Horses to note including Bob Olinger, Capodanno and Stage Star

Timeform’s David Cleary sets the scene ahead of a mouth-watering Cheltenham Festival, featuring some stellar names and horse set to really emerge on the big stage.

I hope that you aren’t all previewed-out. The build-up to The Festival (TM) can be exhausting, even with far fewer in-person events to attend – in the evening and with alcohol available – as we emerge, at least for the time being, into something more resembling normality.

So much to read, so much to listen to and to watch.

Fortunately, the final decs for Tuesday are in and the waiting is almost over. So, this is not exactly a preview, and certainly not a comprehensive one. Think of me more as a waiter pointing you towards some interesting dishes on a possibly too-extensive menu.


TUESDAY

Feast your eyes on…

Stattler. I was a bit rude about his appearance in last season’s Albert Bartlett – not an obvious chaser on looks – but he’s taken to the larger obstacles well, winning both his starts. I will be looking to see whether he has developed physically in the last twelve months. If not it’s possible more demanding fences will find out one with limited experience, even in an unusually small field for the National Hunt Chase.

Chief Willie suggests…

Gaelic Warrior. While the romp enjoyed by sole Irish-trained raider Suprise Package in the Imperial Cup on Saturday, might have the BHA and its handicapping team quaking in their boots, potentially the most embarrassing outcome of the week could be provided by the ex-French Gaelic Warrior in the Fred Winter. He’s not run since last June, but in finishing third that day, he split a pair that were subsequently first and second in France’s top three-year-old hurdle. He could be thrown in off 129.

Who can beat…Honeysuckle?

Honeysuckle stands head and shoulders above the Champion Hurdle field, and opposing her has been a fool’s errand so far. However, Appreciate It is obviously a fascinating opponent, even if an absence since this day last season is far from ideal, on paper. He was very good in the Supreme that day, that a fourth win from four starts over hurdles, nothing about the manner of victory suggesting he was anywhere near his limit as a hurdler.

Can I recommend…

Echoes In Rain in the Mares’ Hurdle (16.10). This looks an open renewal of the mares championship, but Echoes In Rain makes appeal at the current prices. She’s been taking on geldings for much of her career, including as a novice, and had Honeysuckle against her last time as well. Her form in winning at Fairyhouse last spring is as good as any on offer in this field and she was back to that sort of level last time. Echoes In Rain is stepping up to two and a half miles for the first time, but she’s by Authorized and her dam won at nineteen furlongs over jumps in France, so there’s plenty of encouragement from the pedigree.

Best Bets | 2022 Cheltenham Festival Previews


WEDNESDAY

Feast your eyes on…

Easy Vega. Timeform described Easy Vega’s sire Walk In The Park as ‘huge, rather leggy, good-topped colt’ in his racing days, not a combination I’ve had cause to pluck from the description lexicon myself. However, his stock often look the part – Jonbon would be a case in point – more chasers, than hurdlers, with many of the best described as tall or rangy.

Given Facile Vega is out of Quevega, who wasn’t a bad sort herself, I’m very much looking forward to seeing a horse whose appearance matches the promise of his wins so far in bumpers.

Chief Willie suggests…

Capodano. While Field Galopin looks the stable’s number one for the three-mile novice chase, Capodanno was asked to take him on in the Scalp at Leopardstown, when an early casualty, and may well do so again, given the alternative is a second meeting with Bob Olinger in the Turners on Thursday. There wasn’t a lot between the stable companions as hurdlers and Capodanno improved significantly when he stepped up to three miles, which he would do for the first time over fences in the Brown Advisory.

Who can beat…Sir Gerhard?

Last season’s Champion Bumper winner Sir Gerhard might have contested the Supreme, but switching to the Ballymore looks a good move. The extra distance will be no problem on pedigree and the opposition may well melt away. However, ideally he will jump with more fluency than was the case last time.

In that regard, Star Internship is a potential threat: he certainly can jump well and he travels too. He’s won all three starts over hurdles and has yet really to be put under any serious pressure. This could be closer than the market suggests.

Can I recommend…

The Shunter will hopefully turn up in the Coral Cup (14.50), rather than bid for a repeat victory in the Plate the following afternoon. He’s sure to run well wherever he turns up, particularly with such a good record at the track. However, on my reading of the form book, he looks better treated off 148 over hurdles than 155 over fences, his last run over hurdles, in a hugely competitive handicap at Punchestown last spring, a typically strong piece of Irish handicap form.

Talking Points | 2022 Cheltenham Festival Previews


THURSDAY

Feast your eyes on…

Bob Olinger. I love Bob, I want to marry him, if it’s allowed. He will be the best-looking horse that will appear at Cheltenham next week and he might also be the one with most ability. He looked a really thrilling, potentially top class, chasing prospect when winning the Ballymore over hurdles last season and has done nothing in his two chase wins this time to alter that view.

Chief Willie suggests…

Klassical Dream. He really ought to be favorite for the Stayers’ Hurdle, having beaten last season’s winner Flooring Porter fair and square at Leopardstown after Christmas. That form just looks to have more substance than the form lines involving the home team. Only a flop at 3/1-on at Gowran last time has caused him to lengthen. Trust Willie to have him right on the day.

Who can beat… Dinoblue?

I know it should be Allaho, but ‘nothing’ fills little space. Dinoblue looked really good in beating two stable companions on her debut at Clonmel, the second and third both franking the form since, and is favorite for the Dawn Run at time of writing. She is clearly held in high regard – even-money that day – but the lack of experience is a worry.

The last two runnings of this have gone to horses with handicap form, specifically in the mares handicap at the Dublin Festival that this year went to Party Central. She flopped on a previous try at graded level, but a tongue strap has shown her in a good light on her two starts since. She’s a strong traveler with experience and form that is up there with the best of these.

Can I recommend…

Party Central. See above.

Best of the Irish | 2022 Cheltenham Festival Previews


FRIDAY

Feast your eyes on…

Ginto. It’s possible Ginto will have been turned out against Sir Gerhard in the Ballymore, but everything about the way he runs at two and a half miles suggests he will relish the step up to three miles that the Albert Bartlett provides. He’s another Walk In The Park – ‘huge, rather leggy, good topped’ – and cost €470,000 after winning his point as a four year old, so I am hopeful that he will look as imposing in the flesh as he does on a TV screen.

Chief Willie suggests…

State Man. Who knows where State Man will turn up. To stretch the menu theme to breaking, he could be a starter, a main course or a dessert. He is still entered in the Ballymore, Coral Cup, County Hurdle and Martin Pipe. He’s virtually impossible for the BHA handicapper to have assessed accurately, given he’s had three runs, one in France, one when falling two out (would probably have won) and one when landing odds of 7/1-on at Limerick. That suggests a handicap run, the question whether a step up in trip is the call.

Willie Mullins Cheltenham Festival stable tower | part one

Who can beat…Vauban?

Vauban is favorite for the Triumph after landing the best juvenile hurdle run in Ireland this season, the Spring at the Dublin Racing Festival, defeating the favorite and previously unbeaten Fil Dor. The obvious one missing from that race was Pied Piper, Fil Dor’s stable companion.

after Foot Piper had won the Finesse in effortless fashion at Cheltenham in January it was suggested he might go for the Supreme. That hasn’t happened, obviously, but it’s interesting that was even considered. Both Vauban and Pied Piper were useful on the Flat and there may well be as little between them here as when Pied Piper beat Vauban half a length when both made their hurdling debut at Punchestown in December.

Can I recommend…

Good Risk At All in the Martin Pipe (17.30). It is possible that he will sneak into the Coral Cup, for which he would also be an obvious contender, but Good Risk At All will definitely get a run in the Martin Pipe and could beat the Irish at their own game in this race. He’s a could-be-anything hurdler, who hacked up off a mark of 127 at Ascot last time and looks well treated, even off one 10 lb higher here.


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