_By Tom Stanley _
It looks likely to be a lovely day for the return of racing at Cheltenham on Friday and the action should not disappoint. It is a tricky time of year with horses returning from absences but I’ve still got a few fancies at Prestbury Park and one, who I'm giving one last chance to, at Newbury.
Sceau Royal isn’t an obvious one to oppose and I think he should be favourite for this exciting novices’ chase. That said, I’m a keen backer of Movewiththetimes in receipt of 5lb. A lightly raced hurdler, he was a close second in the Betfair Hurdle before bypassing the Cheltenham Festival.
He is rated 8lb inferior to Alan King’s five-year-old over hurdles but Movewiththetimes was always considered a chaser in the making and I’m very excited to see him over fences. Paul Nicholls has taken this three times in the past ten years and I fancy he will improve that tally.
My other three fancies are bigger prices - with Eaton Hill a very fair price ahead of his reappearance.
A mark of 126 also looks favourable based on what he showed last year, in particular a defeat of subsequent Grade 1 placed Mount Mews. That horse is now rated 145 and, for all Eaton Hill was in receipt of weight for that Wetherby win, he should have plenty of room to manoeuvre of his current mark.
Unlike a few from Kerry Lee’s yard, he has looked best on a sound surface and conditions should be perfect at Cheltenham. There’s pace on here, too, and he has won over further so will likely get the test he will need.
Alaadel has proved frustrating since his Doncaster win in May but he’s a well treated horse who has plenty in his favour.
On the face of it, his is a profile I would normally want to avoid towards the top of the market but nothing at bigger prices catches the and I thought he would be shorter than the current 7-2 available.
He was the winner his side when well supported in first-time blinkers at Ascot two starts ago but had no chance against the winner out towards the middle of the track. Seven furlongs then stretched him last time back at that track when he travelled like the winner but found his stamina stretched.
He has conditions in his favour, returns to what appears to be his optimum trip and is well drawn to get the cover he looks to need, bang in the middle.
I like the look of High Expectations for a trainer who has done well at this meeting in the past. He’s not been over hurdles for seven months and was disappointing on that occasion but has been on top of his game on the Flat since and is well worth siding with back over obstacles on better ground.
That’s the key here, his past three wins have come on a surface no worse than yielding and, for all he’s won on soft over hurdles, it has been a while since he got his ground in this sphere.
Tom Stanley’s Friday fancies:
(prices correct at 7pm on Friday)
2.35 Cheltenham: Movewiththetimes at a general 15-8
4.35 Newbury: Alaadel at 7-2 with BetVictor
5.30 Cheltenham: High Expectations at 13-2 with bet 365