I ride in all six races at Cheltenham today and have to be reasonably confident of getting among the winners.
The big one, of course, is the Paddy Power Gold Cup and I team up with Al Ferof. To land this contest, I think you need a horse who isn’t too far off Grade 1 class and it has been won in the past by the likes of Imperial Commander and Exotic Dancer.
Al Ferof fits the bill perfectly, he is a young horse on the up, although having his share of weight with 11-8.
You can argue his form tailed off last season, but he did make a terrible blunder in the Arkle at Cheltenham and was over the top at Aintree.
Right now he is certainly one of the best Paul Nicholls has and we will obviously be looking for a big run.
I have great respect for Grand Crus, who didnt’t stay, in my opinion, in the SunAlliance at Cheltenham. Everyone at Pond House seems to be screaming his name and that has to be a major consideration.
Three others on my list are Nadiya De La Vega, Walkon and Triola D’alena and will be more than surprised should the winner not emerge from the five I have mentioned.
I kick away aboard Far West in the three-year-old hurdle. I won 12 lengths on him at Chepstow and liked the horse.
Far West has lots of scope for improvement, when you take into account he arrived in England on the back of just one outing in France. I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t at least go close.
Sire Collonges surprised me a little when beating Sea Of Thunder by two lengths at Cheltenham last time and there is every reason to believe will confirm the form in a novice chase.
I know Sea Of Thunder will be 3lbs better in, but Sire Collonges and I were on completely different wavelengths two out the last day, losing valuable momentum.
I saw Sire Collonges working on Wednesday morning and the girl who rides think he has improved quite nicely.
Harry The Viking will love the trip, track and ground and has a life in a handicap chase. Paul was thinking of letting him take his chance off 10-2 in the Hennessy at Newbury and that tells me he is going well at home.
Forget about his last effort in the Scottish National at Ayr in April, when running no sort of race. He stayed ay Ayr the night before and just never settled.
Themilanhorse and Roger Beantown are not no-hopers in the concluding handicaps, so I will clearly head to Cheltenham with real cause for optimism.
Punchestown tomorrow, for me, is all about the former champion, Hurricane Fly, in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle.
He is on something of a retrieving misison, having lost his crown when only third to Rock On Ruby at Cheltenham in March.
He was just flat that day and then came home to win at the Punchestown festival.Truth to tell, he was rather flat at Punchestown as well, but got away with it.
He has been in great form at home of late and has done plenty of work. But it is his first outing of the season and will improve.
Go Native has had two runs on the flat and bolted in at Galway on his latest appearance. Unaccompanied and Captain Cee Bee are there as well, but Willie Mullins and I are both expecting a strong showing from Hurricane Fly.
My day begins on Twinlight in a four-runner novice chase. He has won at Listowel and Galway and has done nothing wrong.
But this is a big ask and you don’t have to be a genius to know my horse is up against trying to give Oscars Well 3lbs.
I’m sweet on Back In Focus in the two mile and six novice chase. He romped home at Listowel and stays and jumps all day. This is a far stiffer test, I realise that, but still think it will take a good horse to pass him.
I’ve come in for the rides on Lady Olwyn and Wrekin Rock in handicap hurdles, but your guess is as good as mine as to their prospects.
There are a number of other horses I want to talk about, starting with Fascino Rustico in the bumper at Cheltenham tomorrow.
He was bought from Ronnie O’Leary, after winning a Carlisle bumper back in April. All I can tell is that literally everyone at Ditcheat is in love with this horse.
Also at Cheltenham tomorrow, you could do worse thna have a ltitle on Ruben Cotter in a 21-runner handicap hurdle. He’s big and improving and has developed into a smashing horse.
Finally, I must end with my old friend, Mikael d’Haguenet, who runs over fences at Punchestown today.
I know people will wonder if I’ve lost the plot putting him forward as a likely winner, but here’s one who won’t be gobsmacked should he deliver. The old Mikael had an unbelievable action and I’ve a feeling it’s back.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
More in this section