09th March 2017

The talking is done, now let the Festival roar

The previews are done with and the opinions, views and discussions are over. Come Tuesday, the tapes will go up, and the Cheltenham roar will signal the start of four fabulous days of racing action. Now it’s time for the horses to do the talking.

Everywhere you look and everyone you speak to has an opinion about the Festival, but what we have to all remember is its horse racing, horses aren’t infallible, and the best can be beaten. However, we’ll see of the cream of Irish and British horses in action and I hope I will have a few rides there.

Its always difficult knowing what you might ride with horses getting balloted, and owners having retained jockeys, but hopefully I might get a few spins. It would be nice to add to the tally, having previously won on Hunt Ball and Qualando. It’s hard to win any race and everyone is there hoping for a win. From a jockeys’ point of view you hope you get lucky and get jocked up on the right horse.

At this stage it is still so up in the air, but I’ve sat on a few different horses this week. I think I might ride Art Mauresque for Paul Nicholls in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase on Thursday. He gave me an exciting feel on Sunday morning in a piece of work and he goes there really fresh and well.

On the Friday, I could be on the Paul Henderson-trained Un Beau Roman, I horse I won on earlier in the season at Cheltenham. He’s been trained specifically with the Grand Annual in mind and if he gets in, he could run a big race.

I could be there on Tuesday, but the horse I might be on needs five or six to come out, which at this stage looks unlikely, as everything that is entered tends to run.

Looking at the other entries, there’s no such thing as a banker as they have obstacles to jump, but certainly Altior, Yorkhill, Neon Wolf and Unowhatimeanharry look likely winners. They are fairly short prices but connections must be going there feeling confident.

The opening day looks really good with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ beginning the meeting. I personally think the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy and Nicholls’ Movewiththetimes have big chances.

In the Stan James Champion Hurdle I like a horse called Brain Power. Trained by Nicky Henderson, he’s been impressive in handicap company and in what looks an open but competitive champion hurdle, he could be the unknown.

In the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase all eyes will be on Douvan, an exceptional horse who is a previous Festival winner. Hopefully, it will be an exhibition for him. He will be very hard to beat. He’s a brilliant jumper, but because he’s so sharp he can get a bit low at one or two but on the whole he’s spot on.

Unowhatimeanharry has dominated the staying division this year and Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle will be his biggest test to date. Willie Mullins ha a few in there, including Nichols Canyon and Shaneshill who could give him a run for his money.

There’s a really good meeting at Sandown today and tomorrow with the Imperial Cup and the EBF Stallions/TBA Mares’ Final and the Matchbook Imperial Cup featuring on Saturday’s card. I have a couple of rides today with Two Hoots for Paul in the two-mile novice hurdle and Midnight Sapphire in the handicap hurdle for Victor Dartnall.