I have decided to ride Kauto Star, in preference to Denman, in next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
I told Paul Nicholls yesterday morning and Paul then confirmed that Tony McCoy will now take over on Denman.
Tony will also partner Denman in the Aon Chase at Newbury. The reason for having to make such an early choice came when Denman’s owners were anxious that whoever rode their horse at Newbury would also be aboard at Cheltenham.
The reasoning was that they simply want Tony to get a feel of Denman at Newbury. That’s obviously fair to everyone involved, although I have to admit I would love to be able to sit on it for another couple of weeks.
There are still several pieces of the jigsaw which have to fall into place. Denman’s performance at Newbury is going to be crucial and, in an ideal world, I’d have wanted to wait until after that race.
I’m also going to be more than interested in the display of Nacarat in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton. He’s the only one who made a race of it with Kauto Star in the King George at Kempton.
And what if Cooldine goes and wins by 25 lengths at Leopardstown tomorrow? Now that would certainly have the capacity to set you thinking.
Anyway, what’s done is done and, as long as we both remain sound, Kauto and I will be seeking a third Gold Cup in five weeks and six days time.
But I’m long enough in this game to know that so much can change between now and then. Tony and I and Kauto and Denman have to arrive in one piece before all of this falls into place.
Right! back to more mundane matters and Doncaster today. I get the show on the road on River D’or in what appears to be a fiercely competitive 19-runner handicap hurdle.
He came from France with a big reputation and was thrown in at the deep end by Paul in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
You’d have to say he was very disappointing. River D’or travelled well, but then folded rather quickly when the pressure was applied.
I still think he will go close today, because he’s entitled to come on a bundle and, for one of Paul’s, actually seems well handicapped.
If Woolcombe Folly is going to emerge as a genuine Arkle horse then he is going to have to produce a big run in the Grade 2 novice chase.
This is his first outing over fences, following an absence with a leg of 475 days, but time is running out and Paul has to find out about him.
He won four times in-a-row over hurdles when sound and I schooled him the other day. I can tell you he has a great way of jumping and this will tell us whether Cheltenham is a realistic goal or a waste of time.
Pepite De Soleil has shown nothing in two runs so far this season and is difficult to fancy in the mares’ hurdle.
I hope Free World’s chance has finally come in the valuable handicap chase. He ran a cracker when second to French Opera at Cheltenham.
I changed tactics - he normally front runs - holding him up and it seemed to work a treat, despite the fact he made a bad mistake at the fifth.
I’ll be doing the same again, creeping and creeping into the contest, and there’s no doubt the flat Doncaster track is made for him.
I’m looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Cooldine in the Hennessy at Leopardstown tomorrow. I was all set to ride him in the Lexus, ahead of eventual winner What A Friend, at Leopardstown at Christmas until fog intervened.
He performed poorly then, but we all know that wasn’t his true running. He’s working well and is over the infection which troubled him, but Willie Mullins is worried about his match fitness.
The thing about Cooldine, of course, is that he just gets better and better the more he races. He was a better novice and is a better horse than Joncol.
I’ll be looking for a major effort and just hope that the lack of an extra outing this season doesn’t find him out.
I’m a fan of Fionnegas and believe there are lots of races to be won with him. I’m a realist as well, however, and it is hard to envisage him proving capable of beating Dunguib in the Deloitte Hurdle.
It didn’t really work for Cousin Vinny when only third to An Cathaoir Mor at Fairyhouse and he tries again in the Moriarty Chase.
I made a lot of use of him then and he made a couple of mistakes. I will try something different on this occasion and we’ll be taking our time.
I know this is a far hotter race than Fairyhouse, but haven’t lost faith in Vinny and won’t jump out of my boots if he wins.
I partner Moville for Martin Brassil in a handicap hurdle, but if he manages to win then it will be a pleasant surprise.
And that’s a remark which also applies to Shanrod in the juvenile hurdle, who seems to face a stiff task against Pittoni.
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