Europa set for Cheltenham glory

Europa can make amends for an unlucky run at Cheltenham’s New Year meeting 12 months ago with victory at Prestbury Park on Sunday.

Europa can make amends for an unlucky run at Cheltenham’s New Year meeting 12 months ago with victory at Prestbury Park on Sunday.

Ferdy Murphy’s charge had every chance in the Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase won by Le Duc last January when coming down at the third-last fence.

He can show what might have been by taking this Listed contest over two miles five furlongs one year on.

He runs off the same mark and comes off a decent effort over course and distance three weeks ago.

Although he could never get in a blow when fifth to Sir Oj in an eventful race for the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup, he was staying on well and was only beaten 11 lengths at the line.

Murphy will have taken heart from that performance and the West Witton trainer is sure to be hopeful of a good run from the Jupiter Island gelding, who invariably runs well at Cheltenham but so far without success.

It could be his turn on Sunday.

Robert Alner’s decision to bypass the Feltham Chase on Boxing Day with The Listener and wait a few days longer for this meeting can be rewarded with victory in the Unicoin Homes “Dipper” Novices’ Chase.

Wins at Exeter and Windsor in December in his first two races over fences have stamped the Roselier gelding as a highly promising young chaser.

Alner resisted the temptation of stepping up to three miles at Sandown and has chosen to stick to two and a half miles – the distance over which The Listener’s chasing triumphs have come.

He looked good when beating Star De Mohaison by nine lengths at Exeter and even better when trouncing Lord Killenshra by 13 lengths in a Grade two event at Windsor two weeks ago.

Both runners-up are no slouches having won on their previous start.

Mighty Man can continue his rise up the ranks by making it six wins from seven races in the Steel Plate And Sections Hurdle.

His only defeat so far came when he was only ninth to Lingo in the ultra-competitive Greatwood Hurdle but he bounced back to get the better of The Market Man here three weeks ago.

The Henry Daly-trained gelding has a furlong less to travel and if anything that will be in his favour.

Brave Spirit lived up to his name despite suffering a narrow defeat at Sandown last time and can gain just reward in the Sky Bet Sussex National at Plumpton.

Colin Tizzard’s staying chaser failed by a short-head to peg back Willie John Daly after making a bad mistake at the second-last fence.

He has all the qualities needed for a marathon handicap chase and can go one better in the biggest race of the year at the Sussex course.

Cardinal Venture can give Kevin Ryan a good start to 2006 by collecting the Bet Direct Freephone 0800 211 222 Handicap at Southwell.

The Hambleton trainer posted two Group One victories in a vintage Flat campaign and can start the New Year off in style.

Cardinal Venture struck on the final day of the campaign at Doncaster and is proven on this surface having won here in February.

He looks the one to be on.

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