Day two of The Showcase at Cheltenham tomorrow, has an excellent seven-race card featuring two £60,000 handicap chases and the £40,000 Masterson Holdings Hurdle.
Talented chaser Bigmartre (11st 11lb) has been a leading light for Sparsholt trainer Harry Whittington and the good partnership with jockey Harry Bannister continues over two miles tomorrow.
The seven-year-old son of Montmartre won three of his five starts last term, which included a length and three-quarter victory in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase at Ayr in April.
Good ground is an important factor for Whittington’s charge, who ran well before tiring to finish seventh on soft ground in the two and a half-mile JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Whittington said: “Bigmartre is in good form and this race has been the plan.
“Good ground is very important for him. He ran a very good race for a long way in the JLT until his stamina gave out. That race was on soft ground, so we will try and stick to racing on good.
“His jumping is one of his biggest assets and he will love the jumping test. I am happy with him.
“As well as the ground, he is at his best when running fresh so we will give him a few weeks between his races and I think he could maybe develop into a horse who could run in a Grand Annual – that could really suit him.
“We will campaign him over two miles on galloping tracks or over two and a half miles on sharp courses throughout the season as they both seem to suit.
“Bigmartre is such a popular horse in the yard and has been a real flag-bearer for us. We are looking forward to getting his season started.”
A classy field also includes last year’s winner Foxtail Hill (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies, 11st 1lb) and consistent 10-year-old Duke Of Navan (Nicky Richards/Ryan Day (3), 11st 7lb)).
Modus (Barry Geraghty, 11st 9lb), a winning novice over fences last season, is one of two runners for Paul Nicholls. He is joined by stablemate Tommy Silver (Harry Cobden, 10st 13lb).
The line-up is completed by top-weight Vosne Romanee (Dr Richard Newland/Sean Bowen, 11st 12lb) and Lillington (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore, 10st), both dual winners over fences this season.
The 2017 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco (Jonjo O’Neill/Barry Geraghty, 11st 12lb) heads 17 runners for the opening £60,000 ‘Matchbook Betting Exchange’ Handicap Chase (2.00pm) over three miles and a furlong, his first start since having a wind operation.
His owner J P McManus has two other runners; likely favourite For Good Measure (Philip Hobbs/Tom O’Brien, 10st 1lb) and Above Board (Jonjo O’Neill/Aidan Coleman, 10st 2lb). For Good Measure’s trainer Philip Hobbs has an excellent record in this race, winning five of the last 11 renewals.
Gloucestershire trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is doubly represented by Cogry (Sam Twiston-Davies, 10st 4lb), who is bidding for back-to-back victories in the race after a decisive four-length success in 2017, and Calett Mad (Daryl Jacob, 10st 11lb), who also won at The Showcase last year.
Neil Mulholland, based near Bath, has two eye-catching contenders in Doing Fine (Leighton Aspell, 10st 4lb), who rounded off last season by taking fourth in the Scottish Grand National, and Kerry National fifth Shantou Village (Robert Dunne, 10st 13lb).
Possible Unibet Champion Hurdle candidate Redicean (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson) concedes weight all round in the £40,000 Masterson Holdings Hurdle (2.35pm, six runners), staged over two miles for four-year-olds.
Redicean has won three of his four starts over hurdles by a combined distance of 27 lengths, with his only defeat coming when sixth on testing ground in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival™ presented by Magners.
The opposition tomorrow includes Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle runner-up Gumball (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson) and Irish raider Pearl Of The West (John McConnell/Sean Bowen), who defeated highly-regarded mare Pakora on his penultimate start.
Elsewhere on the card, a maximum field of 20 face the starter in the £25,000 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (3.45pm) over three miles. Horses who finish in the first six will be eligible to enter for the Pertemps Network Final.
Second-season novice chaser Movewiththetimes (Paul Nicholls/Barry Geraghty) is one of five runners in the £25,000 Move Over To Matchbook Novices’ Chase (4.55pm) over just shy of two and a half miles. All four of his chase starts came at Cheltenham last season, with his best effort being second to Finian’s Oscar at The November Meeting.
Stiff competition will be provided by Irish challenger Cubomania (Gordon Elliott IRE/Richard Johnson), Monbeg Legend (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville) and Graasten (Gary Moore/Joshua Moore), who have all triumphed over fences this season.
The going at Cheltenham is Good (watered).