It was nice to ride a winner at Sandown on Saturday. Fortescue had been a bit disappointing this year but he bounced back to form. Stamina won him the day, the further we went the better he went and he put in a good jump at the last. Going forward the big long distance handicap chases on testing ground will be right up his street.
Miss Heritage ran a lovely race to be second in the Imperial Cup. The conditions were really testing and I was getting excited before two out but unfortunately Langer Dan came flying by. She’s a very consistent mare.
The Festival is now here again, just not as we know it. No roar when the tapes go up for the Supreme Novices’, no loud cheers welcoming back the winners. It’s sad there won’t be crowds to enjoy the racing but the most important thing is that it is taking place and we’re all there competing.
For some horses, particularly the younger ones, it will help them not having all the crowds and the hullabaloo. It will just be more like a normal day at the races for them.
There will still be a buzz around the place. Everyone is excited and it’s the most important meeting of the year for every stable. We will all really miss the crowds though.
1.20pm Cheltenham – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
It’s a smaller field than normal which narrows it down and means there shouldn’t be any unlucky horses. The favourite looks very short to me, although I’m sure they were pleased the rain that hit on Sunday night. Metier looks very good and he could have a bit more speed than Appreciate It so I’d go for him.
1.55pm Cheltenham – Arkle Novices’ Chase
Shishkin has looked very classy in all his starts and if the Shishkin we know turns up he will be very hard to beat. Allmankind has done very little wrong, he wears his heart on his sleeve. I just think Shishkin looks above the rest of the field and for me he’d be a serious contender in the Champion Chase.
AYE RIGHT – 2.30pm Cheltenham
My first ride of the day is Aye Right in the Ultima. He’s been ultra-consistent this season and his form is very strong – he’s been second in a Charlie Hall, a Ladbrokes Trophy and a Sky Bet Chase. He’s versatile when it comes to the ground and the course should be in fantastic condition anyway as they haven’t raced there since December.
You’re always looking for younger, progressive horses that are still improving in a race like this and hopefully that’s the case with Aye Right. He should have a very good chance in a wide open race.
3.05pm Cheltenham – Champion Hurdle
This is going to be one of the races of the week. Honeysuckle has won here before, stays further and I’m sure her connections would have been delighted with the rain that fell on Sunday. You can’t knock her, she’s never been beaten and she’d be the one I’d want to ride. But it won’t be easy.
Nobody knows how good Goshen is yet and Epatante was an impressive winner of the race last year. You’ve then got very good horses like Abacadabras, Sharjah and Silver Streak. It’s going to be very exciting.
3.40pm Cheltenham – Mares’ Hurdle
Concertista won at the Festival last year and she’s two from this season, so she is going to be hard to beat. Roksana is a very tough mare, though, and has been in very good form. She mixed it with me on Thyme Hill and Paisley Park in the Long Walk and I would just side with her because she’s been there and done it.
ZOFFANIEN – 4.15pm Cheltenham
My other ride on Tuesday Zoffanien in the Boodles. Like Aye Right he has been very consistent all season and was a good winner of a handicap at Naas last time. I was lucky enough to win this race back in 2017 on Flying Tiger and it would be lovely to do it again. It won’t be easy, though. It’s a 22-runner juvenile handicap hurdle and the horses are all improving at different rates through the season.
The experience he has got should stand him in good stead and Denis Hogan is a very astute young trainer.
4.50pm Cheltenham – National Hunt Chase
Galvin has got the experience and has won round Cheltenham so he has an obvious chance. I just wonder if Next Destination could be a bit classier. He could have easily run in the Brown Advisory against Monkfish and he was a very good horse a couple of years ago. He’s unbeaten over fences and would be the one for me.