It's Queen Mother Champion Chase day and all eyes will be on Shishkin and Energumene but don't rule out Chacun Pour Soi who has yet to show his very best at the Cheltenham Festival, but this would be some day to do it! It is set up for a brilliant race.
Honeysuckle was at her imperious best on Tuesday claiming another Champion Hurdle and I'm delighted for Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead of course although I'm sure it didn't help the bookmakers given they have such a huge fan club. The pair of them had to work hard and fight a few of the rivals off but she did it in grand style with a clean and quick jump at the final flight. The life of a jockey never better demonstrated than with Tellmesomethinggirl falling under Rachael when travelling so well just a short while after. The highs and lows come quickly at you.
I was also delighted to see Stattler confirm what I thought of him for Patrick Mullins in the NH Chase, a super ride and a welcome winner on a frustrating day for the Willie Mullins team where the margins at Championship level are so tight.
On to day 2 then at the Cheltenham Festival and it's looking like another great day of action in store and I'm looking forward to getting involved on the track.
The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle is all about Sir Gerhard. He looks the horse to beat here but I do think Journey With Me, a horse by Mahler with Henry De Bromhead, has been impressive in his runs so far in Ireland and will give the favourite most to think about.
Ultimately I think the short odds on favourite with the UK betting sites Sir Gerhard will be too good for the rivals however and can provide Willie Mullins with another winner.
I like the chances of Capodanno here in the silks of JP McManus and trained by Willie Mullins.
I really like this horse, he won a beginners chase at Naas after nearly falling at the last and Jody McGarvey did very well to keep the partnership intact that day and he got back up on the run in to win. Capodanno was then second to Bob Olinger the next time and unlucky the time after that to be unseated at the Dublin Racing Festival. Overall I think he is great value at the current prices of around 8/1 with the online bookmakers.
I like Ganapathi for the Coral Cup. He fell the last time we saw him at Punchestown, he was going to run a big race that day but came down at the last flight of hurdles. I think Willie Mullins was very dissapointed with him the last time he came to Cheltenham in 2021 and finished back in the field behind Belfast Banter in the County Hurdle.
I think Ganapathi could right that wrong this year and prove a different proposition with a first time tongue tie on which could bring about a good bit of improvement again and he could find himself well handicapped. I was second on him as a novice in a Grade 2 in Punchestown and I think he might be on the improve and just ahead of his mark.
In the Queen Mother Champion Chase it is all about Shishkin really. A great performance at Ascot last time to beat Energumene and I thought that was a great performance. He did a lot of things wrong that day, jumping out to his left, never really travelling and he still won and I think Cheltenham brings out the best in him, especially back left handed, so I think he's going to be very hard to beat.
I would think Willie's other runner Chacun Pour Soi might be the value to chase him home this time.
Tiger Roll is obviously going to be very hard to beat in the Cross Country Chase but I would give an each way chance to the horse I ride Brahma Bull, for Willie Mullins. I schooled him this week over the Cross Country fences in Cheltenham and he took to them well enough so hopefully he will give a good account and at current double figure odds with the bookmakers. He might just be a good each way bet here.
I'm gonna take a chance on Andy Dufresne in the Grand Annual over the 1m7f minimum trip at the Cheltenham Festival. He is on a nice mark and was a proper Grade 1 horse at one point in his career and whilst obviously not running to that level any more he could just prove well handicapped for this race.
Gordon Elliott has a good record in the Grand Annual and has likely set out Andy Dufresne with this race in mind and that's why I'd be siding with him to go well.
The Champion Bumper is a race that Willie Mullins has dominated in the past and he has seven runners in here this year! His most obvious chance is Facile Vega who I discussed in my Cheltenham Preview Column earlier this week who will be ridden by Patrick Mullins and he looks to take all the beating. His work is very good, he does nothing wrong and a small worry might be handling the preliminaries but that's the same for all horses in this but worth keeping an eye on beforehand with him.
Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd are very big fans of their horse American Mike, they say he is obviously a very good horse as well so it will be very interesting battle between the two of them. Of the remaining Willie Mullins runners Redemption Day works well with a lot of speed and I'd say Paul Townend will be riding him for pace. He is a very nice horse and his work at home has been very good as well.
I ride Seabank Bistro in the race. A horse that Willie Mullins actually bred himself and he was very impressive under Patrick Mullins in Naas the last day winning by five lengths and that form is looking better after the second has won since in Navan. I'd like my each chances as well on Seabank Bistro.