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Opus Energy Novices' Hurdle 2012 

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Court Minstrel and Hold Court Handed Open Novices Hurdle Option
28/10/12

Trainer Evan Williams is considering a crack at the £25,000 Grade Two Opus Energy Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham with impressive Showcase scorer Court Minstrel or Ludlow winner Hold Court. The extended two-mile contest takes place on Countryside Day, Friday, November 16, 2012, the first day of The Open.

Court Minstrel
© Racehorse Photos

Court Minstrel

Court Minstrel produced a decisive turn of foot to land the Lemington Maiden Hurdle by an easy three and three-quarter lengths at The Showcase on October 19. The progressive five-year-old was having his first start since finishing fourth to The New One in the Grade Two John Smith’s Champion Bumper at Aintree in April.

Williams, who trains in the Vale Of Glamorgan, said: “We will definitely keep the Opus Energy Novices’ Hurdle in mind for Court Minstrel but I won’t say we will definitely end up there because he is a horse we might not do too much with in the early part of the season.

“It’s definitely a race we will look at. He has been grand since his win at Cheltenham and he looked visually impressive there but it probably wasn’t the strongest of contests.

“He did it nicely, the track seemed to suit him and he will always be suited by a good fast pace.”

Hold Court won his first two starts under Rules in bumpers at Fontwell and Ludlow in eye-catching fashion before sore shins prevented him from running to his best in a Listed bumper at Newbury in February, when ninth. He returned to action with an easy six-length victory at Ludlow yesterday in a novices’ hurdle over two miles.

Williams added: “Hold Court will improve for his win at Ludlow yesterday. He is a horse who had sore shins at the end of last year and I wanted to run him somewhere where they go a good gallop because he can pull a bit.

“We will definitely look at the Opus Energy Novices’ Hurdle with him as he is a horse we like an awful lot. We will have all those sort of races in mind for him for the rest of the season.”

The first day of The Open, Countryside Day, also features the £45,000 Paddypower.com Handicap Chase over two miles and the £25,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase over just shy of four miles.

There are a number of activities taking place on Countryside Day including the annual Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association stallion parade, which place in the paddock at 11.00am.

A display of the Cotswolds branch of the Riding for the Disabled Association will be staged in the paddock at 11.45am, while the equestrian medallists from London 2012 will be in the winner’s enclosure after the first race. There are also various sheepdog, beagle and foxhound displays throughout the day. Brightwells will stage a sale of breeze-up horses and horses in training after racing.

The £160,000 Grade Three BetVictor Gold Cup is the highlight of The Open on Saturday, November 17, and has been won by some of Jump racing’s biggest names since its inception in 1960. In 2008 the extended two and a half mile handicap chase was won by Imperial Commander who went on to win the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010.

A terrific card on Saturday also features the £50,000 Grade Three Henrietta Knight Handicap Chase over just short of three and a half miles and the £25,000 Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial over an extended two miles.

Sunday’s showpiece is the £100,000 Grade Three Open Handicap Hurdle over an extended two miles which can be a key pointer to the Stan James Champion Hurdle at The Festival in March. The action also includes the £50,000 Shloer Chase over two miles.

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