Friday at Cheltenham always has a great buzz about the place. Everyone’s excited about being back at the Mecca of jumps racing. I rode my first winner there on a horse called Country Lad and, at the time, I thought I was the man. There is nowhere quite like Cheltenham.
The opening race of the two day meeting features a few horses with lots of firsts beside their names and it is a case of identifying the ones that are going to cope with the ground and the track.
Havana Beat fell at Haydock when last seen over jumps but prior to that had won a really competitive handicap hurdle at Aintree on slow ground.
Canardier ran in a nice hurdle at Down Royal last time, and the form got a decent boost when the winner that day, Woodland Opera, won again recently at Gowran Park, so that one gets the nod with Barry Geraghty in the saddle.
Diakali was a very good horse for Willie Mullins, has taken really well to chasing and now has a new lease of life. I have been impressed with his jumping too. He may not have it all his own way up in front and that may not suit him.
Storm Home is interesting in here, as his first run over fences was in a point-to-point and he was upsides Getabird when falling at the last. He is highly thought of and must have a chance of running a big race.
Caid du Lin, Dear Sire and One For Billy are all closely matched on running this season, so if pushed I would go for the less exposed one each-way.
The next is an ultra-competitive handicap hurdle and fitness could be an advantage so Brillare Momento has to enter calculations at a track where she has previously run well.
The horse that I really like in here is And The New. Some of this horse’s form is top drawer stuff, having mixed it with Fayonagh in the festival bumper and behind Lalor at Aintree. Good horses travel easily in better class races and this fella will not lack in that department, so he gets the nod.
Lil Rockefeller brings the best hurdle form to this race but that doesn’t guarantee you anything in a novice chase. He jumped adequately at Uttoxeter but that was never going to play to his strengths. The faster they go the better for this lad – when the others start to struggle he should be finding his stride.
There is no substitute for experience over fences and it was a great idea to get that win under his belt before tackling the fences at Cheltenham.
If you don’t fancy the the Rockerfeller, Shannon Bridge is the one that could cause an upset, as it was narrowly denied in a graded race at Donny.
The next is a maiden hurdle and the list of previous winners is impressive, with Court Minstrel and Thomas Campbell just two impressive winners from the field.
Sebastopol won a nice bumper at Ayr and will be fancied here, but I am drawn to Seven De Brune trained by Ian Williams. Very impressive at Uttoxeter, the trainer is flying and the owner loves a winner at Cheltenham.
The next is for amateur riders and where else do we start only with Jamie Codd? He is the best by a mile in here, riding Presenting Julio, and that makes a huge difference.
Mucker Roe is another that catches the eye. However Presenting Julio is the one.
There has been a lot of talk about wind ops, and Magic Dancer has just had one.
This horse is two-for-two at the track and with a very good claimer on board gets the nod. Gordon Elliot is to be feared in these races and his Silver Star must be respected.