Tom Scudamore thinks Ruby has picked the wrong horse in the Champion
I’m feeling really good going into Cheltenham week. At any stage of the season, if you are riding winners, you are happy and I’ve had 10 in the last two weeks. My horses have been running well so I go into this week full of confidence.
It’s set to be a fair week on the weather front but it something which I don’t particularly worry about. Some horses though will want the faster ground and others will prefer the softer ground. I remember as a kid the morning of the Gold Cup which Desert Orchid won, it was snowing and raining in the morning and Dad was absolutely delighted. He kept winding Simon Sherwood up saying Dessie isn’t going to run and I’m going to win the Gold and the rest , of course, is history.
If you are connections of Don Poli, you are hoping for a monsoon on Friday morning. On the other hand, if you’re Ruby Walsh you will want it to be a dry. That is what determines your mood this week.
I don’t have a ride in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle tomorrow at 1.30pm but I really do like the chances of Altior. You have to respect Min but I think a lot of that is on reputation rather than what he has achieved so far. Altior’s form is rock solid and he would be the one for me.
In the Arkle at 2.10pm, I expect Douvan to come out on top. He looks to be at the same level over fences as he was over hurdle, which was extremely high. There is only seven in the race and I can’t see anything beating him. Two years ago I rode Western Warhorse to victory in this race at odds of 33/1. We got the better of Champagne Fever, who had also won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the year before. He had not done it in the same manner as Douvan though. For me, Mullins’ horse just has an air of invincibility around him that very few horses have.
My opening ride on day one of the festival comes in the Ultima Handicap Chase at 2.50pm with Un Temps Pour Tout. He’s a horse who has not matched his hurdle form over fences yet. David’s horses are running better now than they were over the winter though. I think he has a fair chance in the race. He should cope with everything in what is going to be a good quality handicap. He handles most grounds but if we had a preference we’d want a bit of juice in it so we are pleased this race is on day one. At the beginning of the season we were hoping he’d turn into a RSA Chase contender. He’s been handicapped on his chase form, which is fair. We’re just hoping he can step up to it.
In the Champion Hurdle at 3.30pm, I don’t have a ride but I would be with Nichols Canyon rather than Annie Power. There is no such thing as a bad Champion Hurdle but this is clearly a weaker renewal. The only thing I would say about the favourite is Ruby has had his choice of runners and has chosen the mare. He very rarely gets it wrong. You only have to look at his record compared to Paul Townend’s at the Festival. I think the only one Ruby has got wrong was Wicklow Brave last year and that was because Wicklow Brave never used to jump off. There is nothing in the race with better form than Nichols Canyon, he is the only horse to have beaten Faugheen. You could argue My Tent or Yours has solid form but he has not run for a very long time and he could not win the race when everything was right with him. Of the English horses, The New One looks to have the best chance.
I take up the ride of Pass The Time in the Mares’ Hurdle at 4.10pm. She is as outsider and the one we all have to beat is Vroum Vroum Mag.
I obviously can’t ride in the 4.50pm, the amateur rides’ contest, but I know Vieux Lion Rouge very well. He’s been running consistently all season and think he has a cracking chance. I’ve always felt he will get four miles but you never know until they do it. I think the likelihood is he’ll get the trip and he has run well in handicaps with big fields before. He has a similar profile to Broadway Buffalo who was second in the race last year.
In the final race of day at 5.30pm, I ride Fourth Act for the Tizzards. I do actually like the chances of Amore Alato in the race though at a decent price. It can be a little in and out but he has the best form in the race. He ran well in the Grade One at Ascot recently. It’s a great race where there is just four pounds separating the top and bottom weight horses.