10 horses to follow at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival
No Faugheen, no Thistlecrack, no Annie Power but here are 10 horses to keep an eye on during Cheltenham week.
1. Douvan (Queen Mother Champion Chase)
Douvan will spearhead Willie Mullins team after some high profiles losses to his travelling party. Since romping to victory in last year's Arkle, he has enjoyed five wins and no horse has finished within six lengths of him. The big gamblers are going to hit him hard and the value isn't there for regular Joe Bloggs but his performance could be something to behold. We could look back on him as one of the greatest chasers of all-time.
2. Moon Racer (Supreme Novice Hurdle)
The 2015 Champion Bumper winner relishes Cheltenham and has been aimed at this contest for quite some time by the wily David Pipe. He holds an entry for the Champion Hurdle but expect him to bypass that contest. A slight concern is the fact that we haven't seen him since his victory at Cheltenham in November. Melon caught the eye in Leopardstown for Ruby and Willie but lacks the experience required for me.
3. Cantlow (Cross Country Chase)
He was giving 18Lbs away when he was beaten by French raider Urgent De Gregaine at Cheltenham in January but should easily account for him when they meet on level weights. The banks have really helped reinvigorate this horse and Enda Bolger is the master when it comes to these events.
4. Apple's Jade (Mares Hurdle)
A lot will depend on where Vroum Vroum Mag goes. Will Mullins allow her to defend her crown in this race or upgrade her to the world hurdle. With Limini poised to be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle, everything seems to be falling into place for Apples Jade. Bryan Cooper has been bullish about her chances. I fancy her to win even of Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag are there to take her on. Her second place in the Triumph last year would suggest that she can handle the undulations at the track as well.
5. Un De Sceaux (Ryanair Chase)
The trip looks ideal, his jumping is improving and he should be the class horse of the race. A confidence boosting win Clarence House Chase in January has set him up nicely for a crack at this Grade One. A weakened Gold Cup is likely to dilute the Ryanair field.
6. On The Fringe (Foxhunters Chase)
He will be without the wonderful Nina Carberry in the saddle but Jamie Codd is a fine replacement and the partnership teamed up beautifully at Aintree last year. Two good runs behind Foxrock this year have him primed for action. His age is a factor but he should have one more festival success in his legs.
7. Augusta Kate (Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle)
She holds a number of entries throughout the week but I think she should renew her rivalry with Gordon Elliott's Death Duty on the Friday. Augusta Kate, owned by a syndicate that numbers Alan Shearer, Lee Westwood as well as Ant and Dec, would have beaten Elliott's charge at Naas but for a final flight spill and I fancy her to turn the tables.
8. Airlie Beach (Mare's Novice Hurdle)
Provided she doesn't come up against Augusta Kate, Willie Mullins' mare should have enough class to account for her opponents. Her victory in the Royal Bond suggests she should win, even if the form from that race hasn't been great.
9. Footpad (Champion Hurdle)
He was heavily supported when chasing home Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January and he would have been closer but for a mistake at the last. A horse that is definitely on an upward curve. Ran a fine race to be placed in last year's Triumph and looks value at 16/1 in a Champion Hurdle that won't contain his stablemates Faugheen and Annie Power.
10: Camping Ground (Coral Cup/Stayer's Hurdle)
Holds two entries for the Festival and connections will have to decide between the 2m5f Coral Cup, which is a handicap, and the Grade One Stayers Hurdle. His previous trainer Robert Walford thought he was good enough to take on Annie Power last year in the Champion Hurdle after winning the Cleeve Hurdle. He is now trained by Gary Moore and romped to a 29 length win for his new connections in the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell. One to watch depending on where he goes.
Odds: 20/1 (Coral Cup), 20/1 (Stayer's Hurdle)
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