Cheltenham Festival 2015: County Hurdle preview (14:05)
Baltimore Rock has some solid form to his name, and looks to have been laid out for the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (14:05).
The six-year-old has only had seven starts over the obstacles, winning twice and finishing placed on two occasions.
In the last of those successes, the David Pipe trained gelding looked one to keep onside when landing the Imperial Cup at Sandown off a mark of 125.
Baltimore Rock travelled ominously well in what is traditionally an ultra-competitive 2m 1f handicap, and found plenty for Tom Scudamore’s urgings to beat Gassin Golf by more in hand than the one length winning margin suggests.
The runner-up is a fair sort who has gone on to finish third in this year’s renewal of the Imperial Cup, and the pair finished 4 1/2 lengths in front of the highly talented Vibrato Valtat.
That form is strong in the context of this contest, and Baltimore Rock rounded off last season with a highly creditable fourth to Josses Hill in a Grade 2 affair at Aintree.
Although now 14lb higher than when winning the Imperial Cup, Baltimore Rock is the type who should have more to offer and looks to have been laid out for the race by his shrewd handler.
Connections are also now fitting Baltimore with the tongue-tie for the first time, and he ran better than his final finishing position suggests on his seasonal reappearance when a tenderly handled 10th of 15 to Garde La Victoire in the Greatwood Hurdle over course and distance.
With proven handicap form in the book, and in-form jockey Tom Scudamore in the saddle, everything points to a big run.
There are plenty of dangers in one of the most fiercely competitive races of the Festival, and Irish raider Sort It Out is one of the more interesting.
The Eddie Harty trained gelding has won his last two starts in terrific style, landing a handicap at Punchestown by two lengths from a good yardstick in Gallant Oscar before defying a 9lb rise in the weights to follow-up in an 18-runner contest at Leopardstown by 6 1/2 lengths.
Although Sort It Out has been hit with a further 14lb rise, the six-year-old is clearly thriving and on a serious upaward curve and may still be ahead of the assessor.