It finally feels like the jumps season proper has arrived now that the Paddy Power meeting is underway. I’d like to go but I’ve got family commitments – I’m going to Fontwell tomorrow to cheer Mon Michel on in the Tikram hurdle. His future lies over fences but he should have a decent chance of signing off his hurdles career with a win.
Also tomorrow I’ll be following (and backing) Ashkazar in the big hurdle at Cheltenham. I find the jumps season tougher than the flat as it seems to be dominated by the big stables these days. Nicholls rules over fences and at the moment, with Henderson perhaps winning the hurdling crown with his quality French imports. The likes of King, Pipe, Twiston-Davies, Hobbs etc. are very much on the scene. It’s hard to find an edge with so many horses from these big operations – with so much to compare to the stables know exactly how good their horses are.
The first at Cheltenham today is a race I look forward to. As one would expect Nicky Henderson has a classy French import in he race, and it’s reasonable to assume that this is thereabouts as good a prospect as he has at this stage. He’ll take some beating but the odds reflect this (I’d expect him to shorten as the race approaches). Alan Fleming recently relocated to the UK, and Starluck is the apple of his eye. He’s a very interesting alternative – should like the ground, was heavily punted last time against an Alan King hotpot (he must have been doing great things on the home gallop) and has the right profile for hurdles. He’s a clear stayer and should make it up the Cheltenham hill in the testing conditions, unlike some in this race. Given that I think he’ll get home I’ll have him each way.
The rest of Cheltenham is too tough for me, although I may go small on Dom D’Orgeval in the 2:00 in the hope that he’s recovered his form. In the first at Wetherby I’ll have a small interest in White Moss, who might have the right stuff to make a hurdler.