Cheltenham Festival – Day 1

Time: 14:10 – Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Class 1)

Selection: JONBON (7/4)

Trainer: Nicky Henderson Jockey: Aiden Coleman

Summary: There has been much debate leading up to this race in the last couple of months regarding the top teo in the market. The question on everyone’s lips is: El Fabiolo or Jonbon?

In all honesty, is not that easy. Firstly, there are too many top quality horses in this race to make it a 2 horse race. On their day, a number of these horses can give a decent showing of themselves, and give them a run for their money.

Dysart Dynamo, Ha D’or and Effernock Fizz all like going from the front, so will definitely make sure the pace is genuine and create a greater importance on jumping. However, I’m hoping it will set it up for my selection.

The way I see it is, this race will be won on jumping. The horse that jumps the best over the 2m will have enough to have to edge up the hill, and I believe this will come from JONBON.

I have much admiration for this horse, having seen him up close at Sandown, beating Boothill by an easy 8 lengths. He jumped brilliantly that day and finished the race with plenty in hand.

Much was made of Jonbon’s run at Warwick back in February, when Harry Skelton and Calico pressured him down the back straight, when Jonbon made an uncharisitc mistake at one of the fences. This inadvertently provided questions for Aiden Coleman to answer and he had to give Jonbon a push to keep up with Calico.

Jonbon responsed to the pressure and won well in the end. I believe this bode well for him, knowing he can fight it out when questioned. It was also a 2 horse race, the Arkle will be run very differently tactically – providing more opportunity for Jonbon to sit behind the leaders and run his race.

There is a lot of Irish talent on display in this year’s Arkle, but I’m hoping it will be another English winner here.

Time: 14:50- Ultima Handicap Chase (Class 1)

Selection: MONBEG GENIUS (14/1)

Trainer: Jonjo O’Neil Jockey: Jonjo O’Neil Jr

Summary: Now where do I start, 23 runners and looking at each one of them they all have some sort of a chance in this race.

The one that I can’t get away from though is MONBEG GENIUS.

He has won well in his 3 races, winning all 3 in good style. He does take a step up in class here but I don’t think that will be a problem.

Jonjo O’Neil Jr retakes the ride, having ridden him for almost all his career runs. This gives me greater confidence in the two, as you would think they would know each other well by now, and that’s a great attribute to have in these big fields.

Looking at the forecast, the ground conditions on Tuesday shouldn’t be an issue, having won on good, good-to-soft and soft conditions. He hasn’t run at Cheltenham before but has done most of his winning at Chepstow, a track that runs very similar to Cheltenham.

This is an ultra competitive field, but if Monbeg Genius can produce his normal impressive jumping display and stay out of trouble, then I believe he has a great each-way chance in this year’s Ultima Chase.

Time: 16:10 – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Class 1)

Selection: MARIE’S ROCK (3/1)

Trainer: Nicky Henderson Jockey: Nico de Boinville

Summary: There are so many quality mares in this years Mares Hurdle. None more iconic than the formidable Honeysuckle. She has been one of those horses that everyone loves to see win.

However, as much as I adore Honeysuckle, I do believe she’s on the down rather than up and the one I feel has the beating of her is MARIE’S ROCK.

This Nick Henderson trained mare has been running her heart out, winning grade 1s for fun – winning at Cheltenham, Punchestown, Warwick and Kempton. She has won on most ground conditions and loves it around here.

Looking at the runners, I can’t see a massive amount of pace, but I’m really hoping someone can take it up, and Nico can place Marie’s Rock mid pack and produce her up the hill for the win.

Time: 16:50 – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Class 1)

Selection: PUNTA DEL ESTE (14/1)

Trainer: Dan Skelton Jockey: Harry Skelton

Summary: Now, there’s not much to go on for PUNTA DEL ESTE, but having watched his previous races, including his French races, I have been highly impressed with the way he runs and finishes his races.

In December, he won over in France and was picked up by the Yates in January. He was given a race at Haydock in February, where he finished third to Bo Zenith and looking at the bare bones of that form, I believe there’s more to come from.

I think this has been a shrewd purchase for the Yates and he is in the right hands of Dan Skelton, who can obviously train them, and possibly for a quick return for their money.

From watching his previous races, I do believe he likes the conditions on the softer side, but if he can run to his potential, then I see no reason for a big run here.

Note: Looking through his pedigree the dam’s Sire (Kapgrade) has helped produce horses like A Plus Tard, Clan Des Obeaux, Fakir D’Oudairies and Dolos.