MY BOOK OF RIDES ON A TOP-CLASS WEEKEND AT CHELTENHAM
It is an exciting weekend ahead at Cheltenham. There is some top-class racing, and it’s great to be going into the weekend with some nice rides.
I ride APPLE’S SHAKIRA (12.40) in the opening juvenile hurdle on Saturday, and I am looking forward to that. I am looking forward to riding her in a race.
While her work has not been amazing, it has been good, and her schooling has been very good. She is a full-sister to Apple’s Jade, and she won a three-year-old hurdle in France last May.
Gumball is the one we all have to beat, he has been impressive in winning his two hurdle races in England to date, and you can understand why he is at the top of the betting for the Triumph Hurdle at this very early stage of the season. I won this race on Defi Du Seuil last year, who is, like Gumball, trained by Philip Hobbs, so it can be a good pointer to the future.
I ride MINELLA ROCCO (1.50) in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase. He ran well in this race last year on his seasonal debut to finish third behind Viconte De Noyer and Warrantor.
He is 11lb higher now, but he has obviously improved since then, he finished second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
He has had a run this season, he ran okay behind Road To Respect at Punchestown last month. He is going to have to come on for that, but he should. He had Outlander behind him that day, and Outlander came out next time and won the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal, beating Road To Respect.
Minella Rocco is still a relatively young horse, he is only seven, and because he is rated so highly, a few of his rivals will be racing from out of the handicap. He goes well at Cheltenham and, even with his big weight, I am hoping that he has a chance.
I rideLE PREZIEN (2.25) in the feature race, the BetVictor Gold Cup, and he should run well too.
He ran well the last day against Foxtail Hill at the Showcase Meeting in October. We just couldn’t get past him. The winner was gutsy, I’d say if we had run for another 200 yards up the hill, we still wouldn’t have got past him.
We went down by a neck in the end, and there shouldn’t be much between us again. The handicapper raised us by 6lb and he raised him by 7lb, so we are 1lb better off for a neck. That looks about right.
I would have thought that Saturday’s trip of two and a half miles would suit Le Prezien better than the two miles of October’s race, but I was surprised at how well he travelled for me over two miles that day. I am not certain that two and a half miles will bring about improvement. He is only six though, and he could improve on his seasonal debut.
It is a competitive handicap, but Kylemore Lough has been favourite for it for a while, and he probably deserves to be favourite, despite the fact that he now has top weight. He is a good horse. I won the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup on him at Fairyhouse in 2016 when he was with Kerry Lee, and he did well last year.
It is a deep race. Tully East won the Close Brothers Chase at the Festival, Theinval has a chance, Starchitect has a chance. There are lots with chances.
I ride STAMP YOUR FEET (3.30) in the intermediate handicap hurdle. He ran a good race last time to finish second to Bags Groove at Aintree.
The handicapper raised him 5lb for that, but it was a step up on his seasonal debut at Newton Abbot, so hopefully he can continue to progress. Although Bags Groove had to work hard to win a handicap at Kempton on Monday off an 8lb higher mark, so hopefully the handicapper wasn’t too harsh.
I ride HOLDING PATTERN(4.00) in the mares’ bumper. She ran out an easy winner of a bumper at Thurles in October on her racecourse debut, and she didn’t run badly last time in a good bumper at Down Royal, finishing third behind Felix Desjy and Cask Mate.
She was a little keen early on, but that is understandable on just her second run, and she did well to finish third behind two useful geldings. It will be interesting to see how she gets on now in a mares’ only bumper.
I ride TIGRIS RIVER (3.00) in the feature race on Sunday, the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle. He did very well to win the Galway Hurdle last time, he had plenty to do jumping the last, but he stayed on well up the hill to get up and beat Swamp Fox by a neck.
He has to race off a 10lb higher mark on Sunday, which is a lot, even though the Galway Hurdle is working out well. Swamp Fox ran well in the Cesarewitch, then won the November Handicap at Naas, while Airlie Beach, who was third in the Galway Hurdle, won twice on the flat afterwards, her second win – the final race of her career – in a listed race. And Joey Sasa, who finished fourth, was an easy winner of a three-horse race at Downpatrick since.
I’m just concerned that a 10lb hike is a lot for Tigris River. He will have to progress again if he is going to win a handicap that is as competitive as this one is off a mark of 150.
There are plenty of unexposed horses in there, not least of all Jenkins. I rode him when he won at Newbury in November. His jumping wasn’t perfect, but he still ran out a good winner from Bags Groove, Captain Forez and Pingshou in a race that rode like a good race. Those three all enhanced the form of that race afterwards also, and Jenkins could be a well handicapped horse on a mark of 137.
I rideDAME DE COMPAGNIE (3.30) in the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle. She was very impressive at Uttoxeter last time on her British debut in a mares’ maiden hurdle. She is going to have to improve again from that, but she couldn’t really have been any more impressive than she was.
That was her first run in over a year, so there is every chance that she will improve for it.
Slate House looks like the main danger. He won his point-to-point by 10 lengths, and he stayed on strongly to win a maiden hurdle at Cheltenham last month. We get the 7lb mares’ allowance though, and that should be a help.
I ride VOCARIUM (4.00) in the bumper. He won a bumper at Punchestown in April on his racecourse debut and, while he was well beaten by Los Alamos next time back at Punchestown in May, Los Alamos is potentially a good horse, and Vocarium finished well clear of the rest of the field.
He improved on that then last time in finishing a close second to Ainsi Va La Vie at Galway in August. He hasn’t run since, but he should be fit enough to do himself justice.