Cheltenham preview (15.05): Top Notch ready to rock in Relkeel
David Metcalf | January 1, 2016
Top Notch has posted two cracking efforts this season and looks decent value to land the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham (15.05) now stepped up in trip.
The gelding was a dual winner in France before joining trainer Nicky Henderson and developing into one of the very best juvenile hurdlers of last season.
After winning his first three starts for Henderson in impressive fashion, the four-year-old ran a blinder to finish second of 16 to stable companion Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Top Notch made smooth headway two from home, and after taking up the running at the last kept on strongly to go down fighting by just a neck.
It was a performance which suggested Top Notch needed keeping firmly onside, and that view was confirmed when the son of Poliglote finished 1 1/4 length second to Irving on his return to action at Haydock.
Top Notch travelled powerfully at the head of affairs and looked all over the winner until making a mistake two from home before rallying gamely.
He backed that up with a fine neck second to Identity Thief in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth over 2m at Newcastle, and the winner has since come out and made leading Champion Hurdle hops Nichols Canyon pull out all the stops in a Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown.
That is very strong form, and Top Notch handles testing conditions so looks the type who will appreciate the step up to 2m 4f.
Cole Harden will come again
There are plenty of dangers in a cracking renewal, and Cole Harden looks the biggest.
The Warren Greatrex trained seven-year-old is a genuine sort who put in a tremendous performance when winning the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March.
Cole Harden made all and stayed on strongly to beat Saphir Du Rheu by 3 1/4 lengths, and had Whisper a further 7 1/2 lengths back in fifth.
Although then not at his best on his final start of the campaign when runner-up to Whisper at Aintree, Cole Harden may well have been feeling the effects of a hard season and shaped really well on return to action at Newbury when third to Thistlecrack in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle.
That run should have blown away the cobwebs and put Cole Harden spot on for this, and the son of Westerner is a tough front runner who looks sure to make a bold bid to try and make every post a winning one.