The final weekend of the Cheltenham jigsaw in terms of trials with the Adonis and Dovecote Hurdles the final opportunities to be put into the Triumph and Supreme Novice Hurdle pictures respectively. We also have two decent handicap chases to look at, both won by Christian Williams twelve months ago, and a repeat is far from out of the reckoning.
Milton Harris won the Adonis Hurdle last year with subsequent Aintree hero Knights Realm and he can land it again with SCRIPTWRITER, who went down by less than length to Chepstow Finale Hurdle winner Comfort Zone at Cheltenham on Trials’ Day. Both horses will deserve their place in the line-up for the Triumph Hurdle in three weeks’ time and SCRIPTWRITER, who has already beaten Perseus Way this season is hard to overlook despite his penalty.
He won on the flat at Wolves over Christmas off a mark of 102 and is Paddy Brennan’s only mount of the day on Saturday.
Nusret represents Ireland and he did well to finish third at Leopardstown on Boxing Day when taking a strong hold throughout the race. He was put in his place in a messy race behind Blood Destiny last time but is a useful marker to the Irish form.
Cap du Nord is back for more glory a week on from his Ascot success for which he has a 5lb penalty and twelve months on from success in this very race that capped a memorable half hour period for trainer Christian Williams who also landed another big pot at Newcastle.
Cap Du Nord is 8lb higher than last year but 10lb lower than when fifth here in 2021. He can be competitive off this mark if he is over his Ascot exertions seven days ago, which came just three weeks after a tough race at Doncaster. The booking of young Irish conditional Cian Quirke and his valuable 5lb claim catches the eye and his chance is plain to see. Of the two Christian Williams favourites this afternoon though I prefer his Newcastle chances, so will look elsewhere here.
Annsam finds himself off a career high mark after winning by 17 lengths here last month. That race seemingly fell apart though and he has more on his plate here, especially with fellow front runners in the line-up. One of those is legendary old boy Frodon. He has won a King George over track and trip and proved the fire still burns bright at Wincanton in November. He is only 3lb higher here and will find this easier than his graded tasks of late.
Our Power hasn’t been seen since October when winning at Ascot. He too is off a career high mark but always runs well here and a mid-season break for a spring campaign may well have been the plan. He would have made the staking plan but the yard has been very quiet of late and that was enough to put me off.
A chance instead is given to the talented but fragile CLONDAW CASTLE. He runs off the same mark as when triumphant in this race in 2021 with trainer Tom George also successful in this race with the dashing grey, Nacarat, down the years.
His three runs after that saw him finish a distant second in the Aintree Bowl, third in a Charlie Hall and fourth in a Betfair Chase. He returned here six weeks ago after a thirteen-month layoff over a trip short of his best to finish a sixteen length second to Pic D’Orhy. Back in a handicap, this 11yo, who has finished in the first two in eleven of his eighteen chase starts, can make an impact.
3.25 NEWCASTLE – KITTY’S LIGHT & SHANTY ALLEY
The Eider Chase is the third longest race of the calendar behind only the Grand National itself and Midlands National.
Christian Williams won the race last year and saddles KITTY’S LIGHT, who was second at Kempton on this day twelve months ago and arrives ridiculously well handicapped after a strong of below par efforts. He arrives 13lb lower than when third to Hewick at Sandown in April and 11lb lower than his Scottish National second. He stays, will like the ground, has the tongue tie back on again and although I don’t like putting up favourites in big field handicaps, he looks to have plenty going for him and is impossible to ignore.
He won’t be far away at the business end but the stats for previous winner make interesting reading. Six of the last seven winners have been nine-year-olds, five of which carried eleven stone, give or take 1lb. SHANTY ALLEY meets both criteria and closer inspection of his form makes him of interest at around 20/1 each way. He can be excused from his run at Doncaster where a first fence mistake had him on the back foot. Prior to that he had been runner-up twice after receiving a wind operation including chasing home Grumpy Charley in the Mandarin at Newbury on New Year’s Eve.
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