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Cheltenham 2016: Top jocks Ruby Walsh and Noel Fehily go head-to-head in our latest hunt for a Festival winner

It's England vs Ireland as top jockeys Ruby Walsh and Noel Fehily go head-to-head in search of a Cheltenham Festival winner

Walsh or Fehily - Who can pick more Cheltenham winners?

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Tuesday 1.30pm

NF: I kick the week off with Buveur D’Air in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and with the ground likely to ride on the soft side – I think he has a great chance. He did a very good piece of work last week and has some decent form in the book. I genuinely think he’s one of my best chances of the week.

Altior and Min are decent but no-ones unbeatable and Buveur D’Air’s maiden hurdle win by 11 lengths from Wait for Me stands up to scrutiny and that one is fancied in places for the County Hurdle.

RW: There was a lot of talk about the French import Min before he ever ran and won well at Gowran Park and Punchestown. He’s really well at home at fits the profile of some of the horses we’ve won the race with in the past (Vautour & Douvan). The form of his races are working out well and he looks to be a deserving favourite – though you could argue about his price.

He should appreciate better ground than he has been winning on and is a brave jumper at his hurdles.

I’d have a lot of respect for Nicky Henderson’s Altior and if we get past him we won’t be far away.

Champion Hurdle, Tuesday 3.30pm

NF: Annie Power’s 7lb mares allowance is a big help to her but I think there could be a surprise in the race. My Tent or Yours faces a massive ask after his near two years off the track, but his second to Jezki in the Champion Hurdle looks about the best form on offer.  If he’s near that form he’ll surprise a few people. I can’t have Peace and Co on what he’s shown this year but they’ve nothing to lose by running him. The reward for a lot of these – The New One included – far outweighs the risk.

RW: Annie Power has been supplemented for the Champion Hurdle and is entitled to take her chance in what is an open-looking year after injury ruled out Faugheen.

She’s a super sub to get but she still has to put up a career-best performance to win this. She’s never won a 2m Grade One race – yet –because she’s never run in one. But she is a dual Grade One winner over 2m 2f. I’m not sure if she’ll wear a hood this time like she did at Punchestown. She’s getting the 7lbs mares’ allowance which is a big plus and I don’t think the form of last season’s first three home in the Triumph Hurdle (Peace & Co, Top Notch and Hargam) will be good enough here.

Annie-Power

Mares Hurdle, Tuesday 4.10pm

NF: Bitofapuzzle returns to hurdles after losing her confidence a bit over fences. She was a close-up third last year and has been working really well and will enjoy the return to the smaller obstacles.  She has definite place chances but the obvious one to beat is Vroum Vroum Mag.

RW: Vroum Vroum Mag is very talented and will head for the Mares Hurdle after Annie Power was supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. Every question we’ve asked ‘Mags’ she’s answered and I have full confidence in her after here impressive win at Ascot.

RSA Chase, Wednesday 2.10pm

NF: A very good race that looks a match between No More Heroes and More of That. Jonjo O’Neill’s runner is a former World Hurdle winner and is four wins from four starts at the track which is a big plus.

I love the way No More Heroes jumps – he reminds me of triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate and they may just shade it for him in the end. I t could be a great race between the two of them.

RW: The race will be a match between More Of That and No More Heroes and I have always been a fan of More Of That. After Douvan, he’s probably the best novice chaser in training.

Champion Chase, Wednesday 3.30pm

NF: I’ll ride Special Tiara for Henry De Bromhead who was third in the race last year. One thing’s for sure with him and Un De Sceaux in the field there’ll be plenty of speed on. I think Special Tiara would have won the Tingle Creek Chase last December had he not been bumped at the last by Sire De Grugy who could have blinkers on so he’ll bet lit up early too.

There’s plenty of good reports in Lambourn about former champion Sprinter Sacre showing his old sparkle. If the favourite was to hit one hard as he’s done in the past, the complexion of this race could change very quickly.

RW: Un De Sceaux has been schooling very well and looks the best ride I’ll have in a Championship race.

He was very good in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot after falling in the Paddy Power race at Leopardstown over Christmas. He’s a deserving favourite and if he can continue the improvement he’s shown all season will be hard to beat. There’s three former champions in the race with Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy and Dodging Bullets and all their form is closely match.

Un de Sceaux looks to be the new kid on the block and it’s no secret that he’ll bolt off in front. If they want to take me on for the lead, that’s up to them, but it could play into the hands of one of the outsiders who could pick up the pieces after not getting involved in the skirmishes. Hopefully, that will be Felix Yonger that chases us home.

World Hurdle, Thursday 3.30pm

NF: Cue Card’s stablemate Thistlecrack 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.

RW: Thistlecrack and Alpha Des Obeaux are the best of the Irish and English. Thistlecrack is the standout and if you offered me a ride, I’d take it. Cole Harden will make it a very honest race. Prince of Scars may be the each-way value. Thistlecrack will be very hard to beat though and Whisper might not be too far away.

Cheltenham Gold Cup, Friday 3.30pm

NF: It’s hard to believe that Cue Card is returning towards 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 staggering £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.

 

RW: Djakadam came up short last year, and has fallen in two of his three Cheltenham runs, but he is the one with the stamina. Vautour’s only con is the trip and we won’t know if he stays until we try, but going left will suit him and he’s the one with the speed. You’d imagine Smad Place and Don Poli have the stamina. Cue Card and Don Cossack are definitely the form horses, but there are question marks over their ability to stay as well. Don Cossack is probably the one we all have to beat.

What do you think?