Cleeve Hurdle preview: If The Cap Fits fancied for Festival Trials Day win at Cheltenham

Published on: January 23, 2020
Author: Jamie Clark
This 2020 Cleeve Hurdle preview from Cheltenham features If The Cap Fits (right)

If The Cap Fits is unexposed as a stayer, so looks value to turn over Paisley Park in the 3m Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day this Saturday (15:35).

Trained by Harry Fry for Paul and Clare Rooney, this eight-year-old has been progressive throughout his career.

If The Cap Fits is also lightly-raced for his age after just 12 career starts and eight victories. That is a 75 per cent strike rate.

He won his first two bumper outings and ran well in a Grade 2 at Aintee. If The Cap Fits then notched a hat-trick over hurdles in the winter of 2017.

The Milan gelding found subsequent Christmas Hurdle heroine Verdana Blue just 2 1/4 lengths too good on reappearance in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last term.

As the winner had already had a spin on the Flat, he was conceding race fitness as well as weight to her.

If The Cap Fits came out and won another Grade 2 event, the Coral Hurdle over 2m 3f at Ascot, next time up.

That suggested that longer trips might be his bag, but connections went down in distance for the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. He ran a creditable third behind Verdana Blue and Buveur D’Air.

If The Cap Fits was also far from disgraced when chasing home Vision Des Flos in the Grade 2 National Spirit at Fontwell.

He was trying to give the winner 4lb there and only went down by 1 1/2 lengths.

Unexposed as a stayer

When stepped up the Cleeve Hurdle trip of 3m for the Liverpool Hurdle on Grand National day, If The Cap Fits scalped Cheltenham Festival winners in Apple’s Jade, Roksana and the re-opposing William Henry.

He had to give the two mares a 7lb sex allowance, but prevailed when getting up in the final strides after rallying superbly.

If The Cap Fits has since confirmed the form with runner-up Roksana, while Apple’s Jade has come out and won over 3m this season. That gives the form a solid look.

Fry went back to Ascot with him on reappearance, where he retained his Coral Hurdle crown under a Grade 1 penalty when beating subsequent International Hurdle hero Call Me Lord by half-a-length.

Those exploits have earned If The Cap Fits an official rating of 166. It’s 3lb shy of Paisley Park’s mark.

As he is still open to further improvement in this sphere after just one run at a staying trip, If The Cap Fits could progress again. The stable has also won this race before with Unowhatimeanharry.

Taking all that into account, at the odds on offer If The Cap Fits looks worth a punt at 3/1 with Boylesports to serve it up to the champion stayer.

Paisley Park respected in repeat bid

Last year’s Cleeve Hurdle winner Paisley Park heads the betting with good reason here.

He has won his last six outings and went on from this 12 months ago to Cheltenham Festival glory.

Emma Lavelle’s stable star sets a clear and obvious standard after a magical campaign last season that saw him progress from handicapper to Grade 1 glory.

His campaign was mapped out by connections and executed perfectly. There is a sense, however, that their best laid plans have been interrupted this term.

Paisley Park made a perfectly respectable return to action when holding popular veteran Thistlecrack by a length in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury under a penalty.

The intention was to then go back to Ascot and defend his Long Walk crown, but the desperately heavy ground put connections off. Racing only went ahead at the eleventh hour that day.

Paisley Park’s owner Andrew Gemmell then raised the possibility of going in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle here on New Year’s Day. He wasn’t even entered for that in the end.

Things just haven’t gone quite so smoothly with Paisley Park this campaign, for all he has done nothing wrong.

The son of Oscar is entitled to be favourite with bookmakers, as he’s two from three starts over course and distance.

Each of the next four horses in-behind Paisley Park from the Stayers’ Hurdle have made up into chasers.

That means the form is solid, so the only question is how will he tackle unexposed sorts at the trip in the Cleeve Hurdle?

Paisley Park commands tons of respect as a proven performer, so is opposed on price alone with short odds of 4/6 with 888Sport not appealing on this occasion.

Summerville Boy each-way value for Cleeve Hurdle

Cheltenham local trainer Tom George saddled Black Op to be third in this 12 months ago, so stable companion Summerville Boy who won the Relkeel appeals most each-way.

The 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero found open company over 2m too hot to handle last season.

A disappointing campaign was put well behind him, however, when he landed his chasing debut at Uttoxeter in November.

Summerville Boy ran out a four-length victor over First Flow with Western Ryder a further 10 lengths behind in third.

Those two have since come out and won chases, but the Roger Brookhouse owned gelding took a fall on his next start.

That came at the water jump in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

Summerville Boy has proved no worse for taking that tumble though, as he came out and scored a second career success at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Sent off an drifting 10/1 for the Relkeel, he made all and stayed on well to beat Roksana by 2 1/4 lengths. William Henry was beaten a further 1 1/4 lengths in third.

Although now 6lbs worse off with the latter at the weights, his rival had no extra close home and the Cleeve Hurdle is half-a-mile longer in distance.

If staying the trip, then Summerville Boy who has placed on four of his five previous outings around Prestbury Park can hit the frame.

Henderson pair L’Ami Serge and William Henry will have their supporters, but they are also the joint eldest in the line-up as 10-year-olds.

Summerville Boy looks worth chancing to get 3m instead at 10/1 with Betway as his sire Sandmason has produced horses who have.