Cheltenham Preview Night – Thursday 23rd February 2017 – Ormond Hotel, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary – all proceeds go to the Injured Jockeys Fund.
Davy Russell (DR), National Hunt Jockey, Cheltenham Record Holder
Joseph O’Brien (JOB), Trainer, former group one winning Flat Jockey
Johnny Ward (JW), Journalist w/Irish Independent, formerly Racing Post
Dave Kenna (DK), Journalist w/The Irish Field
Kevin O’Ryan (KOR), Interviewer on At The Races, Jockey Agent
M.C. – Denis Kirwan (Racing Journalist)
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DR – good standard of a race but thinks Melon is a disgraceful price at 3/1, will be 5/1 or 6/1 on the day. Thinks this is the race for Finian’s Oscar, made a point about him being the only G1 winner in the race.
JW – said Finian’s Oscar won’t run here!
KOR – was worried that it was a season too soon for Finian’s Oscar but Davy countered that due to the time of year he was born, he had received a full years training prior to his PTP. Likes Bunk Off Early despite being by Zebadee, stamina on the dam side and he liked the way he finished his race off at Leopardstown after running free early, and the good gallop of a Supreme will suit him.
JOB – really likes Bunk Off Early who beat a well-regarded one of theirs (Outspoken).
DK – Moon Racer has all the form, he’ll be surprised if Ruby doesn’t ride Bunk Off Early.
DR – thinks Yorkhill should run here as he is too keen over a distance and his jumping suffers as a result – advised taking the price in the NRNB market. If you are looking for some value, Some Plan may have been the only horse that finished the Irish Arkle (and he stressed that differing ground conditions have to be taken into account) but the time was very fast. Also mentioned Royal Caviar for the place money.
JOB – just remarked that Willie Mullins will always put the right horse in the right race. Thinks the better the race the better Yorkhill goes so this could be the race for him.
JW – doesn’t buy into the Altior hype but thinks Willie will go for the simpler option with Yorkhill (JLT)
KOR – Some Plan/Royal Caviar w/o favourite. Told a story about how Willie Mullins supplemented Wicklow Brave for the Irish Ledger two minutes before the deadline after twice denying he would run because two AOB runners were withdrawn so there was no danger of him finishing too close to the them and upsetting his mark for the Melbourne Cup. There is no grand plan and everything is fluid – Willie Mullins is going to do what he wants to do and doesn’t give a f**k about anyone else.
DK – likes Limini if supplemented in a very open race. Petit Mouchoir probably has the best form this year but it looks weak. Yanworth not good enough. Jessie is very happy with Jezki. Tombstone will be supplemented.
DR – thinks Nichols Canyon is the best horse in the race on form and they should make the running with him. Thinks Buveur D’Air jumping style suits a return to hurdles but would hate to see Yorkhill returned to hurdles. Would like to ride Tombstone in the race if he was supplemented.
JW – really likes Yanworth and thinks he has no holes. Rang Willie about Limini and although he didn’t get an answer, he thinks she will be supplemented. Doesn’t think Yorkhill will go Gold Cup next year and thinks he will be kept over shorter distances.
KOR – Petit Mouchoir has no chance. Thinks Yanworth is the one, feels that Barry has never gotten to the bottom of him. Will be shocked if Limini isn’t supplemented, and you can draw a line through her final run of last season. Made the point about all the excuses being made for Apples Jade when it was Limini’s first run of the season and thinks the form will stand.
DR – great race with great depth, thinks it is the race for Death Duty as he has class and AB runners usually need 3 miles minimum as a necessity which Death Duty doesn’t. NRNB 16/1.
JOB – thinks Augusta Kate would have given Death Duty plenty to think about if she had stood up the last day and fancies her to sneak around and pick up a few pieces.
JW – thinks Davy might be on to something here as Gigginstown are short on options here.
DK – Neon Wolf is the best horse in the race, Death Duty looks slow. If Bunk Off Early goes well in the Supreme then Bacardys would have a great chance.
KOR – Bacardys if Death Duty or Finian’s Oscar don’t show up here.
DK – likes Coney Island for this and feels the form of the Drinmore could be the most solid with a view to Cheltenham having run on Good to Yielding ground. Doesn’t think Disko is good enough. Can’t have Alpha Des Obeaux as he bleeds.
DR – defended his ride behind Acapella Bourgois saying he couldn’t go any faster but doesn’t think the AB is good enough to win an RSA. Might Bite is nicely bred. He would be very surprised if Whisper ran or won. A proper 3 miler is require for this and he thinks an outsider will win. Mentioned Martello Tower @25/1 as his idea of the winner. Thinks it is harder than the 4 miler because of the classier opposition. Debunked the ‘myth’ about the RSA breaking horses – it might break bad horses but the good ones go on and win Gold Cups.
M.C. – last 19 winners of the Feltham have failed to win an RSA?
JOB – Might Bite needs to run half a stone better than his current mark to win.
JW – Might Bite by Scorpion and is a bit of a character – would like to see him go eye to eye with something in a tight finish and see what happens. Backed Alpha Des Obeaux and remarked that Mouse loves him.
KOR – Edwulf is like a drunk leaving a nightclub (like this one on a Saturday night)!
DK – just enjoy Douvan, can see Special Tiara chasing him home.
JOB – any decent opposition will reroute to the Ryanair.
JW – Douvan best horse he has ever seen and would run him in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday and the Champion Chase on Wednesday since the CC would be an easy procession of a race.
KOR – Cop to f**k on!
DR – after running in a Champion Hurdle he would be walking around for a week with his head between his legs in recovery mode. He implored Johnny Ward for the sake of his journalistic career not to write such an article!
JOB – Carter McKay impressive at Naas but it was a farce of a race, just a sprint to the line. He rode him prior to being sold to current owners and he liked him but not overly so. Thinks the ground will be too quick for West Coast Time. Thinks there will be a big priced winner.
DK – WPM used to have 5 or 6 in this but now might have two at most. Thinks it is a very hard race on young horses.
JW – Gigginstown no interest in the bumper but they paid 300k for a horse in Samcro that had no form and that is the way the game has gone.
*this led to a debate about whether the Potts, Gigginstown and JP throwing vast quantities of money around for horses is a good thing or not?
DR – Yorkhill far superior to the others but his keenness could make him vulnerable. Likes Disko as he jumps and travels well. Also likes Top Notch and reminded everybody that the English are going to win plenty of races and we can get too fixated on the Irish runners.
DK – between the top two in the market (Yorkhill and Top Notch).
DR – Empire Of Dirt will run here (claims to know this for a fact), needs a career best and probably some juice in the ground but would stay 5 miles in his opinion. Uxizandre one of his bets of the whole week – ticks every box with the headgear on. UDS too ground dependant.
JW – Empire Of Dirt has a good chance.
JOB – fancies Uxizandre and feels he will be ridden more positively with the reapplication of blinkers.
DK – Un De Sceaux is his banker of the week. Empire Of Dirt only a handicapper.
KOR – Irish Gold Cup wasn’t an end to end gallop and he feels Empire Of Dirt would have his stamina stretched in a Gold Cup and is better suited to here. Feels he has proven himself to be better than a handicapper.
DR – Unowhatimeanharry is the ideal stayers horse – keeps plenty to himself. Great training performance from his handlers throughout his career.
JOB – JP McManus has a strong hand in this.
JW – disappointed with Jezki the last day and felt he only beat a 2 miler in Hurricane Fly when he won over 3 miles previously.
DK – Unowhatimeanharry is a banker, may drift out a little on the day.
KOR – sees no chinks in the favourite.
DR – Mega Fortune doesn’t need soft ground but is more effective on it. Likes Landofhopenandglory if the ground comes up quick.
JOB – Mega Fortune has a great chance and the Irish form looks strong.
JW – although Housesofparliament is out of the festival, he feels that Merie Devie’s defeat of that horse represents good form and she ran a fast time.
DK – hard to assess the English form and feels Geraghty is the man to ask. Too much flip flopping in the Irish form. Thought Dinaria Des Obeaux and Merie Devie were the value and the ones to take out of the Spring Hurdle. Merie Devie not at her best the last day and thinks Ruby will ride her.
KOR – thinks Dinaria Des Obeaux and Mega Fortune will fight out the finish and that the latter will eat up the Cheltenham hill and is one of his bets of the festival (to which Davy responded that he needed his head examined!). Feels Elliott was forced into the application of cheek pieces earlier than he would have wanted because he is chasing the trainers title (previously would have waited until the festival to apply them).
DK – feels the Peregrine Run/Wholestone form is not strong enough, also questioned the strength of the Death Duty form. Feels West Approach 3rd in the Cleeve best form on the table suggesting he has improved the most and makes him the most likely winner.
JOB – thinks Bacardys was ridden last time with this distance in mind and likes him.
DR – likes West Approach and Wholestone (good hardy type) but thinks Bacardys will win. Monalee also has a good shout. Despite PTP’ers having a good profile for this race, Death Duty goes Neptune.
KOR – likes Constantine Bay form and feels he has a good each way shout.
JW – more derision directed at Ward for suggesting Penhill as a likely winner having had his form franked by Call The Taxie (a horse ridden to victory by Davy Russell who was the first to scoff at the suggestion that Penhill was good enough stating that he can’t jump and he bleeds).
DR – Don Poli very slow and doesn’t like going any quicker. He is a neat jumper but if he winged his fences he might have a better chance to win. Doesn’t think he is suited to a National as his jumping is too slow. Was all about Thistlecrack at the start of the year thinking his jumping would improve but actually felt it dis-improved – he didn’t think he would win it but felt it was a shame he wouldn’t run all the same. Native River in the same mould as Denman and the likes of those win Gold Cups. Sizing John has huge ability if he stays (more like a Kauto Star)
JOB – Don Poli good price for a place but doesn’t think he can win.
JW – Native River solid but might get outpaced at the finish. Told two stories about Alan Potts – when Sizing Europe won the Champion Chase Potts remarked, “it’s not the f**king Gold Cup now is it” and also that Potts apparently offered 3 million pounds for Thistlecrack – the point being Potts is obsessed with winning the Gold Cup.
DK – likes Djakadam in a less than vintage edition and thinks he should have won the Lexus. Feels Cue Card might have a chance with a different jockey and can’t forgive Brennan for last year.
KOR – Djakadam wasn’t made full use of in the Lexus so would be his idea of the winner, Cue Card has no chance as an 11yo, Outlander not good enough and Sizing John won’t stay (this point got a reaction from the crowd).
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