Philip Hobbs has enjoyed more success at the Cheltenham November meeting than any other trainer since 2014 – 12 winners from 50 runners – and he has proved one of the most profitable to follow, too, with that dozen having returned a level-stakes profit of £35.80 at Betfair SP.
Hobbs saddled no fewer than six winners at the meeting in 2014, with the undoubted highlight coming courtesy of Garde la Victoire, who provided his trainer with a fourth win in the Greatwood Hurdle.
Hobbs’ three previous winners included Rooster Booster (2002) and Detroit City (2006), both of whom carried the famous yellow and black silks of Terry Warner, and he will be hoping to see the same colours in the winners’ enclosure after this year’s renewal, with Gumball featuring prominently in the ante-post betting after his career-best effort to win a competitive handicap at Ascot last time.
Garde la Victoire also won the Grade 2 Arkle Trial in 2015 – emulating stablemate Dunraven Storm the previous year – while another race Hobbs has targeted to good effect in recent seasons has been the Grade 2 Triumph Trial. A certain Gumball was second in 2017, following on from wins for Golden Doyen (2014) and Defi du Seuil (2016).
Defi du Seuil, of course, went on to prove himself the outstanding juvenile hurdler of his generation, but his chasing career didn’t get off to the best of starts at this meeting 12 months ago, when finishing last of five in the Arkle Trial. He proved a different proposition with that experience under his belt, though, going on to win three of his five subsequent starts last season (including a pair of Grade 1s), and it would be no surprise to see him kickstart his 2019/20 campaign in the Shloer Chase, a race Hobbs won with Wishful Thinking back in 2012.
Meanwhile, it is also well worth looking out for whatever Hobbs saddles in the listed bumper on the final day of the meeting – Crooks Peak won the race at a Betfair SP of 6.15 in 2017, while Thyme Hill was second last season before going on to finish third in the Champion Bumper at the Festival. He recently won a Grade 2 on his hurdling debut at Chepstow and is in line to make his next appearance in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the November meeting.
Alan King has saddled only half as many winners at the November meeting since 2014 as Philip Hobbs, but the fact he’s also sent out half the number of runners results in an equally impressive strike rate. More interestingly, King has proved comfortably the most profitable trainer to follow at the meeting in recent years, with his level-stakes profit coming out at £64.28 at Betfair SP.
The listed mares’ bumper on the Saturday of the meeting has contributed more to that excellent return than any other race, with My Khaleesi (28.0 in 2016) and The Glancing Queen (21.1 in 2018) both winning at big odds in the last three years. Clearly, it could pay to look out for the name A. King when the entries come out for this year’s renewal.
King has also won the races two feature races at the meeting in recent years, courtesy of Annacotty and Elgin. The former belied odds of 21.8 when winning what was then the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2015, while Elgin (13.0) was landing his second valuable handicap in as many starts when successful in the Greatwood Hurdle in 2017.
King’s sole entry in this year’s BetVictor Gold Cup, Potterman, looks up against it on form, but his two possible runners in the Greatwood are both more interesting. Lisp shaped well when fourth behind Gumball on his reappearance at Ascot and is firmly on the agenda for all these big handicaps at two miles, while Harambe will likely be suited by the return to handicaps, having not been seen to best effect when down the field behind Thyme Hill at Chepstow.
King’s sextet of winners at the November meeting are completed by Uxizandre and Sceau Royal, who won the Shloer Chase in 2014 and 2018, respectively.
The latter justified favouritism with a ready defeat of Simply Ned – a standing dish at this fixture over the years – 12 months ago, before proving better than ever when third behind Altior in the Champion Chase back here in March. A high-class chaser on his day, he could once again make his reappearance in the Shloer, teeing up the prospect of a fascinating clash with Defi du Seuil.
In terms of runners, Paul Nicholls has been the most prolific trainer at the November meeting with 66 in the last five years. That arguably makes it even more impressive that you would still be in profit if you had backed every single one of them, with his 10 winners returning a level-stakes profit of £31.58 at Betfair SP.
Nicholls is another trainer to have snared both the meeting’s showpiece races in that time. Caid du Berlais won the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2014, while Sound Investment (third in 2015), Le Prezien (third in 2017) and Frodon (second in 2018) have all finished placed in subsequent renewals of Saturday’s feature event.
Nicholls could be represented by as many as five runners this time round, with the ante-post betting suggesting that Secret Investor is the pick of them; he made an encouraging return in a Grade 2 at Down Royal earlier this month and remains with potential as a chaser.
As for the Greatwood, Old Guard provided the trainer with his most recent win in the race in 2015, before returning to finish third in both the 2017 and 2018 renewals. Surprisingly, Old Guard’s name didn’t appear amongst the 42 entries for the latest edition, but there are still six from Ditcheat, headed by Ecco and Red Force One.
The latter took a significant step forward to chase home Gumball on his recent handicap bow at Ascot, while Ecco also identified himself as one to follow when forging clear to win in novice company earlier on the card.
This meeting has also seen Nicholls unleash some of his better novice chasers over the years; he has won three of the last four renewals of the three-mile contest on Saturday’s card, while his name features no fewer than nine times on the illustrious roll of honour for the Arkle Trial this century.
It's a winning chase debut for Al Dancer, who is an authoritative winner of the https://t.co/sHH6onIVS9 Novices' Chase as he goes clear up the Cheltenham hill for the Twiston-Davies team 👏🙌 @samtwiston @NigelTwistonDav pic.twitter.com/nNfpTBW15y— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) October 25, 2019
Subsequent Champion Chase winners Azertyuiop (2002) and Dodging Bullets (2013) are perhaps the standout names on that list, and though beaten on his chasing debut at the Showcase meeting, Getaway Trump very much appeals as a likely contender for this year’s renewal. The six-year-old showed abundant promise on his reappearance, trading as short as 1.12 before lack of an outing told, and he should get closer to the winner Al Dancer if reopposing here.