Last year’s Open Meeting at Cheltenham was all about the duo of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson as the pair teamed up for six successes over the course of the three days.
And while 2014 may have been a vintage year, the Minehead trainer leaving the November meeting smiling wasn’t necessarily a one off.
Over the past three years Hobbs has sent out 30 runners over the combined nine days, and exactly a third of them have triumphed, while a further nine have made the frame.
With the action at jump racing’s HQ usually as competitive as can be a strike-rate of 63 per cent of horses at least placing is no mean feat.
This time round the multiple Grade 1-winning handler has, at the time of writing, 14 horses entered to run at Cheltenham over the upcoming weekend, many with huge chances.
Bold Henry, who scored in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase last term looks set to come back to try and defend his crown.
He will have to defy a 9lb higher mark this time round, and with plenty of poor performances since, looks to be facing a tough ask.
However the way in which he was going away at the finish of the contest 12 months ago was eye-catching enough, and mustn’t be dismissed out of hand.
His other charge returning to the scene of a success of last year is Greatwood Hurdle winner Garde La Victoire.
The six-year-old got off to a winning start when pitched over fences for the first time last month at Uttoxetter.
Richard Johnson had previously spoken of how the son of Kapgarde was an exciting recruit to the chasing game, and looks to have a great chance in the Arkle Trial.
Hobbs isn’t without an outside chance in the two main events either.
He last landed the Paddy Power Gold Cup way back in 1989 with Joint Sovereignty, so ending the 26 year wait for a second triumph might be high on his wish-list.
His hopes look to rest with Cloud Creeper (33/1) who bumped into some useful types when fourth in an Intermediate Chase at Newton Abbott five weeks ago.
He’s a consistent enough gelding with that run the only time he’s been outside the first three in six runs over fences.
Winner of a small field event over course and distance in April, his lofty odds may underestimate him somewhat, despite his climb up the handicap.
In search of a fifth Greatwood Hurdle, Hobbs and Johnson could team up with Rock The Kasbah (25/1) for Diana Whateley, owner of last year’s victor.
A second place in the Grade 3 Silver Trophy at Chepstow would have been a great way to prepare for the competitive contest, and with a rise of 5lbs fair, the chestnut must have a solid chance.
He drops back to the minimum trip for the first time over hurdles, but with a bumper win over 2m to his name, he looks to have plenty of pace to cope well.
It may be that none of the aforementioned horses get their head in front at the summit of that famous Cheltenham hill, but with Philip Hobbs’ record at the impending meeting, it would be a shock if others weren’t to provide the trainer with some moments to savour.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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