Ballycasey is in good form and schooled well during the week. The main issue is whether he gets the trip or not. However, cross-country racing is run at a different pace to a traditional chase and because they’re on the twist and turn a lot, the slower temp might help him see out the 3m trip.
I ride Makitorix who has been very disappointing and as I keep saying, doesn’t bring his homework to the track. He works well and gives you every indication that he could be well handicapped.
But he’s yet to deliver and is a hard horse to figure out.
Eoiline Jolie finished fourth when favourite on her last start at Ballinrobe in May, but this is her first run since then. She looks to have matured a bit over the summer and is in good form.
Both Orion d’Aubrelle and Some Neck would have a little bit to do to get to Blow by Blow’s standards. They both have the experience over Gordon Elliott’s runner but neither seem to be as classy as him.
I’m reunited with Faugheen who seems in great form and won this race last year but then things started to go a bit wrong. He lost his way a bit, but did finish sixth in the Champion Hurdle, before putting in an unbelievable performance at the Punchestown Festival. However, that was over three miles.
Sharjah ran as he always has against Samcro at Down Royal and for me, Gordon Elliott’s runner holds all the aces here despite his defeat by Bedrock.
You’d imagine Samcro will have improved a good bit from Down Royal and he’s entitled to be improving experience wise as well.
I wouldn’t call it a must-win race, but I’m sure connections would love to see him get his head in front over hurdles at the second time of asking.
We haven’t seen Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae this term yet, but he proved very versatile last season.
My sister Katie rode Relegate to win the Cheltenham Champion bumper last season but I’ll take over now as he starts off his hurdling career. He always looked to be crying out for a trip and starts here over 2m 6f.
We’ve always thought the world of Mt Leinster and he didn’t disappoint when a 22-length winner at Ballinrobe in September. Hopefully he can follow up again here under Patrick Mullins.
Claimantakingforgan was a fair novice last season. However, Defi Du Seuil was a brilliant hurdler in the 2017 season, winning a Triumph Hurdle and following up at Aintree. He stepped into open company last season when Philip Hobbs’ horses were nowhere near the form they are in now – and he struggled a bit. It will be interesting to see how he gets on over fences, in what is the only novice chase over 2m at Cheltenham, between now and the Arkle Chase at the Festival.
Sceau Royal is a worthy favourite for me. For all the talk about Brain Power, he rarely delivers. He’s Altior’s work companion and his homework is always described as spectacular, but he’d have you in the poor house if you were following him.He look to me like he needs a longer trip than this two-mile test.
A tough handicap but Storm Rising sluiced up at Cheltenham a month ago from Magic Dancer, before winning again at Wetherby. He was a Galway Festival winner over 2m when trained by Denis Hogan here and has improved again under Dr Richard Newland. He could be a bit of value in the market.