Guide to success on opening day of Cheltenham meet

Theatre Guide, who ran such a fine race in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last month, can clinch Grade 3 honours today on the opening day of Cheltenham’s weekend fixture.

Trained by Colin Tizzard, whose horses are in such great heart, and whose stablestar Cue Card won last month’s Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock, Theatre Guide lines up in the £45,000 Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase.

The six-year-old went down fighting in the Hennessy, in which he finished an excellent third to Trio d’Alene in what amounts to the best handicap chase this side of Christmas.

Theatre Guide has only to reproduce that sort of performance this afternoon to claim the winner’s handsome prize.

The opening Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices’ Chase promises to be a fascinating start to the meeting.

All eyes will be on Oscar Whisky, a 164-rated hurdler, who was narrowly beaten on this course on his chasing debut last month by Taquin du Soleil. That looked a messy race, which turned into something of a sprint finish and Oscar Whisky is expected to do considerably better this time.

But then, he may have to produce a superior display if he is lower the colours of the Paul Nicholls-trained selection Wonderful Charm, who is three-from-three over fences this season and whose latest six-length success was achieved in a Grade 2 event at Newbury. He is narrowly preferred to Oscar Whisky.

Nicky Henderson, trainer of Oscar Whisky, has a twin-chance in the CF Roberts Electrical + Mechanical Services Handicap Hurdle with Lyvius and Fourth Estate.

Barry Geraghty, Henderson’s number one jockey, is aboard Lyvius, which perhaps suggests he is the more fancied of the pair after his Ascot fourth on his reappearance. But my vote is for David Bass’s mount, Fourth Estate, who was narrowly beaten at Kempton on his first run since missing the whole of last season. Fourth Estate is an exciting prospect and has won four of his six career starts. Whatever the fate of Lyvius, he is clearly no underdog.

In the Citipost Handicap Hurdle, Southfield Theatre makes plenty of appeal.

Trained by Nicholls, he was a good winner at Wincanton on his reappearance before going down by a whisker in a red-hot handicap on this course last month. He looks useful.

Ballyalton and Doctor Harper are dual-winners already this season and both look destined to go on to better things, but the pair may have their wings clipped today by another dual-winner in Garde La Victoire, trained by Philip Hobbs.

An Aintree and Warwick winner this term, nap selection Garde La Victoire looks a high-class horse in the making. Victory this afternoon in the British Stallion Studs Novices’ Hurdle would confirm it.

On the all-weather at Southwell, North Yorkshire trainers Richard Fahey and Michael Dods both have good chances of a winner.

Fahey saddles Our Gabrial, narrowly beaten at Lingfield last time out, in the 32Red Nursery Handicap, while Dods runs Escape To Glory in the Ladbrokes Handicap. Tom Eaves’ mount was a decent third at Kempton on his latest outing.

RACING selections

Cheltenham today
12.30 Wonderful Charm, 1.05 Richmond, 1.40 Fourth Estate, 2.10 Theatre Guide, 2.40 Keep On Track, 3.15 Southfield Theatre, 3.45 Garde La Victoire (NAP).

Southwell today
11.50 Slinky Mcvelvet, 12.20 Westminster, 12.55 Our Gabrial, 1.30 Neighbourhood, 2.00 Escape To Glory, 2.30 Maakirr, 3.05 Major Muscari, 3.35 Errigal Lad.

Today’s other meetings: Bangor and Wolverhampton.

Tomorrow’s meetings: Cheltenham, Doncaster, Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton.

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