Live blogging of Official Festival Preview from Cheltenham Racecourse

I’m in the Centaur Cheltenham. Walking in there was definitely a hum about the place as we get closer to the off on Tuesday. The action is timed to start at 7.00pm.
Key to the panel:
AL: Alan Lee (Chairman) – journalist with The Times
LM: Lee Mottershead – journalist with Racing Post
MF: Mick Fitzgerald – ex-jockey and horse racing pundit
CL: Carl Llewellyn – Nigel Twiston-Davies’ business partner
DT: Derek Thompson – Channel 4 presenter, racecourse commentator and “tipster”
TS: Tom Scudamore – jockey
PN: Paul Nolan – trainer
I’ll be providing a JP Festival view on the panel’s opinions and each race. It’s not all about reporting though and it would be great to get your opinions too. So please use the Comments feature below this article to submit your thoughts. Thank you!
5.47pm Just heard that they are videoing the event for the first time this year so hopefully this will appear on youtube tomorrow. In the meantime, you’ll have to make do with my ramblings.
6.48pm Serious queues at the small bar. The only consolation is that it’ll be worse in 2 days time. Event is due to start in 10 mins but not much sign of activity at the moment.
7.03pm – While we’re waiting why not sign up to my Weekly Update? Last one before Festival will be emailed out tomorrow. Then they’ll be a Festival Review on Monday 22 March.
7.07pm – We’re off and running! AL is introducing the panel. CL, PN, DT, LM and MF all here.
7.10pm – TS was riding in the last at MR so not here yet. DT is going to be roving with the mic we’re told. Never one to miss an opportunity he borrows AL’s mic to say a few words.
7.12pm – Edward Gillespie says a few words. There are about 1000 Club badges for Friday left. No Club to be available on the door for Gold Cup day. Only 700/800 short on sales compared with last year so they’ll sell more tickets this time.

7.15pm – Ed says rain on the way on Thursday/Friday. Happy with conditions.

7.18pm – Starting now with the SUPREME. They are going to cover the top 3 races each day. AL thinks Irish hurdlers he’s met aren’t as good as ones he will meet on Tues. PN on Dunguib – thinks jumping of Dunguib poor but better pace will help. Some racehorse he says. Can afford to kick a few out of ground. PN plugs Paddy’s offer. LM – Dunguib will set tone for Festival. Thinks GMOOH will give him a test in a hurly burly contest. CL – another plug for Paddy. By far best horse in race. Machine Carl says. Mention for Oscar Whiskey but jumping needs to come up to scratch. MF – Dunguib capable of running in Champion Hurdle. Would have been 4/1 shot. Plug for Sportingbet from Mick (he is repping for them tonight). Offering evens to those here. Thinks that Dunguib will win. Likes GMOOH as has the strong from in book.

Overall, panel agree that Dunguib will win. LM thinks GMOOH at the prices. PN makes point that he can get buzzed up quite easily.

JP’s view – Back the superstar Dunguib but it you don’t fancy it take Paddy’s pants down! (afiliate link). Interesting point re Dunguib getting buzzed up.

7.29pm – ARKLE now. MF – thinks Captain Cee Bee is the real deal. Plugs Sportingbet’s faller refund offer.  CCB likes Cheltenham he says and has great chance. LM – good that Somersby finished 3rd in Supreme. Pinged fences at Sandown. Worried about CCB’s mistakes. Doesn’t like Sizing. Says he doesn’t find for pressure. CCB looks well apparently but prefers Somersby. PN – Worries about CCB jumping. SE not impressed him although jumps well. Ruby thinks he’s more of a stayer and not quick enough. Thinks Irish will win it. Sports Line runs free. Decent race he says but doesn’t really plump for selection. CL – keen on Somersby. Thinks CCB jumping is poor. Worried about 2nd last and poor price. Would like to ride Somersby and thinks he would be shorter if trained by PF Nicholls. Like Riverside Theatre too. MF – Riverside T has good chance of winning. Horse is bouncing but Mick goes for CCB. LM mentions Woolcombe Folly but not strongly.

Panel overall opinion – Captain Cee Bee for the majority but no consensus. CL suggests Riverside Theatre each way.

JP’s view – MF does like favourites doesn’t he! I’m taking a flyer that Mad Max will improve on better ground.

7.41pm – CHAMPION HURDLE up next. CL – likes KK unsurprisingly and Celestial Halo. Puzzled by Binocular prep. KK only had 2 runs because he is good fresh. Has lots of speed. Needs to be dropped in and race will be run to suit. Doesn’t like Solwhit. PN – question mark about Charles Byrne’s form. No one knows what’s going on re the horse. PN says there is no leakage from yard…they keep everything to themselves. Open race. Medermit unlucky last year and thinks he’s good value. He likes KK and CH too but thinks wide open. Won In The Dark mentioned as good outsider. LM – confused about race. Final flight has been moved closer to winning post – only 150 yards away this year. Thinks Go Native is class horse in field. Likes CH too. Ground likely to be quicker than most opening days. MF – another plug for his sponsor for bad price for Nicky H to win. Likes Punjabi. Comes into race with no question marks. Likes blinkers on Celestial Halo. Likes Go Native…I think he’s going to go for the fav again!

Panel view – no consensus. Open race.

JP’s view – Good to hear CL, PN and LM agree with my view on Celestial Halo. I’m also quite keen on Khyber Kim. Interesting on final flight being moved. Should help Go Native and CH I reckon.  MF goes for the fav shocker!

7.54pm – NEPTUNE next. PN likes Quel Esprit. Staying type. Jumps well. Got down for speed last time. Rite Of Passage good on Flat. Should stay. Might be a worry about pace. Weld doesn’t have a good record at Cheltenham. But says ‘normally stats are bullshit’! Likes Peddlars Cross. LM – Says Nick Williams is a bit mad but can train. Prefers Peddlars though. Could be a good horse and nice price. Strong word for Quel Esprit in Mullins camp. Not a fan of ROP. Price too short. AL – agrees. Peddlars shows pace. MF – Peddlars is serious contender. Just waiting for him to say he loves ROP! Plug for sponsor again…just a general mention. Yawn. MF says ROP has a wind problem! He likes Finians Rainbow. CL – Likes Quel Esprit. Likes Manyriverstocross too. LM – AK still not in real good form but wouldn’t be surprised if he had 2 Festival winners.

Panel – no consensus. As above.

JP’s view – good info on ROP wind problem. Didn’t catch which race but gurgled apparently after one. Doesn’t sound good. I think Quel Esprit will start as favourite.

8.04pm – RSA Chase next. MF plugs sponsor again and AL cuts in to ask Mick to make a pick only for MF to plug again for bet on Nicky to win RSA Chase. MF not worried about Long Run jumping. Again another plug about faller refund! Apparently, Mick is changing his name to Mick Sportingbet. CL thinks jockey on Long Run is a massive problem. Have spoken to Carl about this before and he thinks jockey’s nerves might play a part too. LM – likes Long Run but thinks jumping is a concern. Goes low at fences. Big engine though. Apparently, nothing can work with him at home. Likes Punchestowns too. Doesn’t like Diamond Harry (neither did MF). PN also like Long Run and thinks he’s a future Gold Cup horse. Doesn’t think Weapons Amnesty jumps well enough and thinks he’ll be nowhere. CL – likes Punchestowns.

Panel – 3 for Long Run and 1 for Punchestowns.

JP’s view – I like Weapons Amnesty in this. A proper old fashioned stayer. A shame that it looks like Bensalem doesn’t run. Good info from LM re nothing being able to work at home with Long Run.

8.13pm – Queen Mother – MF – Master Minded fan so another favourite for Mick here. Best ever performance was achieved when there was a suicidal pace but he can also jump well when making own pace.  LM – Lee rides apparently and has ridden out for Ferdy M. Unsurprisingly then he likes Kalahari King. Blossoming at the moment into good 2 mile chaser. Ferdy has horses on A game at Festival but MM is tough nut to crack. Nagging worry that he is not always at this best. Likes KK at the prices. PN – Forpadydeplasterer prep not ideal and wonders about his pace (lack of). Can’t see him beating MM. Big Zeb has a question mark about jumping. CL likes MM and thinks he should win. Murphy gets horses ready for Festivals. Likes KK too but thinks he will come 2nd to MM. Straightforward he says!

Panel – no consensus. As above.

JP’s view – Forpadydeplasterer for me. Will love the ground and McCoy perfect partner.

DT is now going to roam. Here we go…he’s asking for good looking girls. Oh dear. Question about what the panel think of Zaynar. MF says typical Daylami and will like good ground. Will have cheek pieces on for Champion. Question about Twist Magic. LM – not having Ruby is a big drawback. Can’t back him with confidence. Question re Khyber Kim and time before race – CL – not a problem as horse better when fresh. Question about Menorah at Ascot and has he a chance against Dunguib? – Ground will suit Menorah. Dicky Johnson had just fallen on Planet Of Sound hence the bad ride. DT is laughing. Nobody knows why. Question about Binocular. MF – Nicky is pleased with him after extensive tests. DT plugs his ‘hotline’ – that didn’t take long. LM mentions Colin Tizzard’s in bumper…Cue Card. Questions about Mad Max – MF will be ridden by Paul Carberry. Thinks he has place claims. DT is chatting up a lady.

Break now. Time for a pint! Back later.

8.53pm – JEWSON – Tom Scudamore is now in the house. AL wants the panel’s opinion on Rivaliste and The Hollinwell. The latter is favoured by the panel.

8.55pm – PERTEMPS – CL doesn’t like Alfie Sherrin. Likes South Of The Border but stats against him. Kayf Aramis too much weight. SOTB best of the 4 Twister entries. PN – Prince Eric is the best of the Irish but would generally avoid the Irish in the handicaps. MF – likes Ainama. Likes Silk Affair. TS – rides Mr Thriller who beat Alfie Sherrin and has beaten Starluck. Not worried about poor Cheltenham form. Also likes Silk Affair.

9.01pm – RYANAIR – AL – No stand out fav. Likes Barber Shop as does LM. Made for the Ryanair. Tranquil vulnerable on quicker ground. The Sportingbet people on the table next to me are being noisy. Petit Robin like by MF. Overpriced and not a lot between hime and Barber Shop. Also likes Albertas Run. Open race MF thinks. PN – Not running Joncol although was an entry. Not ready for a race like Ryanair yet. Carl likes Poquelin. Likes Tranquil Sea.

Panel – majority like Barber Shop.

JP’s view – sticking with Planet Of Sound although disappointed by fall at Ascot. I fear Tranquil Sea.

9.08pm – WORLD HURDLE – CL likes Tidal Bay and Sentry Duty and thinks they are both value. Thinks Denis Regan will follow Big Bucks around and then pounce. LM – doesn’t fancy Katchit and likes Big Bucks. He gallops hard and is best horse in the race. TS – Big Bucks is a fantastic race horse. Respects Tidal Bay but thinks they are all playing for 2nd place behind BB. MF – taking a chance with Karabak. Likes Sentry Duty too. Good reminder that BB and Punchestowns were 17 lengths clear last year. PN – Cousin Vinny schooled well recently and is classy but doesn’t fancy the other Irish horses. Likes Big Bucks but short price.

JP’s view – good to hear CL put forward an alternative to Big Bucks. I’m on Karabak and an happy with 14s each way. Love Big Bucks and will probably win.

9.15pm – TRIUMPH HURDLE – TS – horses have been running on softer ground than they are used to. Will be v diff in Triumph and could be ripe for an upset. Not sure what he’s riding. PN – Doesn’t like Alaivan. Likes Advisor and thinks it’s a pointer that Ruby riding. LM – unmoved by the race. MF – Soldatino talented. Nicky H not sure how good he is. Nothing has grabbed his attention. Thinks Alaivan is a ‘rat’! Likes Advisor. TS – Notus De La Tour goes in Fred Winter. CL – likes Advisor.

Panel – majority go for Advisor.

JP’s view – Nice quote from MF about a favourite no less. Don’t think Notus De La Tour target was public so good info there. Race is dull this year and I’m going for a shock as I don’t think the ones at head of market are anything special. Having a go on Olofi who has Cheltenham form.

9.22pm – ALBERT BARTLETT – PN – Shinrock Paddy will run well. Likes Enterprise Park too and liked by Willie Mullins. LM – Restless Harry has rejuvenated Robin Dickin and his career but worried about ground. Similar claims to Tell Massini. MF likes Tell Massini. TS – Tell Massini impressive. Rides Chatreux and shouldn’t be 25/1. Great chance he says.

JP’s view – Enterprise Park is my NAP of the week. Hoping the rain stays away to give him an advantage over the soft ground horses. He’s won on soft though so have every chance no matter what the conditions.

9.28pm – GOLD CUP – CL – great achievement for PN to get horses to Gold Cup year in and year out. Kauto is the best horse and will win. Can’t have Denman. Imperial Commander not ready at Haydock. Only realistic challenger to Kauto. Loves Cheltenham and will love ground. Not missed a day’s work. Ignore the King George. PN – Cooldine good chance of coming 2nd. Can’t rule out Denman. Kauto Star is his fav horse of all time. TS – has switched allegiance from Denman to Kauto. MF thinks Denman would have won Aon if stayed on his feet. Kauto Star a machine though. LM – Most people don’t think Denman can win. He thinks Hennessy finished Denman this season. Wobbled and staggered after race apparently. Worried that Denman won’t want to go through pain barrier. Nothing can beat Kauto Star.

Panel – unanimous that kauto Star will win.

JP’s view – bit worrying that CL puts Kauto above Imperial Commander but he’s the one for me each way. CL positive enough about him though. Big statement about Kauto from PN. Can’t agree with MF about Denman…he was beaten at Newbury. Interesting from LM on Denman who has been the most original of the panel tonight.

Panel NAPS:

Carl Llewellyn: Khyber Kim (also mentioned Ashkazar from David Pipe’s stable)
Paul Nolan: Long Run
Mick Fitz: N Henderson to win RSA
Alan Lee: Somersby
Lee Mottershead: Notus De La Tour
Tommo: Gave Drunbaloo in the bumper but not really as a nap
Tom Scudamore: Get Me Out of Here

DT has been entrusted with the mic again. Pointed out by Terry Warner (owner) that Planet Of Sound has great chance in Ryanair. Question for Carl – if he could have a ride this week who would she be!? OK…enough shenanigans. Serious analysis is over.

That’s all folks!

Update: Monday 15 March – A post-Cheltenham JP Festival Weekly Update reviewing the week will be out on Monday 22 March so sign up now if you’d like a copy for free in your inbox.