The tapes are finally up for the Cheltenham Festival and the pressure is on the English trainers, or rather Nicky Henderson, to make a mark in the Grade One events.
Jonbon, Constitution Hill and the two fantastic mares Epatante and Marie’s Rock have to win to give the home team a hope of washing its face over the meeting.
I believe they will all go very close and will be cheering them on, but I have gone elsewhere for my bets on Tuesday.
Good Luck to all and let’s enjoy a fantastic week.
2.50 Cheltenham: Corach Rambler and Into Overdrive
This is the tightest handicap chase I can remember looking at this season and I’m going to split my stakes on this pair. I will be very disappointed if both don’t give me a run for my money.
I can’t remember Mark Walford having a horse go off favourite at the Cheltenham Festival but Into Overdrive is certainly worthy of his position at the head of the market and he will certainly get a few mentions during the race given his prominent running style.
He has been on a roll since the spring, winning five handicaps. To judge by the way he won the Rowland Meyrick last time he doesn’t look as though he has stopped improving just yet. He hasn’t run since that Boxing Day win, where he showed guts and determination as well as jumping ability, but I expect he has been put by for this and a spring Festival campaign.
He has won after a longer break than he is coming back from and the yard has remained in form. Into Overdrive has won on soft ground, so conditions will be fine.
Corach Rambler won this last year and has been saved for this after a decent effort in the Coral Cup at Newbury. It was quite a remarkable effort to be fifth there, as he was so far back at one point that he seemed likely to be pulled up.
The ground was unusually quick for Newbury in November and he was outpaced for the first two miles of that race and only got going turning into the home straight. It will be much softer here and the finish at Cheltenham clearly suits him very well.
His performance 12 months ago was remarkable as he drifted to 47/1 in-running market, but he really does have a devastating finish in him. If he can hold his place early this time it is hard to imagine any of his rivals finishing better than him and being 6lb higher in the weights is certainly no issue.
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4.50 Cheltenham: Bad
I don’t know when this horse arrived at Ben Pauling’s yard from France but I do think it is very significant that he chooses to run this horse in this race for his stable debut.
Bad won hard held under claiming rider last time and clearly both gets the trip and acts on very soft ground. I cannot pretend that this is much more than an educated guess in an impossible handicap but my view is that Pauling has decided a mark of 126 is generous and if he had run Bad in a juvenile hurdle, under a penalty, he would have shown how much better he was. By coming straight here, his mark has been protected.
Rachael Blackmore is a massively eye-catching booking. I expect a very good run and a market move for Bad would cement my view.
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5.30 Cheltenham: Gaillard Du Mesnil
Looks the best of the day’s “bankers” and even though he will undoubtedly be a short favourite it is my view he should be much shorter still.
The days of a massive field of unproven horses and jockeys setting off in this race are over and it has become a high-class affair these days (last year’s winner is third favourite for the Gold Cup) and Gaillard Du Mesnil is absolutely a Grade One performer.
He won a Grade One Novices Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas and has run very well in two other similar Grade One chases over inadequate trips. The last time he raced over this trip he was an excellent second in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse and he looks a good thing here.
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