Cheltenham Open meeting latest odds and free bets: Sat 17 November

The National Hunt season has begun, with Dodging Bullets and Shooters Wood ensuring a successful first day of the Cheltenham Open meeting for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh

The pair will now hope to join forces and help Al Ferof to victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and that’s the highlight race on Saturday, with the seven-year-old up against nineteen other runners for what should be a competitive renewal.

There are also three other races being televised by Channel 4 and the action starts at 1:55 with the Henrietta Knight Handicap Chase.

1:55 Cheltenham
Seventeen horses are entered for this race and there are some well-known faces among them, with former Grand National winner Mon Mome taking his place among the runners. At 12-years-old, the Venetia Williams charge is a bit long in the tooth although it looks to be a wide open race.

Harry The Viking could well go off favourite at 6/1 (Paddy Power free bets) and he won four times last season before narrowly losing to Teaforthree at the Festival, with both horses carring an identical weight. This time around, the Paul Nicholls entry has four pounds left and that could make the difference on ground with some cut in it.

Teaforthree hasn’t run since that win and can be backed at 9/1 (William Hill bookmaker) to find more improvement for trainer Rebecca Curtis, while Problematic is another one to watch after wins at Kempton and Ayr towards the back end of last season.

We could be in for a grandstand finish after the horses have completed their three mile and three furlong trek and you are looking for a horse with the sort of stamina that will outlast the others. Perhaps Bradley has been well handipped and the Fergal O’Brien-trained charge ran reasonably well at the same course in October when finishing fourth behind Balthazar King.

2:35 Cheltenham
Racing fans are in for a treat when the likes of Grands Crus, Hunt Ball and Walkon meet on Saturday afternoon, although the truth is that the winner could spring from anywhere and it might pay to look beyond the favourites for this race.

Many horses are enjoying their first outing after a summer lay-off and some will need this race to progress this season, with Grands Crus currently trading at 5/2 (Blue Square) to oblige as favourite and confirm that the poor run in the RSA Chase was just a blip.

There aren’t too many of the twenty runners that can be readily dismissed and Triolo D’Alene looks an interesting runner, with the five-year-old having finished second at Market Rasen last time out, although the horse was well behind Hunt Ball at the Cheltenham Festival.

Hunt Ball is among the favourites this time around and would be a popular winner, with William Hill going 7/1 about a horse that has rapidly improved in the past two years to the extent where it can potentially become a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse.

Perhaps Al Ferof is the one to back considering the Nicholls yard is clearly in good form and the horse is reported to be in fine fettle after a disappointing performance in last season’s Arkle.

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