The machine is back – and he’s in full working order on day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival. Yes, the big one today is the Stayers’ Hurdle over 3m at 3.30pm, and I have long felt Faugheen is one of the great hurdlers of his generation.
He’s had issues in recent times, but let’s not forget one thing. Just in April of last year he destroyed the 2018 Stayers’ hero Penhill at Punchestown. And he might well have beaten Apple’s Jade at Leopardstown last time but for taking a nasty fall.
Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins is still a believer, Ruby Walsh still keeps the faith, and owner Rich Ricci continues, like me, to love FAUGHEEN. I so want him to win.
We start with the JLT Novices’ Chase over 2m4f at 1.30pm, and with the rain I now think LOSTINTRANSLATION will take all the beating. He was good at Sandown for Colin Tizzard and it’s his stamina that attracts me to him today. Connections have talked about him as a Gold Cup horse of the future.
Next is the Pertemps Final over nearly 3m at 2.10pm, and as always this handicap hurdle is a minefield. Sire du Berlais was a real eye-catcher last time, but I think the more exposed THERMISTOCLES will be hard to keep out the frame for Joseph O’Brien. My hope was three places in front of Sire du Berlais at Leopardstown and his consistency might mean he’s exposed here.
However, he’s in form and improving.
The Ryanair over 2m4f at 2.50pm does now feature Monalee, as I exclusively revealed on Tuesday on ITV. He was being thought of for the Gold Cup. Rain has not helped him. Ruby Walsh has picked Footpad, but I think that is a mistake. I’m taking UN DE SCEAUX to roll back the years and Ireland’s probable champion jockey Paul Townend.
Un de Sceaux, like Faugheen, at the age of 11 is not getting any younger. But he loves the mud and proved against Altior at Sandown earlier this term that the engine is still mostly there.
A great each-way chance.
The Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase over an extended 2m4f at 4.10pm is tricky, and I’m hoping in-form SIRUH DU LAC can get a four-timer up for Nick Williams. I fancied him when he scored at Cheltenham last time, and while he’s up another 7lb he loves the mud and jumps for fun. Big ride for Lizzie Kelly.
I’ve no strong opinion about the mares’ novices’ hurdle over an extended 2m at 4.50pm, although Megan Nicholls is all over Posh Trish. Most think EPATANTE will take some stopping for Nicky Henderson after easy wins at Kempton and Exeter.
This is a big step up but she’s from a top yard and chosen by Barry Geraghty from two JP McManus hopes.
The card ends with the Kim Muir Chase over an extended 3m 2f at 5.30pm, in which I expect the top-weight Livelovelaugh to run well.
However, I’ll be cheering on OUT SAM, who has always promised to win a big one and will love the conditions. Gordon Elliott’s hope was a fair fourth in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran last time and might be returning to form at the right time.
Once again best of luck. And pray for Yeeehaaas. You hear me Paddy?