Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Cheltenham: Celestial Halo is on course to reach for the stars

Of the trio who were virtually in line abreast at the end of last year's Champion Hurdle, the best effort by any of them since came from the first of them to reappear this season.

Celestial Halo (3.20), who spilt Punjabi and Binocular 12 months ago, looked suitably progressive as he cruised ten lengths clear of Mamlook at Wincanton, a performance was franked by the runner-up's victory in a valuable handicap on his next outing.

In the interim, Celestial Halo had lost little in defeat by Khyber Kim back at Cheltenham. His only downer came at Leopardstown on too-soft ground. But today he will have livelier underfoot conditions, the strong pace a horse with his reserves of stamina will appreciate, the assistance of first-time blinkers and comes to the fray fresh. It seems, if not a vintage renewal of the two-mile crown, a competitive one, with most of the field of just 12 (and since Sea Pigeon beat eight rivals 30 years ago there has only once been a smaller) covered by a few rating points.

If Dunguib is the monster he appears to be then an investment, even at odds-on, in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, will garner a better minute-for-minute return than could be constructed by any hedge fund manager.

The best ploy could be to find one at generous odds for the frame, perhaps Flat Out (1.30). The novice chase most likely to provide a future star, either over two miles or further, is the Arkle Trophy.

Sizing Europe impressed through the first half of the campaign but Captain Cee Bee (2.05) seemed to have him bang to rights at Leopardstown. Kicks For Free (2.40), narrowly beaten last year, is suggested in the handicap chase; Voler La Vedette (4.40) is better over the minimum trip than two and a half miles but her class can see her home; and L'Ami (4.00) can continue Enda Bolger's cross-country hegemony.

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