With the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, punters are finalising their plans for who they’ll be backing. Whether they’re studying form, listening to tipsters or watching the #racehour Cheltenham Preview Night, opinions are constantly being formed. There are some contenders that have slipped under the radar though, and arrive at the Festival with a big chance, but not a lot of buzz.
Earlier in the season, the Willie Mullins-trained Dysart Dynamo was seen by many as the chief threat to Jonbon in the Arkle. He fell at the third last when not going badly in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He likely wouldn’t have laid a glove on Constitution Hill, but it would have been interesting to see how close he was to Jonbon, who ended up finishing second.
His Festival chances took a knock at the Dublin Racing Festival when he couldn’t keep up the strong gallop he’d set, ultimately fading to finish a well-beaten fourth behind stablemate El Fabiolo. The slight drop down in distance in the Arkle will help and he’s likely to be the target for the two favourites to aim at.
He’s not been talked up much as a win candidate, which is strange considering how popular he was prior to the DRF. He shouldn’t be entirely written off.
We’re just days from the 2023 Festival, but we’re none the wiser as to where Sir Gerhard will be running. The Arkle, Brown Advisory and Turners are all possibilities, as is the Stayers’ Hurdle.
He didn’t impress with his jumping on his first, and to date only, chase start in January and hasn’t been talked about in the same light as other novice chasers this year like Gerri Colombe, Mighty Potter or the pair at the head of the Arkle betting.
He’s a classy horse though, and is two from two at the Cheltenham Festival, having won the Champion Bumper and Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. He’s not arriving at Cheltenham this year with anything like the same expectations as previous years, but it would be very dangerous to rule him out, wherever he lines up.
Paisley Park is the quintessential forgotten horse at the Festival this year. Maybe that’s with good reason, since the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle winner is now an 11-year-old, and most probably wouldn’t back him with a Cheltenham free bet. With so many question marks over the majority of the field, he could just be worth a second look.
Blazing Khal (one run in the past year), Marie’s Rock (might not run), Teahupoo (will the ground suit?), Flooring Porter (fitness /injury concerns) all have questions to answer. Paisley Park has finished third in the last two Stayers’ Hurdles to go along with his win in 2019 and looked as good as ever winning the Long Walk Hurdle at Kempton in December. He’s as assured a stayer as there is in the field and we know we can expect him to hit a flat spot, look beaten and run on late.
Backing an 11-year-old seeking to regain the crown he won four years ago isn’t a sexy approach, but he’s sure to be trying his heart out up the hill and should give each-way backers a good run for their money.