Here’s Paddy Brennan with his thoughts on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
I thought Ballyandy was a certainty off a mark of 135 in the Betfair Hurdle – and I said so in this column beforehand – and he got the job done. Obviously, this race has cut up a lot in the last few days but I would have fancied him even before the likes of Moon Racer came out. He won the bumper here last year and is tough and experienced, straightforward, and improving as well. I also like horses that have done it in handicaps coming back to novice company. He just looks very solid, and far more so than his main market rival Melon.
Altior looked one of the best horses I’ve ever seen at Newbury last time. If and when he ever meets Douvan, then I would expect Altior to come out on top.
To be honest, I think he is handicapped up to the hilt now but his jumping has been a lot better since the blinkers went on and at least he comes here as a course winner and after an excellent third in a valuable handicap at Kempton last time. He actually did well to finish so close after being badly hampered there. He will need a career-best to be winning this race and, while that is possible and I still think he could be capable of a Graded win, you have to think that horses such as Singlefarmpayment are far better handicapped.
This is the most open Champion Hurdle I can remember since I rode Khyber Kim to finish second in the race in 2010 – and the winner Binocular had been ruled out of the race weeks earlier! – and the dark horse is Moon Racer. The way Tom Scudamore talks about the horse in the weighing room suggests he has everything. But will this come too soon for him? There are plenty of other questions for the others to answer, too. Will Yanworth be quick enough? Does Buveur D’Air need softer ground? Is Brain Power good enough to step up from handicap company? You can make a case for most in here to some degree but I would probably just come down on the side of Yanworth. He finished second in last year’s Neptune and Barry Geraghty was always going to ride the horse until he got injured, and that is good enough for me.
You don’t need me to tell you what a high-class renewal this year, but I love Colin’s Sister. And I would have loved her chances even more here had the ground been softer. But we are where we are and she hasn’t stopped improving all season and completed her four-timer in great style at Sandown last time. She is a typical mare in that there is no stopping their improvement when they get on a roll. Of course she needs to step up to another level again against the likes of Limini, Vroum Vroum Mag and Apple’s Jade – I would just side with Apple’s Jade at the prices – but I’ve seen far worse 25-1 each-way chances than Colin’s Sister. We have a lot of faith in her ability.
I haven’t had a look at the race, sorry.
I don’t have a ride in the race but I thought Value At Risk was a graded horse in a handicap, and the one to beat in this off a mark of 138, until he was ruled out with an injury this morning. In his absence, I have nothing to offer!
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