Matt Chapman: The Cheltenham Festival is almost here and I am so excited – plus my top tips for Saturday
HOW we have waited patiently – but with just 72 hours to go agitation is setting in and now I just want THAT Cheltenham roar.
There’s nothing like the build-up to Cheltenham prior to any other racing Festival in the world.
Our man Chappers is looking forward to the Cheltenham FestivalNews Group Newspapers Ltd.
Australia has the Melbourne Cup, but while the excitement for the race that stops a nation is intense for a couple of weeks, it’s not remotely like the six months we salivate over National Hunt’s extravaganza.
In America anticipation for the Breeders’ Cup is similar to that Down Under, while of course there’s the Arc in France and Royal Ascot will grip Flat fans back home.
But Cheltenham is different. It’s unique, It’s passionate. It’s adrenalin-fuelled high octane horse power. The racegoers get it. The bettors crave it.
And yes, for many the four days of mayhem is all about the punt. Trying to find a winner. We all know a 3-1 victory at Prestbury Park is not the same as a 3-1 success at Southwell. The sensation is different.
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That’s because it doesn’t just involve financial reward or that kick of being proven right. It involves an emotional attachment and knowledge of witnessing something special. Cheltenham tugs at the heartstrings.
For others it will be about the creme de la creme of equine talent. The best of the best in Europe in a massive smash up.
On that score, there’s no doubt if there is one horse who can blow our minds next week it’s Constitution Hill in Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle.
Michael Buckley’s gelding was quite brilliant in the Supreme this time last year, and since then he’s done nothing other than suggest he’s from another planet.
For many a thrashing of State Man will be the only acceptable outcome if Constitution Hill is to be heralded as one of the all-time great jumpers. But he might just do that. You see, at this stage the world is at his feet.
In Tuesday’s paper I’ll have a feature with Buckley which I hope you will enjoy. What an experience he has had as a racehorse owner, having seen his colours already carried to Queen Mother Champion Chase success with Finian’s Rainbow and denied by the narrowest margin in a Breeders’ Cup Classic via Toast of New York.
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Extraordinary for a man who doesn’t have dozens of horses. Rest assured if Constitution Hill scores Buckers will be in tears.
Nicky Henderson trains Constitution Hill, and the start of the week promises to be massive for the Seven Barrows genius with Jonbon and Epatante also in action.
I’m all over Jonbon in the Sporting Life Arkle, for all that twice in his career, at Haydock last term and Warwick last time out, he’s shown a slight kinky side.
Ironically although dissed as a bit mad at the time, the Warwick form has worked out well and might have been a better effort than was given credit.
Epatante clearly has a fantastic eachway chance in the Close Brothers Mares’ as she takes on Honeysuckle who ducks the main hurdling event in a desperate attempt to go out with a Cheltenham success.
Matt Chapman’s Saturday ITV Racing tips
1.30 Wolverhampton – Exalted Angel each-way
1.50 Sandown – Crambo each-way
2.05 Wolverhampton – Unforgotten
2.25 Sandown – Monviel each-way NAP
2.40 Wolverhampton – Tinker Toy each-way
3.00 Sandown – Dontyawantme each-way
3.35 Sandown – Easy As That
She might well do it, but I find it a bit pathetic connections haven’t had the guts to let her take on Constitution Hill and friends. At the end of the day sport is about the best taking on the best.
‘Hendo’ will also look to claim the Ryanair Chase with Shishkin, and the former Supreme and Arkle hero was right back to his best at Ascot when stepped up in distance.
Shishkin is an absolute machine at a peak, and I hope he hacks up, although I’m worried about Fury Road who goes for the sponsors and will relish being dropped in trip. The latter will be hard to keep out the frame for Michael O’Leary.
The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle sees Flooring Porter attempting a hat-trick of wins, and while he’s not been at his best in two runs lately he could easily dictate once again under a canny Danny Mullins. On his ‘A’ game Flooring Porter is a quirky machine.
All week we gear up for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup, and after his collapse in the Turners Novices’ Chase in 2022 Galopin des Champs might just be the young pretender to the crown for Willie Mullins.
I’ve no doubt about his stamina. Former hero Minella Indo is not to be ignored at a crazy price for a place.
Arguably the most fascinating horse of the week kicks off the meeting when Facile Vega tackles the opening Sky Bet Supreme.
The Quevega offspring looked huge in the bumper last year, and while he flopped at Leopardstown last time he’s always been the apple of the Mullins eye.
One thing for sure is it won’t be facile finding winners. But that’s Cheltenham. The challenge is there for all of us. Get your copy of the Sun for the best coverage, and if you are not heading to the track just sit back and enjoy with me on ITV. It’s nearly time…
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