The famous Cheltenham roar will go up about 1.30pm tomorrow to signal the start of the best four days of jumps racing on the planet.
People always ask me do the jockeys hear the crowd at Cheltenham from their starting position?
I can tell you that the roar when the tapes go up for the opener is like a wave of sound that pulses through them as they gallop towards the first hurdle!
Anyway, you’re here for tips so let’s get cracking …
The opener has a familiar look to it. Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have the favourite Getabird, who is following a similar route to past winners of this, having won the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. There is a worry that he may not be as good going left-handed. He has not been to Cheltenham before either, so there is enough reasons to believe he may not be a sure thing. I really like the chances of Kalashnikov though, who won the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He looks a shoo-in to be in the first three. Summerville Boy, who beat him in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, has to be fancied with the soft ground conditions very much in his favour.
The Festival looks set to kick off on the softest ground I can ever remember and trainer Harry Whittington must have been doing a rain dance for his horse Saint Calvados. He’ll love the conditions and has been impressive in his last two starts. Footpad is the favourite and deservedly so on his performances this season. He is the most accurate jumper of fences and when you look at his form, it really has him ticking all the boxes. Petit Mouchoir finished in front of him in the Champion Hurdle last year and will be ridden more aggressively this time when he was second to Footpad at Leopardstown. I am gambling on a good round of jumping from Petit Mouchoir, but I reckon he can edge it, if he jumps well.
There is plenty of talk about Coo Star Sivola and he was well backed in the Martin Pipe Conditionals Race last year and finished fourth. The ground has come right and he is bang on the short list. The other one that is hard to ignore is Vintage Clouds. He ran a mighty race last year on quicker ground, before coming down two from home in this race and he’s on a competitive mark.
The soft ground is of no concern if you are a backer of Buveur D’air in the day’s feature race. He loves soft ground and is going to be really tough to beat. He has looked really good this season and Nicky Henderson will have him primed for this. Faugheen is the biggest danger. He will handle the ground also and the cheekpieces might spark a return to the form he showed in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last year.
The mares race is Apples Jade to lose. The ground and trip fine are fine for her, and we you know she handles the track. The only nagging concern I have is, the last time she went to the Festival without a prep run in the current year back in 2016 she got beat in the Triumph Hurdle by Ivanovich Gorbatov. However, she then reversed the tables in style at Aintree. I am pretty sure Gordon Elliott will have her wound up for this. Le Bague au Roi is interesting at 13/2 as an each-way bet in here after a super performance at Ascot.
The Gordon Elliott and Lisa O’Neill combination interests me. They won this contest last year team up with Mossback, who made the Thyestes Chase winner Monbeg Notorious pull out all the stops at Navan last time. He stays well and boasts a good win earlier in the season over Snow Falcon. I think No Comment is another to consider here, with a very eye catching jockey booking in Derek O’Connor.
I reckon De Plotting Shed has got in here lightly off his mark of 143, however I can’t help but feel he is best on better ground. I am going to take a punt on Any Second Now for Ted Walsh. This horse has mixed it up with some smart novices this season and it looks like this trip is what he has been craving all season. JP McManus’ other horse, Demi Sang, will run well here too.
* All odds correct at time of posting.