Cheltenham Festival 2015: CHAPS Restaurant Novices’ Handicap Chase preview (17:15)
Trainer Rebecca Curtis has enjoyed success at the last three Festivals and Irish Cavalier looks to have been primed to run a huge race in the 2m 5f CHAPS Restaurants Barbados Novices´ Handicap Chase (17:15).
The Welsh handler saddled Teaforthree to win the National Hunt Chase in 2012, At Fishers Cross to land the Albert Bartlett in 2013, and O’Faolain’s Boy to triumph in last year’s RSA.
In Irish Cavalier she has a gelding who has shaped with bags of promise in three runs over fences this season and showed improved form on each occasion.
After a pleasing debut when third to Puffin Billy at Ascot when looking in need of the outing after a 231 day break, the six-year-old ran a very well on handicap debut when staying on to finish a two length runner-up to Black River over 2m 3f at Taunton off an opening mark of 135.
Irish Cavalier shaped as if needing a step up in trip, and posted his best effort yet over fences when a highly promising third of 12 to Generous Ransom over course and distance last time out.
The son of Aussie Rules travelled nicely on the heels of the leaders and after making a mistake at the fifth stuck to the task well to be beaten just over two lengths.
Although now 2lb higher in the weights, the form of the race looks strong and Irish Cavalier now meets the winner on 6lb better terms.
That may well be enough to turn the tables, especially if the fitting of the cheekpieces for the first time have the desired effect.
Irish Cavalier also remains unexposed and open to further improvement over fences, and the booking of top Irish jockey Paul Townend to do the steering is a another positive as he has a 30 per cent strike rate when teaming up with the yard in the past 12 months (four wins and six places from 13 rides).
The main danger in what is a typically ultra-competitive and wide open affair may well be bottom weight Keltus.
The five year-old is trained by Paul Nicholls and had some decent form to his name over hurdles last year, including when fourth in the Fred Winter at this meeting.
Keltus has had just three starts over fences this season, and after chasing home the useful Court Minstrel on debut posted a solid effort last time out when runner-up to Royal Regatta at Newbury.
Those runs suggest the lightly-raced gelding should be capable of winning races of his current mark of 135, and with Sam Twiston-Davies in the saddle a big run looks on the cards.