QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot will receive its fair share of attention tomorrow where the ground looks like riding on the soft side. Earlier this week Alan Lee penned an article in The Times predicting a signiifcant fall in the attendance figure for this showpiece event.
Naturally I'll be concentrating on the second day of Cheltenham's first meeting of the autumn.
The opening three mile novice hurdle looks intriguing with battle-hardened chasers Monbeg Dude (2012 Welsh National winner, rated 138 over fences), Hold On Julio (fifth behind Bobs Worth in the 2012 Hennessy Gold Cup off a rating of 148) and Aeriel (sixth behind Al Ferof in the 2012 Paddy Power Gold Cup off 155) all receiving weight from their opponents.
Of the younger brigade Kilbree Kid, Creepy, Kings Palace and Oscar Magic are amongst those who look to have a fitness edge. Kings Palace has potential but he appeared under pressure staying 22 furlongs at Fontwell last time while Martin Keighley likes Chepstow winner Creepy but foresees place prospects only. Kilbree Kid stays while Oscar Magic, ninth in the Champion bumper in March, tries the trip for the first time. The Twiston-Davies trained Oscar Magic gets no more than a tentative vote in a difficult contest.
Alan King saddles two winners from Chepstow last Saturday - Handazan (3.10) and Balder Succes (5.00).
Handazan won with something in hand (In The Crowd a distant fifth, Leo Luna declared a non-runner); last March Leo Luna beat Gassin Golf a head with the King horse a further nine lengths in arrears at Newbury. Samtegal is likely to prove a worthy opponent tomorrow having finshed third in the Triumph Hurdle behind runaway winner Our Conor.
Balder Succes jumped well on his chasing debut but I've lost count of the number of times I've supported a novice chaser on the back of one decent run only to have my fingers burned. Still, he won in a new course record last weekend so, despite the step back in trip, Balder Succes is marginally preferred to market rival Dark Lover who looks late in making this switch to fences.
Al Co, fifth behind Bouggler at Market Rasen last month, did the blog a favour at that Chepstow meeting so in the 3.45 I was half-tempted by his stablemate Kian's Delight, third in the same Market Rasen race. However he looks to have plenty on his plate here (no five or six year-old winner in the past ten years) and doesn't look guaranteed to stay. Balthazar King should go well if the rains stay away but in saying that I'm not really telling you anything you don't know already - I won't play.
In the concluding bumper I've a lot of time for another trained by Peter Bowen - Regal Diamond. He has to give weight to all his opponents but I might take a small each-way interest if he's priced in double figures.
Finally, don't miss the 4.25 at Kempton on Sunday when the 2012 Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby takes on the 2013 Neptune Novices' Hurdle winner The New One.