-1.

This chestnut in the care of Lucinda Russell was with Shark Hanlon when he won a point in Ireland last year. He has run just enough times over hurdles to get a handicap mark but understandably looked one-paced in that sphere. We should see a much better side of him today.

Skipping On (1.40) has drifted slightly to 9-2 for a small-field race on the same card, when he takes on rivals who have raced more recently. But first time was the time to catch him last season, when he scored on Sedgefield’s Boxing Day card, albeit over hurdles. He returns to fences today, in which sphere he is four from eight and still fairly handicapped.

The pick of Southwell’s card may be Sartene’s Son (1.25), who has now halved in price to 7-2 for a handicap chase. He didn’t actually win in a busy first season for Nigel Twiston-Davies, then moved to the lower profile Robert Bevis last season and his mark crashed by a stone. Now that he’s back with the in-form Twiston-Davies, he might be in a position to exploit his low rating.

The nap is Peltwell (3.10), from the Neil Mulholland yard that had three winners and a second on Thursday. She ran well on her handicap debut last time and a similar effort would make her hard to beat here but she’s only 5-4

12.00 Mr Love 12.30 Speak Of The Devil (nb) 1.05 Chanting Hill 1.40 Skipping On 2.15 Royal Claret 2.50 The King Of May 3.25 Wetlands

12.50 Grand Coureur 1.25 Sartene's Son 2.00 Jepeck 2.35 Shantou Vow 3.10 Peltwell (nap) 3.45 Leskinfere

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