It’s that time of year again. That time of year where punters assemble at a racecourse or pub to gather the opinions of the people in the know regarding the Cheltenham Festival.
These preview nights have grown in popularity over the last two years and there are 10-15 nights scheduled over the next few weeks.
The first big preview was held at The Goat in Dublin with jockeys Barry Geraghty and Patrick Mullins, journalist Kevin O’Ryan, trainer Tony Martin and Paddy Power’s Robert Catterson all sitting on the panel.
Let’s just say the results were interesting as we take a look at what the experts said on each particular race.
Supreme Novice Hurdle: Irving 3/1, Vautour 100/30, Wicklow Brave 9/1, Josses Hill 12/1, Valseur Lido 16/1, Western Boy 16/1 & 18/1 Bar.
The general feeling of the panel was that Vautour, trained by Willie Mullins, is far too short in the market.
Even Mullins’ son, Patrick agreed, saying Wicklow Brave at 9/1 was the better bet of the Mullins pair and put his neck on the line by saying he couldn’t see the 9/1 shot out of the first three.
Like Mullins, Geraghty hasn’t been overly impressed with what Mullins’ first choice has shown in his career thus far. He’ll probably end up riding Josses Hill and the jock believes both he and Western Boy have “good each-way chances” in a weak renewal.
There was also stamina doubts raised by Martin regarding Irving’s chances and that he didn’t like his make-up in terms of being a potential superstar.
Champion Hurdle: The New One 3/1, Hurricane Fly 3/1, Our Conor 9/2, My Tent Or Yours 9/2, Jezki 10/1, Melodic Rendezvous 20/1 & 50/1 Bar.
Mullins’ views on Hurricane Fly were probably the most noteworthy, saying that all is great with the horse going into Cheltenham and it’s aggression as a racehorse that sets him apart from the others.
According to Mullins the only concern is regarding his age and the biggest danger is The New One.
[blockquote]Mullins was also pretty quick to dismiss the chances of My Tent Or Yours, highlighting the fact that if Champagne Fever can beat him over two miles, so should Hurricane Fly.[/blockquote]
Geraghty, who will probably ride Jezki after AP McCoy decided to go with My Tent Or Yours, dismissed the chances of The New One pretty readily saying the race won’t be run to suit and that MTOY will frank the form of the Christmas Hurdle.
[blockquote source=”Barry Geraghty”]Jezki is also better than what he’s shown this season too, according to the jockey, who rated him as the clear each-way option.[/blockquote]
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Sire De Grugy 7/4, Arvika Ligeonniere 5/1, Benefficient 6/1, Captain Conan 6/1, Al Ferof 7/1, Kid Cassidy 8/1 & 14/1 Bar.
It was easy to see the disappointment on Geraghty’s face when asked about Sprinter Sacre, but he said the horse is in one piece and that’s the main thing. Kid Cassidy struck him as the each-way value.
Martin, who trains Benefficient, will only run in Queen Mother if ground is heavy, but was constantly being ribbed about whether he was playing mind games or not.
The trainer also wasn’t overly convinced about Sire De Grugy’s make up for this race and said Arvika Ligeonniere is a big danger if getting his jumping right but Mullins quickly said that the horse may not even run as he jumps right handed.
World Hurdle: Big Buck’s 2/1, Annie Power 3/1, At Fishers Cross 6/1, More Of That 7/1, Rule The World 8/1, Zarkandar 10/1 & 12/1 Bar.
The headline here had to be Geraghty’s view on the chances of Big Buck’s, quoting that he’s 95% sure he won’t win the race as he was beaten fair and square last time out.
[blockquote source=”Patrick Mullins”]Dad won’t make a decision regarding Annie Power until the day but believes the World Hurdle is the right race for her.[/blockquote]
Martin disagreed, thinking that three miles at this stage of her career could bottom her out and if she was his, he’d run he run her against Quevega in the Mares Hurdle.
Gold Cup: Bobs Worth 7/4, Silviniaco Conti 3/1, Last Instalment 7/1, Captain Chris 14/1, First Lieutenant 14/1, The Giant Bolster 20/1, Harry Topper 25/1 & 33/1 Bar.
Geraghty was obviously very sweet on his mount Bobs Worth, revealing that so much was against him when thrashed in the Betfair Chase.
His win in the Lexus was more his level of form and that none of his rivals worry him.
The biggest thing to take of the chat was Martin comparing Last Instalment to some of the all-time greats. He and Philip Fenton are pretty good pals, so it’s quite a statement to label him as a “proper horse.”
According to Martin, he looked the bet in race if Bobs Worth was going to be beat.
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