History has proven the Festival to be a ruthless environment where only the toughest, most talented survive. This week will be no different. Some hotpots will enhance already lofty reputations while, for others, the bubble will burst. As ever, the challenge is what to trust and what to oppose, writesmakes his picks.
When it came, the explanation made perfect sense. “Altior doesn’t look like Altior,” Nicky Henderson said as he explained his decision to rule his stablestar out of the Grade Two Unibet Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton on Saturday, a race which was set to be his first start since surrendering his 19-race unbeaten record over obstacles when beaten by Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.
Nine times victorious at the top level over the smaller obstacles, the 2015 Champion Hurdle hero showed he was still a formidable force – just days short of turning 12 years old – to lower the colours of another star name in Samcro.
In the latter stages of his career in the saddle he may be but the joy of riding a winner at the Cheltenham Festival commands a broader-than-ever smile from Ruby Walsh, who didn’t have to wait long to make that familiar walk back to the winner’s enclosure.
From Arkle v Mill House to Kauto Star v Denman to Native River v Might Bite, the Cheltenham Festival has produced some epic duels down the years. It’ll be no different this week and the three showdowns below certainly won’t be for the faint-hearted, says
It would be quite a stretch to suggest Buveur D’air’s eclipse in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton opened the door for would-be takers of his Champion Hurdle crown, but Samcro all but stepped out of the running for that distinction with another disappointing display, this time behind Sharjah in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle on Saturday afternoon in Leopardstown.