Time For Rupert has a choice of targets as he bids to build on an impressive chasing debut and continue his excellent Cheltenham record at The International, which takes place on Friday, 10 December and Saturday, 11 December.
The Paul Webber-trained six-year-old has yet to finish out of the first two in four visits to the home of Jump racing, including when chasing home Big Buck’s in the Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle at The Festival in March.
He also made a winning first start over fences at Cheltenham’s Open meeting on 12 November, powering to an eight-length victory over Hell’s Bay in the Steel Plate and Sections Novices’ Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
That display saw Time For Rupert leap to the head of the ante-post market for the Grade One RSA Chase at The Festival on Wednesday, 16 March.
Webber revealed: “The plan is for Time For Rupert to return to Cheltenham next weekend. The priority will be the extended three-mile, one furlong, novices’ chase on the Saturday (the DRS Contracts Novices’ Chase – 12.45pm) and he will also have an entry in the Friday novices’ chase over two miles and five furlongs (the Injured Jockeys’ Fund Oaksey House Novices’ Chase – 12.10pm) in case of the weather.
“He is in very good form at the moment – he had a little school last week and looks in good order. He has always jumped well at home and he loves going over fences, so we were hoping that he would run well at The Open. He previously had lessons with Yogi Breisner and had been around Towcester a couple of times, so he has had plenty of schooling practice.
“On his hurdle form, stepping up to beyond three miles will obviously suit and the ground doesn’t seem to make too much difference to him. He loves going round Cheltenham, but we will take it one race at a time with him at the moment before making any big plans.”
The second day of The International features the £150,000 Grade Two StanJames.com International (3.05pm) over two miles and a furlong, which is set to be contested by some of the leading contenders for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on the opening day of The Festival, Tuesday, 15 March.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah has been victorious on both his visits to Cheltenham, taking the Grade One Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March and the £100,000 Grade Three Greatwood Handicap Hurdle under top-weight at The Open on 14 November.
Paul Nicholls is aiming Silviniaco Conti at the StanJames.com International after the unbeaten four-year-old posted an emphatic victory in the Grade Two Ascot Hurdle over two and a half miles on 20 November, while Colin Tizzard is contemplating letting last season’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner, the exciting Cue Card who is unbeaten in four starts, take his chance after the four-year-old sauntered to a facile victory in the Grade Two Cheltenham Collection Sharp Novices’ Hurdle at The Open.
The second day of The International also features the £150,000 Grade Three December Gold Cup (2.30pm) and the entry of 32 for the two mile, five furlong handicap chase includes Little Josh, who posted a pillar to post victory for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and his jockey son Sam in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open.
Other notable contenders include the Nicky Henderson-trained Dave’s Dream, who also triumphed at The Open when readily taking the paddypower.com Handicap Chase, the Paddy Power Gold Cup runner-up Dancing Tornado, from the stable of Michael Hourigan in Ireland, and Great Endeavour, who won the Byrne Group Plate at The Festival for trainer David Pipe.
The remaining races on Saturday’s card include a pair of Grade Two contests – the £35,000 Unicoin Homes Relkeel Hurdle (3.40pm) over an extended two and a half miles and the three-mile £25,000 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (1.55pm).
The first day of The International, Friday, 10 December, is headed by the Listed £40,000 www.maxwell-drummond.com Handicap Chase (1.50pm), which was won in 2008 by subsequent Grand National victor Mon Mome, and the £22,500 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (1.15pm) over Cheltenham’s unique cross country course.
Meeting: The International
Dates: Friday & Saturday – 10 & 11 December
Gates Open: 10.00am both days
First Race: 12.10pm both days
Admission prices from £9. Go to www.cheltenham.co.uk for further information