Altior proved he’s a star in the making, Buveur D’air gave Nicky Henderson a sixth Champion Hurdle and Apples Jade bounced back to form on day one. But there’s still a long way to go as we head into Day 2 of Cheltenham 2017.
Neon Wolf is the one that will take a bit of beating. His time at Haydock was super quick, a really impressive performance. I thought he looked a potential Champion Hurdler then and that jump at the third-last took you breath away.
If you’re going to be a Champion you have to cope with good to soft ground, no matter who you are. The authorities will try to make the Cheltenham going safe for everyone.
Bacardys ran well in the Champion Bumper last year and stayed on well to win a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time out and looks the one to chase Neon Wolf him home.
This is one of the hardest races to call at the Festival and most of the horses I fancied ante-post don’t run.
Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite was putting up some performance before he crashed out at the last fence at Kempton. His time that day would have been quicker than Thistlecrack’s King George VI win. He’s had a nice confidence booster when waltzing home at Doncaster last month – but this is a different story.
Irish challenger Acapella Bourgeois turned a lot of heads when winning at Navan by 32 lengths. He would like the ground as soft as possible, but could still upset Might Bite if he takes him on for the lead and I’d love to see him win this for trainer for Sandra Hughes.
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Gordon Elliott’s Tombstone has been all the rage since the weights were published and diverts here to take advantage of an attractive handicap mark – rather than running in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle.
He’s a short enough price for a 26-runner handicap, so I’m going for a fellow Irish raider in Peregrine Run. He was beaten on very soft ground by Willoughby Court last time, but is better judged on his Cheltenham victory over Wholestone and West Approach last November and they’re fancied for Grade 1 contests this week.
Tombstone’s stablemate Automated won a good contest at Navan last December and can follow the other two home for Ireland.
I’d only be backing daylight to be second to Douvan. He’s a machine and I’d be happy to just to take time out and watch him strut his stuff and not worry about what finishes second. Let the hype start for a clash between him and Altior next season!
There’s been a big plunge on Gordon Elliott’s Cause of Causes for this, but I’d have little interest in backing him at his price now. He’s been around a bit and is a quirky enough character. Ironically, JP McManus’s Cantlow may drift to a bigger price having been tight enough in the ante-post markets for a while. Enda Bolger’s other runner Auvergnat could be a bit of value each-way after his Punchestown win.
I like Nicky Henderson’s Divin Bere who beat Master Blueyes at Huntingdon and is probably good enough to run in Friday’s Triumph Hurdle. He carries top weight, however he still looks well handicapped off a rating of 141. He’s had a little wind operation since that victory too and that could bring about a little more improvement.
Paul Nicholls has a very good record in this contest and has won it for the past two seasons. He saddle Dolos and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies is sweet on his chance.
Normal service should be resumed here in the finale after Ballyandy won it for England last year. Willie Mullins’ always has to be feared. His son Patrick rides Carter Mckay and that’s usually significant. Of the others, Jessica Harrington’s Someday was impressive at Leopardstown last month when beating another Mullins runner in Voix Des Tiep.