The week before Cheltenham is a lot like any other week for me. There’s no difference really. It might be different during Cheltenham week but the week before is the week before.
I don’t have as many favourites to ride as I’ve had in the past. The more favourites you have to ride, the more chance you have of riding winners. We’ve plenty of chances but not as many strong ones as in the past.
Laurina’s potential is unknown
Of them, it’s hard to say how good Laurina is. If I knew, it would remove some of the uncertainty, but if you knew, you might also know her limitations, so it’s a catch-22.
She gives you a great feel and couldn’t have done any more than she has in her two runs this year, but there’ll be a lot more required of her in the Champions Hurdle against Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade.
They’re both big dangers.
I can’t have people knocking Buveur D’Air’s Champion Hurdle wins – you can get lucky once, you can’t get lucky twice. He’s a dual champion hurdler, and that’s a fair achievement.
I only rode one dual Champion Hurdle winner, Hurricane Fly.
Apple’s Jade has been very good this year, she was brilliant in Fairyhouse, Christmas was a different race, and she was good at Leopardstown the last day as well. You can pick holes in both their form. Buveur D’Air will need better than the Christmas hurdle run, Apple’s Jade last spring, she’ll need to be better than that.
But then, if you’re in the Martinstown or Gigginstown camp, you’ll say that what Laurina’s done, she’ll have to be better than that too.
She’ll have to achieve a lot to be better than Annie Power. The potential is there. That has to be developed into reality.
Bellshill going in the right direction for Gold Cup challenge
Bellshill was great in the Irish Gold Cup. It’s always great when you get up to win by such a tight margin. He improved a lot from Christmas, and Road to Respect probably got a clearer run around at the Dublin Racing Festival than he did at Christmas.
It was a good race, and an important one for the festival when so many horses didn’t run. the feature race needed to produce a finish like that to entertain the people that were there.
It was a good run and he’s going in the right direction.
Al Boum Photo still has untapped potential. His running in Tramore, based on the figures, is an exceptional performance, but different day, different track. Three-and-a-quarter miles should bring about an improvement in him, but he has a bit of ground to fine on Presenting Percy.
Invitation Only still has the most to improve. He was good in the Thyestes but Rathvinden beat Alpha Des Obeaux subsequently as well. That was a good performance, but stepping up to three-miles brought about improvement in Invitation Only, maybe going to three-and-a-quarter would bring out more.
Kemboy’s been improving since he came back from Cheltenham last year. He fell at the first in the Irish National but he put in a great performance at Punchestown as Top-weight, he was in Limerick in the middle, he was good at Clonmel and he was very good at Christmas. He got a great ride at Christmas too though.
Benie Des Dieux’s lack of action
It never bothers me if horses haven’t run. We hadn’t seen Quevega either. Benie Des Dieux is in great form, and I think the fact her last two runs have been over hurdles will be a help to her.
Last Year she went to Cheltenham from jumping fences and jumped a bit like that during the race. But with those two runs under her belt, that transition should be easier.
Weather this week will decide a lot
Min would have a bigger reputation if Altior wasn’t around.
He’d be a Supreme and a Champion Chase winner without Altior, but unfortunately, Altior is running, so he’s not.
He’s been good this year, he was good in Punchestown over two-and-a-half, he did exactly what he had to do last month. He looks to be in great form at home but there’ll be a fairly big discussion to be had whether he or Footpad goes two-miles or two-and-a-half.
He was spectacular last year in a very strongly run Arkle. As a hurdler he improved when he went a bit further. Fences seem to bring more speed back into him. The way he jumps, it’s easy for very good jumping horses to look superior to the opposition, but when you step up a level, they all tend to be as good jumpers, so that aspect isn’t as big an advantage for Footpad as it was as a novice.
For a lot of the race in Leopardstown, it looked like he’d win. He got tired and Simply Ned wore him down. If you go up in trip, it’s a long time since he’s raced further than two miles, so that’ll be a long debate that’ll have to be had.
I’d say the decision on the Novice hurdles will be ground dependent as well, depending on what happens in the next week and what way the track is going to be.
It’s hard one to call. There’s so much rain forecast, but it actually has to fall for it to matter. It puts Simon Claisse in an awkward position as well with so much rain forecast – how much water does he put on, does he not put any on – it’s a tricky position he’s in as well, and I’d imagine that would determine where those horses go.