Garde your money for the last
10 March 2014
The Festival might be around the corner but I am not going to wrap myself in cotton wool. I was riding at Plumpton on Monday and would have it no other way.
I am on 88 winners and I am not going to reach a century if I pass up on rides. Twelve winners doesn’t sound a lot but it’s going to be tough to get winners on the board during the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals, so I need to kick on.
I have three rides on the opening day of the Festival – all big prices – but I could see one or two belying their odds.
I’m on Brick Red in the Racing Post Arkle Chase. We were initially thinking of going straight to Aintree with him, as the track will really suit him as he is best on a flat fast track.
However, the novice chase is over two and a half miles there, so we’ve plumped for Cheltenham as this minimum trip will be more to his liking, although we are aware that the undulations and hill could well catch him out.
I have always rated him and he has some decent form in the book. He wasn’t beaten far when second to Balder Succes last time at Warwick on ground which was far too soft for him. Balder Succes has since gone on to beat a really good field in the Pendil Novices’ Chase, which is top-class novice form.
I think he deserves to be in this grade, but as I said I am worried about him getting home up the hill.
Of the opposition, I could see Valdez running a big race. He’s the best of the British contingent in my opinion and I think he might have the edge on Champagne Fever. He’s won all three of his races over fences and I think connections expect him to improve a lot more.
I am on Renard in the Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase. He really pleased us with his third in the Grimthorpe Chase last time and he showed three miles-plus is the right trip for him.
He’s run twice in the Grand Annual before, finishing seventh last year, but I think this race could be more to his liking and he could stay on for some prize-money. Relax also runs for Venetia (Williams), but I think the ground’s gone against him.
My final ride on day one is Gardefort, who runs in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Chase. He could be a real dark horse. He had some very good form in France but I pulled him up on his British debut at Haydock last month.
Although we didn’t finish, he really impressed me with the way he jumped and travelled, and then he got very tired on his first start for a few months on very heavy ground. He gave me a lovely feel and I think he could be a very good horse. He’s bottom-weight, having just sneaked into the race.
Otherwise, I think the Stan James Champion Hurdle could be the race of the week, with The New One just shading it for me. The Cheltenham hill will really suit The New One and I reckon there’s more to come from him, whereas Hurricane Fly is getting on a little bit and might well have to hand his crown over.