Cheltenham Countdown: Notes from weekend racing

As the countdown to Cheltenham 2023 enters its final fortnight, festival fever is percolating nicely ahead of the opening race a week on Tuesday.

On the back of this past weekend’s racing not only in the UK but across the Irish Sea, it was a Saturday of revelations.

But what have we picked out that might influence our Cheltenham picks?

Read on.


Punters should stick to Scriptwriter

One of the big fails of the weekend was Scriptwriter’s no-show in the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.

Backed at 6/4f, Milton Harris saw his 4yo struggle in the extra and somewhat unexpected rain that fell last Wednesday.

Sticking with the field for most of the piece, Paddy Brennan laboured with the Irish gelding over the final fences, fading to sixth.

Scriptwriter was an assumed close-to-a-sure-thing this weekend and now after successive losses has taken a hit the market.

But it is worth observing a healthy dose of perspective.

Even with less than fortnight until the festival, this could yet serve as a pivotal learning curve.

Yes, the fashion of his defeat has seen his odds lengthened significantly in the SkyBet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but that shouldn’t deter an e/w bet.

After all, though back-to-back defeats have been rather chastening, three wins on the spin beforehand are not be sniffed at.

A full 66/1 with bet365 to open Cheltenham week, Scriptwriter could now be a something of a shot to nothing.


Nusret earns glances for Boodles Juvenile

With Scriptwriter’s misfortunes, it was JP O’Brien who celebrated his lone victory of the weekend with the impressive Nusret.

Still a fairly short price for Saturday’s contest at 7/2, a second win of the term along with Daryl Jacob was punctuated by a wonderful leap over the last.

So impressive a showing, the British 4yo saw his odds slashed for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

It may be easy to tag along for the ride with this pick at Cheltenham, but his prior two wins have come at The Curragh and Punchestown.

Nusret has shone on real Irish proving grounds.

When the juveniles head out for the final race of opening day, this lively colt will fancy his chances.

Currently third favourite at 7/1 with William HIll, it would be no surprise to see the price for Nusret shorten.


Our Power delivers

Not to blow our own trumpet, but Our Power was magnificent in the Coral Trophy.

Having tipped up Sam Thomas’ season debutante, the gelding was smashed up in the markets and went off at 11/2.

Pushed by an extremely game runner-up in Flegmatik, Sam Twiston-Davies made it three wins from four aboard the 8yo.

Living up to his name to surge home over the final furlongs, Our Power was a cut above.

The pressing question now however, is this: how might he fair in the Ultima Handicap Chase?

Whilst The Goffer and Into Overdrive may be getting a good deal of Antepost attention, this horse has pluck.

Looking to make it an English successive treble at Cheltenham, Our Power holds a healthy 16/1 punt with Ladbrokes.


Zenta worthy of Novices’ gamble?

Finally, across the Irish Sea at Fairyhouse meanwhile, one name who might now be finding her way onto our Cheltenham betslip is Zenta.

A 4/9F winner in the Norman Colfer Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle, the 4yo was part of a Willie Mullins’ winning Saturday double in County Meath.

Willie Mullins? Cheltenham? You got it.

Over the four days in Gloucestershire, Mullins is expected to again romp to Leading Trainer.

And, of his longer-shot prospects this year, this French filly could just be the ticket for punters.

Third on debut on home French soil at Clairefontaine, Zenta has now picked up successful wins after a maiden victory at Auteuil.

Taking the winning post on her first away trip with just three races under the belt, Zenta should be marked for the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Yes, the field is stacked in terms of opposition and yes, this is a big step up.

Yes, Nicky Henderson’s Luccia is favourite and unbeaten in four races; nevertheless, this remains a very open 2m1f.

Zenta’s current price is mighty intriguing though and a 20/1 shot with Betfair, now could be the time to jump – at the very least – to place.

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