Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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By Billy Blakeman ValueChecker

Ski Sunday Could Land County Hurdle

The Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle is invariably a minefield for punters – one of the toughest puzzles to solve at the Cheltenham Festival – and this year’s renewal is so no different. Indeed, you can only realistically draw a line through around 10 of the 28 runners entered for Friday’s race, and many would not be out of place in a Grade 1 contest.

Ski Sunday
© Racehorse Photos

Ski Sunday

Following much deliberation, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that Ski Sunday could be the answer. He was having his first start over hurdles for 21 months when justifying good market support at Kempton in January, responding well to pressure to draw clear in the home straight, beating Skint by six lengths. The latter has since landed a Grade 3, while the third has also won subsequently.

Given how strong the form looks, I am of the opinion that the son of King’s Best may well be capable of defying a 10lb rise, even in a race this competitive. Now trained by Lawney Hill, Ski Sunday was a very smart juvenile hurdler for Tim Vaughan; he was runner-up in the Fred Winter at this meeting two years ago and also finished second in a Grade 1 at Aintree in 2009. He possesses a touch of class, and rates a good bet at around the 10-1 mark.

Likely favourite Dirar represents Gordon Elliott, who sent out two winners here on Wednesday. He wasn’t beaten far in a Group 2 on the Flat in September, a month after winning the Ebor at York. His hurdles form is pretty good, too, plus he won’t mind the drying ground, so he has to be high on the list, while fellow Irish raider Alaivan beat Wednesday’s Coral Cup hero Carlito Brigante in a match at Fairyhouse last time, therefore he has to be taken seriously, too.

Zanir, who was fourth to Ski Sunday at Kempton, filled the same spot in this race last year. He wasn’t done with when falling in the Totesport Trophy at Newbury last month and could go well at a price. Salden Licht was brought down in that same race, but, along with last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Soldatino, may be a shade too high in the weights for now.

Snap Tie is pretty classy and could go well if tuned-up for his first run for 518 days, Get Me Out Of Here may well benefit from the application  of a tongue tie and Saturday’s Imperial Cup winner at Sandown, Alarazi, will be carrying 7lb more in future handicaps, so has to enter calculations.


Recommendation: SKI SUNDAY


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