WE'VE reached halfway and already, Irish trained and bred horses have dominated this Cheltenham Festival and I’m confident we can continue the trend this afternoon.
Anyone who is a regular reader of these pages will know that I’m in awe of Envoi Allen and have been from his bumper days.
To my mind, he is the perfect racehorse. His departure from Cullentra House Stables would have hurt worse than any suspension ever could. Losing a horse that realistically could be Arkle is the ultimate punishment as horses of this quality are irreplaceable.
Alas, we must move forward, now in the care of Henry de Bromhead, Envoi Allen faces his latest assignment in today’s opening race, the Marsh Novices’ Chase where he faces seven rivals.
Can I see anything beating him? No. Could he be the best horse in training? Definitely.
Willie Mullins holds a strong hand in the Ryanair Chase at 2.30pm courtesy of Allaho, Melon and last year’s winner Min.
The latter has been an extraordinary horse, winning no less than eight Grade 1 races and his rating of 168 is the highest on offer here.
Despite the strength of the Closutton trio, I’m drawn to the horse who finished second to Min last year – Saint Calvados.
Following his brilliant run last season, connections decided to try and make him into a Gold Cup prospect but Saint Calvados had other ideas.
He raced too keenly when fourth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and failed to settle in the Cotswold Chase in January where he fell.
Considering A Plus Tard and Frodon finished behind him in last year’s Ryanair, he is obviously very effective at this trip and at the age of eight, he has every right to be in peak condition for this assignment.
The Stayers’ Hurdle was a graveyard for punters in 2020. Paisley Park was the banker who failed to cash in but despite that major blip in his career, he has certainly bounced back this term by outstaying Thyme Hill and Roksana in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December.
Paisley Park is a lazy racer, a horse that makes your heart flutter with worry before putting you at ease with a strong finish.
The Irish representation in this year's Stayers Hurdle is strong with six horses lining up including Gavin Cromwell’s improving 6yo Flooring Porter.
Goshen demonstrated what tricky horses are capable of doing in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle where he hung his chance away.
Flooring Porter is a tear-away leader who likes to rely on a running rail to guide his path. Unfortunately for his rider Jonathan Moore, Cheltenham does not have a continuous railing to aid his steering but he is riding a horse who is rapidly improving.
Likely to lead them a merry dance, don’t be surprised if Flooring Porter had these on the stretch from a long way out.
Running in the colours of JP McManus, Roseys Hollow has been electric over hurdles this season for her Rathcormac trainer – winning twice at Fairyhouse including defeating Royal Kahala and Gauloise in the Garde 3 Solerina Mares Hurdle.
The latter pair line up in opposition again and while I would love to see the local mare bring the prize home to Cork, my head is telling me that Peter Fahey’s Royal Kahala can reverse the form having had her excuses for that defeat.
Interestingly, since the inception of this race back in 2016 – Willie Mullins has won every single renewal. Limini, Let’s Dance, Laurina, Eglantine Du Seuil and Concertista have ensured that team Closutton have maintained a 100% record in this race and this year they rely on Hook Up, Gauloise, Glens Of Antrim and Pont Aval.
This is a formidable statistic but as the saying goes... records are made to be broken!
I like The Bosses Oscar in the Pertempts Network Final Handicap Hurdle but it’s very much a wide-open affair.
The mount of an extremely promising 7lb claiming conditional called Jordan Gainford, this horse was very unlucky when fifth in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle twelve months ago.
That was off a mark of 138 so his revised mark of 151 will make his life very difficult but with his rider somewhat helping with the extra weight, I think he could run well in what is probably a lottery race.
The Bosses Oscar.
A Wave Of The Sea.