11.15 Jebel Ali – OKIMONO (nap)
The selection, trained by Doug Watson, is a seven-year-old son of Invincible Spirit who has seen action very sparingly so far for one of his age, debuting for Mahmood Al Zarooni way back in the autumn of 2011 at Goodwood and not seen again until making a winning start for these connections over this course and distance over three years ago. He belatedly followed up that win in a 6f handicap back here some 10 months later (2/1 market leader), in rear and shaken up over two furlongs out, making good progress soon after and responding well for pressure to lead close home and deny Mushaakis by ¾ length (pair clear). It was to this gelding’s credit that he was able to score last time, appearing to find the step back to six furlongs counting against him, in rear and taking a while to hit full flow, doing so entering the final furlong and nicely on top of a useful rival come the line. A subsequent 7lbs rise for that success ought not to prevent this son of Invincible Spirit completing the hat-trick here, a lengthy absence hardly a new challenge and the return to this seven furlong distance sure to see him in a more favourable light.
2.40 Cheltenham – FOR GOOD MEASURE (nb)
The selection, trained by Philip Hobbs, is a son of King’s Theatre who bagged a pair of 2m handicap hurdles at Uttoxeter and Exeter around this time last season with impudent ease, but he failed to fire in the Imperial Cup on the hat-trick attempt and fared little better in a valuable 2m 5f handicap hurdle at Kempton a month later. He shaped in similar fashion in a pair of 3m handicap hurdles at Warwick and Market Rasen in the spring, travelling powerfully and looking a key player on both occasions, possibly sent on early enough both times and that telling as he was overhauled close home. He made his returned with an excellent second place finish to stablemate Golden Doyen over this sort of distance here in October, but wasn’t seen to best effect when fifth to Clondaw Cian dropped back to 2m 5f here last month, waited with and not given an overly hard time in a lost cause. The return to three miles on better ground will suit, shaping a lot better than the bare result last time; still appealing as handily treated from his current mark, it wouldn’t at all surprise to see this son of King’s Theatre regain the winning thread here.
3.45 Cheltenham – MIDNIGHT MAESTRO
The selection, trained by Alan King, is a nicely-bred son of Midnight Legend who made a winning start to his career in a bumper at Doncaster back in March (6/4 favourite), held up in last place and travelling strongly, challenging between rivals at the top of the straight and coming clear with eventual runner-up Wenyerreadyfreddie two furlongs out, edging left but mastering that rival inside the final furlong to score by 4½ lengths. He maintained his 100 per cent record when making a winning start over timber in a 2m novices’ hurdle at Warwick last month (7/4 chance), waited with until making smooth progress between the third and second last flights, mounting a challenge when impeded on the approach to the final flight but staying on well on the run-in to lead close home and see off Desaray by 1½ lengths. The bare form of that win is nothing to write home about, but he came from a lot further back than the runner-up and third, collecting that pair in ready fashion on the flat to score with plenty in hand; looks a smart recruit to this sphere and can defy the penalty/preserve his unbeaten record with victory here.