17:15 Cheltenham – Ericht ready to reap the Rewards
Trainer Nicky Henderson nominated Ericht as his “dark horse” for the meeting during his stable’s open day and the gelding looks to have leading claims despite having to shoulder top weight.
The eight-year-old has performed with great credit on two previous visits to the Festival, finishing sixth in the 2011 Champion Bumper won by Cheltenian and a 5 1/2 length fifth to Medinas in the 2m 5f Coral Cup over hurdles last season.
He came good at the third time of asking over fences when registering an impressive nine-length success at Musselburgh and a 5lb rise in the weights looks on the lenient side. His trainer also has a good record in the race, having saddled three runner-ups before winning with Rajdhani Express 12 months ago.
Art Of Logistics looks the best of the Irish challengers. Dessie Hughes’ gelding was a smart hurdler who has taken well to chasing. He won on his debut over the larger obstacles at Gowran Park and followed up with a smooth 5 1/2 length success in a Grade 3 contest at Punchestown.
The six year old hasn’t been disgraced in two subsequent runs in Grade 1 company behind the classy Don Cossack and Defy Logic and will no doubt find this easier. He has had a nice break since his last run, and has gone well fresh in the past. Connections are also fitting him with the visor for the first time, and he looks handicapped to go close if the headgear has the desired effect.
Alan King’s Manyriverstocross was a useful hurdler, finishing third in last year’s County Hurdle at this meeting before going on to run another big race when finishing fourth at Aintree. He put in a game effort on his chasing debut at Exeter when beating Claret Cloak by a nose, and after bombing out next time up at Sandown, put in a solid effort to finish a nine-length runner-up to Oscar Whisky in a Grade 1 contest at that track last time out.
The nine-year-old looks the type who could do well now tackling handicaps, and his opening mark of 138 looks very fair, judged on the pick of his form over hurdles.
Malcolm Jefferson’s Attaglance is an interesting outsider who will relish the drying ground. The eight-year-old won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the 2012 Festival and his current chasing mark of 137 is 8lb lower than his hurdles rating.
He started this season by finishing a 1 3/4 length runner-up to Double Ross at Perth and followed that up with a fine fourth behind Johns Spirit in the valuable Paddy Power Gold Cup at this track. He hasn’t been at his best in two subsequent starts, but it would be no surprise to see him bounce back now that he is returned to this venue with underfoot conditions to suit.