Cheltenham's Saturday Preview - 26/01/2019

12:40 - Adjali

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede are still represented in the opener at Cheltenham on Saturday after Torpillo's late withdrawal, with the Nicky Henderson-trained Adjali heading to post.

The 4yo won on his British and stable debut in December for the Champion Trainer at Market Rasen, before being unable to get past Paul Nicholls' Quel Destin at Chepstow in a Grade One.

Just a neck down, he is sure to go close once again now dropping in grade for the Triumph trial and looks a strong player in the real contest here at Cheltenham, for the Festival in March.

13:15 - First Drift

First Drift looks a real improver for Ben Case, and deserves his chance at a first-time crack in a Class Two - this the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase.

He was a 25/1 winner in a Class 3 Novices Chase at Hereford ten days before the festivities began, before going close at the same venue on the second day of the new year.

Will want the word soft to appear in the going, but decent chances handling the step-up under 5lb claimer Max Kendrick.

13:50 - Ballyhill

Ballyhill is another who can call upon a useful claimer, this time in the shape of Jordan Nailor to lower his weight, for the Grade Three Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Trophy Handicap Chase.

The 8yo was a solid third of seven off this career-high mark over this course and distance on his latest start, and has good experience around here before - winning a similar contest to this twelve months ago on the New Years Day card.

Decent claims for another useful run.

14:25 - Elegant Escape

Elegant Escape can take advantage of the small difference in weight in between himself and the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Frodon, with a victory in the feature of the day - the Grade Two BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase.

Crowned the Welsh Grand National winner over Christmas, the 7yo gelding arrives here with all guns blazing after that fantastic victory under Tom O'Brien.

After his seasonal return at Sandown began with a win, the 7yo was not disgraced when finishing a good second in a messy Ladbrokes Trophy behind Sizing Tennessee, before achieving top handicap success at Chepstow.

Colin Tizzard's runner looks destined to continue over this staying distance at the upcoming Festival, by launching a crack at the Magners Gold Cup, and can do his claims no harm with a solid display here.

15:00 - Birchdale

With stablemate Champ OUT, Birchdale steps IN for Nicky Henderson in the Grade Two Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.

The JP McManus-owned youngster got the nod over the current favourite for the real thing in March, after the Champion Trainer decided he did not want to run Champ - named after AP McCoy, 'for the sake of it'.

The 5yo Birchdale though certainly has more to prove than the latter, having only run twice in his career and this contest could provide the key to unlocking his vast amount of potential.

He landed a point race in Ireland over three miles and made his rules debut at Warwick not too long ago; beating a field of seventeen and he could be something special in the years to come.

The form has worked out pretty well from that race as the second, third and fifth have all gone onto win since.

15:35 - Paisley Park

Paisley Park could pose the main danger, as he puts his unbeaten record from this term on the line in the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle.

Emma Lavelle's stable-star is three from three this season, flying home in a Grade 3 at Haydock almost three months ago, before landing the JLT Long Walk at Ascot just prior to Christmas.

The form has been boosted by the third Top Notch winning since - albeit over fences, but Paisley Park looks a real star in the Stayers division, and looks a really interesting contender.

16:10 - Champagne City

Champagne City can take the finale for Tom George in the Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle.

The 6yo was a few lengths down on Al Dancer on his most recent start at Cheltenham, which lifted the latter amongst the market principles for the Supreme Novice at the Cheltenham Festival.

Doesn't always a look a horse that wants to win after just one victory in the last eighteen months, but hopefully Jonathan Burke can get a good tune of him as he remains at his preferred distance.