The opening day, Countryside Day, of The November Meeting gets underway at Cheltenham Racecourse this afternoon and bookmakers have reported brisk business ahead of the six-race card. Today’s action gets underway at 1.15pm, with the finale at 4.05pm. This afternoon’s card features the likes of Festival heroes Easysland and Tiger Roll.
In the opening contest of the three-day meeting, the Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (1.15pm), the David Pipe-trained Induno is all the rage. Successful at Sedgefield in November last season, the six-year-old son of Flemensfirth failed to fire when only third at the same track on Boxing Day and has not raced since. Nicholashayne handler Pipe has won this contest four times in the last 10 years and Induno is a solid 15/8 favourite from 9/4 with Paddy Power, official bookmaker for the opening two days of The November Meeting.
Barbury Castle maestro Alan King has his team in fine form and saddles the unexposed Ballywood in the Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase (1.50pm) over two miles. Sixth in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at The Festival, the six-year-old filled the same position in a handicap chase at The Showcase last time out. Ballywood is a 15/2 shot from 8/1 with the race sponsor Paddy Power.
The Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (3.00pm) promises to be one of the highlights of this weekend’s action as Cheltenham Festival heroes Easysland and Tiger Roll face-off for the second time. The David Cottin-trained Easysland plundered the spoils in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at The Festival™, defeating Gordon Elliott’s dual Grand National hero by 17 lengths. The former is the solid 8/13 market leader for today’s contest with Tiger Roll a 7/2 chance. The one for each-way money is French-based Cottin’s other runner Vino Royale, who has won four of his 12 starts in French Cross Country races and is 11/1 from 12/1.
The Grand Visir captured the Ascot Stakes at the Royal Meeting last year and finished a respectable third in the G2 Doncaster Cup on Town Moor in September. Winless in three starts over timber, he returns to hurdles for the £26,000 G2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle for trainer Ian Williams and has attracted each-way support at 8/1 from 17/2 with Paddy Power.
In the finale on Countryside Day, the two-mile Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (4.05pm), top-weight One True King bids to give Guiting Power trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies a local victory. The five-year-old backed up a smart success at Uttoxeter in October with a respectable second at The Showcase. He is a solid 4/1 chance from 5/1 with Paddy Power.
Paul Binfield, spokesman for Paddy Power, said: “Tomorrow’s Paddy Power Gold Cup speaks for itself, but to have a couple of Champion Chase possibles in our race (1.50pm) today exceeds expectations. It is interesting that Ballywood has been backed against them, but the handicapper has relented a bit and he is not much higher than the mark he last won off.”