I was out of luck with my rides yesterday but it was brilliant to see Any Second Now winning the last race for Dad. I was absolutely delighted for him.
I know he’s known as a pundit, but training is what he does – that’s his livelihood – and it’s 1997 since Commanche Court won here. It’s his heart and soul, it’s what he does, and I couldn’t be happier for him.
To have owners like JP is great for him, and Derek O’Connor was brilliant on the horse. Cheltenham is an incredible place and for a small yard to win here is amazing. He was disappointed with him here last year, but it was brilliant yesterday. Derek is an incredible jockey. Pure class.
Getting on to today’s action, it’s Gold Cup day and, from four possible rides in the big race, I made my decision to ride Bellshill.
The way I looked at it is if it stayed dry and the ground was quick Kemboy was the one, and if we got an awful lot of rain and it was run on very soft ground it could be Al Boum Photo. Invitation Only has to improve a bit more but I’m happy, with the way ground conditions are, that I’m riding Bellshill.
They’re four live runners for Willie Mullins in a very competitive race. People have crabbed Presenting Percy’s preparation, etc, etc, but he is the form horse. His novice chase form last season is rock-solid, and he is the one we have to beat.
But I’m happy with Bellshill. He has improved a good bit since he beat Road To Respect in the Irish Gold Cup and I think he has a great chance, but Willie’s other ones weren’t discounted lightly.
Of the English horses, on very testing ground the two Colin Tizzard horses, last year’s winner Native River and Welsh National winner Elegant Escape, come into it. Clan Des Obeaux is probably the best of the English but I’m just worried about him getting the trip. I think he just about had enough of it at the line in the King George.
The final day begins with the Triumph Hurdle where I ride Tiger Tap Tap. If he can come back to his Leopardstown form at Christmas, when he was beaten a neck by Sir Erec, who is favourite for today’s race, he will run a big race. But, his run at the Dublin Racing Festival was disappointing when he was a lot further behind Sir Erec and also behind Gardens Of Babylon.
The race revolves around Sir Erec. He’s most people’s banker of the week, and Joseph O’Brien won the other four-year-olds’ race here this week with Band Of Outlaws.
Of Willie’s other two runners, Runrized has improved a lot since he got beaten in a maiden at Naas, but he has to. French Made was a good winner in Clonmel and she has improved since that, but this is a huge step up in class.
The second race is the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and looking statistically at what’s required to win the race only Dorrells Pierji, of Willie’s, fits that bill, but it’s hard to see him being good enough.
I ride Allaho, who won a three-mile hurdle in Clonmel on his last start. He was a bit keen that day, but I think we’ll fit him with different equipment today and I’m very much looking forward to riding him. I think he’s a horse with a huge future.
We also run Salsaretta, who unseated very early at the Dublin Racing Festival. She has schooled well since, and she did beat Felix Desjy in Limerick at Christmas time. She’s in good order and has the experience required maybe to get involved in this race. But I’m happy enough with my choice in Allaho.
The third race is the County Hurdle, where I had a choice of three. Whiskey Sour was third in the race last year and runs here off just a 1lb higher mark. He is a horse that runs well fresh so that was a plus for him.
I think Cut The Mustard is stepping up in grade having been placed twice in Leopardstown. She was second on both occasions, but I think this is a tougher race. Paul has gone for Mr Adjudicator who was placed in last year’s Triumph Hurdle. He has to have a big chance, but I went for the older horse, in Whiskey Sour, and I hope I’m right.
In the Foxhunters’ Chase, Ucello Conti looks the best of the Irish. I don’t have a strong opinion in the Grand Annual, I think it’s too hard a race, but I do have an opinion on the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in which Willie has two runners.
Acapella Bourgeois is dropping back to hurdles after two failed attempts over fences. Willie also runs Getareason, which Liam Gilligan rides. I think if you look at his form through Wednesday’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner City Island, he looks well handicapped and, for me, he could be the one to overturn Dallas Des Pictons.