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How do you like them Apple’s?

11 Mar 2018

The Beast From The East put much of the country to a standstill last week, and with it claimed a vast chunk of the racing fixtures. You know its bad weather when you can’t race on the All Weather!

It did however, provide a great opportunity for me and my friends  to get the sleds and tractors out for some fun in the snow, something very different from riding out in the morning and racing in the afternoon. Racing is now back in full flow though, and it’s great to be back out there, both at the yards and on the courses.

One thing that certainly didn’t come to a standstill last week was the build up to a certain festival in the Cotswolds. Yep, Cheltenham is back, and I’m really looking forward to catching as much of the high class jumping action as I can next week.

Growing up as a kid, the Festival was on the TV every year, and I’m good friends with some of the National Hunt jockeys like David Mullins and Paul Townend- although don’t be expecting the inside line from the Willie Mullins camp!

It all begins on Tuesday, and the feature is the Champion Hurdle with a very strong favourite and last year’s winner Buveur D’Air. On current form you have to say that he is almost impossible to oppose- he’s pretty rock solid at the top of the market. Nicky Henderson also runs the Cheltenham stalwart My Tent Or Yours. He’s a grand old horse, but I just can’t see an 11-year-old winning the Champion Hurdle.

Faugheen didn’t run badly last time, but clearly needs to improve on that to have a chance. The rest of the field I don’t think will be good enough, although special mention to Alan King’s Elgin who has done nothing wrong so far. He could be the each way value.

The Championship hotpots continue on Wednesday when the mighty Altior takes flight in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He was very impressive on his comeback, a real top class horse who looks to have found the perfect riding partner in Nico de Boinville. They look a match made in heaven.

Douvan is interesting coming back from an injury. He disappointed at last year’s Festival and clearly needs to return to form. However at the top of his game he was practically unbeatable, and if Willie Mullins can get him back near his best he would give the favourite a lot to think about.

The feature race on Thursday is the Stayers’ Hurdle, which has a much more competitive look about it than the previous two days in terms of the betting market. I’m siding with Yanworth in this. Switching back to hurdles looks a good idea, and I think he has the beating of his two market rivals- Sam Spinner and Supersundae. He’s a top class hurdler and I can see him going very well.

I also see The New One has entry for this who, as he’s got older, has definitely become more of a stayer. He’s definitely an interesting one, who has certainly shown that he absolutely loves going up the Cheltenham Hill.

The Gold Cup is my favourite jumps race of the season. Last year I was made up for Jessica Harrington after she landed it with the lovable Sizing John. Unfortunately his trainer broke the news that he will not be there to defend his crown on Friday.  She does however take Our Duke who is certainly not without a chance, and the same can be said of Gigginstown’s Road To Respect who has done nothing wrong this season. I’m obviously slightly biased towards the Irish guys, so fair mention must go to Native River who, if the ground turns up on the soft side, will be able to utilise his stamina from the front.

It’s a very open race, but I’ll be cheering on the guys in green to bring the Gold Cup back across the Irish see again.

My so-called ‘NAP’ of the festival comes on Gold Cup Day, in the opening race, the Triumph Hurdle. I think Apple’s Shakira will take an absolute world of beating in this, and fully expect her to land the spoils.

Horse To Follow: Red Verdon

He gave me a very good feel at Lingfield, and I was very happy with. He’s a classy horse and should feature in the coming season.