Excellent racing on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham tomorrow

Festival Trials Day, the final fixture at Cheltenham before The Festival™ presented by Magners in March, takes places tomorrow, Saturday, January 26, with a fascinating seven-race card commencing at 12.40pm.
Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup pointers are likely in the feature £100,000 G2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (2.25pm, six runners) over an extended three miles and a furlong.
Frodon (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost) sets the standard with a rating of 169, though he has yet to win a race staged over further than two miles and five furlongs.
The seven-year-old has an excellent record over intermediate trips at Cheltenham and comes into the race on the back of a fine weight-carrying victory in the G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (2m 4f 127y), at The International in December, a race he also captured in 2016.
Trainer Paul Nicholls explained: “Frodon relishes the track at Cheltenham and won on this course last year at the same meeting (G3 Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Handicap Chase, 2m 4f 127y).
“His form has been excellent this season and he has stepped up on what he has achieved so far in his career. That is highlighted by his higher rating this term (now 169).
“I think he will stay the trip. He has to prove he stays and this is another step up, but if he does prove himself over this trip, then we would have to look at the Gold Cup.”
Suitable stamina is no issue for Elegant Escape (Colin Tizzard/Tom O’Brien), who built on a good second in the G3 Ladbrokes Trophy (3m 1f 214y) with a decisive victory in the G3 Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on December 27. (3m 5f 110y).
The returning Minella Rocco (Jonjo O’Neill/Richie McLernon), who was a strong-finishing second behind Sizing John in 2017 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, is having his first start since undergoing wind surgery. Owned by J P McManus, he has not been seen on a racecourse since falling in the G1 Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February.
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson is represented by Terrefort (Daryl Jacob), a G1-winning novice at Aintree last season, and impressive Ascot handicap scorer Valtor (James Bowen). Both horses are owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, with retained jockey Daryl Jacob on Terrefort.
The six runners are completed by outsider Allyson Monterg (Richard Hobson/Jonathan Burke).
G1 Long Walk Hurdle victor Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle/Aidan Coleman) bids for his fourth win on the bounce in the £60,000 G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (3.35pm, 12 runners) over three miles.
Paisley Park, trainer Emma Lavelle’s stable star, had several of tomorrow’s opponents behind when taking the Ascot highlight just before Christmas, including the two-length runner-up West Approach (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore) and fourth The Mighty Don (Nick Gifford/Leighton Aspell).
Sam Spinner (Jeff O’Keeffe/Joe Colliver) and Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry/Barry Geraghty), both winners at the highest level over hurdles, contested the G1 Long Walk Hurdle but failed to complete due to jumping errors.
The exciting Midnight Shadow (Sue Smith/Danny Cook) tackles three miles for the first time, having proven himself a very capable hurdler at shorter with victories in the G2 Scottish Champion Hurdle in April and the G2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Jockey Danny Cook reported: “Midnight Shadow is in good form – I rode him this week and he worked nicely.
“He has progressed very well and, despite being very green when he started over hurdles, this season he has come into his own.
“He saw the trip well in the Relkeel Hurdle. He will be stepping up in trip again, but he is starting to settle really well.
“The main thing with him is getting him to relax. He is a horse with a high cruising speed and in those longer distance races, he still has the turn of pace of a two-miler, so it is all about just knowing when to utilise his speed and not burning himself out too much.
“Midnight Shadow is just a real good horse and we are lucky to have him. Along with Definitly Red, he is certainly one of the best horses I have ridden.”
Agrapart (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly) and Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob) served up a pulsating finish in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle 12 months ago, with Agrapart asserting by three lengths in the closing stages.
The 12 runners also include Aux Ptits Soins (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton), an impressive handicap scorer on New Year’s Day, plus G1-winning novice hurdler Black Op (Tom George/Noel Fehily) and the popular dual G2 victor Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King/Bryony Frost), who have both been novice chasing so far this season. Bryony Frost, the regular partner of Frodon, rides Lil Rockerfeller for the first time.
Stars of the future could be on show in the other G2 contests on the card. Unbeaten point-to-point graduate Birchdale (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty) faces five rivals in the £32,000 G2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (3.00pm, 2m 4f 127y).
The opposition includes Jarveys Plate (Fergal O’Brien/Paddy Brennan), who impressed when taking a similar contest by 13 lengths on New Year’s Day, G1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle fourth Brewin’Upastorm (Olly Murphy/Richard Johnson) and unbeaten northern raider Buster Valentine (Ruth Jefferson/Leighton Aspell).
Warren Greatrex saddles The Wolf (Daryl Jacob), who stayed on to be third behind Champagne Classic in a two-mile introductory hurdle at Newbury on December 29.
Greatrex said: “The Wolf is a young, maturing horse who is improving all the time.
“We don’t want to ruin his novice status, so we have decided to run him in some good races for the time being.
“He ran an excellent race at Newbury and has a bright future ahead of him.”
G1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle runner-up Adjali (Nicky Henderson/Daryl Jacob) is set to go off hot favourite in the opening race on the card, the £32,000 G2 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (12.40pm, nine runners, 2m 179y.
Leading Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien has two runners, headed by eye-catching Cork scorer Fakir d’Oudairies (J J Slevin), while Barry Geraghty rides O’Brien’s other runner Fine Brunello for his retained owner J P McManus.
Further quality is added by Nelson River (Tony Carroll/Harry Bannister), winner of the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at The International, Newbury scorer Our Power(Alan King/Tom Cannon) and the highly-regarded Protektorat (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton), who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Progressive six-year-olds Janika (Nicky Henderson/Daryl Jacob, 11st 11lb) and Siruh Du Lac (Nicky Williams/Lizzie Kelly (3), 10st 9lb) headline 11 runners in the feature handicap on the card, the £75,000 G3 Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Trophy Handicap Chase (1.50pm, 11 runners, 2m 4f 127y).
Nicholls, who won this race last year with Frodon, is represented by the novice Brelan D’As (Barry Geraghty, 10st 11lb). Others to note include progressive bottom-weight The Kings Writ (Kayley Woollacott/James Best, 10st 6lb) and course scorer Ballyhill (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jordan Nailor (7), 11st 5lb)).
Completing the action is the £27,500 Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (1.15pm, eight runners, 2m 4f 127y), won in 2018 by Mister Whitaker who went on to triumph at The Festival™ presented by Magners, and the concluding £27,500 Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle (4.10pm, 12 runners, 2m 179y).
Festival Trials Day is the final racing at Cheltenham before the four days of The Festival™ presented by Magners between March 12 and 15.
Going & Weather information
The going at Cheltenham is currently: Good to Soft, Good in places
Conditions are forecast to be dry until Saturday afternoon, when three to four millimetres of rain is expected.
There are no weather issues expected ahead of Festival Trials Day and tickets are available for purchase at www.cheltenham.co.uk
Scott Mills provides after-racing entertainment
DJ Scott Mills from BBC Radio 1 will be taking to the decks in The Centaur from 4.30pm to 6.00pm for the Festival Trials Day after-party.
Club and Tattersalls ticket holders will be able groove into the evening following the last race.
Festival Trials Day
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Time Race Distance Prize Money
12.40 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (Grade 2) 2m 179y £32,000
1.15 Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m 4f 127y £27,500
1.50 Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 4f 127y £75,000
2.25 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) 3m 1f 56y £100,000
3.00 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 4f 56y £32,000
3.35 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 7f 213y £60,000
4.10 Steel Plate & Sections Handicap Hurdle   2m 179y £27,500
Total prize money £354,000
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