The clock is ticking down to the Cheltenham Festival and punters are putting their final touches to their selections for the world’s most prestigious and exciting National Hunt festival.
The last of the Cheltenham Festival preview nights are now being run, and the recent one held at the Garda Club in Westmanstown was arguably the most revealing, in terms of Cheltenham clues, yet.
Cheltenham Festival top-jockeys Barry Geraghty, Ruby Walsh and Davy Russell, who have ridden over 50 Festival winners between them, featured on the panel, along with trainer Henry De Bromhead, who trains Champion Chase and Ryanair fancy Sizing Europe.
The Irish trainer was straightway put under the spotlight regarding which race his stable star is going for. At the time of writing, Sizing Europe is 6/1 with William Hill for the Champion Chase and a 9/2 poke for the Ryanair Chase.
Punters in attendance were anxious to know where the classy performer will end up, but got no change out of the trainer.
“There is no decision made yet,” said De Bromhead.
“It’s completely 50-50 at the moment. We haven’t made up our minds yet, we’ll take our time.”
The talk moved on to, potentially Sizing Europe’s big rival, Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase.
“He’ll win by a furlong,” said Walsh confidently of the 1/4 hot-pot with Paddy Power.
“I’ll be on Sanctuarie, and, along with Tom George’s Mail De Bievre, we’ll set it up for Barry. It just depends on how far he wants to win by. If I was a punter I’d be backing him to win by whatever ‘over’ you can get.”
Wise words, we reckon, and no doubt punters will be awaiting the release of the Sprinter Sacre winning distance market.
His rider Geraghty threw more praise the horse’s way: “I’ve never sat on anything like him before. I schooled him for the first time in almost a year last Friday and I can’t describe the feeling he gives you going to a fence.”
He was then asked about how Simonsig, the 4/6 favourite with Paddy Power for the Racing Post Arkle Chase, compares to Sprinter Sacre. Geraghty surprisingly revealed he feels more confident riding the Arkle favourite rather than Sprinter Sacre.
He said: “I’m not worried about Simonsig. He’s an easier ride than Sprinter Sacre. You can do what you want with him. Sit him in, let him bowl along, anything you want really. He’s as close to perfection as you can get.”
Walsh then was pressed on Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle. The Fly has been very weak at the top of the market for the race, with Paddy Power pushing him out to 2/1.
Walsh passionately declared: “Zarkandar beat two horses who needed the run in the International. My lad won over a mile and a furlong in France and also won in a hurdle race over there on bottomless ground. So I don’t give a damn whether there is a pace or not. He can do it either way. I think he’ll be very hard to beat.”
Talk then moved onto the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where all three of the jockeys will ride a horse at the head of the betting. Walsh, who is booked for 5/1 chance with William Hill Silviniaco Conti, said: “He might have surprised a few people, but he hasn’t surprised us.”
Geraghty will ride the 3/1 favourite with Bet365, Bobs Worth, and he has been suitably impressed with his work from home despite not running in a competitive race since the Hennessy.
Geraghty admitted: “He did a piece of work with Long Run and Binocular last week and I couldn’t believe the pace he showed. I’d forgotten how quick he was.”