After another thrilling flat season, which was once again dominated by top owners Godolphin, champion jockey William Buick and soon-to-be top trainer Charlie Appleby, we are just days away from the return of the National Hunt season proper — and where better to kick-start the jumps campaign than at the iconic Cheltenham Racecourse?
The November Meeting, which is held at Prestbury Park from 11-13 November, is the perfect way to lift the curtain on the 2022/23 season and the big names will be out in their numbers to try and get their respective campaigns off to the perfect start — including the King of Closutton, Willie Mullins, who has favourites in the meeting’s biggest races.
The Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, disputed over two miles and half a furlong, is the premier race on the final day of the meeting and the eight-hurdle contest looks hard to call if you’re looking for a bet on Cheltenham. That said, read on as we take a look at some of the favourites.
Dads Lad – 5/1
It’s been a busy year for the Mullins-trained Dads Lad, as the eight-year-old continued racing through the summer — meaning the Greatwood will be his 15th outing in little more than 12 months. He has discovered some fine form of late, though, winning four of his last five races — including a Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month, which saw him cut to 5/1 for this contest. This is back over hurdles and not fences, however, so it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Sonigino – 6/1
After a disappointing season last year, going without a win in five races (35455), Sonigino underwent wind surgery in April and it appears to have done the trick for the Paul Nicholls-trained horse. The five-year-old has come out all guns blazing this season, winning twice at Chepstow in October — most notably by a 13-length margin in a Handicap Hurdle — and he’s looking like great value at 6/1.
Teed Up – 7/1
There could be a family feud in the Greatwood, as Emmet Mullins — the nephew of the nine-time Cheltenham Festival leading trainer — has a potential runner in Teed Up. The five-year-old was beaten by half-a-length at Galway following a 127-day break back in July, but returned to the winners’ column just a couple of days later with a Handicap Hurdle win back at the track. He was ninth of 16 on the flat at Leopardstown last month, but could go better back over hurdles.
West Cork – 7/1
Another 7/1 shot, West Cork won this contest for the Skelton brothers — jockey Harry and trainer Dan — from 11/1 last season, beating fellow 11/1 chance Adagio over the line by little less than a length. The eight-year-old didn’t win again in the season, but finished second in the Grade 2 Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in his penultimate race. He rounded off the season with a fall three out at Haydock and might not get chance to retain his title at the November Meeting as his trainer has claimed he’s learning towards sending him novice chasing.