The Irish certainly had a good time of it on St Patrick’s Day, we’ll have to try to bounce back today when we move to the New Course. You tend to get a little bit more time on this track and over hurdles it’s more of a stamina test as there’s less jumping in the last three quarters of a mile. As I always say, though, it’s all about the horse you ride rather than the course.
1.20pm Cheltenham – Marsh Novices’ Chase
One of the bankers of the week for many punters will be Envoi Allen. He’s done absolutely nothing wrong and has won at the last two Festivals so I can’t see how you can oppose him. Shan Blue jumps really well and he’ll run his race, but he might just give Envoi Allen the perfect lead.
I know some people said they were concerned about him moving stables so close to the Festival but moving down the road to another top trainer shouldn’t make a difference. I’d be amazed if it causes a problem and it’s very hard to see him beaten.
NO COMMENT – 1.55pm Cheltenham
My first ride of the day is No Comment in the Pertemps Final who didn’t have the ideal preparation when falling at Wetherby last month. He’s been absolutely fine at home since then and he’s definitely good enough to feature in this. I’d say he goes there with an each-way chance.
It’s wide open and I also wouldn’t discount Philip’s [Hobbs] other runner Everglow. He’s wearing blinkers for the first time and I still think he’s at the right end of the handicap. Imperial Alcazar is going the right way and in the Pertemps it really depends which horses improve the fastest.
2.30pm Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase
I was very impressed with Dashel Drasher in the Grade One Ascot Chase. He’s very tough and has won his last three so we know he’s improving. He won at Cheltenham over hurdles as well so I’d say he has a solid each-way chance at a decent price.
Min is the one who has been there and done it. He was a little disappointing at the Dublin Racing Festival but he won this race last year and Paul Townend has picked him. Allaho could still be improving, though. He ran a very good race in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (then known as the RSA) last year when he got tired late on so the drop back to this trip should suit him.
This looks one of the most competitive Grade Ones of the week, you can make a case for a lot of them.
3.05pm Cheltenham – Stayers’ Hurdle
This is the big race of the day and sadly I don’t have a ride because of Thyme Hill’s injury. Like I said last week, it was a real shame it happened as he was one of our main chances but let’s hope he can come back and take on some of these at Aintree.
Although Paisley Park disappointed in this race last year, there was a reason for that and they’ve had it treated. He showed at Newbury and Ascot that he’s bounced back. It’s very hard to knock him and he deserves to be favourite. The big field will suit as it should mean it’s a true run race.
There are some big priced horses in there like Sam Spinner and you wouldn’t be surprised if they ran a big race. It often pays to look at those who have run well in the race before so you also can’t rule out last year’s winner Lisnagar Oscar.
SMARTY WILD – 3.40pm Cheltenham
He has been in good form all season and hopefully he can run a decent race in the Plate. He was very gutsy at Kempton two starts back and still ran nicely at Warwick last time where things didn’t quite suit him.
A fast run 2m4f on a stiff track should be perfect and he is another with an each-way chance. He is still improving but it’s a fiercely competitive handicap.
4.15pm Cheltenham – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
I don’t have much of a view on this race as the Irish look to have it in the bag. Willie Mullins has won all five editions so you’d have to respect Hook up and Gauloise.
Roseys Hollow and Royal Kahala have also looked good. Sometimes you get a hot favourite in this race but it looks wide open this year.
DEISE ABA – 4.50pm Cheltenham
My final ride of the day is Deise Aba in the Kim Muir. He comes here on the back of a really good win at Sandown and he ran a decent race in this last year. He’s a bit of a character so having no crowd might be a benefit to him but he’s in really good form at home and should run well.
I wouldn’t discount Musical Slave who is still open to improvement. It wasn’t an easy decision to know which one to ride.