Insights from my Cheltenham Preview by Graham Richards

My Tent Or Yours commenced his hurdle career with a smooth success over Taquin Du Seuil at Ascot. That chap has gone on to record a slightly higher rating raised in distance to two and a half-miles. Bogged down in the Newbury mud behind stablechum Chatterbox, he bounced back to form with a facile success at Huntingdon. MTOY was dispatched to Newbury where he turned the Betfair Hurdle into a procession. Always travelling well he jumped well apart from a slight mistake at the last. His RPR from the Betfair suggests he is well worth a place in the Champion Hurdle. The highest RPR recorded in the Supreme Hurdle since 2000 came from Back In Front in 2003. MTOY equalled that in the Betfair Hurdle. I do have some concerns over his chances. MTOY is a horse that does, at times, live on his nerves. Therefore, one has to consider the hullabaloo associated with Cheltenham, in particular the opening race. He has never run on an undulating track and will need to handle the ups and downs as well as staying up the hill. Horses that have not run in novice company on their last run have a poor record in the race. Since 2003, no winners have run in a handicap prior to Cheltenham (over 50 tried). Acts on good to soft to soft; looks a two-miler, pure and simple.

Pont Alexandre bolted at up at Cholet in the French provinces last May before joining Willie Mullins. The trainer has never hidden his admiration for this fellow and was rewarded with an all the way victory in a Grade One at Navan in late December. To win a race of that description on his Irish debut following just one outing some seven months earlier, was some achievement. Pont Alexandre repeated his front-running tactics at Leopardstown winning eased down from five previous winners. At five-years, my feeling is he would be best kept to two and a half-miles; only one horse has won the Albert Bartlett at that age (Moulin Riche 2004) Appears effective on good to soft through to heavy. Looking at his sire and dam’s sire race record (dam unraced), he has every chance of handling better ground.
Ballycasey is an ex Irish-Pointer that won his Bumper from Our Vinnie. Sent over hurdles at Clonmel in December 2012, he came through in the closing stages to win cosily. Upped in distance to two and three-quarter miles at Thurles, he won unextended from five previous winners. Effective on good through to heavy, he is bred to stay three-miles. Further progress suggests he will run well in the Albert Bartlett. On the downside, all Albert Bartlett winners won or placed in a Grade Two hurdle.

Simonsig has two facile novice chase wins at Ascot and Kempton Park to his name this season. A free-going sort, we know he handles Cheltenham having hacked-up in the 2012 Neptune Hurdle. Simonsig has jumped adequately on both occasions over fences and appeals as the type that goes well fresh. If the likes of Overturn and Arvika Ligeonniere turn up for the fun, he look sure to get the fast pace to help him travel and settle. Whilst his form over hurdles is rock-solid, we are assuming, rather than knowing, he can be as good over fences. Latest reports indicate he has come through intensive schooling with flying colours. In the longer-term, Simonsig’s pedigree suggests he will stay three-miles with ground conditions seemingly unimportant.

Sir Des Champs is an improving young chaser who has not jumped or travelled as well in his races as he did last season. That I believe is due to the ground. His best form has come on good or good to soft, which enables him to travel and jump far more fluently. I well remember his win in the Jewson last year; he never appeared in the slightest danger from five out. His sires’ best offspring, whilst staying three-miles, have yet to prove themselves out and out stayers. His dam stayed two and half-miles, though her sire was an influence for stamina. The Hennessy Gold Cup displayed both his stamina and jumping ability as he finished strongly following a fine jump as the last fence. With the ground likely to be the best he has met all season, he has to be given a shout of landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Read more from Graham: Cheltenham Daily Newsletter