Willie Mullins farms this race and I think he has potential to win it again with Sharjah off top weight. At 10/1 we’ll play each way but there is no denying that this incredible horse could defy the trends to win this handicap.
He’s been 2nd in 2 champion hurdles which is a remarkable achievement in itself and he’s definitely deserving of a Cheltenham Festival win! Willie has won 4 of the last 8 renewals and Dan Skelton has won 3 of the others so they are trainers to watch out for in this.
The last horse to win off such a lofty mark was Arctic Fire in 2017, trained by Willie Mullins, so the master knows what it takes. This race is ran at a rapid pace which will suit Sharjah who can be held up and produced to perfection with a late rattle close home.
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
In a muddling race that has a history of going to wild prices, I’m taking an each way chance on Favori De Champdou.
He’s unbeaten over hurdles this season after winning 3 on the bounce on softer ground over extreme trips like this one. A couple of the other horses in here might just be a little too novicey and not as battle hardened as this 8 year old.
The last 8 year old to win this was Unowhatimeanharry in 2016 who also came into the race on the back of an unbeaten season. He beat a good yardstick in Letsbeclearaboutit last time out in the grade 2 at Limerick and after that slog on soft to heavy ground, he’s been kept well rested in preparation for this assignment.
The runner up that day has come out and won by 22 lengths, giving the form a nice boost. Jordan Gainford rides after striking up a nice partnership with him last time out. There’s been a lot of money for Gordon’s other horse Three Card Brag but at the prices, I’m sticking with this lad.
There is no disputing that Allegorie De Vassy is one of the most talented mares in training but she has a tendency to jump to her right which is slightly off putting. That said, she’s still won 2 grade 2 novice chases for mares by 19 lengths so it doesn’t look like jumping slightly waywardly hinders her all that much.
She’s very versatile and goes on any ground which means the downpour Cheltenham has suffered midweek shouldn’t really impact her too much. She has been unbeaten since joining Willie Mullins and is also versatile trip wise, winning from 2m2f to 2m6f. This trip looks her optimum and with a clear round of jumping, she’ll be incredibly tough to beat you’d imagine.
She’s a huge, scopey mare with a massive engine that will hopefully propel her home. 5/4 is the standout price and it’s very fair.
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle
In the finale of Cheltenham, I’m backing 6/1 chance Cool Survivor to end the week on a high. Gordon Elliott loves targeting this race and Gigginstown love winning it.
A usual route of preparation for this race includes running your horse over staying trips which is the campaign that Cool Survivor has received. He’s even ran in a grade 1 over 2m6f where he was surging home near the end.
The race is usually ran at a break neck gallop so staying is crucial but so is that burst of pace at the end which I think this horse has in his locker. He’s ran once over this trip and was a winner by nearly 4 lengths when giving weight away. He’s also won in heavy ground over 3 miles so the rainfall is no trouble to him.
He has proven form to his name compared to Spanish Harlem at the top of the market who is presumably only that short because of the Willie Mullins factor. I’m happy to take him on with this horse.