ANIBALE FLY CAN RUN ANOTHER BIG RACE IN THE BLUE RIBAND
The biggest race of the entire Cheltenham Festival is the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30) and I’m riding the Tony Martin-trained ANIBALE FLY.
He ran a cracker to finish third in last year’s renewal of this race and while he hasn’t run as many times as he might have this season due to the widespread good ground, you can be sure that Tony Martin will have him trained to the minute for this.
The drying ground is probably a bit against him, but this is a unique course and distance and when they have shown that they relish it once, they always have to be respected coming back again. I think this is a more open Gold Cup than it is being billed and I’m hopeful he’ll run another big race in it.
My last ride before the Gold Cup comes on the Nicky Henderson-trained BIRCHDALE in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.50).
To be honest, it wasn’t an easy choice for me between him and Dickie Diver. I would have very little between them at this stage. I thought Birchdale was good on his last start at Cheltenham and Brewin’upastorm gave the form a boost when finishing fourth in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Birchdale was learning as he went last time out and I’d expect him to have improved from it. The one thing you’d say is that this race is often won by a hardened campaigner with more experience over hurdles than he has, so hopefully that won’t stand against him. I think he should stay this trip. He’s a lovely horse and I’m looking forward to riding him.
My day starts off in the JCB Triumph Hurdle (1.30) on the Joseph O’Brien-trained GARDENS OF BABYLON. I rode him to finish second to Sir Erec in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival and I thought he was learning as he went that day.
He finished off the race well and I’d be hopeful he can come forward from it. The favourite will obviously be tough to beat based on that form, but I think my lad will run well.
After that I ride the Nicky Henderson-trained COUNTISTER in the Randox Health County Hurdle (2.10).
This will be her first run since she finished fifth to Laurina in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting last season. She is a nice mare and has sneaked in off a light weight here. I’d be quietly hopeful that she can run a nice race.
My final ride of the Festival will come on the Paul Nicholls-trained LE PREZIEN in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Chase (4.50).
I won this race on him last year and he is back down to a mark that is just 1lb higher than he won off there. He has plenty of experience, but that means he might be vulnerable to less exposed runners that are better handicapped than him.
His last run was disappointing, but hopefully the return to this meeting will spark him back up and he’ll run another big race.