Adrian Heskin: He has been coming back to his best
I think the favourite Getabird is the most likely winner. Mengli Khan is a very good horse in his own right, so I was very taken by the fact that Getabird could dismiss him so easily in the Moscow Flyer, albeit getting weight. Tom [George] has Summerville Boy in here, and he is a horse that I know very well. He is improving with his racing and his Tolworth defeat of the subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov obviously reads very well. He comes here a fresh horse, too, and has had an ideal prep. He should go well in a tough race.
There are four good horses in here, but it is Footpad for me. I have been very impressed by Saint Calvados in his three chase wins, but he does race with the choke out and I just think that Footpad could be a bit more containable in the early stages, when there is likely to be plenty of pace on, despite the lack of runners. Saint Calvados could find it a long way home if he doesn’t settle.
He hasn’t had a smooth run into this race this year after what was a very pleasing reappearance here in October. He fell when in with a place chance in the Ladbrokes Trophy, didn’t get competitive at Ascot next time and then I had to quickly pull him up after a mistake last time. He hadn’t jumped well up until that point, for all he clearly faced a very difficult task at the weights in that Cotswold Chase. He has been coming back to his best at home in the last fortnight though, and we are increasingly hopeful of a prominent showing in the race that he was only just touched off in last year. Ideally, he would want better ground but he acts in soft and the testing conditions could slow things down a bit and help his jumping.
3.30pm Cheltenham – Unibet Champion Hurdle
I find it very hard to see beyond Buveur D’Air, as I suppose most people do. Faugheen will give him a race if back to his best but the fitting of cheekpieces on him suggests to me that maybe they think he isn’t the force he was and they are looking for any angle they can to bridge the gap with the favourite. To me, My Tent Or Yours, runner-up in three Champion Hurdles as well as a Supreme, is the obvious each-way alternative at around 14/1 and 16/1.
4.10pm Cheltenham – Mares Hurdle
You have to say that Apple’s Jade will be hard to beat, but I will put in a good word for La Bague Au Roi. Warren’s mare will love the ground, jumps brilliantly and is progressing. But I thought Jers Girl looked a big each-way price at 16/1. She has run Apple’s Jade and La Bague Au Roi close in her last two starts, and comes here fresh.
4.50pm Cheltenham – National Hunt Chase
Sizing Tennessee caught my eye in this race. He was well beaten at Cheltenham last time, but I think that was a good handicap and his earlier form around here, notably his second to Yanworth, made him one of the form choices in this four-miler. Like the rest of the field, he has his stamina to prove, but he has winning chances if he lasts home.
5.30pm Cheltenham – Close Brothers Handicap
He didn’t run up to his best in the Pertemps here last year but he has decent hurdles form around here, and he has looked good over fences so far. Yes, he unseated me at the first at Doncaster in December, but he has impressed in winning his two completed starts either side of that forgivable, novicey mishap. He jumped really well when winning at Newbury last time and the handicapper has played fair in raising him just 3lb. The ground won’t be a problem and he has been schooling well of late.
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