I will arrive at Cheltenham today confident there’s a strong possibility of getting among the winners, especially with Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle and Quevega in the Mares’ Hurdle.
Hurricane Fly was quite superb when winning here a year ago and I just think he is the real deal.
We have been very happy with him of late and he’s been doing everything right since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.
Mind you, I never get to ride him between races. When he won at Leopardstown that was the first time I sat on the horse since we won at the Punchestown festival in May. I haven’t ridden him either since Leopardstown.
Paul Townend and Emmet Mullins are responsible for Hurricane at home, but I’ve seen him literally every morning I’ve been at Willie Mullins’.
What I’ve been looking at has more than pleased me.
I was impressed by Binocular at Wincanton and thought there was plenty of the old sparkle still there.
I find it difficult to work up any enthusiasm for Oscars Well, but Paul Nicholls does have a pair of interesting challengers in Rock On Ruby and Zarkandar.
Obviously, I know both of them particularly well. Rock On Ruby will stay at it and has an each-way shout.
I won a competitive handicap aboard Zarkandar at Newbury and he is a good horse.
But Zarkandar was coughing the next day and you just don’t know what sort of mark that has left on him.
Overturn and Celestial Halo will ensure a swinging gallop and there will be no hiding place.
I am confident Hurricane Fly, who has travelled over without turning a hair, is the best horse in the contest and expect him to prove it.
Quevega is a right little mare and I absolutely love her.
She will be attempting to win her race for a fourth time and I just hope she has luck in running.
I have only ever seen one horse win four times at the festival and that’s Istabraq.
Of course Quevega is not in that league, but it would be terrific to join him all of the same.
In contrast to Hurricane Fly, I actually get to ride Quevega a good bit. She is in fine form and I have to be hopeful.
I had a choice between Simenon, Allure Of Illusion and Prospect Wells in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and have gone for the latter.
Prospect Wells had good form in the early part of the season, but then lost his way somewhat and was well beaten in fourth behind Captain Conan at Sandown in January.
He has since been operated on for his wind, so that should help. He’s a smart enough horse at his best and, perhaps, has an each-way chance in an open contest.
There seems to be lots of confidence behind Jessica Harrington’s Steps To Freedom and I saw him jumping nicely on the Curragh one day recently.
But I just wonder if he will be tough enough.
I am getting encouraging vibes regarding Dermot Weld’s Galileo’s Choice, while Charles Byrnes’ Trifolium, on his second to So Young at Navan, probably has the best form of the Irish contingent.
I will be throwing down the gauntlet to Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Trophy with Al Ferof.
I have been as impressed as everyone else by Sprinter Sacre.
I know there’s an argument he hasn’t beaten much in any of his races over fences, but you can only deal with what’s put in front of you and that’s not his fault.
We ran Al Ferof in the Victor Chandler at Ascot to give him experience and that will certainly stand him in good stead.
Sprinter Sacre now has to go and do it in the big league and maybe he will. But if there are any chinks in his armour, I’ll be waiting to take advantage.
I’m on Noland in a handicap chase. He ran well enough in the Lexus at Leopardstown, but then disappointed when only sixth to Tatenen at Ascot.
I know he’s getting on in years, but doesn’t have a lot of mileage on the clock and might surprise a few people.
If I’m still waiting for a winner going into the last, another handicap chase, then we’re going to be in big trouble.
I partner That’ll Do and, though Paul Nicholls does fancy him, my opinion is that he is up against it.
I think of That’ll Do as a summer horse and there is a hell of difference between one of those and the winter variety.
Let’s hope Paul is right and I’m completely wrong.
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