Ruby Walsh has been the leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival on no fewer than 11 previous occasions and the jockey looks to be winning his race-against-time to be back in the saddle next week having been riding out at the Willie Mullins’ yard since the weekend.
Walsh is 4/6 with BetVictor to be top jockey at the Festival and reported on Racing UK yesterday that all was well with his day one fancies Getabird (6/4 with BetVictor) and Footpad (11/8 with BetVictor). Walsh also admitted he was “in a quandary” as to what his Gold Cup ride would be with the progressive Hennessy winner Total Recall, the unexposed Killultagh Vic and dual Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam all in the frame.
There is a good novice hurdle to open today’s card at Fontwell with last time out winners Boreham Bill and Golden Sunrise (2.10) giving 7lbs to the promising Reikers Island and preference for the Colin Tizzard-trained runner is marginal.
The selection, like many in the yard, was not at his best around the turn of the year but this step up to 2m 5f should suit a horse who I think could make up into a very good staying chaser in time.
Boreham Wood would be giving the selection 3lbs if this were a handicap but a bigger danger may be the Philip Hobbs-trained Reikers Island who pulled hard but was still in with a chance when coming down two out on his rules debut. The latter won a point over three miles in his native Ireland and a market move would be worth noting stepping up in distance.
Euxton Lane (2.40) must go close in the Maiden Hurdle having run a race full of promise at Southwell last time behind a horse (Global Citizen) who has since won a Kempton Grade 2 by a long looking nine lengths. That was his best race to date and he might have most to fear from Casterly Rock another Hobbs inmate.
Cabernet D’Alene is 10lbs higher than when scoring at Market Rasen in a conditional jockey’s event back in January. The gelding has now won three of his last four, however, and must go close but Nesterenko (3.40) has run well fresh in the past and is back down to his last winning mark having his first start in just over a year.
Holbrook Park has improved for wind surgery earlier in the year and he got his due deserts when scoring at Plumpton last time. He must run well in his bid to follow up despite carrying a 7lbs penalty for that recent success.
The nod, however, goes to Sandy Beach (4.10) who is beginning to look very well treated on his best form and may not have got home over three miles at Kempton last time. This drop back in trip will suit as will the better ground, which is described as good to soft on Tuesday afternoon.
Heavy ground the order of the day at Catterick and Verni (2.20) ran a very good race on his chase debut when second at Exeter and he is bred to make a chaser. Like many in the Hobbs yard, he has not had much racing so far this term and he can take advantage of the 6lbs he receives from previous winners Cracking Find and De Dollar Man. I am waiting for the former to run in a handicap on good ground over today’s two-and-a-half mile trip off his current mark.
Kempton opens with a valuable 10f handicap, which sees, and Ryan Moore takes over on hat-trick seeking Star Archer (5.40). The 4-y-old can make it three-out-of-three since coming back from a lengthy absence for Hugo Palmer.
The filly Herecomesthesun (6.40) makes her all-weather debut in first-time cheek-pieces for Archie Watson and it will be very disappointing if she does not go close given she was paced in a listed contest over a mile at Newmarket on her last start back in November. She is penalised 7lbs for winning at Salisbury on her racecourse debut and is likely to be fully tuned up coming back from a 4-month break.
We suggested Gronkowski (7.10) for the “Road To The |Kentucky Derby” Conditions Stakes for Jeremy Noseda last week before the meeting was abandoned and there is no reason to desert the Newmarket colt although John Gosden’s Court House will be a tough nut to crack.