Jumping for joy at Cheltenham!
6 Mar 2020
It’s no secret that I absolutely love National Hunt racing. It’s something I was brought up with, my uncle Jim Colloty won the Gold Cup on four occasions as both a jockey and a trainer.
I’ve got some wonderful memories watching the great Festival growing up. It’s no different now, and despite my busy schedule I always manage to watch the racing unfold. This year I’m very blessed and think I’ll get to the racecourse during the week, only as a spectator this time, but I’ve made no secret about my desire to ride in the Champion Bumper one year if a trainer had a live chance and wanted to give me the leg up!
It’s very, very special and the racing is always top class. This year is no exception with ultra-competitive fields and some really intriguing potential match-ups to enjoy. I’ve cast my eye of the headline races of the Festival to give you some pointers, and fingers crossed, a winner or two.
The Champion Hurdle seems a very open race this year. Nicky Henderson has a very, very strong hand in this and I’d be very disappointed if he doesn’t have the winner as he saddles both Epatante and Pentland Hills. JP McManus looks like he could be celebrating in this once again with Epitante and that would really buoy the crowd on Day 1.
The Mares Hurdle revolves around two horses, Benie Des Dieu and Honeysuckle. If Benie stands up and gets round it’s really his to lose having shown outstanding form since her well-documented fall at the last in the same race in 2019.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is arguably the race of the week. I, like many racing fans, would be delighted to see Altior come out on top once again in this. He hasn’t had the easiest of seasons and he’s getting older. My heart is going to rule my head and say he’ll defend his crown. Nicky Henderson is an incredible trainer so he’s in the best hands to have him spot on. He won’t have it easy though with the likes of Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi providing eye-catching opposition.
If that wasn’t enough then the mast famous horse in the world runs straight afterwards. There’s little doubt that Tiger Roll has been the best thing for National Hunt Racing in many years, capturing the public’s affection with two Grand National victories and four Cheltenham Festival wins. It’d be great for the sport should he continue in that vein and take the Cross Country Chase again.
I was really impressed with David Pipe’s horse in the bumper when it won in France, called Panic Attack. It’s by Canford Cliffs and out of a Galileo mare. David Pipe can certainly train a Cheltenham Bumper winner, of the English horses I think he’s the most interesting. I give him a big shout.
The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle is the feature on Thursday, and Paisley Park will be one of the shortest-priced horses of the week, and quite rightly so.
Emma Lavelle is a family friend of ours, and I’ve ridden for the wonderful Mr Gemmel who owns horses with Andrew Balding. Paisley Park is a proper, thorough stayer who won’t be worried about any of the forecast rain. Both my head and heart are aligned and hoping he repeats last year’s victory.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is packed full of quality and you can make a case for any number of the runners. The defending champion is Al Boum Photo, who despite not recording the same rating since that victory is in with a huge shout once again. He’s been freshened up by Willie Mullins and is a very good benchmark.
Delta Work is a very tough horse, without being flashy while Clan Des Obeaux looks a better horse this year than he did in last year’s renewal. I don’t think Santini will be good enough despite winning at the course the other day, I just feel this opposition is a little bit better. For me the winner will be either Al Boum Photo, Delta Work or Clan Des Obeaux.
NAP: Front View (Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle)
JP McManus runner won’t mind any of the forecast rain, boasting superb form on soft this season. I’m very strong on him registering another Festival win for Joseph O’Brien