Cheltenham Preview: Getting Ahead Of Ourselves
Working on the basis that you can never prepare too far in advance, Jamie Lynch is getting carried away and looking forward to the Cheltenham 2016, influenced by the “results” of the 2015 Festival…
It is only by peering into the future that the truth of the present is revealed.
I just made that up, but it sounds sufficiently philosophical and pompous to appear on thinkexist.com, the kwik-fit of creativity and the refuge of every fallow writer seeking to introduce a theme. The platform for the gravitas train is as full as for the gravy train. I know whereof I speak.
But the "quote" is perfect for what we're going to do here, to look ahead to look back, to time-travel to unravel. The internet is replete right now with Cheltenham 2015 opinions, from Joe Bloggs' blogs to brother Fred's threads, but nobody, until now, has had the temerity to preview the 2016 Festival by fast-forwarding a year. Let me be your Time Lord. The AfterTime Lord.
TUESDAY 8th MARCH 2016
In a repeat of the head-to-head at last year's Festival, Douvan faces his nemesis, L'Ami Serge. Who could forget their epic battle in the 2015 Supreme when Douvan, who traded at an in-running low of 1.28 that day, was overhauled by the hill-loving L'Ami Serge. Douvan, unbeaten over fences this season, will of course be ridden by Ruby Walsh, but even at this late stage we're awaiting confirmation of the jockey for L'Ami Serge, with Barry Geraghty contracted to ride Jollyallan (who was 12 lengths behind the big two in the Supreme but has taken very well to chasing), and rumours persist that Tony McCoy could yet make a sensational return to race-riding to partner him and Peace And Co amongst the Munir/Souede Festival fleet.
There have been some memorable battles in the past year, including the free-hitting Mayweather vs Pacquiao, the free-speeching Cameron vs Miliband and the free-lancing Doyle vs Buick, but all pale into insignificance compared to the match-up between the two most impressive winners from the 2015 Festival. Immediately after Faugheen spreadeagled the Champion Hurdle field, by eight lengths, it was said that nothing would challenge him for years, but then, just three days later, Peace And Co happened. Ever since, neither horse has put a foot wrong, Faugheen cleaning up in Ireland and Peace And Co sweeping the board in Britain, all building towards this, the clash of the century.
But it's spring so some say Jezki can upset them.
WEDNESDAY 9th MARCH 2016
Not since Faugheen vs Peace And Co the day before has there been as mouthwatering a match as Wednesday's feature. Looking to emulate Badsworth Boy by winning a third Champion Chase, Sprinter Sacre has followed the same path as last season by having just one prep-race, though it served him well in 2015 when he regained the crown from Sire de Grugy, heavily backed into 13/8 on the day as it dawned on people that he only needed to find 7 or 8 lb from the old locker containing around 25 lb.
He faces a fearsome opponent this time, however, in the shape of Un de Sceaux, who was more Simonsig than Sprinter Sacre in getting the job done in the Arkle, with a few hairy moments both before and during the race, but he's almost uncatchable on his day.
Willie Mullins will be hoping it's a case of third time lucky with Black Hercules at the Festival, following near-misses in the Champion Bumper in 2014 and the Albert Bartlett last year. He has made a big impression over fences, but so too has Paul Nicholls' Aux Ptits Soins, who has the Cheltenham distinction of being the first ever horse to start at odds-on in the Coral Cup. Bookie reps had to manufacture a new word- disastrobath- combining disaster, catastrophe and bloodbath, in order to express just how bad things were.
THURSDAY 10th MARCH 2016
Bookmakers are offering 11/2 about a repeat of the remarkable finish to last year's World Hurdle, when it was a four-way dead-heat. Following her jog around Cheltenham last year in the Mares Hurdle, Annie Power is swimming in these deeper waters again and is only just favourite ahead of the up-and-coming staying star, Value At Risk, who was an emphatic winner of the Albert Bartlett 12 months ago, when the cheers could be heard all the way to Cheltenham from Halifax.
The opinion-divider on the day is The New One, third in the last two Champion Hurdles and finding himself favourite for the JLT despite not fully convincing as yet as a chaser. But Nige is very bullish.
Evan Williams has yet to decide in which race this year Buywise will blunder his way around and leave us cliff-followers wondering what might have been, the horse still entered in both the Tony McCoy Celebration Handicap and the Stewart Family Celebration Handicap.
FRIDAY 11th MARCH
The two standouts amongst this year's crop of juveniles are vying for favouritism, namely Sefantebhom and Sefantebhom II.
Sefantebhom - Some Ex French Animal Now Triained Either By Henderson Or Mullins.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again, and then try for a third time. That's the adage with Silviniaco Conti, who is giving one last shot to winning a Gold Cup. Whether it's the track or the trip, Silviniaco Conti still has never reproduced in the Gold Cup what he's achieved elsewhere, including last year when everything went well for nine-tenths of the race, only to be outstayed by something. I can't remember which one.
It's a two-prongued Nicholls attack, though, and Saphir du Rheu comes here in gathering support. One of the four dead-heaters in last year's World Hurdle, Saphir du Rheu hasn't continued to 'do a Big Buck's' as he's been given another shot at chasing this term, looking top-class. This time last year he was 40/1 for the Gold Cup. If only we could go back, or forward, in time.
Let's just hope that this year's Festival is as enthralling and dramatic as it was in 2015...
|Free Race Pass of the Day|
Thursday 5th March
|6. POKER SCHOOL (IRE)||
|4. MASIRANN (IRE)||