Cheltenham Day One Preview

March 11, 2019 News
HERE we go then! The Cheltenham Festival starts with Champion Hurdle day and the big clash between Apple’s Jade, Buveur D’Air and Laurina.
Jack Kennedy is the man responsible for steering Apple’s Jade and will be aiming to build on his four successes at the Cheltenham Festival last year.
He is one of four key people we spoke to about this week’s racing, along with Jerry McGrath, Patrick Mullins and Harry Derham. We will be getting their views as the festival progresses.
You rode four winners at last year’s Festival – Samcro, Veneer Of Charm, Shattered Love and Farclas. What was that like?
It was an unbelievable week. To have one winner is such a special feeling so to go on and have four was so good it’s hard to describe. I can assure you each winner felt just as good as the last one – you can never have too many winners at Cheltenham.
Given your previous successes, do you approach the week with nerves or with excitement?
I try not to think about it too much. You have to make sure you don’t overthink things and make sure you arrive there in the best shape to do yourself, the horses, the trainers and the owners proud.
Apple’s Jade takes her place in the Champion Hurdle rather than the mares’ hurdle. You must be delighted with that decision?
I leave the decisions to Gordon Elliott and the owners, but I’d go anywhere to ride this mare in any race. It’s really exciting to be riding a horse in the Champion Hurdle who is as good as her and has a good a chance as she does. She’s so good and I’m really looking forward to it.
And how do you rate her chances in the Champion Hurdle?
You really can’t beat a good mare. It’s a bit of a cliche, but when it comes to her it’s absolutely true. When you get mares like her they’re so good and they put so much into their races. She’s a pleasure to be associated with and I believe she goes into the Champion Hurdle with every chance of winning.
Does she have to make the running to be at her best?
No, she’s versatile. She’s made the running this season because that’s been best for her but she got a lead at Fairyhouse [in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle] and was still as good. I’d imagine we’d take a lead in the Champion Hurdle, but if she has to gone on that’s no problem for her either.
What the others say of their key day one runners…
Patrick Mullins
Laurina/Melon/Sharjah – Champion Hurdle: We do think Laurina’s special and I think the race will be run to suit her. Melon’s been frustrating but he’s run at Cheltenham twice and been second there twice. Sharjah is in great form. He’s the quickest of our horses and he’d want decent ground.
Benie Des Dieux/Stormy Ireland – Mares’ Hurdle: Benie Des Dieux would be our banker for the meeting. The Old course should suit Stormy Ireland more than the New course.
Harry Derham
Give Me A Copper – Ultima Handicap Chase: Give Me A Copper has more to come. He was well short of fitness when he ran at Sandown but still ran a lovely race. I’d give him a really good chance in the Ultima.
Jerry McGrath
Angels Breath/Mister Fisher – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: We were pleased with Angels Breath at Kempton and everything has gone to plan since. Mister Fisher was good at Haydock. He’s in good shape and he’s a good horse.
Beware The Bear – Ultima Handicap Chase: He won at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and has been off the track since getting ready for this race. Hopefully he’ll put in a big run and I think he capable of going very close in the race, granted a bit of luck.
Buveur D’Air/Verdana Blue/Brian Power – Champion Hurdle: Buveur D’Air has had a brilliant preparation and I really do hope he does win as he’s never had the recognition he deserves. If he were to win three Champion Hurdles people would take a step back and appreciate him and see how good a beast he is. He’s in tip-top form and Barry [Geraghty] was very happy with him when he schooled him on Thursday. Barry knows him inside out and even when he makes a mistake it doesn’t stop him. The faster they go the better. Brain Power wouldn’t be far away from the best of the rest. The ground is the question mark for Verdana Blue.
Ok Corral – National Hunt Chase: His jumping has been good and he will get the trip. Derek O’Connor rode him at Warwick, so knows the horse, and he’s the class horse in the race.