THE first day at Cheltenham is going to be a right slog and it is hard to know who will be more tired at the end of each race — the horses or the jockeys.
I’ve never ridden in a Festival race on heavy ground so it will be interesting. The four-miler for amateurs will be particularly hard work — I hope they had their Weetabix this morning!
Luckily I am riding real mudlark VIC DE TOUZAINE in the third race, the Ultima at 2.50.
Don’t be too put off by the ‘PPP’ in his form — concentrate more on the ‘1’ before that. He has had one or two problems but is over them now.
And don’t forget he was running a cracking race in this contest 12 months ago until he unseated two from home. He’s from Venetia Williams’ stable and, like so many of her horses, he loves the mud.
You get a lot of upsets when the ground rides like it will today and I genuinely think he can hit the frame.
It’s massively competitive racing as you would expect but there are a couple I like the look of.
SIZING TENNESSEE catches the eye for me in the National Hunt Chase at 4.50. I’ve ridden him a lot and believe he has easily the best form on show in the race. I know Gordon Elliott has targeted Jury Duty at this but Colin Tizzard’s runner can give him a big race.
Bryan Cooper’s Cheltenham tips
Cheltenham 2.50 – Vic De Touzaine: ‘Was running a cracking race before unseating 2 out a year ago and he loves the mud’ (add to your betslip)
Cheltenham 3.30 – Faugheen: ‘Headgear could give him the wake-up call he needs’ (add to your betslip)
Cheltenham 4.50 – Sizing Tennessee: ‘He easily has the best form on show in the race’ (add to your betslip)
Cheltenham 5.30 – De Plotting Shed: ‘He’s been aimed at this all season’ (add to your betslip)
At Christmas he was only a neck down on Yanworth who is fancied for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday. Don’t forget we were likely to beat Black Corton at Cheltenham too before tipping up at the second-last. I think the step up to four miles will bring out the best in him and the soft ground is a help too. It will slow the race down a little and that could help with his jumping.
There looks like a good old-fashioned Irish plot in the 5.30 with DE PLOTTING SHED and Gordon can pull it off.
I know there are 20 runners and a lot of things can go wrong but the Elliott team have had this race in mind for him all season. He wasn’t far off being Grade 1 standard last year and he’ll love the trip and the ground. I expect the plan to come off nicely.
I am looking forward to seeing FAUGHEEN (3.30) in the first-time cheekpieces as he takes on Buveur D’Air. I thought Faugheen’s run at Leopardstown was a huge step in the right direction and the headgear could give him the wake-up call he needs.
Don’t forget, Willie Mullins is the master at getting his horses right for Cheltenham — and Faugheen can get close to Buveur D’Air . . . and maybe even get past him.