I can’t wait to ride Un De Sceaux, it’ll be thrill-a-minute stuff

I really could not have envisaged such a start to the week, with three winners — the same as 12 months ago.
I can’t wait to ride Un De Sceaux, it’ll be thrill-a-minute stuff

It was an unbelievable day and, as you may have noticed, quite emotional for me.

It doesn’t matter how many winners you ride, or how things go for you, you can’t help but get invested in the horses and what happens with them.

In the build-up to this week every time someone interviewed me they didn’t want to talk about Faugheen or Vautour or Douvan, all they wanted to talk about was Annie Power falling.

I can fully understand that, but it doesn’t matter how strong you are it’s going to get to you a little. You just want to right it somehow.

When she was unlucky last year, it was through no fault of her own.

And I’ve looked back at the race 100 times and don’t think it was any fault of mine.

Things happen in sport, people in every walk of life make mistakes, but for her to turn up and do what she did in the Champion Hurdle was amazing, and I thought she showed everybody what we thought she could always do.

She has always been that good.

When Faugheen went missing, and Arctic Fire soon afterwards, you’d be thinking what more could go wrong with the horses.

But Willie was brave enough to stick her in the race, and Rich and Susannah brave enough to let him do it.

And then for her to go out there and do what she did — it was such a release of emotion. It was a race I’ll never forget, and a day I’ll never forget.

Min ran very well, but got beaten by a very good horse in the Supreme.

Douvan did what we thought he would do — jumped super and won with unbelievable authority.

And Vroum Vroum Mag ran like she was working at home. She’s another brilliant mare.

Moving on to today’s action, coming to Cheltenham I thought Champion Chase favourite Un De Sceaux was my best ride in a championship race this week, and I can’t wait to ride him.

It’s thrill-a-minute stuff with him, but his work has been very good, and I don’t think the ground is a worry.

His form is very solid, and it ties in with Sire De Grugy, whose form links in with Sprinter Sacre.

That tells me Un De Sceaux is very much the one to beat, and I just hope he has that bit of luck you need in a race like this.

Willie also runs Felix Yonger, who will definitely enjoy the drying ground. He’s 11 now, which is old for a Champion Chase horse, and I don’t think he has improved.

But he has been in great form, and I think can pick up the pieces and run into a place.

I start the day on Yorkhill in the Neptune.

We decided to run him here rather than in yesterday’s Supreme because he won his maiden over two and a half miles and when he won the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, over two miles, it was very testing ground.

Also, with the ground drying out, we thought this longer trip would suit him better.

He is unbeaten in completed starts in all spheres and comes here in great form.

I’m expecting a huge run from him, but realise Yanworth is the one we all have to beat.

Alan King’s horse finished fourth in the bumper here in 2015 and has been unbeaten in four starts over hurdles since.

I was on the runner-up, Shantou Village, when he won at Cheltenham last time, and you couldn’t help but be impressed with him.

But Willie has three other runners, and A Toi Phil could also be a huge player. His work has been very good, and the form of his victory at Leopardstown looks very good now.

He could be a good each-way bet for punters.

Thomas Hobson goes a good gallop and stays well. His jumping has improved with each run and he’s not an also-ran. Bello Conti was very good on his only run for us and could be a lively outsider, but he lacks experience, which is a small concern.

The RSA Chase looks like the meeting of the best of the Irish stayers and the best of the British stayers, with No More Heroes and More Of That heading the market.

With the ground drying daily, I think it swings the verdict in favour of Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That, a horse I’ve always been a big fan of.

I chose Roi Des Francs over Shaneshill because he is a little more consistent.

He stays well, but has to improve to trouble the principals.

That said, you have to give yourself some sort of chance in every race and if anything happens to More Of That and No More Heroes, he could be there to pick up the pieces.

Paul Townsend takes the ride on Shaneshill, who has unbelievable ability, having finished runner-up in the Champion Bumper and the Supreme Novices Hurdle here.

We always thought he was a stayer, and are hoping he’ll run well, though he must bounce back from a very disappointing effort at Doncaster.

We run four in the Coral Cup and the only one I couldn’t pick — Blazer — is the only one which looks potentially well handicapped.

He is owned by J P McManus and so Barry Geraghty takes the ride. He was very good at Leopardstown and I would forgive his run at Newbury as it came just a week after that race.

He could be the best treated of any Willie Mullins horse in a handicap this week, and should go well.

The others, including Blood Cotil, who I ride, are better known as chasers and it’s a shot in the dark with them.

At 15 years of age, Uncle Junior is up against it in the Cross-Country Chase, but he’s in really good form and will run his race.

Josies Orders has been very good in his two runs here this season, and is the one they all have to beat.

My mount, Voix Du Reve, looks badly handicapped in the Fred Winter, and I think it’s the same for Campeador. I hope the English handicapper is right but from what I’ve seen, their marks are very high.

We have just the seven in the bumper. Very Much So, Turcagua and Castella Sforza are returning after a long-lay off, but have plenty of ability. That said, it’s a big ask.

I’m on Leopardstown winner Bacardys, only because Patrick and Willie have said he’s going well.

Battleford was tough at Punchestown and has his chance, but Patrick has decided to ride Avenir D’Une Vie, who is the form horse amongst our seven.

Augusta Kate is two from two, beating mares, but this is a huge step up and mares have a poor record in the race.

That said, it’s probably as good a record as they have in the Champion Hurdle and, with Annie Power’s Champion Hurdle victory in mind, I could be talking through my hat.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021

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