Okay then, the task facing me today is whether I can beat Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival. I think that might be tough.
I’m riding Saint Calvados in the race and realistically we’re not going to beat him. We raced against him in the Tingle Creek and I went out convinced I could beat him because I thought the heavy ground would play to my strengths and it wouldn’t play to his and he was still too good.
He’s a proper horse and seems to have it all. I wouldn’t worry about his jumping left last time – in fact that might even help him around Cheltenham. Wish me luck!
This is a tough race to start the card and you could make a good case for any of the top four in the betting. Champ has won four races in a row and I was very impressed with Battleoverdoyen in his last race. I also think you can’t rule out City Island either. I think I’d side with Champ because he looks a strong stayer and may have a touch more class. It’s a close call though.
There has been a bit of a ‘will-he, won’t’he?’ saga with Santini in the run up to this race, but I actually wouldn’t be put off his chances by that as he is trained by Nicky Henderson. If you like the horse, I’d stick with him. However, even before that happened I was siding with Delta Work. Topofthegame jumps well, as does Delta Work, and I think the Irish horse has a bit more about him. As for Santini, I could well see him getting beat here but he’s a horse I really love. If he gets beat that wouldn’t bother me for next year in the Gold Cup. He’ll be a good runner in that.
This is a very hard race to assess. Brio Conti won a nice race at Ascot last time but the one who catches my eye is Erick Le Rouge. He’s down at the bottom of the weights and has won four on the spin, which takes a lot. He’s got a good attitude and is not carrying much weight at all.
He didn’t take me through the race like he normally does at Leopardstown last time. He’s led in his other races but I was content to take a lead that day on him. Unfortunately what happened to Special Tiara meant I was left in front and he jumped like a three mile chaser that day, not like a sharp, fast two-mile chaser. That was costing me lengths through the whole race. He’s got cheekpieces on for the first time and that’s going to help him a lot. I schooled him the other day first without cheekpieces and then with them on. The first time he went down and jumped as well as ever, but then with the cheekpieces on he went down like a proper two miler attacking his fences and that’s the horse I was riding the year before. Look, I’ll be going out there thinking I’m going to win because I always do and this is his big day. This is the day when he is going to be at his very best to run his very best and any more rain wouldn’t harm his chances at all.
I love riding in this race. When I was a kid riding my pony at home I used to make my own cross-country courses to ride around. I don’t think my fella is without a chance in this race, albeit I’d prefer the race to be run on better ground. I’ve ridden him twice around the cross-country course at Cheltenham and he’s given me a good feel both times. The fact he’s taken so well to the fences is a real bonus and I’m looking forward to riding him. Those two races he ran in were handicaps and this is off level weights, so that makes it tougher and Tiger Roll is the one to beat. However, I do like my lad.
Band Of Outlaws looks to have plenty of speed, as you might expect with his Flat breeding, so I wonder whether he might not stay that well on the ground and the stiff course here. I like the look of Our Power. He’s got some very good form and looks to have gone under the radar for this race.
This horse could easily be unbeaten coming into this race. He won his first start and looked to be coming with a winning run at Leopardstown before crashing through the rail. I like the look of his chances. Ask For Glory also catches my eye. He was very impressive on his only start for Paul Nicholls and has good form in point-to-points.
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