As usual in recent years, the going (on Sunday afternoon as I’m typing this) on the old course (used on Tuesday and Wednesday) is good to soft, soft in places. The Accuweather daily rain forecast is Monday 2%, Tuesday 25%, Wednesday 89%, Thursday 0%, Friday 0%.
Declarations were published on Sunday morning and there are no big surprises.
13:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
As widely predicted, Sir Gerhard is routed to the Ballymore on Wednesday. There are five main players. Dysart Dynamo and Constitution Hill are current joint favourites at 9/4, Jonbon is 9/2, Kilcruit is 6/1 and Mighty Potter is 8/1.
Dysart Dynamo (164p) is unbeaten in four outings, two in bumpers and two over hurdles. He has form on soft, good to soft and heavy. He was mightily impressive last time out in the Moscow Flyer Hurdle at Punchestown on 16 January and looks like the most likely winner.
Constitution Hill (162P) is also unbeaten in two. He won the Grade 1 Tolworth on heavy ground at Sandown on 8 January (Shallwehaveonemore 4th). This is a very different challenge and there are question marks concerning the quality of his wins, albeit that they were visually impressive.
Jonbon (165p) is an expensive brother of Douvan and, like Dysart Dynamo, is unbeaten over four. All his form is on good to soft/soft. I suspect that this is a marking time season on the way to be an outstanding chaser.
Kilcruit (158p) was second to Sir Gerhard in last year’s Champion Bumper but his form this season has been not as good as many expected. Improved with a shorter distance and the application of a tongue strap last time out in a modest maiden hurdle, he would need to improve a lot to land this.
Mighty Potter (160p) was beaten by Statuaire and My Mate Mozzie in the Royal Bond, but redeemed himself with a far from fluent and novicey win in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. He would need to improve considerably from both runs and may well do so but this is a very high quality renewal and I can’t have him.
Selection: Dysart Dynamo
14:10 Arkle Novices’ Chase
The top three in this are all exposed: Edwardstone (5/2), Blue Lord (4/1) and Riviere D’etel (7/2). The one open to significant improvement and my selection is Haut En Couleurs (7/1). He was third in last year’s Triumph Hurdle and the Punchestown Champion 4-y-o and made a winning start over fences in a Beginners’ Chase at Leopardstown in December. He fell early on in the Irish Arkle but, ironically, I really like his jumping style and his 172p Timeform rating is good enough for this.
Edwardstone (177) has done nothing wrong and could well run out as an easy winner but the 7/1 available for Haut En Couleurs is very tempting.
Selection: Haut En Couleurs
14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase
This is a very open race (currently 13/2 the field) and my idea of the winner is novice Does he Know (7/1). The presence of Frodon as top weight means that he carries 11st. He has good Cheltenham form and his best performance to date was last time out, winning the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on 19 February.
It would be great to see Frodon (12/1) win this but it’s a tall order off top weight (with a margin) in a handicap.
My idea of a lively outsider is Our Power at 14/1, another progressive novice who could provide former jockey Sam Thomas with his best training achievement to date.
Selection: Does He Know
Outsider: Our Power
15:30 Champion Hurdle
The easy and obvious choice is defending champion Honeysuckle (4/7), looking to extend her unbeaten record to 15. She’ll probably do it but there’s no value in the price. There are question marks over what she’s beaten and she was not so impressive, albeit winning last time out in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
I think that Appreciate It is a very special horse. Second to the sadly sidelined Ferny Hollow in the 2020 Champion Bumper and a 24l winner of last year’s Supreme Hurdle, I don’t think that Honeysuckle has ever met one as good as this. Of course the racecourse absence of 364 days since then is a major concern but if he’s back to his best then, at 4/1, he’s a great value choice.
Selection: Appreciate It
16:10 Mares’ Hurdle
This is trappy and good cases can be made for several of the leading contenders. Telmesomethinggirl (3/1) is probably the right favourite. Stormy Ireland (5/1) lost her way and spent an unproductive spell with Paul Nicholls before returning to Willie Mullins where she has done much better, including winning the Grade 2 Relkeel at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Burning Victory (8/1) won the 2020 Triumph Hurdle and was second in the Cesarewitch, before seeing off Queens Brook (9/2) in a Grade 3 at Punchestown on heavy last month. However, Queens Brook was given a lot to do and was closing on the winner and, like many, I prefer her to reverse the form.
Selection: Queens Brook
16:50 Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle
This is an intriguing race and could perhaps produce one of the easiest winners of the week. It’s all about the handicap, the favourite, Gaelic Warrior (9/4), and the hype. This horse has never run in the UK or Ireland and has only ever run at Auteuil where his form is 633, last time in the relatively minor Rocking Chair Hurdle in June 2021. Owner Rich Ricci has confessed that he’s never even seen the horse but the reports are that he’s very, very good and has been mentioned as a nap of the meeting at several previews. He hasn’t got a lot to beat here (including a number who are most likely in it to give the owners a runner at the Festival) and I’m going to take a chance.
Selection: Gaelic Warrior
17:30 National Hunt Novices’ Chase
Although the distance has been reduced to 3m 6f, this still requires a tried and tested thorough stayer and a top amateur jockey. I am inclined against the top two in the market, Run Wild Fred (Jamie Codd – 2/1) and Stattler (Patrick Mullins – 9/4), so I’m going with 2021 Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier (Derek O’Connor – 4/1). His season has been unspectacular but I listened to an interview this morning with his trainer Gavin Cromwell who thinks that he’s got him right and I think that the extra distance will suit him down to the ground.
We don’t yet have the declarations for the remaining days and much depends on which horses end up in which races but I’ve set out below my current selections and intend to update them during the week.
Sir Gerhard (4/5)
14:10 Brown Advisory
L’homme Presse (4/1); Ahoy Senor (5/1)
14:50 Coral Cup
Camprond (8/1 from 18/1); Saint Felicien (8/1)
15:30 Champion Chase
16:10 Cross Country
Tiger Roll (5/4)
16:50 Grand Annual
Embittered (7/1); A Wave of the Sea (16/1); Frero Banbou (12/1)
17:30 Champion Bumper
American Mike (9/4)
13:30 Turners Novices’ Chase
Galopin Des Champs (11/10)
14:10 Pertemps Final
14:50 Ryanair Chase
Allaho (4/7) nap
15:30 Stayers’ Hurdle
Paisley Park (7/1)
The Glancing Queen (7/1)
16:50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
Dinoblue (9/4); Love Envoi (12/1)
17:30 Kim Muir
School Boy Hours (7/1)
13:30 Triumph Hurdle
Vauban (13/8) n.b.
14:10 County Hurdle
State Man (4/1)
14:50 Albert Bartlett
Minella Cocooner (7/1)
15:30 Gold Cup
16:10 Hunters’ Chase
Pont Aven (8/1)
16:50 Mares’ Chase
17:30 Martin Pipe
Good Risk At All (7/1)