Just about got my nose in front and Mall Dini and Cause of Causes were a welcome couple of winners, so it is time to have A REAL GO. Buckle up tight #startrackers this could be a bumpy flight!
Race 1 1.30pm 4yo Triumph Hurdle
Never easy but I’ll take on the inexperienced Flat Bred pair of Ivanovich Gorbatov and Zubayr.
Sceau Royal One star* win @ 8/1 We are already on at 12/1, so just a top up. Slickest juvenile over a hurdle I’ve seen in ages and has course and distance winning form.
Footpad Two star** win @ 9/1 The all-conquering Mullins camp have been particularly bullish over his chances and definitely has the best form in the book of the Irish challengers. Has been campaigned as a top notch 4yo.
Race 2 2.10pm County 2m 1f G3 Handicap Hurdle
Just love this race and although it is a compressed handicap, just a stone from top to bottom, I’m still looking for the horse with 10lb in hand! Step forward Messrs Hobbs and Johnson.
Wait For Me Three star*** each way @ 14/1 (¼ odds 5 places) The vibes are that they’ve sorted his hurdling out and I think he’s really well handicapped. The first time hood will hopefully do the trick. “Third in last year’s Cheltenham Bumper, second to Buveur D’Air on hurdling debut and twice a winner of novice events since. An improving horse on a great mark but his “but” is his hurdling. Massive engine but the strong pace and hurly burly of a County Hurdle could put his jumping under real pressure.”
Cardinal Walter One star* each way @ 25/1 (¼ odds 5 places) Has the ground he’s been waiting for all season. “Owned by Fitri Hay and 90 rated off the flat. Won two novice hurdles last season both at Doncaster and was 5th in the G2 novice at Aintree. Just the one run this season when Henderson sent a bus full up to Musselburgh and the Scottish trials primarily for the better ground but sadly the rain came. Cardinal Walter ran in the Listed 2m handicap hurdle, was bang there at the last but failed to quicken. The handicapper put him up a pound and that may well have been a job well done!? Placed at York and Goodwood on the Flat, Festivals and big fields shouldn’t bother him.”
Mad Jack Mytton One star* each way @ 25/1 (¼ odds 5 places) “A popular selection with many of the shrewder readers of the game and just the type of horse Jonjo O’Neill will have in peak form for the Festival. MJM has been down the field in the Greatwood and the Betfair but the ground was probably against him both times. He only just failed to give 25lbs to an in-form Solstice Star over course and distance in December.”
Race 3 2.40pm Alfred Bartlett 3m Novices Hurdle
Shantou Village Four star**** win @ 4/1 Barters Hill is another I want to take on as I think he will get done for toe on this better ground. Mullins runs seven (!!), if he thought he had the winner it would be half that and probably one would be favourite. So we are not going to overlook the obvious and it is course and distance winner, Shantou Village, back on good ground.
Race 4 3.20pm Gold Cup
Should be the highlight of the Festival. No Play. Love to see Cue Card or Willie Mullins win it.
Race 5 4.00pm Foxhunters
Not enough confidence about current champion On The Fringe for my liking and Edna Bolger is struggling to buy a winner for the last three months! So time to take them on.
Aupcharlie Two star** win @ 10/1 Ex-Mullins, been to Cheltenham, winning pointer, ridden by JJ Codd, That’ll do.
It Came to Pass One star* win @ 12/1 Only six years old but could be anything! Rave reports from the Irish PtP watchers. Culloty trains and he makes Bolger look in-form!
Race 6 4.40pm Martin Pipe 2m 4f 0-145 Handicap Hurdle
Absolute belter of a Conditionals handicap and again we won’t ignore the obvious!
Squouateur Five star*****win @ whatever you can get! “Looked very impressive, quickening up well, in winning two Irish handicaps off OR120 and OR128 and the Irish handicapper put him up to OR137. The British handicapper has given him another 4lbs but I’m told connections are all smiles at the mark and it’s no surprise that JP has the money down, 12/1 a week ago.”
Qualando Two star** win @ 10/1 “Last season’s winner of the Fred Winter at 25/1 off OR131. So that ticks the ground, big fields and Cheltenham boxes. Can’t fault the jockey and the trainer seems to have a plan! It’s just his form this season that has basically pants although a glimmer of improvement last time. Nicholls wins with the best horse not plots!”
Race 7 5.15pm Grand Annual 2m+ G3 Handicap Chase
Rock the World Four star**** win @ 11/1 “Not seen since October when he won a 3 runner C3 novice chase over course and distance but he doesn’t go a yard on winter ground. Could be in luck as Cheltenham 2016 looks like it will get quicker as the week goes on! His form with The Game Changer (twice) makes him look really well handicapped. Ticks the Cheltenham, ground and trip boxes, lot’s to like.”
Croco Bay One star* each way @ 25/1 (¼ odds 5 places) “Ben Case is having a miserable season and he will be hoping Croco Bay can run a big race just like he did twelve months ago when third to Next Sensation and Eastlake. Been mixing it with the big boys since but is 2lbs less this year and his recent third to Simply Ned at Kelso would suggest he is as good as ever.”
Velvet Maker Two star** win @ 12/1 “Interesting horse who must be sick of the sight of Douvan. A long way behind him in last years Supreme and well beaten by him in his last two novice chases both Grade 1’s. I used to have this horse on my 49SimpleSimonSays… Master List and I think he has a bit of class.”