Last week our very own Roy Nicol went to the Cheltenham Preview Night in Cheltenham to find out the thoughts of the panel, ahead of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.
Host: Racing UK’s Oli Bell
On the panel: Trainer Kim Bailey, Kim Bailey’s head lad Mat Nicholls and Trainer Fergal O’Brien
The night was based around each member of the panel giving their opinions on who would win the big races at Cheltenham. Kim Bailey would also chip in about runners he may run at the festival from time to time.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Oli, Mat and Fergal all strongly fancy Irving in this. The question was raised about him lasting home at Cheltenham however it was mentioned he had won over 1m5f on the flat so 2m at Cheltenham should prove no problems. Kim put forward his own Un Ace for this. He is currently a 50/1 shot which he thinks is far too big. If the ground is good then Kim thinks he has an each way shout.
Mat and Fergal were both keen on Rock On Ruby in this, as was Kim but only on good ground. He thinks soft ground will scupper his chances of winning. Oli put forward one of his favourite horses Bright New Dawn as an each way shot. He probably will not run but if he does Oli thinks he will outrun his odds. He also mentioned Grandouet as being a very capable horse on his day and may also surprise.
The Champion Hurdle
Fergal was very strong on The New One in this. He said he spoke to Nigel Twiston-Davies the other day and they are very confident of winning it. Mat thinks Hurricane Fly despite being a 10 year old is still the one they all have to beat and he cannot understand why he doesn’t get mentioned in the same way as the likes of Istabraq. Mat also thinks Our Conor is the one who may prove the biggest threat to Hurricane Fly. Oli thinks that My Tent Or Yours’ weak finishing will scupper his chance in the race and he selected Annie Power as his most likely winner if she runs here.
The Neptune Novices’ Hurdle
It was reported that Willie Mullins had changed Faugheen’s routine recently, including his feed. Kim found this a very bold and somewhat staggering move. Mat thinks Red Sherlock will prove best on soft ground and Faugheen is the one they have to beat. The very expensive Un Temps Pour Tout is capable of finishing second to him. Fergal selected Red Sherlock in this and Oli told us to not forget about Deputy Dan. Kim thinks Deputy Dan may struggle in this race on good ground.
The RSA Chase
Mat selected Smad Place as his horse for the race and thinks that Corrin Wood may lack a gear or two to win this race. Fergal also selected Smad Place but highlighted O’Faolains Boy as having a chance too, as Rebecca Curtis is starting to hit form again. Kim had no real opinion on the race.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase
Mat believes that Sire De Grugy is a short enough price, Cheltenham may be a track he is just not suited to. He thinks Alderwood is a good each way alternative, although news emerged this week he probably will not run. Fergal said he cannot see beyond Sire De Grugy for the race but thinks Kid Cassidy is interesting each way. Kim said if a horse has not acted overly well round Cheltenham before then the chances are he won’t act there this time either (reference to Sire De Grugy). He put forward Module as an each way option.
The JLT Novices’ Chase
Oli thinks Wonderful Charm is a very talented horse who has been saved since last year for good ground however he selected Harry Fry’s Vukovar for the race. Mat said he was not a big fan of Wonderful Charm and selected Taquin De Seuil instead. Fergal also went for Vukovar but gave honourable mentions to Oscar Whisky and Double Ross but only on soft ground for the latter. Kim selected Oscar Whisky and Double Ross.
The Ryanair Chase
Fergal selected Dynaste for the race. Mat took the view that Benefficient would confirm the form with Dynaste based on their run at Cheltenham last year. Kim put forward Cantlow as having a strong each way shout and Oli tentatively selected Al Ferof in which he believes is the trickiest race of the week.
The World Hurdle
Oli says he was down at Exeter the other day and that all the talk down there from the Ditcheat lot was that Big Bucks will win. Oli also put forward his stablemate Salubrious as having a big chance. Mat thinks they will decide to run Annie Power here but Big Bucks will win. He gave More Of That an honourable mention too. Fergal went for Big Bucks and Kim said that Reve De Sivola should not be discounted.
The Triumph Hurdle
Mat thinks Activial will run a huge race if he runs and will win. Fergal agreed and went for Activial also. Oli thinks Royal Irish Hussar is a big price and that Broughton is extremely interesting.
The Albert Bartlett
Mat was strong on the claims of Briar Hill here and thinks it will be very difficult for Kings Palace to lead all the way in this. Oli and Fergal took the opposite view and think that Kings Palace will prove very tough to pass. Kim selected Deputy Dan in this and thinks Oliver Sherwood should definitely run him in this as opposed to The Neptune.
The Gold Cup
Kim discussed the chances of his own Harry Topper to begin with and he is praying for soft to heavy ground for him. He thinks if the ground is like this on the day then he stands a huge chance of winning. He says he has his own way of jumping and that he gets some unfair criticism, everybody should know he isn’t the quickest of jumpers by now. If the race cuts up and it looks like a relatively weak renewal then they might run him if the ground is good as it would be silly to miss it but the ground is key to this horse really. Mat chipped in and said he would be very excited about the chances of Harry Topper if the ground is soft. Putting Harry Topper aside he selected Bobs Worth as his most likely winner. Fergal selected Silviniaco Conti to win it with First Lieutenant as his each way horse. Oli selected Silviniaco Conti also.
Oli Bell put two handicappers forward and said past festival form is very important. He selected Same Difference who won last year but three poor runs this season mean he a 25/1 shot. He should be backed each way in whatever race he runs in. He also put forward Tony Martin’s Edeymi as one to back in whatever race he runs in as he was travelling very strongly last year before being brought down. Fergal O’Brien put forward Regal Encore as having a serious chance if he gets into any races. He could be thrown in off a mark of 130. He also put forward Ted Veale to run a big race in The Grand Annual. Kim mentioned two of his handicappers, Twelve Roses and Muldoons Picnic who are both due to run on the Tuesday if the ground is good. He did not give much indication as to their chances however.
BETS OF THE FESTIVAL
Fergal – Silviniaco Conti
Mat – Briar Hill
Oli – Irving
Kim – Harry Topper!