The Grand National is obviously huge but for jockeys who have a ride in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, this is the biggest day of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to win it twice and would absolutely love to do it again, especially with Native River, one of my favourite horses of all time.
1.20pm Cheltenham – Triumph Hurdle
This should be a real cracker. I was very taken with Tritonic in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. He showed he had plenty of speed that day and he definitely looks to be the best of the English. You have to weigh up the strength of the English and Irish form, but Alan King does very well with his juveniles and Tritonic ticks all the boxes.
Zanahiyr and Quilixios both look promising, but based on what I’ve seen I’d be siding with Tritonic.
1.55pm Cheltenham – County Hurdle
The County is always a lottery and you’d have to give chances to loads of them. Third Time Lucki is a very good horse, though, and the Skeltons have been flying recently. The race wasn’t run to suit him at Musselburgh and a fast run race will suit him much better. He was a really good fourth in the Champion Bumper last year and should run well.
ADRIMEL – 2.30pm Cheltenham
I’m excited to get back on Adrimel in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. He’s unbeaten this season and we always thought he’d want further than two miles. There’s no doubt that he has improved for the step up to two and a half miles and we have no worries going up to three.
He’s probably as good as any of the English horses and he looks the right type for the race. You need a real battler in the Albert Bartlett. I’d say he goes there with a really solid each-way chance, although Willie Mullins’ Stattler is owned by the sponsor so you’d have to expect this has always been the plan.
NATIVE RIVER – 3.05pm Cheltenham
He has been at the top of the tree for so long and his consistency and longevity is a credit to himself and the entire Tizzard team. I felt his performance in the rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown was right back to his best.
I know the trends people will tell you he’s too old, but for me he’s coming into the race in very good heart and off the back of one of his best ever performances. Put it this way, I’ll be surprised if he’s not there with every chance at the back of the second last.
Slower ground puts an emphasis on stamina which we know he’s got in abundance. Of course we would have loved it to be softer than it’s going to be but we have to race on the ground we have on the day. I still think he’ll run a massive race. I would love to win the Gold Cup for the Tizzards and the owners Garth and Ann Broom. It really would be a dream come true…again!
We know it’s not going to be easy. Al Boum Photo is the obvious danger coming back to try to emulate Best Mate by winning three Gold Cups. He’s had the same preparation and is undoubtedly the one we all have to beat.
You have to give lots of respect to a number of the other horses. Royal Pagaille is the unknown candidate, still a novice but firmly on the upgrade. Champ won what is now the Brown Advisory last year and ran a very good race in the Game Spirit at Newbury last month. The only concern with him is that he’s only had the one run this season over two miles so will he be too keen to stay the trip?
A Plus Tard was very good in the Savills Chase and Minella Indo always runs well at Cheltenham. Every horse who runs in the Gold Cup is a very good horse and they all have their claims. I just wouldn’t swap Native River for anything else, he’s a legend.
3.40pm Cheltenham – Hunters Chase
I don’t have much of a view on this race to be honest. Billaway is another Willie Mullins favourite who must have a good chance, but I might look at one of the bigger priced horses like Hazel Hill who won this race a couple of years ago.
CHILLI FILLI – 4.15pm Cheltenham
She is my final ride of the week in the new Mares’ Chase and is a lovely, likeable mare. Unfortunately she tripped up last time at Doncaster, but she has been in very good form at home since and it would be lovely to see her run well, although she would need a career best to win.
It’s the first running of this race and it looks a decent field which shows there is plenty of desire for a mares’ chase. Willie Mullins does very well in these mares’ races and he unsurprisingly looks to hold a strong hand.
4.50pm Cheltenham – Martin Pipe Hurdle
Another wide open contest to end the Festival with this conditional jockeys’ race. Langer Dan beat me on Saturday in the Imperial Cup and the step up in trip should suit him on this ground. If he’s come out of the race well, he must have a great chance.
The Irish look to have a strong hand, though, and the way this week has gone you wouldn’t be surprised if they took this.