Festival will soon be upon us so here is our in-depth preview of
the five championship races that take place around Prestbury Park
from Tuesday 13 March to Friday 16 March 2018.
winner Buveur D’Air is likely to start a very strong
favourite to retain his crown after 2015 victor Faugheen was
over in the Irish Champion Hurdle by Supasundae when sent off
odds-on. While that was a superb piece of race placing by Jessica
Harrington to plunder a big prize at Leopardstown’s inaugural
Dublin Racing Festival, the Willie Mullins trained brigade have
disappointed somewhat at the top of the 2m division this season.
Faugheen in flattering to deceive is Melon, who was second in
the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and third in the International Hurdle
at Cheltenham last year when fancied on both occasions. Yorkhill,
meanwhile, has flopped over fences and is now pitched into open
company this season and could be sent back hurdling here.
is already the most successful trainer in Champion Hurdle history
with six wins courtesy of four different horses. A repeat of last
year’s one-two with My Tent Or Yours chasing Buveur D’Air
home cannot be ruled out. The veteran is a three-time race runner-up
and took this season’s renewal of the International Hurdle back in
McManus owned horse Defi Du Seuil is yet to build on his
dominant juvenile campaign, yet the 2017 Triumph Hurdle winner
remains open to improvement for trainer Philip Hobbs. Irish raider
Mick Jazz, who capitalised when Faugheen was pulled up over
Christmas to land a Grade 1 for Gordon Elliott, may take his chance.
Mother Champion Chase
is unbeaten in six starts over fences and three career outings at
Cheltenham but this other Henderson stable star hasn’t raced
yet this season after needing
a wind op. That notwithstanding, he remains well-fancied and his
trainer could send him to Newbury for a prep run before the Festival.
Old rival Min
heads the Irish challenge in the division after landing the Dublin
Chase at Leopardstown impressively. That was compensation for trainer
Mullins and owner Rich Ricci after losing a Grade 1 over Christmas in
the stewards’ room.
winner Politologue has made great strides for Paul Nicholls
this season, also landing Exeter’s Haldon Gold Cup and the Desert
Orchid at Kempton either side of that Sandown success. His official
rating has risen considerably since the start of the campaign so
that illustrates the serious upward curve this horse is on.
disappointed when injuring
himself reaching for fences in the Queen Mother and sent off a
red-hot favourite in last year’s renewal. As with Altior and
Mullins stablemate Great Field, we haven’t seen Douvan this
season as a result. It remains to be seen if he will get the chance
Chase runner-up Un De Sceaux has options come the Festival and
put in a breath-taking round of jumping when landing the 2017 Ryanair
Chase. He might step back up to that
intermediate trip, alongside Colin Tizzard’s dual Shloer Chase
victor Fox Norton. He was a narrow second to Special Tiara,
who has it all to do if he’s to retain his crown, in this race at
the Festival last year.
Un De Sceaux
could not have been more impressive when racing wide and keenly to
make most of the running in last year’s renewal. Mullins has
campaigned him over 2m thus far this term, including a
historic third consecutive Clarence House Chase crown, but it’d
be no surprise to see him return to this distance.
Munir and Isaac Souede have the improving Top Notch targeting
this race. Henderson’s charge has Grade 2 wins over the trip and
the form of his 1965 Chase victory at Ascot looks strong.
beat Un De Sceaux over 2m at the Punchestown Festival last year and
it’ll be fascinating to see them re-oppose at that trip or in this.
The Tizzards’ experiment of stepping him up to 3m in the King
George VI Chase didn’t work, but there is no doubting his ability
over shorter. Popular stablemate Cue Card, the Ryanair winner
in 2013, could also go here as his retirement looms.
A number of
other Mullins inmates (including Douvan, Min and Yorkhill) could get
this assignment, but twice Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam
may be best suited by the drop back after struggling over 3m this
House Stud and Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary will send something
after the prize money he’s putting up, but course and distance
winner Road To Respect looks Gold Cup bound. That leaves Galway Plate
winner Balko Des Flos and Disko as possible runners.
Patiently, trained by the late Malcolm Jefferson, won his first
five starts over fences including back-to-back outings in Listed
company this season. That record may be put on the line here. Another
intriguing British contender could be Frodon, who has two
course and distance wins in graded handicaps.
An event that
looks more open than it has been in years if
the betting on Oddschecker is any indicator sees 2017 Coral Cup
victor Supasundae fancied following his shock Irish Champion
Hurdle success. While that was over 2m, Harrington’s charge has
suffered narrow defeats over two Grade 1 outings at the Stayers trip.
Hurdle winner Sam Spinner is a young horse that has made
massive progress to land that highest level prize this season for Jed
O’Keeffe, meanwhile. Past Albert Bartlett winners Penhill,
who we’ve yet to see this campaign, and Unowhatimeanharry
command respect on course form.
lover Wholestone cannot be discounted either, while Nigel
Twiston-Davies stablemate The New One is likely
to step up and tackle the Stayers’. An entry for L’Ami
Serge means Munir and Souede could be double-handed, but success
for Yanworth in the Dipper means JP McManus may keep Alan King’s
Big runs from
Beer Goggles in the Long Distance Hurdle and Lil
Rockerfeller in this 12 months ago can certainly be questioned on
subsequent form. More is needed from Thomas Campbell, who hasn’t kicked on from handicap successes over
course and distance. The Worlds End also needs to improve
after underwhelming in three starts this season but has Grade 1
winning form over 3m as a novice.
of seeing mares take on the boys cannot entirely be ruled out either
with La Bague Au Roi for Warren Greatrex and tough Fergal
O’Brien charge Colin’s Sister, who was third in the Cleeve
Hurdle, among the entries.
With no further
evidence of the quirks that almost
saw him throw last season’s RSA Chase away, King George winner
Might Bite heads the betting because of question marks over a
number of his main rivals. Henderson stablemate Whisper will not be
there to push him all the way due to injury.
difficulty of his John Durkan win on reappearance and heavy ground
serves as a possible explanation for 2017 Gold Cup hero Sizing
John performing well below par in the Leopardstown Christmas
Chase. Handler Harrington is getting him ready for the defence of his
Cheltenham crown at home but at no stage has this campaign felt
like it’s going to plan. It’s the same with stablemate Our
Duke, who hasn’t kicked on from well-backed success in last
year’s Irish Grand National.
misses the Festival again and the ageing Cue Card could go for the
Ryanair, Tizzard relies on last year’s third Native River but
he hasn’t been out since. That means he’s done nothing wrong
though, and using the Denman Chase at Newbury as a Gold Cup prep run
once more is likely.
prominent Irish raiders are targeting this blue riband Festival
event; those may include Total Recall if Mullins doesn’t
Grand National weight allotted to the Ladbrokes Trophy victor.
Djakadam could be tried over 3m 2f again or drop back.
Stablemate Killultagh Vic looks an intended runner, provided
he is no worse for coming to grief at the last when in a narrow lead
during the Irish Gold Cup.
He fits the
unexposed at 3m plus over fences category, alongside the McManus
owned Coney Island. If he can follow up on a winning
reappearance at Ascot, then his under the radar credentials will be
enhanced. Surprise Irish Gold Cup victor Edwulf may take his
chance from the McManus after a disappointing campaign for Minella
have a hand to play too, which likely features Road To Respect
– a Cheltenham Festival winner last year who landed the
Leopardstown Christmas Chase this season. There’s also Down Royal
Champion Chase victor Outlander. Others may also carry the
maroon and white silks.
Mai could not have been more impressive when landing the Betfair
Chase at Haydock in November but the chances of him getting the
heavy ground he acts best on come March are slim. Cotswold Chase
winner Definitly Red also has a lot to do to be competitive in
such elevated company as the centrepiece championship race of the
The final week of this month's tipping competition. A couple of point scorers last week with Longbow getting 8pts for a win and Shukman 3pts for a place. Gazmachine is leading with 22pts, Bird second with 15.2pts, HCE third with 13.75pts, Rawnsley fourth with 12.625pts, Longbow fifth 8pts, Dantheman sixth with 5.25pts and Shukman with 3pts. Still, plenty to play for. A very early start to proceedings to please get your tips in about 11 am Deadline. The racing starts at 11:30 am so we really don't want to be leaving it late. Good luck to all. Tipster selections: 12:00 Lingfield - Leo Minor 2pt w (Dantheman) 6th 12:35 Lingfield - Binky Blue 2pt w (Rawnsley) 8th 12:50 Taunton - Faint Hope 2pt w (Shukman) 5th 12:50 Taunton - Gertie Getaway 2pt w (Bird) PU 1:00 Haydock - For Jim 1pt ew (Racing Mama)6th 1:25 Taunton - All Kings 2pt w (Mixerman) 2nd 1:45 Lingfield - Rakematiz 2pt w (Jodonovan) 2nd 1:50 Newbury - Sir Anthony Brown 2pt w (Mark J)PU 3:00 Newbury - Dans Le Vent 2pt w (Winter) 5th 3:20 Haydock - Air Navigator 2pt w (Gazmachine)1st (3pts) 3:20 Haydock - Imperial Nemesis 2pt w (HCE)3rd 3:20 Haydock - Vintage Glen 2pt w (Longbow)5th 3:30 Lingfield - Zoffany Bay 2pt w (Betmanmike)8th 3:30 Lingfield - Zoffany Bay 2pt w (Eric Winner)8th Good luck to all
Congratulations to Gazmachine who won this month with 25pts from Bird in second with 15,2pts and HCE in third with 13.75pts. Thanks to all who took part.
Week 4 of this month's competition. Not much happening last week. The only points scorer being HCE with 5.75pts. The leaderboard stands Gazmachine 22pts, Bird 15.2pts, HCE 13.75pts, Rawnsley 12.625pts & Dantheman 5.25pts. Still, plenty to play for with this and next week to put some points on the board. An early deadline for the tips, so get them in by 11:30 am. Who will find the winners today? Can you find a Christmas cracker? Only time will tell. Good luck to all. Tipster selections: 1:10 Lingfield - Yogi's Girl 2pt w (Gazmachine)4th 1:10 Lingfield - Tonkilili 2pt w (HCE) 3rd 1:10 Lingfield - Crystal Deauville 2pt w (Longbow) 1st (8pts) 1:45 Lingfield - Battalion 2pt w (Rawnsley) 6th 1:50 Ascot - *Grey Gold 2pt w (Dantheman)5th 1:50 Ascot - Theo's Charm 2ptw (Mixerman)BD 2:20 Lingfield - Sandfrankskipsgo 2pt w (Eric Winner)9th 3:00 Ascot - Frodon 2pt w (Betmanmike)2nd 3:00 Ascot - On Tour 1pt ew (Bird)9th 3:00 Ascot - Frodon 1pt ew (Shukman) 2nd (3pts) 3:35 Ascot - Veinard 2pt w (Jodonovan) 9th 3:35 Ascot - Divin Bere 2pt w (Mark J) Unp 3:35 Ascot - Caid Du Lin 1pt ew (Racing Mama)Unp 3:35 Ascot - Silver Streak 2pt w (Winter)2nd