Irish trainer Charles Byrnes, best known for pulling of monster gambles, is set to be represented in two races at Cheltenham on day one of The Showcase meeting on Friday, October 25th.
Doctor Duffy has two entries at The Showcase, with Byrnes favouring the opening £20,000 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2.00pm, 16 entries) over 2m 5f while stablemate The Big Galloper goes for the £16,800 Two Farmers Crisps Handicap Hurdle (3.10pm, 36 entries) over the same distance.
He has enjoyed a productive campaign over hurdles so far, winning three races and finishing second three times from eight starts. The six-year-old’s latest success came last time out in a novices’ hurdle over 2m 6f at Navan on 28 September, when he scored by four lengths.
The Big Galloper also heads to The Showcase on the back of a victory, having shed his maiden tag in a heavy ground maiden hurdle at Roscommon last month. Byrnes, the man who the bookies fear, said: “The plan at the moment is to send both Doctor Duffy and The Big Galloper to Cheltenham this week.
“Doctor Duffy is very consistent and does not know how to run a bad race. He likes good ground and a galloping track suits him well. He is a nice horse to have.
“The Big Galloper did well to win at Roscommon and he goes for the two and a half-mile handicap hurdle.”
Elsewhere on Friday’s card, Dan Skelton will pit unbeaten mare Getariver against the geldings in the 2m Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle (4.20pm, 21 entries). The Irish point-to-point graduate landed a bumper impressively at Ludlow on her Rules debut in January before defying a penalty in a similar contest at Newbury in March.
Skelton said: “We will have a number of runners at The Showcase, including Getariver in the maiden hurdle on Friday.
“She is a horse we like. She won both her bumpers and is obviously very smart. We are looking forward to getting her started over hurdles.”
Al Dancer Set to Make Eagerly Awaited Chasing Debut
One horse set to make his return to action on the opening day of The Showcase is the exciting Al Dancer.
Trained locally to Cheltenham by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the six-year-old son of Al Namix won four of his five starts over hurdles last term. They included impressive victories in handicap company at The International meeting at Cheltenham in December and the valuable Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Ascot in February.
Al Dancer, who races in the familiar blue and white silks of Dai Walters, was last seen when 10th in the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival back in March.
He seeks to make a winning debut over fences in the 2m squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase (2.35pm,nine entries) and his rivals could include Grade 1 Champion Hurdle seventh Global Citizen and the Paul Nicholls-trained duo of Southfield Stone and Getaway Trump.
Twiston-Daviessaid: “Al Dancer is in good form and is on course for The Showcase.
“We were originally going to go to Newton Abbot with him before their meeting was abandoned, but we have been happy with his preparation.
“We are looking forward to getting him started over fences and he has schooled well.”
Old Favourites and Exciting New Stars Headline Day Two of the Showcase
Day two of The Showcase meeting on Saturday, October 28th, sees £240,000 of prize money on offer and there are 138 entries for an excellent seven-race card.
The opening “Matchbook Betting Exchange” Handicap Chase (2.00pm) over 3m 1f has attracted 27 entries. Previous winners include Cheltenham specialist Balthazar King, trained by Philip Hobbs, who landed the spoils three years on the bounce in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was eight-time winner at the track.
This year’s running could feature the Dan Skelton-trained Cobra De Mai, who was an emphatic 13-length winner over Rocky’s Treasure at The April Meeting at the home of jumps racing.
Skelton may also be represented by Midlands Grand National third Get On The Yager and Rowland Meyrick Chase runner-up Captain Chaos.
The Lodge Hill handler said: “Cobra De Mai has summered well and he is going to start his season in the three-mile handicap chase, the first race on the second day of The Showcase.
“He won at Cheltenham in April and has ended up with a high rating of 153 as a result. I would be delighted if he could win off his current, but the handicapper might have to relent a bit.
“He is a progressive horse and hopefully there is more to come from him this season. Captain Chaos and Get On The Yager are possibles.”
The contest could also include 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup second Minella Rocco along with the Sue Smith trained Vintage Clouds. The latter was an cracking 1 3/4 length second in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and an early-faller when strongly fancied for the Grand National at Aintree in April.
Quel Destin and Saint Calvados Among Interesting Entries
The Masterson Holdings Hurdle (2.35pm, 13 entries) boasts a roll of honour featuring dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll (2014) and subsequent Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Chase scorer Dodging Bullets (2012).
Irish trainer John McConnell captured the 2018 renewal with Pearl Of The West and he could be represented by the unbeaten Construct and Hannon, who was placed in Graded company at Naas last season.
Other possibles include the Gordon Elliott trained Coeur Sublime and Paul Nicholls’s Quel Destin who finished second and fifth respectively to Pentland Hills in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The 2m Randox Health Handicap Chase (3.10pm,) is one of the feature races of The Showcase and has attracted 18 excellent entries.
This year’s field could feature Graded winner Saint Calvados, who finished seventh in this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, Kerry Lee’s 12-year-old Gino Trial who was successful at The International meeting in 2017 and also finished second in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and Dr Richard Newland’s Mcgroarty who is targeting a fourth victory in as many starts.