The Gold Cup-winning jockey looks ahead to Wednesday’s racing from Cheltenham.
Neon Wolf is my nap of the meeting. There doesn’t look to be a lot of depth to the race now but, in any case, I was hugely impressed with him at Haydock and I expect him to win. If he doesn’t then I hope that I am the main beneficiary on Poetic Rhythm. That may be asking too much but I hope and think he will be in the first six. The better ground will suit him, he won a Listed bumper here in November and he has improved in all three of his hurdle starts at the track, last time out finishing third to Wholestone. He is progressive and tough and has an outside chance at a price.
There are doubts about those at the top of the market, and that gives us all hope. Might Bite was obviously going to beat Royal Vacation by a long way when falling at the last in the Kauto Star on Boxing Day and may be the most talented in the field, but I don’t think he likes this track. Alpha Des Obeaux was second in last year’s World Hurdle and has class, but we haven’t seen him since he bled when pulled up over Christmas and I couldn’t have him myself. Acapella Bourgeois will go some gallop and he and Might Bite could inconvenience each other on the front end. I think that Royal Vacation is very solid. I schooled him without blinkers last week but they are back on here and they have helped him improve to win his last two races, and he was impressive when winning a 2m5f handicap pretty easily here last time off a mark of 143. He is now rated 152, is as tough as nails, will appreciate the step back up to 3m and he looks a solid each-way proposition to me in a race full of question marks.
I haven’t got a ride, so haven’t really looked at the race in any detail, though if they were thinking about supplementing Tombstone for the Champion Hurdle then they must be fancying their chances off a mark of 149 in here, mustn’t they?
We are obviously all playing for places here if Douvan jumps well and stands up and I have an outside chance on Sir Valentino. I obviously know his stablemate God’s Own very well, having won two Grade 1s on him and beaten Vautour over 2m, but I think this trip could be a tiny bit sharp for him on good, and quickening, ground nowadays. My mount is a two-miler and an improving one at that to judge from his ½ length second to Special Tiara in the Desert Orchid at Kempton last time, where he was giving the winner 6lb. He clearly needs to progress again to figure here but he is certainly going the right way. Saying that, someone told me all his best form is going right-handed but that doesn’t concern me.
I haven’t even thought to look at the Cross Country.
I haven’t got a ride in this, but after speaking to Davy Russell I wouldn’t look beyond Long Call. He sounded rather confident to me.
This will be the first time I have sat on him and I think he has a better chance than his price suggests. He has course form when third here in November and clearly ran into a good one when second to Western Ryder at Ascot last time. The winner improved in defeat next time and is a clearly a big player here, but I wouldn’t rule out us reversing the form. He has done really well since Ascot and comes here as an improving horse who is in great fettle. He could surprise a few.
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