At the 11th hour we switched Klassical Dream back to the Supreme and he’ll be my first ride of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. We had contemplated going up in trip with him after his win at the Dublin Racing Festival in Leopardstown but with the ground slowing and looking at the opposition – Felix Desjy will more than likely make it a strongly-run race – we thought this would be the right race for him.
When we compared him to the other horses we won this race with, it was hard to compare him ability-wise but when Vautour and Champagne Fever won that race he won at the Dublin Racing Festival it was run over two miles and two furlongs and it’s now a two-mile race on the inside track at Leopardstown.
With the speed that’s required to win it, it was probably a good trial of Klassical Dream to win that race. The Supreme is always more of a stamina test so that’s why we switched, and we also felt slow ground might dent Aramon too.
Klassical Dream is in great form, he has improved since Leopardstown, and I think he’s a great ride to have. It’s a good race but I’m really looking forward to riding him. I’ve been lucky to win this race a number of times and it would be great to win it again.
Paul rides Duc Des Genievres in the Arkle and I think he’s a good each-way bet. He won well in Gowran the last day, but I think he beat stayers that day, over two and a half miles. He wasn’t quite good enough the previous day, over two miles, but he’ll be coming home well in a race that will be run at a high tempo and I think he could reach the frame.
It’s a very open race, and it will suit those that can come from off the pace, horses like Duc Des Genievres and also Hardline, who also has each-way claims.
I was edging towards riding Up For Review in the Ultima Handicap Chase but Willie wasn’t keen on me riding in the race – a 24-runner handicap chase – before the Champion Hurdle, and he’s the boss. The horse ran a blinding race in the Thyestes and he’s in very good order, but this type of race is a bookmaker’s dream so he could only be considered an each-way bet.
What are being called the big three – Buveur D’air, Laurina and Apple’s Jade – stand their ground for the Champion Hurdle but there’s great depth to this year’s renewal.
The winners of the traditional Champion Hurdle trials are all here. Brain Power won the International Hurdle and he takes his chance, Verdana Blue beat Buveur D’air at Christmas and she runs, and Sharjah won the Morgiana and Ryanair Hurdle and he runs too.
Yes, you have Buveur D’air, Laurina and Apple’s Jade, but underneath that you have the winners of the perceived best trials. And you have Melon, who was runner-up last year and wears cheekpieces today.
Buveur D’air is a dual champion, defending his crown, and for me he’s the one we all have to beat. He’s the fastest of the big three. Apple’s Jade has been in incredible form all year. From the Hatton’s Grace at two and a half miles to the Christmas Hurdle at three miles and the Irish Champion Hurdle at two miles, she has been incredible and will have a huge say.
And there’s Laurina – the unknown. People are going to say if I don’t know then how will anybody else know, but the answer is nobody knows. The one thing I’ll be hoping is that when the race is over, we still won’t know.
When you don’t know how good something is, you don’t know its limitations either. She’s had a great prep, she’s in good form, the weather seems to be coming right for her – the more rain the better – but she’s going to have to improve a good bit on what she has done on the track thus far.
But that’s not Laurina’s fault. She can only win the races she has run in, and she has done that. She’s in great order, I’m looking forward to riding her, but I’m under no illusions about the task that’s ahead.
Willie runs five in the Mares’ Hurdle and I ride Benie Des Dieux, who won the race last year. She is unbeaten since we got her.
Dick Dowling, our head man, rides her every day, and I’ve ridden her in work and schooled her, and we think she’s in great order. She’s plenty fit enough, her homework has been good, and I think the race will be run to suit her.
She’ll love the ease in the ground, and I think she’s not alone my best ride of today, I think she’s my best ride of the week. Once she doesn’t get bad luck, I think she’ll win.
Paul has gone for Stormy Ireland over the other three and I’d agree with his choice. I think the step up in trip will suit her and she’ll love the ease in the ground.
Limini hasn’t quite scaled the heights which saw her beaten only a length and a half when third to Apple’s Jade and Vroum Vroum Mag in this race in 2017. Her best run this season was her last run, at Gowran, and that was the first time she encountered slow ground this season, so hopefully she will run well. I think Elimay and Good Thyne Tara have to improve a bit.
We have nothing in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, but I think the horse that finished runner-up to Duc Des Genievres last time, Tower Bridge, has a great chance. If JJ Slevin gets him into a rhythm jumping, he’ll run a big race, and I think Riders Onthe Storm has a chance too.
I know that’s me going for the Irish horses, but I don’t have a great handle on the novice handicap form in Britain and I can only tip the Irish ones.
I think the four-mile chase is a match between Patrick Mullins on Ballyward and Derek O’Connor on Ok Corral. Ballyward is a dour stayer but Ok Corral is a much stronger traveller. It could be a bit of cat and mouse, and it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. I’m obviously on the Ballyward side but, on novice hurdle form last year, he has a little bit to find with Ok Corral.