Cheltenham horse racing tips, odds and free bets: Friday 16 November

The Cheltenham Open meeting is second only to the Festival and King George in terms of prestige and it marks the unofficial start of the National Hunt season where many big guns open their account on the rolling track at Prestbury Park

Channel 4 are televising the first four races of Friday’s card where Paddy Power are a prominent sponsor, with the action getting under way at 1.15 and Carlito Brigante will look to repeat that Novices’ Chase victory of a month ago.

The Paddy Power Handicap Chase, Opus Energy Novices’ Hurdle and Cross Country Chase also look to be competitive races as racing fans have their appetite whetted ahead of Saturday’s Gold Cup where Grands Crus is the current favourite.

1.15 Steel Plate and Sections Novices’ Chase
A small field for the meeting curtain-raiser and several top trainers have entries in this race including Gordon Elliott who has already seen Carlito Brigante win at Cheltenham this season, with the six-year-old obliging at 5/1 in a Novices’ Chase before disappointing at Aintree a week later.

Fingal Bay won a hurdle race at this meeting twelve months ago and is now racing over timber, with Phillip Hobbs having trained this horse to a maiden chase victory at Chepstow last month while we know the horse likes the Cheltenham track.

Unioniste beat Carlito Brigante in that race at Aintree and the Paul Nicholls-trained charge could be the one to beat here, with the four-year-old clearly a progressive sort that should go close.

1.50 Paddy Handicap Chase
Fourteen runners are entered for this two-mile contest and it’s the first outing of the season for many of the runners including Arctic Ben, a Henry Daly horse that has several wins to his name already and ran second to Mad Moose at Cheltenham in April, with further improvement expected.

Nicky Henderson has a runner in this race and Kid Cassidy failed to oblige as favourite in the Grand Annual Chase at the Festival in March, although a recent run at Aintree suggests he might be getting near his best again.

Paul Nicholls saddles Shooters Wood who has finished second on three occasions this season and the eight-year-old looks well handicapped, with Royale’s Charter the only one too good for him at Taunton recently.

Lucy’s Legend is the bottom weight and beat Shooters Wood at Kempton in October and the horse was carrying less weight that day, so perhaps the Paul Henderson charge is the one to be with this time around.

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