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 at Nicky Henderson’s and has some decent form in the book – including when finishing ahead of stablemate Altior.
I genuinely think he’s one of my best chances of the week.
Irish challenger Min has been all the rage but no-one is unbeatable. His credentials are strong but I’m not sure they are as strong as certainly Douvan’s or Vautour’s when they won this contest in the past two seasons.
Arkle Chase, Cheltenham, 2.10pm
It’s very simple. If Douvan gets around – he wins. He looks like the best horse we’ve seen in a while and if Willie Mullins elected to run him in the Champion Hurdle he could win that. I think he’ll have scared a lot of the opposition away come race time and if pushed I’d go with Sizing John to chase him home.
I ride the outsider Baltimore Rock but a place would be a huge result for him.
Ultima Handicap Chase, 2.50pm
I won the London National over 3m 5f on Carole’s Destrier at Sandown last December and he’s had a breathing operation since. Stamina isn’t an issue and he’s been going well at home. There may be a little more improvement in him and everyone seems happy with him at Neil Mulholland’s yard.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell is a dual course winner and was fourth in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup where the soft ground hampered his chances. He has the blinkers back on again and looks well handicapped off 153.
Champion Hurdle, 3.30pm
It’s such an open race since Faugheen came out. Annie Power’s 7lb mares allowance is a big help 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 Seven Barrows have nothing to lose by running him. The reward for a lot of these who haven’t been in great form this season – and that includes The New One – far outweighs the risk.
Mares’ Hurdle, 4.10pm
Bitofapuzzle returns to hurdles after losing her confidence a bit over fences and finished a close-up third last year.
She’s working really well and will enjoy the return to the smaller obstacles. There was only a neck between her and Polly Peachum in this contest last year when they were second and third to Glens Meldoy after Annie Power tipped up at the last.
Bitofapuzzle has definite place claims again and while the obvious one to beat is Vroum Vroum Mag – I’d sooner take her on than Annie Power.
National Hunt Chase, 4m
I was second on Southfield Royal to Tea for Two in the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton at Christmas.
Going left-handed at Cheltenham will suit him a lot better, he stays strong and has a top amateur booked in Nina Carberry. Johnjo O’Neill has a great record in the race and his Minella Rocca has been punted with another top Irish amateur Derek O’Connor booked.
Close Brothers Novice Handicap, 2m 4f
Thomas Brown was fancied at Kempton Park but never got into a rhythm. He ended up unseating me which was unusual because he’s normally such a reliable jumper and had been very consistent. He won here as a novice hurdler before so hopefully has an each-way shout.
But Aloomomo could be very well handicapped and looks to have been kept for Tuesday’s finale. He won at Newbury in November and the 4rd, 4th and 5th have all won since then and warmed up for this with a spin over hurdles, presumably to protect his mark.