Cheltenham. Whilst I marvel every year at how time flies en route to the Festival, most of this season has passed me by. As you all know; my beautiful daughter Daisy arrived in September. What is lesser known is that since then, I have been fighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Natal Depression. Thankfully, I am on the long road back to full health. One in four of us will suffer with some kind of mental health related illness at some stage of our lives and yet is still very much a taboo subject. I admired Mark Enright for recently speaking about his battle with depression. Shortly afterwards Leo Powell wrote an excellent article about depression in the Irish Field. Several people have enquired as to why I have taken so long to get back to work so I thought I would make the reason widely known. I cannot thank my family and friends enough for their unwavering support. I plummeted depths that I never want to revisit. Days and weeks flew past where I didn’t even recognise myself. There were times that I thought that I wouldn’t get back on a Racecourse again, let alone back to work. I’m not fully there yet but I’m hunting around out the back and popping away slowly. My Festival Portfolio is nearly complete. The first two days are listed below. Updates along with Thursday and Friday’s selections will be added over the course of the next few days. For now my battle plans are as follows: Tuesday Champion Hurdle: My thoughts on last years race are that Jezki was a fortunate winner. With poor Our Conor’s fall and the hampering of The New One and Hurricane Fly not being on his A game, it only left My Tent Or Yours to fight and let’s face it that mercurial individual couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. We all know where my heart is but whatever happens I just want Fly back safe and sound. Heard a lot of people say he can’t win it, granted it’s tough but of course he could win it. A bit of rain would help enormously and I’m not sure how much I buy into Cheltenham doesn’t suit, alright Leopardstown is more to his tastes but two Champion Hurdles, and a third and fourth isn’t pure disdain for the place. Have heard a lot said about Faugheen not beating much, I don’t think that’s the case at all. His record so far speaks for itself. I watched last years Neptune again this morning and there is something about him that reminds me of Istabraq. The New One gets unfairly crabbed left right and centre which is unjust, you’re looking at a Cheltenham specialist and what could have been the Champion Hurdler of 2014. The New One isn’t slow, the speed he shows from jumping the last to up the hill is a joy to watch. National Hunt Chase: Cause Of Causes. Let’s hope the ghosts of last years Kim Muir are layed to rest. Jamie Codd reportedly takes the mount. I also have my eye on Cogry in this contest as I truly believe we are looking at a future Grand National winner. He will have the assistance of Steven Clements in the saddle who is no stranger to Festival success. Wednesday Neptune: I have had Windsor Park backed since the beginning of time. I first clapped eyes on this beautifully bred gelding at Fairyhouse in December 2013 and thought immediately that he was a future Neptune prospect. He’ll come up a hill, his two wins at Galway have proved that. The only worry I have is his jumping. Beast Of Burden catches the eye but I just wonder if the ground may have gone against him. RSA: Southfield Theatre, he’ll stay, he’ll jump and has a Cheltenham record of 4, 1, 3, 4, 2 – that will do for me. Coral Cup: Watching to see where Goodwood Mirage and Dell Arca line up. Update – as they both line up, I cannot split them. Dell Arca has the happy hat on. QMCC: Champagne Fever. Having thought of him always as a Gold Cup winner, I’ve done a 360 and backed him for this race. Festival record speaks for itself. Bumper: Bellshill is my pick of the Mullins battalions. Thursday JLT: Currently caught between Splash Of Ginge and The Tullow Tank. This tussle normally invades my mind at around 4am, when/if I reach a conclusion, I’ll post. – Update: at the prices, I’ll back them both! Pertemps: Yes, we all know the call with Edeymi. He’s an obvious for the shortlist but I am also currently looking at Regal Encore and Trustan Times. The former relished the step up last time out and let’s face it, we’ve all expected him to pop up in a big handicap for a while now. Trustan Times races of 2lb lower than his 1/2 length fourth last year. Again, hopefully I will have decided by Thursday morning. Update: I’m with Regal Encore Ryan Air: I backed Johns Spirit for this a while ago, I know the new course hasn’t been as kind to him as the old course but I’ve wanted him to run in this since his Paddy Power win. If Boston Bob re routes here from the Gold Cup then he becomes of interest too. World Hurdle: After his run in this last year and his run at Aintree, I started to think that Zarkandar had got a bit cute. I edited all chance of a World Hurdle victory for him out of my mind. After seeing him take the Grand Prix D’Automne, I reconsidered his chances. Alright, he idled at Ascot but the new course at Cheltenham has always played to his strengths. Paul Nicholls is very bullish about his chances and for me he is the likely winner of a very open race. His main danger in my eyes is Lieutenant Colonel. Brown And Merribelle: Rawnaq, he runs on the level, over timber and over fences. He’s versatile with regard to the ground which is great as nobody seems to know what the true going actually is. Rawnaq took the notable scalp of Gilgamboa last time out. He has placed form at Cheltenham (third in the 2013 Greatwood). With wins at Navan in the bag, you can be assured the hill will pose no problems. Friday Triumph: I am opposing Peace And Co, not because I am dismissing his obvious talent, I just think he’s fragile in the mind. He wore earplugs on Trials Day and still got worked up by proceedings. It will be a lot noisier on March 13th. I’m currently toying between Beltor and Petite Parisienne; that 7lb allowance is handy. Albert Bartlett: I actually backed Killultagh Vic for this race a while ago as I’m convinced he’s crying out for three miles. He’s by no means a certain starter so my alternate selection is the battle hardened Blaklion. He’ll stay and we know he acts over course and distance. Have done a bit of a rewind here and have actually backed Black Hercules. Gold Cup: Today has seen a U turn on my thoughts for this race which are still under investigation. I will update. No time to explain but as the rain falls I am pointed further towards Many Clouds. Martin Pipe: Rain will help Killutagh Vic’s cause. Grand Annual: Eastlake – with or without AP’s assistance!
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