First of all, let’s talk about how good Shishkin v Energumene was last weekend. It lived up to the billing. The best horse won, didn’t he?
I thought Energumene would win, but Shishkin is simply a better horse over two miles. Energumene is a better jumper, but Shishkin is a better horse, that’s what I’ve come to believe now. However, I wouldn’t write off Energumene at Cheltenham especially as the trip is fractionally shorter than at Ascot and if he gets into the same sort of rhythm as he did last weekend, he’ll put Shishkin to the sword again.
Cheltenham Trials Day is always a good day of racing and this year is much the same. I like the fact that Pied Piper (12:45) has been sent over by Gordon to get some experience of the track.
He’ll need to be winning, especially getting weight from Iceo , if he’s going to be a serious contender at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle come March.
Not many horses operate around Cheltenham like Coole Cody (13:55) does. He absolutely loves the place and is a much better horse there than anywhere else. It’s a good place to come alive! Saying that, he wasn’t great last time, but was as good as ever before that and should go well again.
Chantry House (14:30) is the best horse in the Cotswold Chase and all things considered, he’s the one to beat. He didn’t love Kempton on Boxing Day, but we know he likes Cheltenham, so if he’s in good form within himself, he’s the one they’ve got to get past to win.
Champ (15:05) looked like the best 3m hurdler around after seeing Klassical Dream get beaten in the Galmoy on Thursday. He was so good at Ascot and if he wins here, he’ll no doubt be seen as a ‘banker’ for plenty at the Cheltenham Festival. It’s great for young Jonjo O’Neill Jnr to keep the ride, too.
Balco Coastal (15:40) is two from two this season.
Although Hillcrest could be very good, the weight he received from him should be telling. Nicky Henderson has always said he was smart, so he’s got a chance to prove his trainer right here.
Third Time Lucki (13:35) will be a short price, but he was so good at the start of the season that I think he’s just a better horse than his rivals. He should take all of the beating with his next stop the Arkle Chase at the Festival.
Anna Bunina (14:10) needed the run at Musselburgh, but if she’s come forward from that, she’s got a cracking chance. She ran behind a good horse called Tommy’s Oscar that day, who is rated in the high 150’s now. She was only beaten 5l in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last March, so we know she’s got plenty of ability.
My Bobby Dazzler (14:45) ran in a handicap at Cheltenham last time and although he was fourth, he ran a cracker. He’s won a few races at Aintree in the past and clearly isn’t devoid of talent. It’ll be great to see him win this graded contest for his trainer Mel Rowley.
Cap Du Nord (15:20) has always threatened to win a big chase like this. He’s got no weight on his back and will love this test. I’m a big fan of his trainer Christian Williams, too. It’s a competitive affair, as this race always is, but I like horses getting loads of weight.
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