Thistlecrack looks the English banker in Thursday's World Hurdle while Saturday's impressive winner Zubayr could have the Triumph Hurdle at his mercy
It’s not been easy but I’ve struck on some of the best English-trained horses going to Cheltenham this year. Although we may have to wait until Wednesday for them to really kick in.
1 Buveur D’air (Nicky Henderson)
Supreme Novices Hurdle. Tuesday, 1.30pm
Willie Mullins’ Min has looked very good and the form of his races is working out well. He looks a worthy favourite but the only question mark against him could be that most of his best form has come on soft ground.
Nicky Henderson hasn’t won the Supreme for a long time but he has had plenty of placed runners in that time. Buveur D’air could be a bit of value to continue that trend and was only beaten half a length by Barters Hill in a bumper on his British debut – with Altior a further two and a half lengths back in third.
He looked good in his maiden hurdle win at Newbury (with the likes of recent Haydock winner Bun Doran a long way back in fourth) and was an easy winner at Huntingdon at the end of January.
2 Polly Peachum (Nicky Henderson)
Mares Hurdle, Tuesday, 4.10pm
She finished a head second to Glens Melody in this race last year (after Annie Power fell at the last when clear) and has been trained with this race in mind again.
As luck would have it, she may have Vroum Vroum Mag to beat this time (but I don’t think she’s in the same class as Annie Power) and the better the ground the better her chance.
3 Yanworth (Alan King)
Neptune Novice Hurdle, Wednesday, 1.30pm
Finished fourth in the Champion Bumper last year and his form so far has been very progressive.
Beat Shantou Village (who’s no slouch) easily at Cheltenham on Trials Day and made him look very ordinary. Whatever beats him, wins this.
4 High Bridge (John Ferguson)
Champion Bumper, Wednesday, 5.30pm
The form of his last bumper win at Catterick is working out well with runner-up Automix (13 lengths back in second) and Shambougg (a further three lengths back in third) both winning since.
He’s has four runs, knows his job and could end John Ferguson’s training career on a high.
5 Bristol De Mai (Nigel Twiston Davies)
JLT Chase, Thursday, 1.30pm
He was very impressive at Sandown last time out when winning the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. The 2m 4f trip seems to suit him better than the minimum trip and the 2m 5f trip at Cheltenham should be right up his street.
He’s a good jumper, travels well and looks a high-class prospect. Any ease in the ground will help his cause.
6 Our Kaempfer, Pertemps Final
Thursday, March 17, 2,10pm
He holds an entry in the Coral Cup but may go to the Pertemps Final and could be well handicapped for trainer Charlie Longsdon.
Finished third to Thistlecrack in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree where recent winner Vyta de Roc finished second.
He’s a hold-up horse and a strong-run race will suit him as he jumps well and travels well. He’s had no luck-in-running this year including when brought down on his last start at Haydock in November.
7 Thistlecrack, (Colin Tizzard)
World Hurdle, Thursday, March 17, 3.30pm
Cue Card’s stablemate looks the English banker of the meeting. I love the way he travels through his races for a stayer and has a bit of speed to match his stamina.
He showed in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot that even when they tried to run the legs off him, he stayed on strong. He’s a very good horse and is already being talked about as a Gold Cup contender next season.
8 Zubayr Paul Nicholls
Triumph Hurdle, Friday 1.30pm
Paul Nicholls already had a leading contender in the highly-rated Connetable who beat Champion Hurdle contender Peace and Co and subsequent Kingwell Hurdle winner Rayvin Black at Sandown.
But this Zubayr looks something special on his racecourse debut in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton in a race that is usually a key trial for the Friday festival opener.
Gibralfaro (rated 151) went into Saturday’s race on a similar mark to Connetable and he’s beaten him nine lengths into fourth.
With French imports winning four of the last seven Triumph Hurdles, he looks some prospect and is open to more improvement for the Ditcheat team.
9 Barters Hill,
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, Friday, March 18, 2.50pm
He never looks impressive but Ben Pauling’s horse just keeps on winning. Everything that comes up against him has always come off second best and the form of his races is working out well as the beaten horses are also winning.
He’s versatile as he’s won on good and soft ground. The only unknown factor is that he has yet to run at Cheltenham.
10 Cue Card, Cheltenham Gold Cup
Friday, March 18, 3.30pm
Hard to believe that he’s returning at the head of the market for the Gold Cup – six years after winning the Champion Bumper and three years after winning a Ryanair Chase.
Colin Tizzard’s runner has been reinvigorated this year and settling in his races a lot better so his keeping all his energy for the end of the race.
He’s a class horse and will be a big player on the day as he chases a stg £1 million bonus after winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock and King George VI Chase over Christmas.
For my money he out-stayed Vautour when beating him by a head at Kempton on Boxing Day and should beat him further over Cheltenham’s stiffer 3m 2f test. While Vautour’s stablemate Djakadam has been to Cheltenham three times – but fallen twice.