1:30 Turners Novices’ Chase
Just four runners here, but what a match this is going to be between Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger, and there looks to be nothing between them.
Galopin Des Champs is just higher on ratings and he’s been very impressive in his two starts over fences. He was quite exuberant in his jumping at Leopardstown last time.
He’s got a very good rival to take on in Bob Olinger, a winner at last year’s Festival. He’s been very good over fences too.
If I was going to pick between them, I would just side with Galopin Des Champs. I think he’s learning all the time and we may see a slightly more mature horse than at Leopardstown.
2:10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
How you pick the winner of this race, I don’t know!
Horses have to have finished in the top six in a Pertemps Hurdle qualifier to get into the race. Those are very competitive heats where everyone is just trying to keep five or ten percent up their sleeve so they’ve got something to improve on at Cheltenham.
I was very impressed with the run of Alaphilippe at Warwick, in what looked a good race. He jumped the last in front and then faded into fifth up the run-in. He’s only had one run this season and has clearly been kept for this race. Fergal O’Brien’s horses usually go well at Cheltenham, so I could give him a chance.
2:50 Ryanair Chase
Nine go to post and I have my first ride of the day here with Shan Blue.
He was running a mighty race when he came down three out in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in the autumn. He took a crashing fall, so we’ve given him all this time to make sure he’s over that and to get him 110 percent ready for today.
He’s done a lot of work and has been absolutely flying at home. He comes here fresh and well and we couldn’t be happier with him.
We’ve got to take on last year’s winner in Allaho, and that’s going to be a hard enough task. On ratings we’ve got a lot to find, but because Shan Blue fell three out last time the English handicapper couldn’t review his mark, as they have to get over the second last to be reassessed.
What we were going to see in the Charlie Hall looked like it was going to be something very special, so we were keen to come for this race.
Tactics wise, Allaho should go a good gallop up front and I won’t be riding Shan Blue quite as positively as I did in the Marsh last year. I’ll just hang on to him a bit and hopefully have one good go at Allaho.
3:30 Stayers’ Hurdle
There are a lot of classy horses in here and I think it’s an open race.
Paisley Park loves it around here and considering what he did at the start in the Cleeve Hurdle it was a great performance to get back up and win.
The one I’d want to be on though is Thyme Hill. Philip Hobbs has purposely left him fresh for this race, he’s a true stayer and will hit the line well.
I don’t think the others will give Flooring Porter the same rope at the front as they did last year. He was a much bigger price then and perhaps they just didn’t have enough respect for him. They’ll be up behind him all the way here and I think that will ensure a strong pace, which will be to Thyme Hill’s advantage.
4:10 Plate Handicap Chase
Spiritofthegames runs here and gets into the race off 10-stone-seven. This is actually his fifth Festival, he’s been a star and has danced many a dance.
He loves it here and has just been touched off before in some really big handicaps. He’s in great form, but at 10 years old he isn’t improving anymore. The handicapper has given him a chance though.
This is highly competitive and we’re going to need a lot of luck in running. If he puts his best foot forward, he could run a big race.
A runner that stands out a little bit is The Glancing Queen. She gets in here off a mark of 141, which could leave her quite well treated. She’d be one of our main rivals, especially if we get some rain as she handles soft conditions really well.
4:50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
We run a good mare here in Nurse Susan. She won two novice hurdles very easily in the autumn and then when facing her first real challenge, taking on Harry Fry’s Love Envoi at Lingfield, she finished a good second. I know that Love Envoi is a very good mare and was well suited by the heavy conditions that day.
I think our mare will have learnt an awful lot that day. It was the first time she has come off the bridle and had to learn how to race. She just ran a bit green but hit the line really strongly.
This will be a good experience for her and we’re really looking forward to running her. With a bit of rain, I would fancy her chances even more. Further down the line and next year I think she’s a mare that everyone should look out for. She’s got real quality.
5:30 Kim Muir
The Irish have a fantastic record in this race in recent years, and it normally pays to follow horses ridden by Derek O’Connor and Jamie Codd or trained by Gordon Elliott. Their horses are usually never far away in these sorts of races.
If you haven’t had a winner by this stage, maybe it’s best to go and top up with a Guinness and enjoy the race, as I simply cannot find the winner!
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