We haven’t seen Native River since the Gold Cup and haven’t seen Saphir Du Reu either in a while. Look, Might Bite is a justified and deserved favourite for the Gold Cup. But, if he doesn’t win the Gold Cup then anything could win it. So connections must think they have a shout with Native River. I’m sure he’ll be in good order.
He won this race last year and showed a very different side to him. He didn’t go quick, Aidan Coleman kept winding him up from the front. Last year’s Gold Cup was probably a steadily enough run affair which mightn’t have suited him but if he can go and win tomorrow, he’ll be a lot shorter come the Gold Cup.
Altior I think has a stiffer task here. Politologue is in great form this season and is very fit. He won the Desert Orchid, he won the Tingle Creek. They brought him back to two miles, he was going to win at Aintree and he tipped up. Paul Nicholls said there will be plenty of improvement and there will be but I’ve never seen an unfit Paul Nicholls horse. Even if he will improve to Cheltenham, he’ll still be good and ready tomorrow.
Altior is a brilliant, brilliant horse. But whether his wind operation has worked or not, connections will only find out tomorrow. It’s probably the best price you’re ever going to get on Altior but there’s one or two question marks. He’s unbeaten and I think that says enough for me.
The double on Native River and Altior pays 2/1 and you’re getting really good value considering how good these two horses are. If they had uninterrupted preparation you wouldn’t be getting near that.
Blue et Rouge in this has a really good chance. He ran a blinding race at Ascot just behind Verdana Blue. They have plenty of weight for the race but with the exception of one or two way down the bottom, it’s quite a tight handicap.
The likes of Blue et Rouge, Verdana Blue, Moon Racer, Project Bluebook – who would have a chance on his best form – Poppy Kay and Irish Roe. The fact that Irish Roe is 10-12 getting so much weight off Blue et Rouge and the others will bring that horse into it.
But Blue et Rouge I think will run a similar race to his Ascot run. He put some bang there and Barry’s stuck with him again.
Generally with this race, horses near the top half of the weight have historically won it. Novices have had a great record here in recent years. Obviously Blue et Rouge isn’t a novice but he’s on a mark here that we think he’s capable of winning off but then again there could be a very much unexposed novice here you don’t know about it. He should jump a bit slicker tomorrow having had two runs back over hurdles.
You’ve got to respect whatever Nico has gone with. I thought Verdana Blue ran a blinding race at Ascot and Davy is on board him. Moon Racer is held in huge regard. Project Bluebook for the north too, with Brian Hughes on him. Poppy Kay and Irish Roe as well in with a shout. It’s a hugely competitive race but Blue et Rouge has a very solid each way chance.
This has thrown up good clues to the Cheltenham bumper in the past. Ballyandy won it, Cue Card as well. I was very impressed with Good Boy Bobby when he won in Chepstow. He’s two from two but I thought he looked a really good horse on Welsh National day. He was the one that caught my eye that day.
It’s a bit of drier ground we’ll get at Naas. It’s that time of year, the days begin to lengthen and the ground is starting to dry. I think that will be really suit Epicuris. Cartwright was second to Scarpeta on his first start over hurdles and he’s entitled to improve. But Epicuris will definitely put up a better performance than what he did at Limerick last time out. I just hope the ground is dry enough for him. He’s a really good moving horse who might need real good ground.
On ratings, Dinaria Des Obeaux holds the advantage. She’s a pound well in with Benie Des Dieux. Benie has answered the two questions that have been asked of him but she’s a filly we think quite a bit of, she’s a good jumper. Naas should suit her, the trip should suit her. If the handicap is right though she could come up just short against Dinaria Des Obeaux.
I was disappointed with Asthuria the first day in Thurles. She put that right in Naas the last day. She’s a strong galloping, good jumping, attacking mare and she’ll give a really good account of herself.
I probably would’ve gone with Benie if I had was riding but it’s a hard one to call. Out of the three of Willie’s racing in Naas, you’d have to think he has the best chance.
*Prices correct at time of posting*