The pace of the races have been seriously quick at Cheltenham for the first two days. You need to factor that in now as horses who’ve been performing in winter ground all season face a totally different scenario as we enter the second half of the Festival.
But luckily for me …
Pertemps Final, 3m, 2:10pm
My first ride on Thursday is Our Kaempfer for trainer Charlie Longsdon and I’ve been looking forward to riding him for weeks.
His best form ties in with Thistlecrack (who runs in the World Hurdle later, below) and has been kept for this race to protect his handicap mark.
He’ll love the drying ground, the 3m trip and I’m expecting him to hit the places at least.
He was brought down when cruising in the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock and that’s been a key trial for this contest in the past. Before that he was beaten when the race turned into a sprint and did well to get as close as he did.
The stronger the pace and the quicker the going will suit him down to the ground.
There’s been a lot of chat for Leave at Dawn who Barry Geraghty has plumped for over Philip Hobbs’ If in Doubt – but there mightn’t be that much between them.
But I wouldn’t swap Our Kaempfer for anything else.
Ryanair Chase, 2m 5f 2.50pm
The complexion of this race changed massively when Team Mullins diverted Vautour from the Cheltenham Gold Cup to this.
It looks like the JLT Chase mark II (which Vautour won very impressively last year) and the spring ground will really suit the favourite. Road to Riches should appreciate the ground also but it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if they had a last-minute change of heart and went for Gold on Friday instead.
Paul Nicholls Vibrato Valtat has been a little disappointing this season and even though the step up in trip should suit – the quicker ground mightn’t.
Josses Hill may struggle to go the pace while my own mount Taquin Du Seuil could have place claims. He won well at Warwick – albeit in soft ground and is a previous winner of the JLT Chase so has the course form box ticked.
World Hurdle, 3m, 3.30pm
The favourite Thistlecrack has looked one of the English bankers to me all season. He looks bomb-proof as has good round form at Aintree to match his ‘slog in the bog’ victories this season..
A lot of the others like Martello Tower and At Fishers Cross will really need soft ground to show their best and could struggle on a faster surface.
Reigning champ Cole Harden, last year’s second Saphir Du Rheu, Irish challenger Alpha Des Obeaux while Nicky Henderson’s Whisper (who was fourth last year) could give Thistlecrack a run for his money.
He’s has had a much clearer preparation this time, is a dual winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree so is proven over the ground and trip.
But they could all be placing for the places behind Thistlecrack.
Trull House Stud Novices’ Hurdle, 2m 4.50pm
The way the Mullins’ mares have been running (Annie Power & Vroum Vroum Mag won) it’ll take a brave man to bet against Limini.
Her jumping isn’t the best by all accounts but if she can navigate the hurdles effectively, she could have too much class for most of the field. I wouldn’t be surprised if she went for a big race on the Flst at one of the summer festivals.
My mount Jaune Et Bleue is up against it while Nicky Henderson’s Bloody Mary has shown her best form on softer ground.
Two who could run well at prices are Brian Ellison’s Smart Talk who is the highest-rated runner in the race and Evan Williams’ Tea in Transvaal. They’re good enough to take advantage if there are too many jumping mistakes by the favourite.