Hadrian’s Approach leads our picks on a Friday treat at Cheltenham

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What a treat for a Friday afternoon, four competitive contests from the home of jumps racing on the opening day of the International meeting.

We are hopeful of topping up our coffers as we head towards Christmas and have picked out a trio of horses that look well worth a financial interest in at Prestbury Park.

Remember, back a winner at 4/1 or bigger on any of the four races shown on Channel 4 and Ladbrokes will reward you with a free bet of up to £25!*

Here’s our fancied three…

NAP – Hadrian’s Approach – 14:10

In truth, to this writer at least, Nicky Henderson’s charge looks the only true Graded level performer in this field.

Despite the fact he has to shoulder top-weight looks a cracking bet to deliver a win on his seasonal reappearance.

And with half of his opponents running from outside the handicap he clearly has a class edge over all of his rivals.

With a win and a nose runner-up spot on his first run back the last two seasons, he should be match fit and ready to strike.

He took the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown at the back-end of the last campaign, going up 7lbs for his troubles.

But under the trustworthy guidance of Barry Geraghty expect him to negate that rise in the handicap with aplomb, at the track that he was third to subsequent Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere in 2013’s RSA Chase.

NB – Uncle Junior – 14:40

It’s apparent that without Balthazar King, these cross country contests are wide open.

Winner at the Festival in 2012, Big Shu is likely to go off favourite, but there’s no getting away from the fact that he was beaten by a horse more than 30lbs worse than him on official ratings at Punchestown last time out.

Instead we turn to the grand old campaigner Uncle Junior.

Willie Mullins’ 13-year-old likes these fences, a winner of this race two years ago off a 5lb higher mark.

He was ahead of a number of these at the Open meeting, and despite this being a handicap, might catch a few cold.

The fact that he is now in his teens shouldn’t put punters off, with plenty of veterans coming to life when they compete over these unique obstacles.

Lively Longshot – Sybarite – 15:15

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has enjoyed a fairly successful 12 months, the highlight coming on Cheltenham’s Old Course over 3m when taking a handicap off a mark of 125 at the Showcase meeting.

His most recent start was a more than respectable sixth in the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock off today’s mark, where a faller in front of him may have dented his chances.

But back at a track he has winning form at, he looks a big price to strike with a first time visor being added for extra intrigue for the Naunton stable.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.