Joe Tizzard previews his stable’s day one Cheltenham Festival runners
‘This race has been the plan all season.’
It’s obviously going to be a very different Cheltenham Festival this year.
We’re certainly going to have less runners than usual, because firstly our novice hurdlers in particular just haven’t done enough yet this season to earn their place here, and secondly, with owners unable to attend, there won’t be the more social runners going there, and most trainers would say the same thing.
Our first runner of the week is a big priced one, Eldorado Allen in the Arkle.
It wasn’t a straightforward decision to run here rather than in the Grand Annual, but we had a long discussion with the owners, and ultimately felt this was the better option. He’s still a novice so this smaller field should suit him better than a bigger field handicap, he’ll love this first day softer ground, and with only six declared, there’s potentially some decent prize money up for grabs.
We know Shishkin is a class act, and Allmankind is a Grade 1 winner also, and they’ll be hard to beat, but we’ve had big priced winners at the Festival before, so you never know what might happen.
This looks a really strong renewal of the Champion Hurdle, with Honeysuckle better than ever at Leopardstown last time, and Goshen getting back to form at Wincanton, and that’s without looking at some of the bigger priced ones, but I wouldn’t be giving up on Epatante.
She showed when winning the race twelve months ago how well she comes up the hill here, she didn’t seem to be herself when finishing second at Kempton at Christmas, and Nicky Henderson’s record in the race is second to none, so I’m sure he’ll have her cherry ripe for this.
This race has been the plan for this fellow all season, he comes here fresh and well, and has been in good form at home, although we could have done without the 10mm of rain that fell on Monday as he does enjoy better ground.
Even so, he’s got a decent chance on official ratings, he jumps well and keeps galloping, so we’re looking forward to this.