Cheltenham’s season steps up a gear next weekend at The November Meeting, which gets underway with an excellent six-race card on Countryside Day, Friday, November 17.
The day’s most valuable contest is the two-mile £45,000 BetVictor Handicap Chase (1.50pm), which has attracted 13 entries including Sizing Platinum (Colin Tizzard), who was third in the Randox Health Handicap Chase at The Showcase.
Exitas (Phil Middleton) has won on three of his last four starts, most recently when readily taking a Listed handicap chase over two miles and a furlong at Ascot on November 4.
Un Beau Roman gamely captured the BetVictor Handicap Chase 12 months ago and the Paul Henderson-trained nine-year-old will aim for a repeat victory, with stable companion Doitforthevillage also set to take his chance.
Both horses finished behind Sizing Platinum in the Randox Health Handicap Chase, with Doitforthevillage keeping on in sixth as Un Beau Roman faded to 13th.
Henderson, who trains from Whitsbury in Hampshire, commented today: “I think that both Un Beau Roman and Doitforthevillage will run in the BetVictor Handicap Chase.
“It was always the plan to run them at The Showcase to get them ready for this, although I could do with a bit of rain for Doitforthevillage.
“Doitforthevillage did very well last year, winning five races, and I thought he ran a good race last time. Paddy Brennan said that the ground was just a little bit fast for him – the jumps came a bit quickly and he couldn’t jump at that speed – so a bit of cut next week would help.
“Un Beau Roman needed the run last time, when he blew up, and he has been working better at home. He hated the heavy ground on his first start of the season at Newton Abbot (October 2) and, because they didn’t go a strong pace, he didn’t come on that much for it.
“He is really good jumper, but he couldn’t jump out of the ground at Newton Abbot and they went a full-on gallop at The Showcase, which found him out with his fitness.
“He has been a dropped a bit by the handicapper and will be lining up 2lb lower than the mark he won off last year.
“It was slightly different last year because I didn’t give him a break through the summer, so he was much more forward. I gave him three months off this time, so he has needed his first and second run to come on.
“Doitforthevillage is still open to improvement. He was travelling pretty sweetly in the Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree in April, when he got knocked into another horse and was tripped up.”
The 17 entries for the £25,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (3.00pm) include the first four home from the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at The Festival in March – the Gordon Elliott-trained pair of Cause Of Causes and Bless The Wings plus Cantlow and Auvergnat, who are both trained by Enda Bolger.
Bolger may also be represented by Josies Orders, who is unbeaten in three appearances around Cheltenham’s Cross Country course, and Gilgamboa, a G1 winner over fences who was fourth in the 2016 Randox Health Grand National.
Urgent De Gregaine, runner-up in this year’s Velka Pardubicka, and Vicomte De Seuil could line up for French trainer Emmanuel Clayeux, with Aubusson (Nick Williams) and Southfield Vic (Paul Nicholls) among the British-trained contenders.
Glenfarclas recently renewed its backing for the Cross Country races at the Home of Jump Racing for a further three years.
Glenfarclas, the family-owned producer of award-winning Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, has become synonymous with the three races over Cheltenham’s unique Cross Country Course since first sponsoring them in 2008.
G2 Persian War Novices' Hurdle victor Poetic Rhythm (Fergal O’Brien) heads 14 entries for the £30,000 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (3.35pm) over two miles and five furlongs.
His rivals could include White Moon (Colin Tizzard) and On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson), who have both made winning starts over hurdles, and Calett Mad (Nigel Twiston-Davies), successful in the Junior Jumpers Novices' Hurdle at The Showcase
The £25,000 Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase (2.25pm) over an extended two and a half miles has been won by subsequent Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Denman (2006) and Imperial Commander (2007).
A total of 13 entries for this year’s race inludes Finian’s Oscar (Colin Tizzard), who took the G1 Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April, readily scored in a Listed novices’ chase at Chepstow on October 14, and Black Corton (Paul Nicholls)successful at The Showcase in the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase.
Racing gets underway at 12.40pm with the £22,000 Markel Insurance Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (27 entries) and also features the £12,000 Fairlight Books Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (1.15pm, 27 entries).
Countryside Day is a tradition dating back over two decades with its unique country fair atmosphere and where money is raised for the Countryside Alliance and World Horse Welfare.
Taking place in the paddock pre-racing are countryside activities including the Dog and Duck Show, the Game Goers, Trail Hounds and Horse and Hounds. There will be live music throughout the day on the Best Mate Plaza from the Hipcats, as well as The Chip Shop Boys performing live in the Final Flight Bar after racing.
The shopping experience at The November Meeting offers an ideal opportunity, with plenty of outlets ready to sell a diverse range of goods ahead of Christmas. There is something to suit every taste and budget.
The November Meeting continues on BetVictor Gold Cup Day, Saturday, November 18 when the highlight is the £160,000 G3 BetVictor Gold Cup, and concludes with The November Meeting Sunday, featuring the £100,000 G3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.