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Cheltenham Trials Day: Black Op To Appreciate Return To Hurdling

Following two runs over fences Black Op returns to the smaller obstacles in Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day.

BLACK OP – 11-2 with Coral. 3.35pm Cheltenham Saturday 26th January.

BLACK OP - 11-2 with Coral 11/2 Coral

Cheltenham Trials Day

Mister Whitaker may have been the only winner on Cheltenham Trials Day 12 months ago to follow up at the festival when victorious in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase but there are always plenty of clues to be gained from the meeting. Coo Star Sivola for example could do no better than fourth place in the 2m 5f contest behind Frodon before winning the Ultima Handicap Chase at the four-day extravaganza, as the heavily supported 5-1 favourite.

Triumph Hurdle Trial

Saturday’s card begins with the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle and the selected of the Simon Munir & Isaac Souede-owned pair of Adjali and Torpillo is likely to prove a warm order. Early signs are that the latter, unbeaten in two starts for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, is the most likely starter and could go off much shorter than the 9-4 currently available with Coral. The son of Alanadi is a standout 16-1 for the final on Friday 15th March with Ladbrokes in the latest Cheltenham festival betting odds.

Cotswold Chase

The fourth race on the card is the three mile one and a half furlong Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase, competed for by several Cheltenham Gold Cup hopefuls. A victory for Welsh Grand National hero Elegant Escape, doubtful stayer Frodon or impressive Ascot scorer Valtor would see their huge odds for the championship contest greatly reduced. The first named follows a similar path to that of last season’s Gold Cup winner Native River and at the 33-1 available with Ladbrokes and William Hill in the latest Cheltenham betting offers could prove a decent each-way value bet come March.

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Leading owner JP McManus looks to hold the key here with either Champ or Birchdale. The former is clear 4-1 favourite with bet365 and Betvictor for the final on Wednesday 13th March but will have to concede 5lb to most of his rivals if allowed to take his chance on Saturday. The betting would suggest that the latter, a 5-2 chance with Ladbrokes and Coral, is more likely to represent trainer Nicky Henderson on this occasion.

Cleeve Hurdle

A strong renewal of this Stayers’ Hurdle trial with Paisley Park and Midnight Shadow two unexposed young hurdlers in cracking form while the likes of Wholestone, Unwhatimeanharry, Lil Rockerfeller and Sam Spinner all have strong form in this division. But the most interesting runner is the Tom George-trained Black Op who reverts back to hurdles following a spell over the bigger obstacles. The son of Sandmason proved one of the most talented staying novices last season, culminating with a victory in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. An 11-2 chance with Coral, Black Op’s odds of 10-1 with bet365 for the Stayers’ Hurdle (non runner no bet in their Cheltenham special betting offers) could seem generous after Saturday’s race.