Tom Scudamore: “De Plotting Shed could surprise a few people”
Coral ambassador previews Day One at Cheltenham
It’s obviously been a very wet winter, but everyone has been in the same position as far as the ground goes, and it’s not as if we’re suddenly going to be running on good ground this week, after weeks of heavy ground.
It may get quicker as the week goes on, but this opening day will be on the slow side.
The meeting begins with an open-looking Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and I find it hard to take a strong view on the race.
Clearly owner Joe Donnelly has an extremely strong hand with Asterion Forlonge and Shishkin, I wasn’t blown away with the latter last time and I think he’s got a bit to find, so it’s not a huge surprise to see the former backed in the build up to the race.
I think several runners have come here rather than line up in Wednesday’s Ballymore, which looks really strong, but that could lead to something of a surprise winner to start the week.
By contrast, in the Arkle I really fancy Fakir D’Oudairies, who I think can reverse placings with Notebook from their Leopardstown run at Christmas.
On the whole, I think the Irish novice chasers look stronger than the home team, and I think a strong pace here will suit Joseph O’Brien’s runner perfectly. He’s definitely the one I’d want to be on.
The opening day highlight is the Champion Hurdle, and while there’s no such thing as a bad Champion Hurdle, in what looks a wide-open year, I can see there being a big priced winner.
Epatante was impressive at Kempton, but she beat Silver Streak into second day, he was third in last year’s Champion and is probably better suited by Cheltenham, so I can see him running another big race.
I can also see Ballyandy running well, he was a good second at Cheltenham in December, and beat Pentland Hills at Haydock last time, so they’d be my two against the favourite.
There’s a case for saying that both Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle could have lined up in the Champion Hurdle, but instead they go head-to-head in the Mares’ Hurdle, a race I do think has been a useful addition to the Festival.
This could be a cracker, but I would quite strongly favour Benie Des Dieux, I think she’s as good as Annie Power and Quevega and will make amends for last year’s unlucky loss.
Cheltenham 16.50 – De Plotting Shed
My one ride on Day One is De Plotting Shed in the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Chase, and I think he can outrun his odds.
The form of his Plumpton defeat of Who Dares Wins looks good with Alan King’s horse winning the Grade 2 Pendil at Kempton, he’s got plenty of experience for a race like this, and he could certainly surprise a few people.