RACING AHEAD: A look at Cheltenham preview nights

Racing Ahead with Tony McCormick
Racing Ahead with Tony McCormick

Racing pundit Tony McCormick from presents his weekly column, this week Tony looks at the start of the Cheltenham Festival Preview Nights.

The Exeter Cheltenham Preview Evening took place on Friday, February 26, after racing at the course. Hosted by commentator Richard Hoiles, it featured Paul Nicholls’ assistant trainer Harry Derham, jockey Nick Schofield plus trainers Philip Hobbs and David Pipe.

Derham stated off by saying their stables’ main hopes are with the four-year-olds in the Triumph and Fred Winter saying the stable had nine winners in the last week and the horses are looking well.

Surprisingly Hobbs said he has have very few horses for the Grade One conditions which makes life very difficult, David Pipe said they don’t have many favourites, if any, but hopefully they can get some nice priced winners. 

As far as day one was concerned, the main talk was of the opening race, the Supreme Novices’ and the red hot favourite, the Willie Mullins-trained Min. Schofield said there is no better jockey to help him settle than Ruby Walsh but he thought there was plenty of hype around Min though and they are hoping Nico de Bonville can bring his ‘A’ game on day one with Altior and Vaniteux. 

Trainer Pipe said the Supreme is the only race Moon Racer – winner of last year’s Bumper, is entered in and if they can get him there in his best form then he could be the one to give Min a race 

Derham said he knew Johnny Burke and he really likes Supasundae and he’s 14/1, going on to say he’d be keen to take Min on as he could easily get lit up. 

As for the Arkle, the majority of the panel simply said Douvan wouldn’t get beat.

Schofield had niggling doubts about Annie Power’s participation in the Champion Hurdle, saying she should run in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Over at the Limerick Strand Hotel Preview Night, jockey Davy Russell said Min is too keen during a race and said Tombstone was the most likely winner of the Supreme Novices, while saying Douvan and Limini were his best bets of the meeting.

David Mullins, speaking on the Goat Grill preview night in Dublin, said Min was the ‘real deal’, while he thinks Henry de Bromhead’s Sizing Europe could ‘serve it up’ to Douvan in the Arkle.

As far as the best bets of the meeting around the previews, David Pipe said his own Doctor Harper would win in whichever race he turns up in.

Schofield was all for Connectable, each way, while Hobbs put up Balthazar King, but only on good ground and Derham was all for Aux Ptit Soins and Qualando in the Martin Pipe.

Russell said Limini is ‘nailed on’, while Adrian Hesketh said Yanworth in the Neptune was his bet of the meeting, while Kate Harrington was very ‘bullish’ on the chances of Rock The World.