It’s Cheltenham week and like everyone else I’m really excited. I’ve got a great set of rides throughout the week with plenty of top-quality horses. It’s going to be different with no crowds but we still have a spectacular week of racing to look forward to.
I’m really pleased with how the horses at the Nicholls yard have all prepared for this week. I went to the yard early last week and gave them all a good school. Paul Nicholls is delighted with them in terms of their well being and their fitness. They’re all jumping great, looking fantastic, all very fit and they’re ready to run.
The people that look after the horses from grooming them to riding them out love their horses, they’re almost like their children the way they care after them. For the stable staff, having their horse running at the Festival is a huge deal, they just want the horse to run well and come back safe and sound.
Let’s take a peak at Day One of the Festival. Below is the latest on my rides tomorrow, and also my thoughts on the Champion Hurdle. I’ll be doing a blog every day of the Festival throughout the week so keep your eyes peeled for the other upcoming blogs.
1:15pm: Eldorado Allen in the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase
It’s such a competitive race, and he’s a bit of an outsider but there’s only five other runners to contend with. Shishkin and Allmankind will certainly be hard to beat but I’m hoping my boy Eldorado Allen could be placed.
4:15pm: Houx Gris in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
I’m really looking forward to Houx Gris. He’s improved a huge amount since coming over from France. In a lot of these races the result can be decided by who is the best handicapped. And we certainly think Houx Gris!
I think he’s my best chance of a winner at the Festival this year and it’d be brilliant to get it early on and relieve some pressure.
4:40pm: Next Destination in the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase
Being a nine year old, Next Destination comes in with a bit more race experience than most of the field. He’s racing over a further distance than he has all season, but I think he’ll handle the three miles, five furlongs.
He’s an excellent stayer and he’s going into the race in great form having won his last two starts, the Grade 2 Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick and the John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury. We were deciding between this race and the RSA but we thought he could run very well here.
I don’t have a ride in the race but it’s a hugely exciting Champion Hurdle this year and like many of you at home I’ll be watching with great anticipation seeing these great horses battle it out.
It looks a closely run contest between the two top mares. Honeysuckle will probably bounce out and go a good gallop, and Epatante will be following her everywhere she goes.
There was 10mm of rain last night so that’s probably helped Honeysuckle who prefers the softer ground. However, Epatante knows how to go round Cheltenham, she has, after all, won the race before.
If I was to pick one I’d probably ride Epatante, she was so impressive in the race last year and she looks a very classy mare.