It’s called Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham but I think it was just Mister Whitaker who won on the card last year before winning at the Festival.
I don’t know whether it will be the same again this year, but the main one I could see winning on Saturday and going on to win in March, would be Paisley Park in the 3m Cleeve Hurdle at 3.35pm.
Birchdale will be interesting in the Grade 2 Novices hurdle 3pm and has a big reputation for Nicky Henderson. A lot of Irish trainers will be interested to see how he and Olly Murphy’s Brewinupastorm get on in that contest.
In the Grade 2 Cotswolds Chase at 2.25pm another Henderson runner Valtor scooted up at Ascot at a big price and we’ll be looking to see if he can back that up in better company. Interestingly, Daryll Jacob has gone for stablemate Terrefort, in the same ownership.
I’ll be at Fairyhouse though where I’ve a couple of rides…
I start off with Allblak Des Places in the opener who was a fair horse in his day, but hasn’t run for a long while now and will probably improve for the run.
Real Steel who Paul Townend rides would definitely be the fitter of Willie Mullins’ two and was running a big race at Leopardstown before tipping up at the last in the Novice Chase that Paloma Blue won.
Real Steel has schooled well since and looks the stronger of our two, but Gordon Elliott’s Glenloe ran ok at Plumpton behind the now injured Master Dino. Dropping back to a novice chase might suit him best.
There’s a lot of prestige to this race with Laurina winning it last year, Shattered Love the year before that and Limini was successful in 2016.
I ride Robin De Carlow who drops down to 2m 2f and that trip will be sharp enough for her. Henry De Bromhead’s Honeysuckle looks the one to beat.
I’m on Westport Lady in the 2m maiden hurdle who was second at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day when Paul Townend rode her.
He switches to Fenta Des Obeaux who was fourth at Punchestown to Carlo Biraghi last month.
The slower ground might suit Westport Lady but Fenta Des Obeaux gets a lot of weight off her rivals.
If she’s improved from that run at Punchestown she could go close.
Stones and Roses ran okay at Tramore over hurdles but the softer ground mightn’t suit him. He looks to me like a horse who could pick up a few races through the summer when the races aren’t as competitive.
Miss Shoe City is experienced and had three quick runs in December, but again could need summer racing to come into her own.
Eight and Bob is a frustrating horse and has been second in four of his last five starts – but did win at Wexford in October.
He’s consistent but pays for that in the handicap by getting raised without winning.
I’d love to see him win more and get the reward for his consistency. He steps up to 3m and hopefully that will bring a little more improvement out of him. Liam Gilligan takes 4lbs off his back on Saturday.