Willie Mullins could have a double on day one without me
13 March 2017
It was so warm at Cheltenham today that it could nearly have been Royal Ascot. The ground is walking on the slow side; it’s in good nick and I’m sure Cheltenham are delighted with what they have produced. It’s bound to keep drying if it stays this warm and I’d say there will be every possibility of watering on Thursday.
Here’s some thoughts on my rides tomorrow and later on this week.
Melon for starters in the Skybet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle:
The form of the race Melon won is not worth very much, but he could not have been more impressive.
We’ve always thought a hell of a lot of him and his homework has always been very good.
We were very pleased with him this time last year and he hasn’t disappointed us since and we think he’s in really good form.
But you are taking him on what he has done at home, you can’t be taking him for what he has done on the track, so it is a gamble and we’ve three other decent horses in it.
Each of the quartet seems to have improved as the year has gone on and all of them will appreciate the ground we are going to have. Unfortunately, I can only ride one.
I suppose in years gone by, we sort of had a better handle on our novices in that we knew what we had. We knew we had Douvan, Vautour, Champagne Fever, and we knew Min last year, who ran into Altior, was the best of ours last year.
This year, the yard is split and there’s a big divide in the yard as to which one is the best - it depends on who you are riding out besides as to what they fancy.
Royal Caviar has place claims in Racing Post Arkle:
Altior is head and shoulders above the opposition in the Arkle - he’s been brilliant all year for Nicky Henderson and he just needs normal luck to win, which is what Douvan is going to need on Wednesday, too. On his best day, Royal Caviar could run into a place.
Stan James Champion Hurdle looks up to par:
We’ve not got Annie Power or Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle this year, or even the horses who have been placed behind them in Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire. Of course I would love to have ridden one of them but you can’t keep dwelling on what’s gone.
People are saying it’s a below-par Champion Hurdle, but I don’t think it is.
You might be lacking a superstar of Faugheen, Annie Power or Hurricane Fly’s calibre, but you have very good horses in the race such as Petit Mouchoir, Yanworth and Buveur D’air, while Brain Power is a rapidly improving handicapper.
If we happen to get a deluge overnight, then Footpad, my ride, could have a chance - but that doesn’t seem likely. Yanworth is the one I’d like to ride. I think he has the stamina.
Dilemma over Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag:
There’s not much between Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag on their ratings, or on their homework and at 11.30am yesterday morning I was still not sure which of the pair to ride in the Mares’ Hurdle.
I suppose what I’ve gone with is recent form - and for me Limini’s recent form is better than that of Vroum Vroum Mag. I’ve gone for the horse coming here on a high, rather than one coming in off a low.
Overall, Vroum Vroum Mag has achieved more and I’ve taken a chance on Limini being the one who is improving, whereas Vroum Vroum Mag may have plateaued. That is only my hunch and I could very well be wrong - in fact there’s a big chance I am wrong!
I’ve done a lot of things as a jockey but I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how to manage to ride two in one race. Coming here this week, I’m thinking if I can get the majority of those tight decisions right, choosing between the different horses, I will be happy. But I don’t think I’ve any chance of getting them all right.
I can easily see Willie Mullins training a double tomorrow and me riding no winner - it’s as simple as that. I’ll have to be prepared for that and if that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is.
Douvan a delight in Festival build-up:
Douvan has been in great order and his form is rock solid. We are delighted with him and looking forward to Wednesday.
He’s been here twice, won twice and I don’t think there are any chinks in his armour. If he has average luck, he should win. His biggest danger? Bad luck.
Yorkhill learning quickly:
I thought he learnt a lot when he won in Leopardstown and that is what you are trying to do with novices. He made a mistake at the second and was long at the third, but it taught him a bit and the way he attacked the next five I loved.
He’s schooled really well since and he’s in really good order. He’s a better jumper of a fence than a hurdle - he has quite a leap on him - but it’s just a case of getting him to concentrate.
Yes, he’s a bit of a difficult ride at times, but he has a serious engine. It will be a challenge but one I’m looking forward to.
I think he’s a very good and believe he could be Gold Cup horse this time next year.
No doubts over Un De Sceaux stamina:
I don’t think the 2m5f trip will be a problem for Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday.
He didn’t have the gears of Sprinter Sacre last year - although he was an incredible horse - but he kept at it.
I think the extra distance will suit him. On the drier ground, he will want it.
If it stays warm the ground can only dry out further, but I don’t think Cheltenham will let it get quick.
Neon Wolf one to beware:
We like Bacardys, who runs in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday.
He is improving, the 2m5f will suit really well and he’s a good jumper. His form looks strong - we will know just how strong after the Supreme.
But you have to have huge respect for Neon Wolf. Harry Fry has never hidden the admiration he has for him; and Noel Fehily’s reaction when he won on him at Haydock said a lot. They are shrewd guys and they really like him.
Djakadam in prime shape:
If Djakadam runs to the same level that he has in the last two Gold Cups, then I think it puts him bang there with a massive chance.
And if he can improve a bit on last year’s form, I think that would be form nearly good enough to win.
Things have gone smoother for him this year, compared to last, so you are hoping things would have to be better
There have been no hiccups and he’s fresh and well.
I would not swap him, but all us jockeys say that. I would say Native River is the biggest danger and I’m also a huge Cue Card fan. There will be another 11-year-old winner of the Gold Cup at some stage, so maybe it will be him.