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Cheltenham Preview Night

Cheltenham Festival preview night: Exeter Racecourse – Paul Nicholls, Phillip Hobbs & David Pipe

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.

One of the more revealing nights was held at Exeter racecourse, where leading trainers Paul Nicholls, Phillip Hobbs and David Pipe headed up a panel that included top jockey Nick Scholfield, the Racing Post’s Andrew King and Star Sports’ Luke Tarr.

The rather informative evening was chaired by Racing UK broadcaster Oli Bell and here we look at all the major talking points.

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.

As the trainer of Irving, Nicholls was in hopeful mood that he can kick off the Festival with another big race winner after landing the opening contest in 2011 with Al Ferof. “I hope he can win,” Nicholls admitted.

[blockquote source=”Paul Nicholls”]I hope he can win. He is four from six on the flat and three from three in jumps and is in good shape. A fast run race would suit him better.[/blockquote]

The jockey due to ride the ante post favourite, Schofield, was in agreement with Nicholls. “The horse with the best English form is Irving, who has done nothing wrong,” he added. “The horse is better on better ground but has won on soft ground before.”

The drying ground at Cheltenham will only further enhance his claims, especially after the way he won at Kempton last weekend.

Pipe was rather keen on his charge though rather than Irving. The Liquidator flopped on his latest start at Kempton but before that had looked potentially very special.

[blockquote source=”David Pipe”]He is back on good form. You could call him the forgotten horse. He has had one bad run but was vying for favouritism before that. If we can get him back to his best he will have a chance.[/blockquote]

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 Nicholls doesn’t have a runner in this year’s first day feature, his opinion is probably well worth listening too and he and Hobbs were both very much in The New One’s camp.

Meanwhile, Pipe sided with Hurricane Fly and totally ruled out one of the market leaders.

[blockquote source=”David Pipe”]Even though Hurricane Fly is not getting any younger, I am not convinced My Tent Or Yours will get up the hill so I will go with Hurricane Fly.[/blockquote]

One recurring theme when speaking about the race was the distinct possibility that they’ll be no strong pace from the outset, which could throw a spanner in the works of most of the fancied runners.

Schofield, who will ride Melodic Renezvous, said: “He has no pressure going into the race and deserves his chance. It will be a very tactical race with no real pace.”

Ryanair Chase: Al Ferof 5/1, First Lieutenant 6/1, Dynaste 6/1, Benefficient 7/1, Menorah 14/1 & 16/1 Bar.

With the latest news that Sprinter Sacre won’t make the Champion Chase, it has rather opened up the Ryanair with many of the horses likely to be rerouted to the two mile championship race.

Pipe seemed pretty bullish about Dynaste taking his chance in this race though. Nicholls trains Al Ferof and also revealed that this was now his intended target, saying:

[blockquote source=”Paul Nicholls”]The Ryanair for Al Ferof was always my A-plan. He ran very well in the King George but does not stay. This is the obvious race for him and the ideal race for him[/blockquote]

Hobbs has two of his stable stars entered in the form of Menorah and Wishfull Thinking but only one is likely to run.

He said: “I am more likely to run Menorah. Wishfull Thinking might end up in the Byrne Group Plate.”

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.

All eyes and questions were on Nicholls for this section as Big Buck’s, who had galloped before racing, was the centre of attention.

Nicholls was oozing confidence, saying: [blockquote source=”Name of the source”]Big Bucks has got as good a chance as any other time he has been in the race.He needed his previous run and it was on very heavy ground that we would not normally run him in. But we had to go somewhere with him and he has tightened up since then. He must have a leading chance[/blockquote]

[dropcap background=”yes” color=”#333333″ size=”20px”]WHAT DID WE LEARN:[/dropcap]



· The Champion Hurdle is likely to be a slowly run affair, which will not suit the likes of The New One and Hurricane Fly.

· The Liquidator is the “forgotten horse” in the Supreme according to his trainer Pipe. 16/1 may be worth a dabble.

· Big Buck’s is as good as ever according to the man that knows him best. That 2/1 won’t last long at this rate.


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