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Mares to the Fore on Day Two of April Meeting
The April Meeting at Cheltenham concludes tomorrow (April 18) with a cracking eight-race card in which three Listed contests for mares take centre stage.
Herefordshire-based trainer Tom Symonds, a former assistant to Nicky Henderson, is set to have four runners across the card, with three of those in Listed company.
Symonds saddles two of the 16 runners in the £20,000 Listed OLBG.com Mares' Handicap Hurdle (3.10pm) over an extended two miles and five furlongs - Tweedledrum and Scholastica. Tweedledrum has enjoyed a fine season with three wins, most recently in a Listed event at Doncaster on March 2, while Scholastica scored at Uttoxeter in November and picked up some black type when third in a Listed contest at Haydock Park the following month.
Valmari is one of eight runners in the £25,000 Listed European Breeders' Fund/Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase (2.35pm) over two miles and five furlongs, which was transferred to Cheltenham following the abandonment of Newbury on March 23. The 10-year-old has been in the winner's enclosure twice this season, with victories at Uttoxeter and Ludlow, and was still in front when falling four out in a Grade Two contest at Newbury in November which was won by the high-class Dynaste.
Symonds said: "On engine alone, I would expect Valmari to figure highly tomorrow but she does make the odd jumping error.
"She is a talented mare when she stands up, as you saw at Newbury - she was leading a good field a merry dance before deciding to eat the turf.
"She has had a little break which will help her because she goes well fresh and she seems very well at home, which is a good sign. It's a big ask but she is an older mare now so if she can jump round and get a bit of black type, it would help her a lot going forward in her career as a broodmare."
Also set to line up in the European Breeders' Fund/Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase are the Harry Fry-trained Violin Davis, successful on her last four starts, and Irish Grade Three winner Great Oak, who is set to have her first outing for Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan. Dorset handler Anthony Honeyball is doubly represented with Marie Des Anges, a winner on her last two starts and Jackies Solitaire.
Symonds continued: "Tweedledrum is very well. She has had a great year and anything she does is a bonus now.
"The drying ground is a bit of a concern but she handled it well enough at Haydock when the trip was too short. I think the track and trip will suit her tomorrow.
"We will ride her out the back like we normally do and hopefully come through and do them all on the line. I think the change of tactics is one of the reasons she has improved this season along with our new gallop and the step up in trip.
"The mares' final at Newbury was the plan for Scholastica but that was moved to Kempton yesterday, which is not really like Newbury. Looking at the way the race was run on that good ground, I didn't think Kempton would suit her.
"Going left handed over a stiff two miles, five and half furlongs will really suit her and she is quite unexposed.
"She is very talented and, touch wood, jumps very well. I have been looking forward to running her in a handicap and I am very happy with her weight (10st 6lb) tomorrow."
Action gets underway tomorrow at 2.00pm with the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Hurdle over two miles and a furlong, for which there are eight declared runners. These include a pair from the stable of champion trainer elect Nicky Henderson - Ma Filleule, a Grade Two winner at Warwick in February and Springinherstep, who landed a novices' contest at Huntingdon on April 1 in facile fashion.
Several Cheltenham regulars line up in the £20,000 Goldsmiths Handicap Chase (3.45pm) over an extended three miles and a furlong. Weights for the 12-runner contest are headed by Midnight Chase, a five-time Cheltenham scorer, who enjoyed his finest hour when successful in the 2012 renewal of the Grade Two Argento Chase over the same distance. Two progressive younger performers set to line up - Cedre Bleu for the Paul Nicholls/Ruby Walsh team and What A Warrior for Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies.
The remaining races on the card are the Barbury International Horse Trials Handicap Hurdle (4.20pm, 20 declarations), the Sporting Agenda Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase (4.55pm, eight declarations), the Endsleigh Insurance Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (5.25pm, 19 declarations) and the concluding Nicholson Holman Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (6.00pm, 10 declarations).
The April Meeting gets underway today, Wednesday, April 17, with a superb seven-race programme.
Cheltenham's season will conclude on Wednesday, May 1, with the Hunter Chase Evening.
The going at Cheltenham is currently Good to Soft, Good in places.