CHELTENHAM is a magical place and I am really looking forward to seven rides there this afternoon for Paul Nicholls.
I have a couple of live possibilities, some with each-way chances and one or two whose prospects, perhaps, aren’t overly obvious.
We fully expect a big performance from Ghizao, on his first pop over fences, in a novice chase, notwithstanding the fact he made little show at either Aintree or Cheltenham at the back-end of last season.
But he has always struck me as a chaser and is a big galloping horse. He will love the ground and I’ll be riding him on the pace from the start.
Pigeon Island is the danger, having won the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival in March. He does, however, have to concede Ghizao 8lbs and we’ll put it up to him.
I start on Aiteen Thirtythree in the opening novice hurdle, a contest which carries my name, and it would be nice to win.
This fellow had a huge reputation starting out last season and kicked off in the Persian War at Chepstow. It was all took much for him and, overall, he was somewhat disappointing.
Paul Nicholls and owner Paul Barber are very enthusiastic about the horse now and believe he has greatly matured. The jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.
Classic Swain has won plenty of races, but is totally exposed in a handicap hurdle. He battled well when second at Newton Abbot in August and certainly qualifies as no more than an each-way shot.
Royal Mix is probably up against it as well in a hot looking four-year-old hurdle. He came from France, won at Newbury last November and then had a setback.
In here are two Grade 1 winners in Barizan and Orsippus and taking third behind them would represent a decent effort. Anything better would be a bonus.
Picture This makes his debut over fences in a three miles plus novice chase. He finished off over hurdles by winning at Haydock and Cheltenham.
The seven-year-old will love the trip and the ground. When I schooled Celestial Halo at home recently he was with us, Harry Skelton was aboard, and went really nicely.
A two miles and five furlongs handicap hurdle, with 18-runners, may not be your idea of an attractive contest for betting purposes, but you really should have a bit on Great Mates.
He is owned by Jim Lewis, who had the great Best Mate of course, and we think has improved and is ahead of the handicapper.
I know nothing about Dark Lover in the bumper, except that he was beaten by a 25-1 outsider of Tim Vaughan’s at Chepstow in April.
I’m heading to Cork tomorrow for four rides, three for Tony Martin and one for Adrian Maguire. High Cian is a live one in the first, a maiden hurdle.
I’m well aware he’s no star and has a very low rating on the flat. But this does look a bad race, to my way of thinking, and he ran well enough at Sligo.
That was a slowly run contest, which didn’t suit, and I didn’t get much of a run when I wanted it.
ADRIAN’S horses are going well, as evidenced by Golden Kite winning the Munster National at Limerick last Sunday, and that gives me hope regarding Anshan Dreams in a novice hurdle.
He won well enough at Tipperary recently, but this is a tougher assignment and I’d only be hoping for the best.
Keelaghan has a great chance in a handicap chase. It’s a good pot, with no less than 26,000 to the winner.
The last time Keelaghan ran over fences, he won at Ballinrobe and has since runs two crackers on the all-weather at Dundalk.
There is plenty of jumping to be done at Cork, he will love that, and the flat track and three fences up the straight are made for him.
I finish my weekend on Osirixamix in a handicap hurdle. He’s a fast horse and can be particularly keen. I have always harboured doubts about his ability to get two miles, but if he stays will win.
I’m praying for rain for Celestial Halo, who is set to start off over fences, at Exeter next Tuesday. As I’ve told you before, he has been doing everything right, so let’s hope can make a winning debut in what has the making of a high-class race.
I was delighted with China Rock at Punchestown on Thursday. He didn’t like being in front, but was gutsy and has improved plenty this season I reckon.