National Hunt begins in earnest

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Bring out the tweed and wax the Barbour - the National Hunt season begins

in earnest on Saturday. The best racing is at Cheltenham, when this hallowed turf hosts

the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

It has already provided plenty of drama before a fence has been jumped in anger.

Punters dabbling in the ante-post markets have had their pinkies singed.

Two of the horses at the top of the betting all week, Don’t Push It and

Abragante, do not take part. The former went lame on Thursday and the

latter did not make the cut.

In their absence Granit Jack has been promoted to favouritism having sneaked in at the

minimum weight. His owner as backed the horse at fancy prices for the Queen Mother

Champion Chase and if he is a serious contender for that then he should win this at a

canter.

The concern is the distance and his inexperience as he has yet to jump a

fence in the UK. In the circumstances Private Be is also worth an

each-way saver. He was running a big race when falling here last time

out.

Later on the card Blazing Bailey can get his campaign for the

staying hurdles crown off to a flyer in the Lombard Properties Handicap

Hurdle, even though he has to give lumps of weight to the field.

On Sunday the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle is yet another fascinating race.

Chivalry won the Cambridgeshire on the flat four years ago and is

clearly talented. His last race at Wincanton suggests that he is finally

getting his act together over hurdles. At double-digit prices he looks

like a little bit of each-way value.

Selections

2:35 Cheltenham: Granit Jack (win); Private Be (e-w)

3:10 Cheltenham: Blazing Bailey (win)

2:55 Cheltenham (Sunday): Chivalry (e-w)

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