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Cheltenham Preview Night

Cheltenham Festival Preview Night : Waterford – Davy Russell, Tom Segal, Nick Luck, Jessica Harrington & more

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 key to these types of nights is to gauge which information is relevant and which is complete tosh. One of the more informative in terms of unique info was held at Waterford and sponsored by Ladbrokes earlier this week.

The bumper panel was made of pundits John Francome, Tom Segal, Nick Luck, Jim McGrath and Mick Fitzgerald, top jockey Davy Russell, trainer Jessica Harrington and Ladbrokes PR executive Haley O’Connor.

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.

Most of the talk centred on the chances of Willie Mullins’ Vautour, who divided opinion between the panellists. Russell said that at the prices he’d be taking him on and that Ruby Walsh got an easy lead when dictating matters at Leopardstown last time out.

Luck disagreed, whilst also highlighting David Pipe’s The Liquidator as a lively outsider. McGrath really wasn’t keen on Irving, who he doubts has the finishing kick for a Supreme winner and Josses Hill is impressing Barry Geraghty according to Harrington.

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.

As the trainer of Jezki the action was straight onto whether Harrington thought Jezki is good enough to challenge with Francome cheekily asking whether he was a pacemaker for JP McManus’ other runner My Tent Or Yours. Harrington said he had it all to do against Hurricane Fly, who she feels will win the race. Francome agreed but Russell, although declaring the Fly is a superstar, tipped up Our Conor and The New One.

Talk briefly turned to Annie Power, who still is in the race and can be backed at 7/1, and the majority agreed that she should run in the Champion but Russell did claim that the horse should either in the Champion or wait for Punchestown, therefore skipping the World Hurdle altogether.

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, Sizing Europe 14/1 & 16/1 Bar.

This race was quickly defined as “awful” by most of the pundits but that’s not to say there weren’t strong opinions.

Surprisingly, most of the talk surrounded Sizing Europe as a cracking each-way bet. Segal, McGrath and Harrington all were strong on the chances of the former jumper, who is guaranteed to jump round but whether he’s good enough to go with the market principles.

Ryanair Chase: Al Ferof 4/1, First Lieutenant 5/1, Dynaste 6/1, Menorah 10/1, Module 14/1, Hidden Cyclone 16/1 & 20/1 Bar.

You can see why Dynaste has been very well backed in recent weeks considering the amount of support came his way from the panel for this race. He was 12/1 just a week ago.

Segal, who had put Dynaste up as a selection in his column, was strong on the Pipe runner as was McGrath, Luck and Francome whilst Russell seemed quietly confident about First Lieutenant running in this race. After all, the race is sponsored by his owner.

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.

Few decent snippets here. Russell pondered whether, as he suggested, that if Annie Power misses Cheltenham Walsh will get the leg-up on Big Buck’s, instead of Sam Twiston-Davies.

He could have been playing devil’s advocate but it makes logical sense. McGrath agreed and was very negative towards Twiston-Davies and his ride on Big Buck’s in the Cleeve Hurdle.

Segal completely ruled out Big Buck’s and the panel thinks Annie Power will be favourite on the day if getting the green light.

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.

“Silviniaco Conti is a certainty,” Segal bellowed out, which was met with some raised eyebrows.

In fact, there wasn’t much positivity towards Bobs Worth with Russell claiming the Irish challenger Last Instalment is a better horse than Sir Des Champs. You got the feeling he wasn’t jesting with that comment either.

Luck agreed with Russell, calling him (the horse) a superstar. There was a little squeak for Harry Topper’s each-way chances from Francome but Russell quickly stepped in, claiming the horse would take half of the birch from every fence with him. He’s not a fan.

WHAT DID WE LEARN:

             Sizing Europe is a big each-way runner in the Champion Chase

             Ruby Walsh could end up riding Big Buck’s according to Russell, who feels Annie Power will miss Cheltenham

             Last Instalment is a special horse according to Russell and is a more accomplished animal than last year’s Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs

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