Weekend Racing Provided Huge Cheltenham Clues

I’ve been on a strong run of form of late. Jessica Harrington’s horses are doing well and I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a few rides for Willie Mullins also.

In-Form Trainers
I started off riding for the late great Paddy Mullins and rode a good few winners him and Tom, Tony, Mags and now Willie. I just have to ride a winner for his nephew Emmett now and that’s the whole clan covered!

Colin Tizzard is flying also. Vision Des Flos won at Exeter and unfortunately I couldn’t go. Jessie has first call on me and that’s the way racing works. I’m looking forward to getting back over to the UK. It’s very encouraging to see Colin’s horses doing so well.

Altior is now odds-on for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and I think that’s definitely warranted. He was extremely impressive at Newbury and I’d imagine his connections are over the moon. Nico gave him a super ride. He gave him as easy a race as possible and Altior showed his old spark.

He did everything right and there’s still even more improvement to come. Nicky Henderson made no secret of it before the race that he was going to improve a lot and if there was a day for him to be beaten he thought Saturday was that day which he flew through with flying colours. Unless an accident happens, the Champion Chase is his for the taking.

Native River
Native River was very impressive in the Denman Chase. He didn’t have the same competition as Altior but I know Colin Tizzard and connections would have been delighted with him. He’s going to the Gold Cup this year a different horse.

He is fresh and has only had the one run this season which had been the plan from early in the season.

If the ground is on the slow side then he definitely has a big chance.

I think he’s vulnerable on quick ground though.

Sizing John
Sizing John is going well. Since Christmas the plan was that he would go straight to the Gold Cup. We’re stepping his work up the whole time and he’s coming through it nicely.

I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully everything goes right between now and then and he can have a good crack at defending his title.

Kalashnikov has four weeks to recover after Newbury before heading to Cheltenham. He was hugely impressive and obviously slipped in below the handicapper’s radar. He’s definitely a player in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

You need to have big field experience going into that race which a lot of the novices won’t have but he will have that. This is a massive advantage. The Supreme will be very competitive.

If Samcro goes the two and a half mile route, people will want to stay away from him so the two mile and three mile races could be much more competitive.

BoyleSports Irish Grand National Trial
Isleofhopendreams wasn’t beaten by far in the BoyleSports Grand National Trial at Punchestown. Both Isleofhopendreams and the winner, Folsom Blue, could be big contenders for the main event in Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.

Obviously both would be ground dependant. They would like a good bit of juice in the ground but Easter is that bit earlier this year so there is a possibility they’ll get the soft ground. Isleofhopendreams came back to form really well. He was pulled up on his last two runs but travelled and jumped very well.

I thought when I landed at the back of the last that I had beaten Folsom Blue but to be fair to him he probably wasn’t doing a whole lot in front. When Jack Kennedy got stuck into him he found plenty.