PREZIEN OUT TO PLUNDER BETVICTOR GOLD CUP
20-time champion Jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy is hopeful of a big run from the Paul Nicholls-trained Le Prezien in today's centrepiece on day two of the November Meeting, the £160,000 BetVictor Gold Cup (1.50pm).
Owned by McCoy's former retaining owner J P McManus, for whom he now plays an advisory role, the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winning rider believes the six-year-old son of Blue Bresil can improve on his neck second to Nigel Twiston-Davies' Foxtail Hill, who reopposes today, at The Showcase Meeting last month.
Le Prezien's will to win was questioned that day as he failed to reel in Foxtail Hill, but McCoy remains confident in the French-bred gelding's ability, commenting this morning on ITV's The Opening Show: "Sam Twiston-Davies gave Foxtail Hill a brilliant ride here at Cheltenham last time out.
"Barry Geraghty delivered Le Prezien at the last to win his race that day like you would want him to, but Foxtail Hill had a little bit left. Barry got him into the perfect position to win at the last and it was a good effort. Whether Le Prezien is good enough to beat Foxtail Hill here today, I'm not so sure. He is a very good traveller and the race will suit him."
Le Prezien is a 6/1 shot for the extended two and a half-mile event with the sponsors BetVictor and McCoy continued: "I would love him to win for J P, and whilst he does have to carry plenty of weight, he does remain unexposed."
This year's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup second Minella Rocco tackles the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase (1.50pm). Jonjo O'Neill's charge, who also runs in the colours of McManus, was two and three-quarter lengths behind Sizing John at the Festival and carries top-weight of 11st 12lb in the extended three miles and three furlong contest. He was fourth in the G3 Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown on his reappearance last month and connections are hopeful of a good performance.
Jackdaws Castle handler O'Neill said: "It was a funny race at Punchestown the last day but the form has been franked as Outlander, who was behind him there, has come out and won since [G1 JNwine.com Champion Chase, Down Royal], so it is difficult to weigh the form up at the moment. We are very happy with Minella Rocco, he's in great form at home and I'm hoping we'll see a bit more from him in the BetVictor Gold Cup and we can then plan from there."
McCoy explained: "It was funny the way the race panned out at Punchestown and the way the weights were framed, he probably should've run a bit better. Minella Rocco is a huge, big horse and hopefully he should improve for the run. Would any of the other horses in this race have finished second in a Gold Cup? I doubt that. He has to give them all a little bit of weight, but if he improves on that run at Punchestown, which you hope he would, then he has every chance.
"He is a gorgeous looking horse with talent, but he needs to prove he is better than he was at Punchestown. Because he is such a big horse, it sometimes takes a little time to get their mind and physicality ready. You want them fit but the Gold Cup should be his target. If he is good enough to win that, who knows, so he might end up going down the Grand National route, but it was a very good run to finish second in this year's Gold Cup."
PUNTERS HAVE THEIR EYES ON THE PRIZE
Looking ahead to the final day of The November Meeting, The November Meeting Sunday, Jenkins is the 4/1 favourite with the sponsor for the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, with 15 set to go to post after Top Of The Ra was taken out today because of travel problems.
Mohaayed is next in the market at 6/1 but it is recent Grade Two Unibet Elite Hurdle victor London Prize who has been the subject of support over the last 24 hours. Last week's Wincanton winner is now an 8/1 shot (from 9/1) for the £100,000 event.
The 2015 winner of the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, Old Guard, is a 20/1 shot, while Festival winners The New One (2013 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle) and Ivanovitch Gorbatov (2016 JCB Triumph Hurdle) have both been chalked up at 16/1.
A small but select field of five lines up for the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday and the sponsor makes Dame De Compagnie the 6/5 favourite.
The J P McManus-owned gelding made a winning debut over timber for trainer Nicky Henderson at Uttoxeter last time out and sports a hood for the first time tomorrow. The Colin Tizzard-trained Slate House is next in the market at 6/4 after making a winning debut at Cheltenham in October. Dan Skelton's Bedrock is an 8/1 shot, with Better Getalong and Summerville Boy propping up the market at 16/1.
Michael Shinners, Racing PR Manager at Sky Bet, said: "Sky Bet's Road to Cheltenham is now in its fifth season and we have an intriguing contest for our opening contest of the 2017/18 campaign.
"Dame De Compagnie and Slate House both look to have bags of potential, while Bedrock has already shown a high level of form in Graded company.
"Altior won this race two seasons ago prior to landing the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at The Festival and we will be looking out for any early Festival clues at Cheltenham on Sunday."
Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle - sponsors bet: 4/1 Jenkins; 6/1 Mohaayed; 8/1 (from 9/1) London Prize; 9/1 Misterton; 12/1 Tigris River; 12/1 Elgin; 14/1 Nietzsche; 14/1 William H Bonney; 16/1 The New One; 16/1 Ivanovich Gorbatov; 16/1 Chesterfield; 16/1 Flying Tiger; 16/1 Amour De Nuit; 20/1 Old Guard; 25/1 Project Bluebook; 25/1 Top Othe Ra
Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle - sponsors bet: 6/5 Dame De Compagnie; 6/4 Slate House; 8/1 Bedrock; 16/1 Better Getalong; 16/1 Summerville Boy.
CLAISSE CHANGES THE GOING AT 11.20AM
After persistent rain since 10am this morning, Cheltenham's clerk of the course Simon Claisse issued a change to the official going description at 11.20am.
"We had the dry night that was predicted, but have had three millimetres of rain since 10am, so the ground has inevitably eased, and I have changed the going from Good To Soft to Soft, Good To Soft in places," said Claisse.
"The forecast says that the light rain will continue, which means that there is a possibility of a further change in the going description later.
"It's a first-class BetVictor Gold Cup, and we have a great afternoon's racing in store."
GREAT RACING - AND SHOPPING
Cheltenham's shopping village has become a major attraction of The November Meeting, giving purchasers a chance to get ahead with their Christmas shopping.
More than 70 select retailers have stands in the tented village, with the focus on clothing, jewellery and accessories, and art.
Sporting artist Daniel Crane said: "We had a terrific day yesterday - Countryside Day means that many people from the hunting, shooting, racing and point-to-point worlds came to the stand to chat and look at our paintings."
The Injured Jockeys Fund stand proved very popular, with racegoers stocking up on Christmas cards, calendars and stocking-fillers.
Brough Scott signed copies of his new book, Churchill At The Gallop, at the Racing Post Arkle Bookshop, while sporting journalist and former master of foxhounds Adrian Dangar also signed copies of his new release, True To The Line, at the Countryside Alliance stand.
Zoe Gibson, whose Peachy Belts company sells Italian leather belts with a variety of changeable buckles, said: "Countryside Day was a fantastic day for us. Cheltenham has worked hard to develop the shopping village at this meeting and the aisles were packed."