Apache Stronghold looks tailor made for the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on Thursday.
Noel Meade has always held this seven-year-old in the highest regard and last time out he finally delivered on all of his promise.
As a hurdler, he was not far off the best, finishing second to Vautour at the Punchestown Festival after injury forced him to miss this meeting.
He was always going to be a chaser, though, and he made no mistake at Down Royal on his debut this season.
Straight into top company after that, Apache Stronghold was second to Valseur Lido in the Drinmore, but Meade felt he lost a couple of lengths by jumping out to his left, following the pacesetter who was doing that.
He had to settled for second again when stepped up to three miles, a trip Meade always felt he wanted, when beaten by Don Poli, but his trainer maintains his charge was not at his best that day and it was not stamina which got him beaten.
Last time out in the Flogas Novice Chase he turned the tables on Valseur Lido back at two and a half miles and it makes sense to stick at that trip.
With question marks over Vautour’s jumping and Ptit Zig arriving on the back of a fall, Apache Stronghold rates a solid alternative.
The Ryanair Chase can go the way of last year’s runner-up Hidden Cyclone.
Andrew McNamara looked to have everything cooked turning into the straight on Shark Hanlon’s pride and joy 12 months ago. He had jumped superbly and victory looked assured, only for Dynaste to turn on the overdrive and run him down after the last.
He then fell at Punchestown and on his return this seasonbt Christmas he got back to his best, just reeling in Twinlight on soft ground over two miles.
Now he has settled better in his races, connections have surely made the right choice in running him in this rather than the Queen Mother.
* Selections -
Hexham: 1.45 Morning With Ivan, 2.20 Endless Credit, 2.55 My Friend George, 3.35 Kapricorne, 4.15 Stickleback, 4.55 Beau Dandy, 5.20 Major Ridge.
Towcester: 1.55 Streets Of Promise, 2.30 Cash And Go, 3.05 Flying Phoenix, 3.45 Musical Wedge, 4.25 Youngdocgallagher, 5.00 King’s Legacy, 5.30 Zakatal.
Cheltenham: 1.30 Apache Stronghold, 2.05 Call The Cops, 2.40 Hidden Cyclone, 3.20 ZARKANDAR (NAP), 4.00 Attaglance, 4.40 Gold Bullet.
Chelmsford: 5.40 Barye, 6.10 Hydrogen, 6.40 Loyalty, 7.10 John Reel, 7.40 Queen Aggie, 8.10 Come On Dave, 8.40 Emily Davison.
Double: Zarkandar and Apache Stronghold.