10th March 2018

“The Cheltenham Festival is almost with us”

The Cheltenham Festival is nearly with us and it’s such an exciting week. The build up has been as big and as good as ever and I think we are in for a vintage year. There are a few horses dropping out, like Top Notch, Vroom Vroom Mag and Willoughby Court, which is a shame, but it’s part and parcel of racing and more noticeable in the build up to such a big meeting.

I’m really looking forward to it, not only because I have three or so rides, but because I think it is an exceptional year. It would be even sweeter if I could ride a winner. My best ride of the week is Paisley Park who’s trained by Emma Lavelle. He won at Hereford in December beating Vision Des Flos who has since won a listed hurdle at Exeter. My horse was very green when he won, and I think he will have improved a lot, he’s been crying out for three miles and whatever the ground throws up it won’t be a problem. I’d be over the moon to get a place. It’s very tough to ride a winner at The Festival, but its great to be riding there and I am very lucky.

Looking at the runners, there are three horses that I think are bankers. Buveur D’AIr in the Unibet Champion Hurdle is a certainty with everything else going for a place.

I think Apples Jade, trained by Gordon Elliott, is a good pick in the OLGB Mares’ Hurdle, and Altior is another banker in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. These horses are the absolute best in their division and I can’t see them getting beaten.

The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup is a wide open race and it will be absolutely brilliant to watch it.

Native River was beaten in the race last year, Might Bite has progressed from winning the 2017 RSA and Our Duke is last year’s Irish Grand National winner. There are so many horses you can make a strong claim for - its a proper race!  I’ve been on a few preview panels this year and everyone has a very different opinion with no real standout horse.

The Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle is another wide open race and I am sure Unowhatimeanharry will go well, with Harry Fry’s team hitting form just at the right time. Sam Spinner, one of the great northern hopes, would be a fairytale winner with his trainer Jed O’Keefe battling cancer and his jockey Joe Colliver making such a comeback after his spell in prison last year.

I think L’Ami Serge is a great each way bet, and Yanworth, back over hurdles, has to come into it too. The only time he's  run over three miles he’s won - last year’s Grade One Ryanair Stayers’ Liverpool at Aintree. It’s a great race to try and work out the winner.

Altior is the stand out horse in the Betway Queen Mother Chamion Chase. In my eyes he is the perfect racehorse and, baring accidents, I can’t see anything beating him.
I am a big fan of Amy Murphy - I actually used to go out with her when I was 16 -  I’ll be cheering on her horse, Kalashnikov, in the Sky Bets Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the first race of the meeting.

Jack Quinlan will be on board, and it will be his first ride in the race too.

You have to respect Willie Mullins’ horses in the race and its great that Ruby Walsh is back fit and well in time for the meeting. He has a great chance on Getabird and in the Racing Post Arkle. Footpad has also been mightily impressive over fences and I think Ruby will be on the score sheet on day one.