Will If The Cap Fits Deliver on Promise at Cheltenham?

If The Cap Fits put forward his credentials for Cheltenham Festival with a fine run at Kempton Park on Boxing Day to win the Novices’ Hurdle. (Photo credit At The Races via Twitter).

If The Cap Fits put forward his credentials for Cheltenham Festival with a fine run at Kempton Park on Boxing Day to win the Novices’ Hurdle. The bay gelding was considered the favourite for the event and he delivered on the expectations to triumph, notching the fifth victory of his career.

The Irish horse has now moved into serious consideration to claim the title in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in his debut at Cheltenham in March. If The Cap Fits will face a tougher level of competition at the race, with a number of talented horses set to battle him for the crown. Claimantakinforgan and Mengli Khan should push the bay gelding all the way in their showdown.

Harry Fry’s charge has been dominant since his first race of his career at the end of 2016. He competed at Plumpton for his debut in a flat race and was considered the favourite to claim the win. With Noel Fehily in the saddle, the Irish horse was able to come through the field to record the victory by two-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of the rest of the field.

He maintained his form with another fine performance in the flat, dominating at Taunton to win by nine lengths. However, If The Cap Fits was humbled in his first outing at Aintree, finishing off the pace down in fourth place in his final outing of the campaign as Lalor ran out the victor.

The five-year-old returned to action at Exeter for the start of the 2017/18 National Hunt season. At the 18-furlong Novices’ Hurdle, Fry’s charge made his way through the field before taking the lead two fences out. From that point, the Irish horse cantered to a comfortable win, finishing ahead of Blu Cavalier by nine lengths.

If The Cap Fits continued his fine form with another victory at Bangor-on-Dee, this time over a shorter distance as he secured a three-and-a-quarter length triumph over Solomon Grey, producing a strong finish with Fehily in the saddle. The result at the end of November sent the Irish horse and his team with confidence into the race at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

The five-year-old rose to the occasion, overcoming a mistake at the third fence to move away from the rest of the field down the stretch to win by five lengths. Fry’s charge was not at his best in the meet, but the margin of his victory has sent forward a warning to his rivals how dominant he could be with a flawless outing.

Claimantakinforgan could be the one to challenge the Irish horse at Cheltenham. He has enjoyed a dominant start to the 2017/18 season, winning both of his races. Nicky Henderson’s charge had only one victory under his belt before he competed at Newbury in the Novices’ Hurdle at the beginning of November. However, with Nico de Boinville in the saddle, the bay gelding found his rhythm to run to victory by two-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of his compatriot Lostintranslation.

The French horse was considered the favourite for the Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot and he delivered on expectations. De Boinville anchored another triumph down the final stages of the race, guiding his charge to the victory by two-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of Dr Des. That win will stand him in good stead over the course of the campaign.

Mengli Khan will need to bounce back from a disappointing outing at the Future Champions Novice Hurdle to come back into consideration. The Irish horse had won his last three races heading into the contest to start the 2017/18 season. He delivered a fine performance to triumph at the Maiden Hurdle in Navan in September, winning by six lengths ahead of a talented field.

Gordon Elliott’s charge followed that up with another victory at the same racecourse in the Novice Hurdle against by a comfortable margin. Mengli Khan maintained his form at Fairyhouse, reeling off a dominant run down the stretch to close out the race by five-and-a-half lengths to take him into the race at Leopardstown with momentum. However, the Future Champions Novice Hurdle ended in disappointment as he ran off the track two fences from the end of the race, despite being considered the favourite for the event. Elliott will need to find the five-year-old’s best form to keep pace with If The Cap Fits and Claimantakinforgan at Cheltenham.