French Opera Heads 16 For Saturday's Trophy Chase At Cheltenham

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Author: Alan Kelly

Tags: Horse Racing

Published: 13:23 20/01/2015

Cheltenham stage their Trials day on Saturday and with clerk of the course Simon Claisse declaring "I don't foresee any problems for racing" after the track decided to deploy frost covers last week an exciting day's horseracing action looks guaranteed with several contests sure to provide plenty of clues regarding March's Festival.

The Betbright Cup at 1.50, Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at 3.00 and the Cleeve Hurdle at 3.35 are all Grade 2 races with quality entries but from a betting perspective it is the Trophy Chase at 2.25 which is likely to provide punters with the most enticing opportunity of the afternoon.

16 Horses have been entered for the 2m 5f handicap at the five-day declaration stage which has the added 'carrot' of a £50k bonus if the winner goes on to victory at the Cheltenham Festival, the most likely option being Thursday's Byrne Group Plate.

While bookmakers are unlikely to start betting on the race until the final entries are known on Friday the Paul Nichols-trained EASTER DAY would almost certainly go off favourite receiving 9lb from the possible top weight FRENCH OPERA but with the seven-year-old currently heading the market for Doncaster's £75k Skybet Chase on the same day the lightly-raced son of Malinas is expected to head north at the weekend rather than joining stablemates Black Thunder (Betbright Cup) and Saphir Du Rheu (Cleeve Hurdle) at Prestbury Park.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained AUPCHARLIE is the sole entry from Ireland and is likely to make his presence felt come Saturday along with ANNACOTTY, ASTRACAD, EDGARDO SOL, SEW ON TARGET and the novice LITTLE JON. The Irish gelding was highly tried as a novice and ran with credit when fourth in his first start in a handicap at the Punchestown Festival last April. If allowed to take his chance at the weekend the son of Daliapour is more than capable of going close in this company.

Another horse taking a drop in class is Martin Keighley's ANNACOTTY, winner of the Grade 1 Feltham Novices' Chase in December 2013, and more recently pulled up behind Many Clouds in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. SEW ON TARGET and ASTRACAD are closely matched on their form at Cheltenham's International meeting when the former beat Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge by five lengths but renews rivalry on 7lb worse terms.

Emma Lavelle's EDGARDO SOL has shown improved form since joining the trainer from Paul Nicholls, running well in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at the course following a promising second to last year's winner Wishful Thinking in Aintree's Grade 2 Old Roan Chase last October and it looks just a matter of time before the Kapgarge gelding gets off the mark for his new stable.

One of the most interesting potential runners is the novice LITTLE JON who has not enjoyed the best of luck on two recent visits to Prestbury Park but had previously finished a close third behind a couple of decent novices in Dunraven Storm and Vibrato Valtat at the course back in November and off a mark of 140 could easily have been underestimated by the handicapper. DARE ME, EASTER METEOR, QUINCY DES PICTONS and SILVER ROQUE are others who could play a role in what looks an open contest. Trophy Chase (Handicap) 2.25pm Cheltenham Saturday - 2m 5f  Live Channel 4 (16 Entries):

1. French Opera             11st 12lb
2. Edgardo Sol                11st 10lb
3. Quincy Des Pictons    11st 8lb
4. Aupcharlie                    11st 7lb
5. Dare Me                       11st 6lb
6. Annacotty                      11st 5lb
7. Walkon                          11st 4lb
8. Easter Meteor              11st 4lb
9. Easter Day                    11st 3lb
10. Sew On Target            11st 3lb
11. Little Jon                      11st 1lb
12. Silver Roque               11st 1lb
13. Drumshambo              10st 12lb
14. Astracad                      10st 10lb
15. Big Fella Thanks         10st 10lb
16. Tap Night                      10st 5lb