Mick Fitzgerald: Let’s Rock into Cheltenham on Friday with this 6/1 shot

Three days of top-class jumps action from the Cotswolds this weekend and Fitzy fancies Philip Hobbs recent winner to get the party started

It’s been a tough week for racing and an unspeakably tough one for Freddy Tylicki and his family.

Freddie is one of nicest guys you can deal with in the jockeys changing room. In my job interviewing the lads before they ride it can sometimes  feel intrusive and awkward if they are under pressure, but Freddie was always happy to help, because of that I always wanted him to do well. I roared him home on Speedy Boarding when she won for him on Arc weekend, like most of the other lads did, because he is a really popular guy in the weighing room.

The truth is he earned his place riding good horses, because he was a lovely rider who wanted it badly and worked hard at it. His biggest challenge is now ahead of him. He will need the support of all his friends and family for a long time to come and Robbie McNamara has spoken brilliantly about some of the challenges that now lie ahead.

I am proud to say that I work in an industry that has become so much better at having an outstretched hand for anybody who needs help. Be strong Freddy. 


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In Ireland, the Mullins stable had a weekend to forget when they lost Vautour in a freak accident and Avant Tout at Naas races. Vautour in particular was very special and I don’t think anyone will ever forget how he demolished a good field in the JLT Chase while Avant Tout was a potential star and was being prepped for the Hennessy Gold Cup. It’s tough on everyone, the owners, trainers and stable staff when accidents like this happen.

Let’s hope the three-day Open Meeting that starts on Friday brings us some positive news as the jumps season revs up a gear.

Speaking of which …

The rain that arrived mid-week was too late to save the traditional Cross Country Chase that is usually the centrepiece of day one but there’s some cracking action to get the Open Meeting up and running.

The Veterans’ Handicap Chase at 12.55pm can go the way of Astracad who is a dual course winner for local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and usually comes good at this time of year. He’s back on a winning mark also and may have most to fear from Dunraven Storm from Philip Hobbs’ in-form yard.

Sizing Codelco shoulders top weight in the 2m Handicap Chase 1.30pm and makes his UK debut for Colin Tizzard since joining from Henry de Bromhead’s yard in Ireland. He looks the one to beat despite the welter burden.

David Pipe’s bottom weight Impulsive American – a topical tip after the US Election – could be open to some more improvement as he’s only a four-year-old. Bold Henry won this in 2014 but is a bit higher in the rankings now.

The Novices Chase 2:05pm is a decent contest that was won by Saturday’s big-race fav More of That last year.

ROCK THE KASBAH comes here on the back of a Chepstow win where he jumped brilliantly on his first start over the larger obstacles to beat a tidy enough field including the third-placed Theinval who re-opposes again. He’s one of my 10 to follow this season too.

Ben Pauling’s Barters Hill was unbeaten over hurdles last season until finishing fourth in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Festival. It will be interesting to see how he takes to fences.

It’s an early sign off for the CH4 TV cameras with the Grade Two Novices Hurdle Neptune Trial 2.40pm that usually throws up a decent sort and was won by Shantou Village last year and Coneygree in 2012.

Thistlecrack’s half-brother West Approach remains a novice despite finishing 11th in last year’s finale at the Festival. He impressed when winning at Newton Abbot and was just beaten a half-length here by the re-opposing Wholestone at this track last month over 3m.

They’re off level weights now and that may just help West Approach gain his revenge in what could be a match.

What do you think?