Ruby Walsh’s NAP for each day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

Ruby has done his homework ahead of Cheltenham.

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Tuesday – Concertista (Mares’ Hurdle)

Concertista has a great chance in the Mares’ Hurdle, however, and is the most likely winner but she’s fairly tight at 11/10. I can see why people are latching on to Concertista because she’s Willie Mullins’ but she hasn’t beaten a Roksana or a Dame De Compagnie yet.

I had Dan Skelton on the radio a few weeks back and he hinted that without Benie Des Dieux, Roksana might drop back to the Mares’ Hurdle, and last year’s Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie is also a really solid mare.

Roksana has won this race in the past, she was a very good on her last start at Ascot and Dan wouldn’t rule her out dropping her back if the race cut up. It’s take on Thyme Hill and Parisley Park in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle or drop back and take on Concertista and Dame De Compagnie. If you look at it logically, I know what I’d be doing.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of runners ends up in double digits. Concertista, Roksana and Dame De Compagnie are ahead of the others – but if one was going to break into the top three it’s probably Great White Shark. She disappointed at Gowran Park on her last start but that would have been far too testing. Willie Mullins’ other runners like My Sister Sarah all have to improve.

Cheltenham Festival

Wednesday – Monkfish (Festival Novices’ Chase) and Chacun Pour Soi (Champion Chase)

Monkfish is a very polished chaser already, and he does everything that you would want a horse to do. He’s a good jumper, he travels nicely and his times are favourable compared to the Savills Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas. You have to like what he’s done. He beat Latest Exhibition in the Albert Bartlett last year and then again in the Neville Hotels Chase. Everything Monkfish does, he seems to do right.

If you look back at last year’s Albert Bartlett, the one thing he did wrong was that he raced a bit keenly – he was in Paul Townend’s hands all the way. Again, he did make it all in the Neville Chase and I imagine he will be ridden good and close to the pace, letting him gallop along. Next Destination, Latest Exhibition and maybe even Pencilfulloflead will provide more meaningful opposition to him in this than Envoi Allen is going to have in the Marsh Chase.

He will have to come back to 2m 5f for the Dublin Racing Festival and the Flogas Novice Steeplechase on the Sunday, but he has started working with all the other horses for that weekend so I don’t see why he won’t go there.

You won’t be looking for as much room or as good a sight at the fences in the Champion Chase – unlike the Arkle – because you have a more experienced horse. You will find in the Champion Chase that they ride closer together and it’s slightly more competitive.

It has been a stop-start career for the supremely talented Chacun Pour Soi. He’s a very, very good horse but he just has to go and deliver on the biggest stage at Cheltenham to be considered a great horse. I hope he gets the chance to do it. Chacun Pour Soi’s in great form and he looks the best in the field.

I’ll be amazed if last year’s Arkle winner Put The Kettle On was good enough to win the Champion Chase. If she was mine she’d be running in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Novice Chase. Notebook is banging on the door but hasn’t made the progression.

Thursday – Envoi Allen (Marsh Novices’ Chase)

A relatively new race and the most perfect horse in training – Envoi Allen – is an odds-on shot. I said I wouldn’t be backing Shishkin at odds-on in the Arkle, but I’d have no worries on that score for Envoi Allen who won’t be running again before this contest on March 18. He’s unbeaten so far in his bumper, hurdles and chasing career, so what’s going to beat him now?

The Dan Skelton-trained Shan Blue has made the running the last couple of times, but Envoi Allen may be better getting a lead, so he has options. He looks a stronger play to me than Shishkin at this stage.

Now, there’s no way Willie Mullins will put all his eggs in the Arkle Chase basket so Janadil, Franco De Port, Blackbow or even Asterion Forlong (who fell at the first at Punchestown against Envoi Allen the last day) could line up.

Envoi Allen looks very hard to oppose and is nearly ‘value’ at the price in the non-runner money back market.

Al Boum Photo Paul Townend Gold Cup Cheltenham Festival March 13, 2020

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Friday – Al Boum Photo (Gold Cup)

By going straight from Tramore to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, people don’t see much of Al Boum Photo. Therefore he doesn’t ingrain in their minds like horses they see more of, and they don’t have the same affiliation for him. That being said, if he can go back and win a third Gold Cup then what’s to say that he won’t go back and win a fourth?

He won last year’s race against the run of play – it was a race completely run to not suit him, as well as Santini in second – and I would argue they only finished there because the jockeys on their backs (Paul Townend and Nico de Boinville) realised they had gone too slow for two stayers. They set sail and turned it into a one-mile sprint.

Al Boum Photo won a race that went against him, and looking at the make-up of this year’s race with Frodon and Native River, it could suit him more. He could be hard to beat and he could potentially join illustrious company and become a triple Gold Cup winner. That’s a hell of training performance, and from the horse and the rider. I hope he does it.

I got him beaten in a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse on his first start, and then we won at Thurles after that. Paul then won on him at Fairyhouse but even standing in the yard, Patrick Mullins often says if someone pointed to Al Boum Photo and said “that’s a dual Gold Cup winner” you would be thinking “how?” He’s not that imposing, he doesn’t stand out from the string, he’s just a normal horse and he has terrific stamina. He has a great cruising speed, he’s very sound and his jumping is fine. He has learnt to get himself from A to B but his jumping is not his strongest point. However, he can stay incredibly well and that’s what Gold Cup winners do.

Kemboy is also entered in the Stayers’ Hurdle, and he’s had two disappointing runs in the Gold Cup so I don’t know if Willie Mullins is planning to go there instead. I can’t see Burrows Saint in this, as I think the Grand National is his target, while Melon is running in the same colours as Al Boum Photo and after watching him in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup you would imagine the two would split and he could go to the Ryanair Chase. It could be Al Boum Photo and maybe Kemboy, but not too many more.

Ruby Walsh’s NAP for each day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

TuesdayConcertista (Mares’ Hurdle)
WednesdayMonkfish (Festival Novices’ Chase) and Chacun Pour Soi (Champion Chase)
ThursdayEnvoi Allen (Marsh Novices’ Chase)
FridayAl Boum Photo (Gold Cup)

*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.

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