This year’s three-day Open Meeting at Cheltenham is upon us. And as per usual racing fans are counting down the hours until they can see their favourite National Hunt stars turn out again.
Naturally, antepost backers will have a particularly keen eye on proceedings with next year’s Festival in mind.
While those links are seemingly inescapable, it’s worth taking stock to celebrate The Open meeting in its own right as the Jumps season begins in earnest.
Here’s our look at the horses to watch out for between Friday November 11 and Sunday November 13…
Josies still the order of the day should Cross Country get green light
With minimal rain expected between now and the start of The Open there’s been some doubt cast about whether the latest running of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase will still go ahead.
However, should the 3m6f contest take place it’ll be tough to back against last year’s cross country star, Josies Orders.
Enda Bolger’s charge completed a hat-trick of cross country wins in Gloucestershire last season and is the clear 5/2 favourite for the 2017 Festival edition.
Previous winner and old sparring partner Any Currency could well have another crack while Bolger is well-represented by his other entrants, Quantitativeeasing, Cantlow and Auvergnat.
Clamour for Thistlecrack is set to continue
Colin Tizzard’s Gold Cup market leader has been entered for a novice chase on the Saturday and should Thistlecrack line-up then expect plenty more talk around his Festival chances.
Last year’s World Hurdle hero put in an impressive round of jumping to get the job done on his first start over fences at Chepstow last month.
And should he complete another routine victory there could well be more market movement.
We’ll let you decide whether that will be justified or not.
Can More of That back-up his trainer’s claims?
Jonjo O’Neill described More of That as “the best horse I’ve ever trained” this week and those comments have only fuelled the interest in his latest assignment.
The second-season chaser will take in the first incarnation of the Gold Cup this Saturday but despite his credentials he isn’t the favourite for the Grade 3 contest.
That honour goes to Paul Nicholls’ progressive 5/1 shot, Frodon, although there are plenty of other names that catch the eye.
The likes of Top Gamble, Ballynagour and Double Shuffle will ensure this race is no procession.
Should More of That come out on top it’ll go some way to reaffirming his trainer’s belief in his top level claims.
Will Winter escape with victory in the Greatwood?
Alan King is very sweet on Winter Escape and it’s easy to see why. Unbeaten in his first three starts, the JP McManus-owned charge already has a Grade 2 win to his name with the form of that race working out well.
And as a result the talented five-year-old is the 3/1 favourite for this Sunday’s Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
There are a few others to watch out for too with both Hargam and Sternrubin both securing recent victories.
However, the bookies seem very much of the opinion that King’s bright prospect will shake off any ring-rust to take the spoils on his seasonal reappearance.
Keep an eye out for plenty more Cheltenham betting news and the latest odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing