1:30 Triumph Hurdle
Doctor Parnassus has done everything we’ve asked of him. He’s a very straightforward, hardy type of horse who won’t be fazed by the hustle and bustle of this race and will handle any ground. The question is, how good is he?
The Irish form looks a lot stronger. Vauban and Pied Piper have been the talking horses, but the one I think we’ve got to beat is Fil Dor. I think if there had been a stronger pace when Vauban ran against Fil Dor at Leopardstown last time, there might have been a different result. The stiffer track here will suit him as well.
2:10 County Hurdle
We’ve got a good record in this race and we run three here. I ride West Cork who I hope is a Graded horse in a handicap. He won the Greatwood Hurdle here in great style and then probably just bounced on his next start at Ascot. He got quite a nasty overreach that day, which might have affected his finishing performance. He’s been trained for this race and I think he’s got a big chance.
Faivoir has done nothing wrong and keeps picking up good prize money. He’ll be ridden to pick up the pieces and, who knows, it might happen.
Stepney Causeway has got to improve quite a bit on all known form to get involved.
2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Ballygrifincottage would be my each-way bet of the day. He’s a proper stayer, which is what you need for this race. He’s a hardy horse who will just keep on galloping.
He ran third on his debut over course and distance behind Blazing Khal, who was favourite for the Albert Bartlett until he was unfortunately ruled out. Gelino Bello was second and he’s come out and won since, so the form looks strong. He was a good winner at Lingfield last time on soft ground, and this surface won’t be any worry to him. I think he’s a good each way price at around 25/1.
3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Protektorat is actually my first ride in the Gold Cup and a first runner for the yard. Everyone’s very excited. We always hoped that one day he would be competing in this class of race.
He’s run two good races this season, first in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, where he finished out his race really strongly. A bit softer ground that day would have helped me as I felt in the last mile I was in top gear, until I hit the rising ground, when he really started to stay on strongly.
He then went to Aintree on heavy ground and powered home to win. How strong that form is, I don’t know, but it’s the best performance he’s put in to date and he’s still young and improving.
I don’t think this trip will be any problem for him. He has such a strong mind, which is a feature of horses by his sire Saint Des Saints, and he just keeps grinding away.
He had a racecourse gallop at Warwick three weeks ago, which seems to have done the trick and we couldn’t have him any better coming into the race.
It looks an open Gold Cup and this has always been the plan for him. If the ground doesn’t dry out too much I think he’s got a great chance.
I think Galvin would probably be the main threat. He’s a real stayer, and that’s what you need for the Gold Cup. You’ve got to respect A Plus Tard too, but the statistics say it’s very difficult to come back and win a Gold Cup second time if you haven’t done so in your first year.
4:10 St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
My sister in law, Gina Andrews, rides Dubai Quest here and he’s a horse that I know has always been held in high regard.
Last year we got to ride in quite a few hunter chases and Bridget actually won on him around Fakenham. She also won on Fumet D’oudaries.
She said that he gave her a pretty good feeling and he had plenty of quality about him. He won well at Wetherby last time, but I think he’s just got to brush up his jumping a bit. He looks to have a good chance.
Fumet D’oudaries has been unbelievable for Tom [Ellis] and Gina. They bought him for next to no money at the Doncaster sales and he’s won three of his four races this season.
4:50 Mares’ Chase
Elimay has a great record and looks very solid. Vienna Court was very impressive at Cheltenham in January and Nigel’s [Twiston-Davies] horses are running really well, so it might be worth taking a chance on her.
5:30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Lorcan Williams rides Langer Dan for us in the last. He was second in the race last year.
To be honest, prior to Christmas, we were struggling a bit with him as he had an injury, which meant we couldn’t work him as we soon as we wanted to. We then started doing plenty of work with him after Christmas and managed to get a run into him at Taunton. He’s improved tenfold since that run and the handicapper has dropped him three pounds.
He’s in great form and should have a great chance, you just need a lot of luck in a race like this. Hopefully there isn’t a Galopin Des Champs in there this year!