Here’s hoping, but it’s already shaping up to be a superior Champion Hurdle this coming March than the previous year. A number of horses look to have returned to form, some are back from injury and as ever, we have the young pretenders hoping to step-up and challenge their elders.
The four day festival bonanza, as ever, will kick off with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the Tuesday. Historically a hugely competitive race finding the winner in the opener is tough, but if nabbed it could be the start of an excellent four days. A big field is nearly guaranteed which should add to the tension and action.
A horse who was written off by plenty coming into the season, but bounced right back to form when winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup off 159. It was a huge performance in one of the year’s most competitive handicaps. He gave the 2012 RSA fifth, Walk On, 14 pounds and a three length beating. It was a monster effort. Last season started off in good style winning a Grade Two at Cheltenham before winning the Grade One King Henry VIII at Sandown, beating For Non Stop (distance flattered the second) who has given the form a solid look.
Art Of Logistics
I’m very much still learning in this game and so may be wrong here, but I’m not sure I’ve heard Dessie Hughes ever really talk-up a horse of his in bold terms. He did with this well-bred son of Exit To Nowhere however, when the four-year-old won his bumper at the small track of Roscommon.
1.30 Cheltenham – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
As ever the Supreme will be met by the famous Cheltenham roar as these two mile novices kick off the four day festival. A current theme in recent years has been short priced favourites being turned over so many will be out to get the 2013 hotpot, My Tent Or Yours. That said very few favourites have come into the race with as high a rating as him. All his form has been on flat tracks, but I see no reason why this classy sort shouldn’t handle Cheltenham.
Still a little bit of an unknown quantity even after his recent third to Zarkandar in the Elite Hurdle. He’s not in the same class as Zarkandar, but if kept to the right races in soft conditions he’ll prove competitive. The key to this horse could well be soft ground. Genuinely soft should be perfect for him and the times we saw him last year with plenty give underfoot he was convincing on a number of occasions.
We’ve got a real hot Jewson this year with a whole host of potential stars going to post. Cristal Bonus must have a strong chance given his current well-being. We’re not sure what his form adds up to yet, but he’s done everything so easy. He is a fantastic jumper and coming from Ditcheat, he is sure to be well prepared for this test. Champion Court has long been a fancy for this race.
For my World Hurdle ante-post piece I very nearly wrote four words, “Big Bucks, no contest”. It was tempting, but I don’t think my employers would have cough up the big bucks for my piece so, here I am.
There is no doubt this race revolves around the participation of the Andy Stewart owned horse, but we’ll have to find something at a price to finish second to him.
The Ryanair Chase was added to the festival back in 2005 and the race has been a welcome addition in my opinion. The intermediate trip of two miles five furlongs gives top class horses who find two miles on the sharp side, and three miles plus too taxing, an out, in a great race. It doesn’t carry the same prestige as a Queen Mother Champion Chase or a Gold Cup, but the quality is still top-class. The event has held Grade 1 status since 2008 and Paul Nicholls/Jonjo O’Neill and Ruby Walsh/Tony McCoy hold the trainer and jockey honours, respectively with two wins each.
The inaugural running of the Jewson Novice Chase took place just last year which, and in the end went to Ireland and Noble Prince. The Paul Nolan trained animal is now bang in contention for this year’s Ryanair Chase, the same day, so the Jewson could prove to be a welcome addition to the Festival. Many don’t feel this way, but why shouldn’t novices be accommodated like the pros have with the Ryanair.
Day one proved to be disappointment for most especially the Irish fans with Hurricane Fly turned over at prohibitive odds. He wasn’t himself on the day and was just beaten by a better horse. With regards to today’s racing I wouldn’t be going overboard. Some very competitive racing in big fields will be seen so it does temper betting enthusiasm.
The RSA Chase has a reputation of being one of the most gruelling races at the Festival. Three miles around Prestbury Park can certainly be a war of attrition,and stamina, among other attributes, are needed to win the leading novice chase for stayers. Given the race specification, one would imagine the RSA to be the perfect trial for next season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, but that’s not the case. Far from it.