The welcome return of Cheltenham

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For many racing fans the sight of Cheltenham back on racing calendar is a welcome one.

It may mean short evenings and long winter nights, but it also ensures that our jumping superstars are about to leap back into life after a summer recess.

Plenty to get stuck into on a strong card at Prestbury Park on Saturday and here are three worth thinking about.

Gumball – Cheltenham 2.35 @ 7/4

Champion jockey Richard Johnson has been in sparkling form this week, with a dozen winners across the last four day days, including one here on Friday. After that success he pinpointed Gumball as a leading hope for Saturday.

The French import began with easy wins Stratford and Chepstow then played second fiddle to Apple’s Shakira here at Cheltenham. The soft-ground in the Triumph Hurdle in March wasn’t in his favour but he produced a season’s best in chasing home We Have A Dream in an Aintree Grade 1 the following month, then signed off with a decisive Ludlow win.

Philip Hobbs is on record as stating there should be more to come and, in receipt of 8lb from his main market rival Redicean, Gumball could be hard to peg back here.

Dell’ Arca, Cheltenham 2.00 @ 18/1

Nothing like a handicap hopeful trained by David Pipe to let us know Cheltenham is firmly back! The Pond House handler had a slow season last term, by his own standards, but it shouldn’t be long before he’s on track again.

Dell’ Arca has enjoyed a good summer campaign, winning on the Flat and over hurdles, prior to running right up to his best form in last month’s Kerry National at Listowel, where he was close to his best in finishing fourth (beaten just over four-lengths) behind the promising Snow Falcon.

Stable jockey Tom Scudamore – amongst the winners here on Friday – takes over now and there’s plenty of reason to feel Dell’ Arca will go well given he has run well at this track on his last two visits over fences.

Therefore he looks overpriced compared to the likes Shantou Village, who finished behind him last time out in Ireland.

Earlofthecotswolds, Cheltenham 5.30 @ 8/1

This meeting tends to find local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies with his team in good order early in the season and the Naunton handler has a 19% strike rate recently.

Earlofthecotswolds ran well enough on debut at Fakenham in the spring, finishing third, before returning last month with a win at Market Rasen.

Sam Twiston-Davies took the bull by the horns in that race, kicking for home on the home bend. While his mount may need to settle quicker this afternoon, he did appear to have something left last time and there may be more to come from him at a meeting his trainer tends to target.

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