Racing at Cheltenham on Saturday looks interesting with many competitive handicaps on offer. The track is likely to remain soft, good to soft in places.
The day’s highlight is the Virgin Bet December Gold Cup Handicap Chase (15h50) run over two-and a half miles.
Thunder Rock looks the part on current form from a red-hot Olly Murphy yard. He was narrowly beaten by the progressive Datsalrightgino in a Group 2 feature at Ayr at the end of last season, before success on his seasonal return in a listed event at Carlisle.
He beat a good sort in Mahler Mission on that occasion by three and a half lengths and the high-flying Sean Bowen stays on board.
His previous form tie’s in closely with the Paul Nicholls trained Monmiral, the mount of stable number one Harry Cobden, but Thunder Rock’s recent form looks superior.
A bigger threat is the Irish raider So Scottish, trained by Emmet Mullins, a trainer to note whenever raiding the UK. So Scottish had a ‘pipe-opener’ at Gowran Park last month, and it’s interesting that Mark Walsh, retained rider for owner JP McManus has opted to ride the six-year-old instead of top-weight Fakir D’oudairies who is a multiple Grade One winner.
The green and gold hoops of McManus could also be seen in the winner’s circle in the Quintessentially Handicap Chase (15h15), run over an extended two miles. The leading owner is represented by the Harry Fry trained In Excelsis Deo, who runs off an attractive, low weight.
Nicky Henderson’s exciting prospect Shanagh Bob won going away on his debut over timber at Plumpton last month and is expected to enjoy going up in trip in the Gr2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (17h00).
The Kim Bailey trained Destroytheevidence is another 5-year-old novice very much on the up after two facile victories at Kempton earlier this season, but the Nico de Boinville ridden Mahler gelding came to Plumpton with a lot of stable confidence and left with quotes for the Supreme Novices after easing home by seven-lengths.