Paul Nicholls: The verdict on my Friday runners at Cheltenham

It's another big day at Cheltenham
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It's just a small three-strong team running for Paul on the opening day of the International meeting at Cheltenham. Here are Paul's thoughts on the trio...

"I can see Whiffy Chatsby going close providing the ground stays decent."

12:30, Cheltenham
Vivaldi Collonges

Was only rated 119 when a wide-margin winner at Ayr last season and paid for that victory with a 16lb rise in the weights. And then he went up another 4lb when second here in a novice hurdle in October. So he didn't look obviously well-treated when returning here last time out. Given that hike in the handicap, I thought he ran a very encouraging race even though he was beaten 15 lengths, especially as the soft ground wouldn't have been ideal. I don't think his mark gives us any room for manoeuvre over hurdles, so we send him chasing, and this half-brother to Albert Bartlett winner Nenuphar Collonges has schooled well in preparation for this.

Decent ground will be another plus, too, so I hope the rain stays away. This will clearly be very tough against the likes of Kings Palace and Sausalito Sunrise though, even getting weight, but at the very least the experience will stand him in good stead for the future.
13:05, Cheltenham
Wiffy Chatsby 

Has already won his bumper, hurdle and chase after just 14 starts, but we had to be patient and put him away for over a year after he got jarred up when winning on his chasing debut at Worcester. Was going ok until unseating Sam at Wincanton on his reappearance, only then to disappoint at Stratford, where he had won his bumper and hurdle. I think the watered ground was to blame there - all his best form has been on good or better - so I am hoping that we don't get any rain. I think a mark of 124 is fair and Jack takes a handy 6lb off, too. I can see him going close providing the ground stays decent. 
14:10, Cheltenham
Cowards Close

Is a fragile horse who has had his problems but he is a fairly talented one on his day. He has run three very solid races over fences and I think a mark of 125 is fair enough on his chasing form so far - though he is 2lb out of the handicap here - and 3m on good ground is what he wants, so I hope that the forecast rain doesn't arrive. 


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