Monbeg River can run a big race on first visit to Cheltenham

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We’ve teamed up with BetVictor and Charlie McCann to preview the day’s racing.

Nineteen horses stood their ground at yesterday’s 48-hour declaration stage for the BetVictor Gold Cup and Saturday’s feature promises to be a cracking renewal of this valuable and prestigious handicap chase. More Of That is the 4/1 favourite, each-way six places but the Open Meeting begins with a Veterans’ Handicap Chase over two-and-a-half miles.

Eastlake is interesting having had a recent outing and should be spot on for today but Ericht (12.55) runs off the same mark as when runner up at Newbury coming back from a break and ran well at this meeting 12 months ago when fourth in the Amateur Riders race over an extended three miles.

Next Sensation will appreciate returning to a left-handed track and must go close in the two-mile handicap chase but I am a big fan of Monbeg River (8/1 with BetVictor) and will be disappointed if he is out of the first three.

The selection has never run at Cheltenham and his best form is on a flat track but he is a most progressive chaser who deserves to take his chance in this more exalted company; Noel Fehily is a positive booking.

Sizing Codelco has his first start for Colin Tizzard and must go close but 5/2 looks far too short in a cracking contest.

The 2m 4f Novice Chase sees the chase debut of the talented Barters Hill (2.05) and the excellent Ben Pauling had a double earlier in the week.

The six-year-old had an interrupted reparation before his run in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival back in March and is reported to have schooled very well ahead of his chase debut.

Rock The Kasbah, who made a winning debut at Chepstow last month, sets a good benchmark for Barters Hill to aim at. But an 8lbs penalty for that success won’t make things easy for the Philip Hobbs-trained runner who also ran poorly on his only previous start at Cheltenham.

There is plenty of pace in the Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and Kk Lexion (3.15) should have the race run to suit for the inform combination of Tom George and Adrian Heskin who has been a revelation in recent weeks.

The selection won over 2m 4f at Southwell off a 5lbs lower mark last time but he travelled very well on that occasion and the hope is the drop back in trip on this stiff track will not be an inconvenience.

Irish raiders have a decent record in the race and the front-running Magna Cartor and Tudor City are much respected but a bigger danger might come from Air Horse One for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily although he is a horse who does have his quirks.

It wasn’t Denis O’Regan’s finest hour when Our Sox (3.50) was beaten at Musselburgh last week and I hope the improving chaser can go one better in the amateur riders race over three miles for Irish trainer Tony Martin who saddled the runner up in the Melbourne Cup earlier in the month.

Bestarius (12.30) has left Keith Reveley since winning a Bumper at Newcastle back in March but he is taken to make a winning hurdling debut for Nicky Richards back at Gosforth Park. The selection will get further in time but he can take a good opener.

Chidswell (1.05) is a horse I am convinced is well-handicapped at present and can go one better than at Carlisle when easily brushed aside by Cloudy Dream last month.

The winner is potentially top class and although Chidswell will get further in time he must take all the beating and merits nap material.

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