The opening race of the Festival was a very lucky race for me. I even managed to win it on Klassical Dream at my final Cheltenham last season.
Of the five other times I rode the winner before that, Douvan was probably the classiest horse to victory but the others (Noland, Al Ferof, Vautour, Champagne Fever and Klassical Dream) all had one thing in common – they were stayers.
And that’s what Asterion Forlonge does well.
The mares race on the same day comes after the Champion Hurdle and the former winner Benie Des Dieux looks rock solid, particularly if she lines up for this contest again.
She has other options and Willie Mullins will make his decision closer the time, but it looks likely that the Cheltenham Festival will start on soft ground, and she loves those conditions.
She also stays further than 2m 4f trip of this race, so there’s no issues there.
Benie Des Dieux won the mares hurdle in 2018 beating Midnight Tour and Apples Jade and was all set for a repeat last year, until tipping up at the last with the race at her mercy.
It’ll be a great match if she and Honeysuckle go toe-to-toe in a couple of weeks’ time. She’s just a very good mare and I believe she has achieved a bit more in her career than Honeysuckle has so far.
Wednesday’s Champion Chase will be one of the races of the week and the French import looks to have a great chance in it. Now to be honest, I wouldn’t be giving up the ride on Defi Du Seuil or Altior too easily if I had the choice – but if I was still riding for Willie, I wouldn’t.
All I know is that if I was still a jockey – I’d be looking forward to getting on board Chacun Pour Soi in what could be one of the races of the Festival. As a jockey you want to be in the top races, competing with the best.
The line-up for this race looks one of the most competitive in recent years and Chacun Pour Soi will be one of the big players in it.
Even though the race is open to professionals, I don’t think I could have dislodged Patrick Mullins off him in the Champion Bumper that closes Wednesday’s card.
A lot of bumper horses don’t take to Cheltenham too easily, but I think Appreciate It will take it all in his stride.
The manner of his last two victories at Leopardstown were impressive – particularly last time at the Dublin Racing Festival.
If he’s in that sort of form, he’ll go very close.
The reigning Gold Cup champion has had an identical prep to last year’s campaign. We know he’ll handle the track, trip and the likely ground conditions again and looks to have improved again this season so far.
History may be against him and Paul Townend retaining the Blue Riband as Henrietta Knight’s Best Mate was the last horse to do so, 17 years ago in 2003.
But Al Boum Photo knows nothing about history.
If he runs to the same level as last year – he’ll be hard to beat.
*Prices and entries are correct at time of publication but are subject to change. All prices quoted are part of Paddy Power’s non runner money back offer.