It may not be Cheltenham’s first meeting of the season, but there is something about the Open Meeting that signifies that the jumps season is properly underway.
Top names will be out and big prizes are on offer, as trainers begin their march towards the Festival back at the Gloucestershire venue in four months’ time.
Here’s what we can’t wait to find out…
Could we see a future Festival winner or two?
Last year’s Open meeting was attended by five horses that would go on to triumph at the showpiece in March, although only Taquin Du Seuil and Balthazar King actually won last November.
A number of well-fancied antepost prospects are set to compete at Prestbury Park this weekend, with 16/1 Triumph Hurdle co-favourite Hargam engaged, and Sausalito Sunrise, who is 16/1 for the RSA Chase also entered.
Cross Country champion Balthazar King is back for more as he looks to take his record on the unique course to four wins from six runs.
Will favourites struggle again?
Just one jolly in the final 14 races of the meeting obliged last season, with the total standing at a very modest four winning favourites from 19 races.
And with a level stakes loss of £75.30 to a £10 stake on all the market leaders, punters will be hoping for better luck this time round.
Is Present View as well handicapped as his trainer thinks?
A winner at the Festival here back in March, Jamie Snowden’s six-year-old has been campaigned with the Paddy Power Gold Cup firmly in mind.
A run over hurdles in which a final flight mistake may have cost him victory, will be just the warm-up he needs.
Snowden has commented on his stable star: “His rating over hurdles went up to 144 from 120 following his head second at Cheltenham last month… If he has [improved] a quarter of that then he could be nicely handicapped. I wouldn’t swap him.”
We shall see if the 6/1 shot is over-priced come Saturday.
Will Barry Geraghty take his chance in the Greatwood Hurdle?
Normally that might not be such an important question. But should he take his mount in Sunday’s feature aboard Vaniteux (3/1), it will come at a cost.
Geraghty must decide whether to ride Nicky Henderson’s favourite and top-weight, he will miss out a ride on Jezki, whom he won the Champion Hurdle on, in the Morgiana Hurdle across the Irish Sea.
Who will make the most of McCoy’s absence?
It goes without saying that other jockeys’ chances are boosted when the determined McCoy drive is absent, but his current injury troubles open up more talking points.
As the champ takes an extremely rare break from racing, there are plenty of JP McManus-owned horses that are without a rider.
In fact, the wealthy owner has no fewer than 15 horses entered across the three-day meeting, most of them that would have been ridden by the Ulsterman.
Not only does this meeting boast some big prizes to be won, the opportunity to make a name for themselves could well bestow itself upon the likes of Richie McClernon and Maurice Linehan, but will they take it?
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing
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