Ruby Walsh provides his verdict and expert insight on the key races at this year's Cheltenham Festival, with a couple of fancies in the handicaps among his selections.
1.30pm - Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Personally, I couldn't oppose Facile Vega but having watched him blow out at the Dublin Racing Festival, would you stick your hand in your pocket and wade in? I'm not sure you can.
Willie [Mullins] and the lads that work at Willie's have been happy with him since. I do think Facile Vega is the best horse in the race, and I hope he does bounce back and show his true ability.
For me, though, the Supreme is a watching brief. It looks a deep race.
Road To Cheltenham - LIVE from Cheltenham: Lydia Hislop, Ruby Walsh and Nick Luck were joined by some brilliant guests, including Willie Mullins, David Casey and Patrick Mullins, as they previewed all the action ahead of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.
2.10pm - Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase
This has everything you'd want in a two-mile championship race! You've a head-strong, free-going, front-runner in Dysart Dynamo, and two very exciting novices, El Fabiolo and Jonbon, who are going to sit on his tail.
I think it will be a brilliant race to watch, and I'm sure it would be a thrilling race to ride in! They'll be topping over 30mph over the first four fences - it'll be exciting stuff.
When you get a race of that nature, one of them is going to falter at some stage, and it probably could set up for something coming from off the pace. That could be Saint Roi.
I think El Fabiolo is a really good horse, though, and I think he'll make Jonbon go. He was beaten by Jonbon at Aintree last year, but I think he will get his revenge on Tuesday.
🗣 "I think he'll get his revenge tomorrow."— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 13, 2023
Ruby is firmly in the El Fabiolo camp in tomorrow's Arkle #RoadToCheltenham | #CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/eNNhSkbTqA
3.30pm - Unibet Champion Hurdle
It's Constitution Hill, isn't it? I definitely left Cheltenham last year thinking I would have to see him produce a performance like that again before I believe it, but as the winter progressed, having been on the fence, I'm now fully converted to the Constitution Hill camp. He's a spectacular racehorse.
State Man has improved all year. Even his homework since Leopardstown looks to have improved again, but the level Constitution Hill sets looks so high. I just don't see how State Man beats him and the beauty of Constitution Hill is how straightforward he is as well.
4.10pm - Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle
I think Honeysuckle and Epatante are in the right race here and there are brilliant additions to the Mares' Hurdle. The fairytale result, and the result that we all want, is Honeysuckle, but in sport that doesn't always seem to play out.
I think a couple of the younger mares are on the up, and some of older mares are on the way down. I always think you should be with the improver.
Brandy Love, Echoes In Rain and Love Envoi are the improvers and I wouldn't be surprised if they've maybe improved passed the level those mares on top set.
5.30pm - WellChild National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Novices' Chase
I think Gailliard Du Mesnil is definitely the one to beat. If Willie [Mullins] has drawn a blank by this stage, he'll get out in the lucky last!
1.30pm - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
We're big fans of Impaire Et Passe at Closutton. He's done absolutely nothing wrong and he dropped back to two miles to win the Moscow Flyer.
I was impressed he had the speed to win at Punchestown, and a turn of foot is key to winning a Ballymore. Good Land is a huge contender, too.
I think this will be a cracking race, but I would most certainly be with Impaire Et Passe.
2.10pm - Brown Advisory Novices' Chase
I think it's a three-horse race between Gerri Colombe, The Real Whacker and Sir Gerhard. I would be in the Gerri Colombe camp. He's not impressive, but he doesn't lose. He only wins by as much as he has to, whatever the grade is.
By only doing enough, he's not exerting himself. I was impressed with him at Sandown. It's easy to say Sir Gerhard was the best novice hurdler, but he's only had the one run over fences, and that would have to be a concern.
The Real Whacker sets a fair standard and trainer Patrick Neville is having a great time of things, but I'm in the Gerri Colombe camp and I think he will be hard to beat.
3.30pm - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
I thought it would be Energumene's race coming into this season, but I was really impressed with Edwardstone in the Tingle Creek and I think he's better now as a nine-year-old than he was this time last year as an eight-year-old.
Edwardstone ran an absolute belter in the Clarence House and I think Tom Cannon rode Edwardstone exactly like the way I would have ridden him. I would have followed Energumene, but Energumene didn't run his race there and I was disappointed with that run.
I thought Edwardstone did incredibly well to make up the ground [in the Clarence House] and moving back to the Old Course, I think he'll be very hard to beat.
4.10pm - Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase)
I'm going to be really brave and say Gordon Elliott will win the Cross Country race!
5.30pm - Weatherbys Champion Bumper
🗣 "Willie was keen for me to ride him."— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 13, 2023
Patrick Mullins confirms he will ride Fact Or File in Wednesday's @weatherbysltd Champion Bumper#CheltenhamFestival | #RoadToCheltenham pic.twitter.com/mb2QGxliJ5
A Dream To Share is a very fast horse and would be a dream winner for his connections. I think A Dream To Share and Fact To File have the strongest form but at Cheltenham, on a stiffer track, I think Fact To File, at the prices, is a great each-way bet.
1.30pm - Turners Novices' Chase
The worry for Appreciate It is his age, and if he can improve, whereas there is no doubt Mighty Potter has progressed with every run this season, and could still be improving. He looks a top-class novice chaser and the trip looks ideal for him.
A bit like the Supreme, it's not a race I have a really strong opinion on. I'd be afraid to go against Appreciate It, but I have huge respect for Mighty Potter. Banbridge is a live contender, too.
2.50pm - Ryanair Chase
I think it's Shishkin's race to lose. I thought he was magical to watch at Ascot and I think going up in distance has been the making of him. I fully expect he'll dominate again like he did at Ascot.
3.30pm - Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle
There have been concerns surrounding Blazing Khal over the past couple of days, so that would have to be an issue.
If we get rain (which we have so far!) then Teahupoo will take a lot of beating, but he's definitely a better horse on soft ground.
If we don't get as much rain as expected, then I think Home By the Lee will be the one to benefit from that. I've been impressed with him this year and I thought he was dominant when winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. He's a big player here. He's an improving horse who is going the right way and I think Joseph O'Brien could have a good Cheltenham.
If it rains, I'll be with Teahupoo, if it doesn't then I'll be with Home By The Lee, but it's a deep race.
4.50pm - Jack De Bromhead Mares' Novices' Hurdle
Luccia looks rock solid and mares can carry a penalty and win this race. Limini and Laurina did. For value, though, I'd be looking at Lot Of Joy. She found the trip too far at Leopardstown over Christmas and she was too keen, but she dropped back to two miles at Fairyhouse and she won. I thought she ran an incredible race in last year's Irish Cesarewitch and I think she'll run a big race here at an each-way price.
_5.30pm - Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Chase _
I'm going to stick my neck out here in a handicap as I thought Stumptown absolutely bolted up at Sandown under Johnny Burke last time out.
Listening to my Racing TV colleague, Gary O'Brien, he believes that Irish horses who have run and competed off their mark in the UK are the ones to be following. Stumptown is that.
1.30pm - JCB Triumph Hurdle
🗣 "I can reveal... he hasn't made his mind up."— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 13, 2023
Ever the tease, Ruby discusses Friday's Triumph Hurdle in which @WillieMullinsNH saddles Blood Destiny, Lossiemouth & Gala Marceau#RoadToCheltenham pic.twitter.com/q9q6fVrGEB
Willie will win the Triumph! But with which one? To me, it's impossible to know which of Willie's runners is best.
If you watched the Dublin Racing Festival, I think it was simple to form the opinion that Lossiemouth would have beaten Gala Marceau [with a clear run] but how do you figure out how good Blood Destiny is on what he has done on the track?
Paul Townend has ridden both Lossiemouth and Blood Destiny but I doubt he even knows. Whichever Paul rides will become favourite, and the other will drift.
I think they should be the same price because we don't know how good they are. We think they are both very good horses, so I would take a chance on whichever represents better value. It's going to be a cracking race.
__2.10pm - McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle
I think a smaller yard will get a day in the sun in the County. Colonel Mustard's run in last year's County Hurdle off a rating of 140, where he ran into First Street and State Man, is what you call "being unlucky" in a handicap.
He's only up 3lb and I though he ran a blinder in the Morebattle last time out. That was his first run since December and there's every reason that could bring him forward. If it does, I think he's a massive runner for Lorna Fowler.
2.50pm Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
It will only be a 19-day turnaround for Corbetts Cross from his win at Naas, but I do think a three-miler running over just shy of two miles in that timeframe is probably just like a pipe-opener for him.
I think Corbetts Cross is a very good horse and I will be siding with him if the ground comes up right for him.
3.30pm - Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup
🗣 "We have no doubt about his stamina. I love this horse."— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 13, 2023
Ruby on Friday's Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup & warm favourite Galopin Des Champs
Who do you fancy in the Gold Cup?#RoadToCheltenham pic.twitter.com/cROjjagYzf
I think this is a brilliant Gold Cup.
I thought A Plus Tard was an incredibly good winner last year, but he has achieved nothing this year and you have to forgive a lot for his run in the Betfair Chase. The noises from his yard have been positive and on this year's form, he is a hard horse to fancy.
I didn't have Bravemansgame down as a Gold Cup horse until I saw him win the King George. Paul Nicholls has made a very strong case for him, too.
Since Galopin Des Champs fell at last year's Festival, he has been foot-perfect. He looks like he'd gallop straight out of Cheltenham Racecourse into the middle of Cheltenham town - you might even find him in Gloucester! He'd look to gallop that long.
His prep has gone well and he looks a million dollars. I hope he wins. I know I tipped Noble Yeats at 66-1 much earlier in the season on Road To Cheltenham, and that was a great each-way price, but I think he is one of a couple who will be staying on into shot to possibly be placed.
I don't think him, or Stattler, will win the Gold Cup. I just think there's three very class horses - A Plus Tard, Bravemansgame and Galopin De Champs - ahead of them in the market. One of the three of those are going to put their best foot forward, and I think that will be Galopin Des Champs.
4.50pm - Mrs Paddy Power Mares' Chase
This depends on how straight Allegorie De Vassy jumps! I hope she jumps straight, but I can't guarantee to anybody that she will. Her schooling has been good and she's even been jumping white fences.
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