Jumping really is the name of the game
Today is two mile-five-furlong chase day, when the JLT Novice Chase and the Ryanair Chase take centre stage. Both are relatively new creations developed to fill the void when the festival was extended to four days in 2005.
While many of the other fill-in races reduce the overall quality of the festival, the JLT and Ryanair are now embedded as valid Grade One contests, despite the scorn of traditionalists who will argue that without today’s races Yorkhill and Altior would have met and that Un De Sceaux would have taken on Douvan.
That might be true, but Willie Mullins and his owners won’t complain about the additional opportunities. Both horses’ chances today look to hinge on their ability to build a rhythm into their jumping that will allow their superior ability to shine.
In Yorkhill’s case he has jumped clumsily in his two chases to date, not an issue to a horse this good in poorly contested novice chases.
However, with 18 opponents in the white heat of Cheltenham, jumping fluidity is the key.
Un De Sceaux is moving up from two miles on ground faster than ideal and he will need to impose from the front to assert his will on the race.
Again, jumping will be the name of the game.
The power of the pound
JP McManus averages over three runners a day in Britain during the National Hunt season.
Some are homebred, most bought at public sales and then there are a select few readymade horses who McManus uses his economic muscle to tempt from less affluent owners.
There are three headline examples of the latter running this week.
Buveur D’Air has already put a heavy dint in his purchase price by winning the Champion Hurdle and he’ll hope that Unowhatimeanharry and Bouvreuil can deliver in the World Hurdle and Handicap Chase respectively.
‘Harry’ is thought to be a complete banker to extend his eight-race unbeaten streak for Harry Fry since he joined his yard two years ago.
Fry has improved the horse by over three stone since, which surprised even him.
He said: “At no point did we expect Unowhatimeanharry to reach the heights he has — we had no aspirations for him really.”
But improve he has.
Bouvreuil has proved less spectacular, but holds a reasonable each-way chance to start repaying his owner properly.
When does a difficulty become a crisis?
It’s already Thursday and Willie Mullins has yet to saddle a winner.
Twenty-five runners, Douvan turned over, and expectations of a lucrative festival are disappearing over the horizon with alarming speed.
Sometimes luck just goes against you, sometimes an undetectable virus sneakily invades a stable, but today will tell more of the worrying tale.
He saddles nine runners in total today including Yorkhill and Un De Sceaux who are short priced favourites for the JLT and Ryanair Chases.
These are supported by the talented mares Let’s Dance and Airlie Beach in the Dawn Run Mare’s Novice Hurdle for which they are currently the first and second favourites.
If it was a normal year most, or all of these, would win these races, but it is obviously not a normal year.
Today could tell the tale for the Carlow operation.