03rd March 2017

All roads lead to the Cheltenham Festival

All the talk in the racing industry is about the Cheltenham Festival. It’s a huge thing and wherever you go, everyone is talking about it. Everyone has different opinions and thoughts and the build up is as exciting as ever.

Yesterday, I was at Paul Nicholls schooling several horses with Sam Twiston-Davies. The ones that caught my eye included Move With The Times, who has a good chance in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Dolos, who goes in the Fred Winter , Modus, who’s in the Coral Cup. and Ibis Du Rheu, who might go in the three mile handicap.

There have been a few complaints about the marks that the Irish horses have been given in the handicaps, but the percentage of races they win is higher than the English, so I don’t think they have a lot to complain about. I think the English handicapping system is very fair and nobody will ever be completely happy.

The handicaps are so tight at the moment. They are very competitive, and it’s a waiting game, seeing what will get in and get a run. You need a horse with a handicap mark high enough to get in the race, but hopefully, it is not too high that you are carrying a lot of weight. It’s hard to judge the handicaps just yet and we’ll know more next week.

It must be so gutting for Barry Geraghty to be missing the Festival after a fall at Kempton on Saturday on a nice horse for Nicky Henderson called Charlie Parcs. One minute he was pondering which horses to ride for JP McManus with a terrific selection to choose from, the next he was badly injured with fractured ribs and a punctured lung. But that’s the ups and downs of racing and fingers crossed he will be back in time for Aintree. Barring Ruby Walsh, he had the best book of rides. It’s every jockeys’ nightmare to be missing the Festival, and it can’t be much fun watching all the action from home.

Today, I’m at Newbury where I’m on Paul Henderson’s Amron Kalli in the Physicool Handicap Hurdle. He has a light weight and has a good solid chance. On Saturday, it looks like I am heading to Doncaster, on Sunday its Huntingdon, and on Monday its back down to Lingfield.

All roads lead to Exeter Racecourse on Tuesday where racing is followed by the track’s annual Cheltenham Festival preview evening.

With this year’s date is just one week before Festival gets underway and there should be plenty of banter from the panel.

The entries look very good, and although there won’t any Cheltenham prospects in action, there is some decent racing in prospect. Looking at the provisional entries, my best ride would be Polly Gundry’s Swincombe Scorchio. He finished second at Chepstow last Saturday in a good novice chase behind Rock The Kasbah of Philip Hobbs and it's his first run in a handicap.