3/14/2016 10:37:55 AM
Liam Hedgecock (@therealhedgy) is a 16 year old horse racing fanatic from Newcastle. He is a regular contributor to the guest blogger section of our website and his aim is to work in the horse racing industry in the future.
Rich Ricci is a man who everyone in the world of Horse Racing has a fond liking for. His signature dress sense to the races has made him a big of a reputation as his ultra-talented horses have. Throughout the festival he has some golden opportunities to enter the winners enclosure, here are what I think are his leading chances.
Douvan - Arkle Challenge Trophy - @2/5:
Douvan has been simply breathtaking this season. Yes, he has been up against inferior opposition, however, in his three races so far this term, the way he has flew away from the last fence and the daylight he has put between his rivals when motoring away has been awesome. In my opinion, the way this horse is being talked about, and the way that Willie Mullins eyes light up when you see him talk about the son of Walk In The Park, I really do get the feeling this could be the next Kauto Star. Infact, I spoke to a friend the other day on the phone and told him I thought he may be as good as Arkle once was. He seemed a bit blown away by my estimation, but I'm not the only one who thinks so highly of him, in terms of where I think he can progress to. Noel O'Brien the Irish handicapper has also said he thinks he could sore to the heights of Arkle. It is often an over-used phrase in our sport, but if he jumps, he most certainly will win. It is such a shame about the opposition though. The Arkle could and really should have been a better race depth wise with all of Douvan's opposition running scared to go for the JLT. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with seeing equine perfection at its best and this is one for the real fans of the sport to look forward to.
Other potential leading contenders:
Vautour - Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup - @5/1:
At Cheltenham, Vautour has always showed he is a much better horse on Spring ground going left handed. He has saved his best performance of his season all through his novice hurdling days and last year in his novice chase campaign, that Cheltenham is the place that really brings out the best in him. Had he of won the King George photo finish and denied Cue Card the second third of his Million Pound Bonus trail, would people of been saying that they don't think he can stay the Gold Cup trip? This is a horse I feel very strongly about and am passionate about as much as anything else. I would be very surprised if Ruby didn't choose his class over Djakadam's albeit confirmed stamina, and it may just be class that in an intriguingly competitive renewal of the Gold Cup that will see Vautour through to the bitter end.
Min - Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle - @2/1:
It could be argued that Min is the shortest priced horse out of the Cheltenham Fetsival bankers. However, for the last three years the Ricci-Mullins-Walsh trio have farmed this race with three very good horses in Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan. I would be lying if I said I hadn't listened to any of the hype before this horse has made its debut for Willie Mullins and backed it ante-post. So, naturally as we are in touching distance of the famous Cheltenham roar which greets the Supreme, I am rather nervous. The nerves come from the stem of the only worry I have with this horse which is his keen going run style. If it is good ground on the first day, which it is forecast to be, and there is a strong pace to go withthat Spring ground, I won't be worried as that should actually suit him. To settle the nerves just that bit more, Willie Mullins has said that Min is "as good as Vautour was at this stage in his career", which if it is true, means he should be good enough to get the festival off to a flyer for connections.
Vroum Vroum Mag - OLBG Mares Hurdle - @11/10:
This mare has shown she is as good over hurdles as she was over fences last season. She could be one of the best chances throughout the whole week for connections because two months ago, she demolished most of these rivals in the mares hurdle at Ascot. The main danger to her winning this race is Polly Peachum who did not appear in that race that Vroum Vroum Mag was so impressive in, when she tanked throughout the race. It is a sure thing that Nicky Henderson will have Polly Peachum primed for this race before she goes off to be a broodmare, and she will appreciate the better ground. If she can dispose of this worthy rival then she should have the rest of the field in behind her as well.
Graham Wylie is known by everyone in horse racing for his association with Howard Johnson, and also for owning the mighty Ingles Drever who won three world hurdles. He does not have as big of a crop as some of the leading owners, but he certainly has a select brigade of horses going who all have huge changes throughout the week
Nichols Canyon - Stan James Champion Hurdle - @11/2:
If the Champion Hurdle turns into a battle up the prestigious Cheltenham hill on Tuesday, there is no other horse I would want on my side than Nichols Canyon. As he showed when beating Faugheen first time out this season, when Willie Mullins was just going to send him for a racecourse gallop and oppose the option of sending him for a run. He told Graham Wylie not to expect much of him that day, so this was a performance that blew many people away. If that was Nichols Canyon unfit, imagine what he could of done if he was fit. This ex-flat horse has been criticised for being slow, though I think he has got pace too, as he showed when springing an early season shock in mid-November. So, I'm taking this gutsy little horse to be Graham Wylie's main candidate for a winner at the Festival.
Other potential leading contenders:
Black Hercules - JLT Novices Chase - @7/1:
Black Hercules looked like he was made for chasing last year when spending last season over hurdles, and disappointing at Cheltenham in the Albert Bartlett. My only concern with this horse is that his two visits to Cheltenham, in both the Champion Bumper and in the Albert Bartlett have ended in dissapointment. I was taken by how commanding and impressive his victory was on his second chase start at Warwick when he he made all and was given a beautiful ride from Danny Mullins who will be sorely missed at this year's festival. He made it two out of two that day, and he looked as if he was going to make it three out of three when the he had the Ten Up Novice Chase at his mercy when still on the bridle when coming to grief at the last. If non the worse for the fall, this horse should outrun his odds in the JLT which will be a tremendous race with so many horses dodging Douvan to come here. This horse looks the perfect type for the Gold Cup in the future as I'm sure that if he learns to settle he could definitely stay the trip.
Yorkhill - Supreme/Neptune - @5/1/@7/2:
Yorkhill may be slightly under-rated if he goes for the Supreme solely because he won't be ridden by Ruby Walsh. He has the best form out of any horse in the race, after his Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle win at Sandown in January. The second, third and fourth have all went on to win since then, and he is definitely a horse who should be shorter in the betting for the Supreme/Neptune. Personally, I think that they should send this horse for the Neptune because it is more than likely that he will be ridden by Ruby and he could definitely put it up to Yanworth who looked scarily good last time, but that was in conditions that will be a whole lot different on Wednesday.
Augusta Kate - Weatherbys Champion Bumper - @7/1:
Everyone will know that Augusta Kate is owned by some famous names who are known as the "Masters Syndicate". This daughter of Yeats has oozed class so far this season in 2 bumper runs, and has surprised connections more than anything especially Willie Mullins, who was surprised by how well she won on debut at Listowel. Mullins wants to run her on Wednesday in the Champion Bumper and it is also handy that connections can attend to see her run as well. This year's renewal looks a very open race as there has been no standout horse this year on the bumper scene, and although filly's do not have a particularly good record in the Champion Bumper, Augusta Kate surely goes to Cheltenham with as strong credentials as any at the head of the market for the penultimate race on day two.
Gigginstown House Stud:
Alpha Des Obeaux - Ryanair World Hurdle - @6/1:
At the start of the season I was a bit surprised that the Mouse Morris team had chosen to stay over hurdles with Alpha Des Obeaux instead of going chasing. It looks like he will be going over the larger obstacles next season though, and he is another horse that will be a mouthwatering prospect over three miles. That's next season though, and what counts is the World Hurdle on Thursday which is the race he has been trained for all season. I was beginning to get increasingly weary about the string of seconds next to this horses name until his run last time out on Thyestes day at Gowran Park when he stormed clear of his rivals in the Boyne hurdle to rubber stamp his claims for the Thursday showpiece. The horse every one has to beat though is Thistlecrack, but many would argue, especially Mouse Morris, that he was getting on terms with him before he kissed the turf last season in the Sefton Novice Hurdle at Aintree, so it will be interesting to see how the couple fare if Alpha Des Obeaux stays on his feet. Mouse Morris believes his horse will be seen in an even better light on better ground too.
Other potential leading contenders:
No More Heroes - RSA Chase - @5/2:
No More Heroes has been so efficient over his fences this season. At a recent Betfair preview evening, Mark "The Couch" Winstanley said that this horse "jumps like Greg Rutherford", which I thought was a terrific analogy because he does just that. He is unbeaten over fences and looks a leading chance rather for his trainer than his owners. However, favourites as well as the Irish have a poor record in the RSA, though if you're not worried about stats and other mysterious hoodoos like that, this horse looks a solid bet at 5/2.
The famous green and gold silks have become accustomed to success over the years at Cheltenham and JP McManus is a man who loves Cheltenham more than anyone else.
Yanworth - Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle - @5/4:
If there is a horse who can deliver JP McManus a Grade 1 at the Festival this season, Yanworth is the horse with the strongest claims of his graded runners. The only negative about this horse is that throughout this season, just like many hotpots throughout the week, he has been performing in conditions that will be totally different to what he will experience at Cheltenham. So, if he can operate as well as he has throughout the season on decent ground in the first race on Wednesday, he should be hard to beat. A big positive about this horse is that he has course form as he was fourth in last year's renewal of the Champion bumper which is a very important quality to have in your armoury at Cheltenham.
Other potential leading contenders:
More Of That- RSA Chase - @9/4:
If there is a horse that has a whole lot of confidence behind them at the Festival it is More Of That. Everyone connected with this horse all seem upbeat about how well this horse is going to do at Cheltemham. On his bare form over fences this season, I don't know where they are finding this positivity from, and the fact that he hasn't ran since December has to be a slight negative. Moreover, I don't know how many World Hurdle winners have gone on to be brilliant chasers. Barring these minor negatives, you can't deny this horse of his class and gritty attitude, so he is sure to give JP some excitement on day two which could turn out to be a very successful day for him if all goes well.