Festival Trials Day takes place at Cheltenham this coming Saturday, 30 January with a fabulous seven-race programme featuring four G2 contests, a G3 handicap chase and two further competitive handicaps. Festival Trials Day is the last action at the Home of Jump Racing ahead of The Festival™ - Tuesday, 16 March to Friday, 19 March inclusive.
The G2 Paddy Power ‘45 Sleeps To Cheltenham’ Cotswold Chase (2.25pm, 3m 1f, 10 entries) is a leading trial for the G1 Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival™, with three winners going on to success in the chasing showpiece later in the same season – Little Owl (1981), Master Oats (1995) and Looks Like Trouble (2000).
Last season, Santini (Nicky Henderson) almost became the fourth horse to win both contests in the same season. Having taken the Paddy Power ‘45 Sleeps To Cheltenham’ Cotswold Chase by three and a half lengths from Bristol de Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies), he went on to only find Al Boum Photo a neck too strong at The Festival™. Santini began this season by finishing second to Lake View Lad (Nick Alexander) in the G2 William Hill Many Clouds Chase at Aintree and went on to come home a staying-on fifth in the G1 Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Bristol de Mai has made one appearance so far in the current campaign, landing the G1 Betfair Chase for the third time at Haydock Park in November.
As well as the three horses mentioned above who won both contests in the same season, See More Business won chasing’s Blue Riband in 1999, sandwiched between his Cotswold Chase victories in 1998 and 2001. Native River (Colin Tizzard) lifted chasing’s most prestigious prize in 2018 and made his reappearance when third, beaten three lengths, behind Lake View Lad and Santini in the G2 William Hill Many Clouds Chase at Aintree.
Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father, reported: “We want to get another run into Native River and the Cotswold Chase looks ideal. He ran a blinder at Aintree and he still had every chance bypassing the last. He has run a really solid race. He is a good old boy and seems in great form at home. He had a little school under Jonjo O’Neill on Wednesday morning. It will be interesting to see what turns up in the race. I imagine Santini will be there and there wasn’t much between them last time.
“As he has got older, he is certainly more ground dependent. He could have got away with it when he was younger but it would need to be soft for him to run in a Gold Cup.”
The most successful trainer in the history of the Paddy Power ’45 Sleeps To Cheltenham’ Cotswold Chase is Paul Nicholls, who has lifted the prize five times. In addition to his two victories with See More Business, the 11-times champion Jump trainer also took the honours with Taranis (2010), Neptune Collonges (2011) and Frodon (2018). This year his possible representative is Yala Enki. The 11-year-old has already made two appearances so far this month, following up a fine third under top-weight in the G3 Coral Welsh National with victory on Saturday, 23 January in the Weatherbys Portman Cup Chase at Taunton.
Nicholls said: “If it poured with rain on Thursday and Friday, I would be kicking myself if I hadn’t put him in the race, though it is a tentative entry. He is hard to place off his mark of 161 and he has not got any kind of penalty in this race.
“Some of the others that are going to run in the Gold Cup might not want a slog at this stage round Cheltenham so it could cut up."
Reflecting on Yala Enki’s latest success at Taunton, Nicholls said he was always confident he would find a way back past eventual runner-up If The Cap Fits, despite appearing to hand the initiative to the G1-winning hurdler following a mistake at the fourth last.
He added: “It only looked like he wasn’t going to win at one stage as he made that mistake four out. He would have probably won even easier had he not made that mistake. It was a good staying performance and it was good to get his head back in front.
“He has come out of Taunton well. He ate up fine afterwards and he cantered well this morning. It would be a quick turnaround to go to Cheltenham but he is as hard as nails and is a little bit of a one off.”
Paddy Power '45 Sleeps To Cheltenham' Cotswold Chase
Paddy Power odds: 15/8 Santini, 5/2 Bristol de Mai, 7/2 Native River, 6 Saint Calvados, 8 Lake View Lad, 10 Yala Enki, 14 The Conditional, 16 Mister Malarky, 25 Yorkhill, 40 Lord du Mesnil
3 places each-way 1/5 odds
Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle), winner of the G1 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at The Festival™ in 2019, heads the market at 1/2 with the sponsor for the G2 Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle (3m, 3.35pm, 9 entries). The nine-year-old looked back to his best last time out when taking the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas.
He is seeking a third success in the G2 Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle, having taken the honours in 2019 and 2020. If successful on Sunday, he would become the second three-time winner of the contest after Lady Rebecca (1999, 2000 and 2001).
Trainer Emma Lavelle reported today: “Paisley Park is in great form at home and is firmly on course for the Cleeve Hurdle.
“He has come out of Ascot great and I really couldn’t be happier with him. The Cleeve has been the plan since then.
"Hopefully the ground is not too testing and the race fits perfectly into the schedule ahead of the Stayers’ Hurdle.
“It was fantastic to see him back to winning ways last time and we are looking forward to running on Saturday."
Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle
Paddy Power odds: 1/2 Paisley Park, 9/2 Itchy Feet, 7 Honest Vic, Main Fact, 10 Third Wind, 16 Unowhatimeanharry, 25 Ramses De Teillee, 33 Décor Irlandais, 66 Hear No Evil
2 places each-way, ¼ odds
Paddy Power also extends its support on Festival Trials Day to the G3 Paddy Power Millionaire Trophy Handicap Chase (2m 4.5f, 1.50pm, 15 entries). The Paddy Power Millionaire Handicap Chase is the culmination of a campaign, which concluded at the end of 2020. Paddy Power online customers who backed winners of a designated Saturday race went into a draw the following Monday, broadcast live on social media. Each weekly draw winner gained £10,000 and a “Golden Ticket” which will randomly assign them a runner in the Paddy Power Millionaire Handicap Chase. Winners included one customer who had recently had his golf clubs stolen, one nan working overtime at Argos for Christmas and a very happy punter who was celebrating her 40th on the day of her weekly win. In addition to the current weekly winners, two horses in the final field will also be allocated to Paddy Power retail customers and one to members of the Paddy Power Rewards Club. Any remaining runners will then be allocated by means of a wildcard draw. For full terms and conditions, please go to https://news.paddypower.com/horse-racing
Paddy Power Millionaire Chase Trophy
Paddy Power odds: 4 Midnight Shadow, 6 Al Dancer, 7 Cepage, Sully D’Oc AA, 8 Benatar, Caribean Boy, Oldgrangewood, 9 Mister Whitaker, 10 Aso, Happy Diva, 12 Clan Legend, Kauto Riko, 16 Whatswrongwithyou, 20 Eden Du Houx, 33 Henryville
3 places each-way ¼ odds
Paddy Power himself said: “Sponsorship doesn’t get a lot better than this – one of our hugely-valued customers will be trousering a cool £1 million after the Paddy Power Millionaire Chase Trophy.
“We’re also supporting the Cotswold Chase, a major Gold Cup trial, which could feature last year’s winner and leading UK contender for the Blue Riband in Santini, and the Cleeve Hurdle which will provide former champion Paisley Park with one last opportunity to tune up for another historic tilt at the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.”
Festival Trials Day kicks off with the G2 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (2m 1f, 12.40pm, 15 entries), a race which has provided three subsequent winners of the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival™ this century – Katchit (2007), Peace And Co (2015) and Defi du Seuil (2017). Heading the entries is G1 Finale Hurdle scorer Adagio (David Pipe).
Further Festival clues could be provided by the G2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2m 4f, 3.00pm, 14 entries). Bear Ghylls (Nicky Martin), unbeaten in four starts, is the standout entry.
Completing the Festival Trials Day programme are the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (2m 4.5f, 1.15pm, 21 entries) and the concluding SSS Super Alloys Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f, 4.10pm, 15 entries).