My absence is purely precautionary and I’m one hundred per cent ready to go. I left Leopardstown, however, with a sprained ankle and it was badly bruised.
I could have ridden this week, no problem, but both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls were anxious I gave it a skip and to arrive fresh and well for the start of the festival.
It’s a similar situation for Paul Townend, who was also in the wars at Leopardstown. Willie wanted Paul to also head straight to Cheltenham and that is now the case.
Our whole season, of course, has been geared towards this extravaganza and it is terrific that both Willie and Paul’s horses are in the form of their lives.
That wasn’t the case a year ago, when they were just a bit flat. I don’t think Nicky Henderson — he had seven winners last year — will find it as easy this time round.
Before I attempt to point you in the direction of a few winners, I first want to mention Hurricane Fly.
I know there has been much negativity of late about the horse, but it has left me utterly perplexed. All I will say is that those of us closest to him are more than happy at where he is at the moment.
In different circumstances, I would have had six rides over the next few days, two at Sandown and four at Naas tomorrow.
It’s to Sandown I look for a nap choice and it comes in the shape of Paul’s Rebel Rebellion in a novice chase.
I rode him when he was a well beaten third at Cheltenham last time. The drier surface, though, will be a big help — he loves to bowl along — and Sandown is made for him.
The other horse of Paul’s I would have ridden — There’s No Panic, shouldn’t be far away in a handicap chase.
He was third at Sandown, when the ground was too soft. There’s No Panic does have his share of weight, but again the better ground will be a big plus.
in the Imperial Cup and both Paul and A.P Fancy him. He is a talented horse, but quirky.
I want to give a shout, however, to one lower down the weights — Jonjo O’Neill’s Tominator.
These are desperately hard races to win, but he does appear nicely weighted to my way of thinking.
Willie runs two horses at Gowran Park today and they have reasonable prospects, starting with Are Ya Right Chief in a beginners chase.
I managed to squeeze him home in front in a maiden hurdle at Thurles on his latest appearance. Prior to that he had been a little disappointing, but I’m a great believer in the psychology of horses, that once they finally get their heads in front can go on from there. Willie runs a winning point-to-pointer in the bumper, Indevan, and he works well enough at home to think he has to have a life.
He has left two in the Listed Hurdle at Naas tomorrow — Zuzka and Twigline — but the latter isn’t jocked up.
to make a choice between them, but my idea of the winner in any case is Brian Hamilton’s Moscow Mannon.
He was fourth behind Annie Power and I at Naas last month and have to say that rode like a proper race.
Twinlight does duty for Willie in a novice chase and this is a horse that has steadily grown on me. I suppose he has begun to vindicate what he have always thought of him at home.
He is now showing great resolve and an excellent attitude and going down by a head when conceding 6lbs, to Buckers Bridge at Navan was no disgrace.
Maybe this two and a half miles will stretch him, but there is a possibility it might suit just as easily. I do think, however, that he will be even better travelling right-handed at Punchestown and Fairyhouse.
The Paparazzi Kid makes his first venture into such company in a handicap hurdle and a rating of 123 doesn’t seem overly severe.
But it is his first handicap and that is always a tough ask for any horse. Mind you, he won well for me at Limerick and I wouldn’t stop anyone having a minor each-way tickle.
And there’s the somewhat enigmatic Cadspeed in a beginners chase. I’m well aware he’s not everyone’s cup of tea at this stage, but I haven’t lost faith.
I loved the way he worked at Willie’s on Thursday morning and this really does represent a good opportunity for him.