©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Runners and Riders

Mark your Card: your best bets for today's Grade racing

Declan Smyth settles down with the form and picks us a winner from today’s JCB Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham.

JCB Hurdle Trial (Grade 2)

THERE IS ONLY one Grade race to consider today but it is an intriguing one nonetheless. The Grade 2 Prestbury Hurdle, known nowadays as the JCB Hurdle Trial, is run over 2m 110yds at Cheltenham (12.45pm). Ten runners have been declared and with most of them having limited experience over hurdles, or even none, it has the potential for an upset.

McVicar is trained by the shrewd Alan King. He was modest enough on the flat but has won his two hurdle races and beat another of today’s rivals, Outback, by 15 lengths into second in the last one. It’s difficult to evaluate the form but King doesn’t tilt at windmills and I expect him to run a good race.

Dovils Date was rated at a high of 72 on the flat. He won first time out for his new stable last week in his hurdling debut. Coming from Tim Vaughan’s yard he has to be respected, but there should be a few better than him.

Far West comes from the in-form Team Nicholls. The son of Poliglote, whom Paul Nicholls holds in high regard, was bought from France after finishing third in a Conditions Hurdle at Auteuil.

He made his debut for Nicholls at Chepstow in mid-October where he beat the highly regarded Handazan by 11 lengths into second. The latter, who was a classy flat horse with a rating of 94, then went on to win at Aintree to frank the form.

Foster’s Road will probably find a few too good for him while Outback looks well held by McVicar.

Vasco Du Ronceray joined Nicky Henderson from France following three runs in bumpers over there where he placed twice and won once. He hacked up in his first and only run over hurdles at Hereford, winning by a staggering 32 lengths. It’s likely that the opposition wasn’t up to much but jockey AP McCoy was said to be impressed. He could be anything and is likely to be involved at the finish.

Flashman would appear to be outclassed as do Shabra Emperor and Shelford. The other runner Roc D’Apsis is interesting. He has had only two runs on the flat in France, winning both and in the latter beating a subsequent listed winner. He now runs for trainer Tom George and and comes highly rated.

Lack of experience could tell and, in what should be a very informative race, FAR WEST should just about shade it.

Reproduced with permission from >>

Follow @whiteflagman on Twitter >>