A race that many want to avoid from a punting point of view but I see oppurtunity. Last years emphatic winner was Our Conor and while nothing currently in the field appears to have the same potential that Our Conor did there are still some very useful types.
CALIPTO @6/1(BETFAIR EXCHANGE) Is trained by Paul Nichols.He is a french recruit who finished runner up in the second division of the Prix Finot at Auteuil in September.This 4 year old bay gelding got his English career off to a fine start by winning a 2m1f hurdle at Newbury by an easy 3&1/2 lengths( ACTIVAL ,the runner up has won since impressively ) Calipto followed up that success last month again at Newbury by 5 lengths. At the age of 4 he is improving and learning with every run and he will have progressed tremendously since his last run. I think he is a potential superstar and my money will be on him.
LE ROCHER @13/2 Also a French recruit, brings a course win to the table here. He won a 4year old Grade 2 hurdle.The form of that race doesnt appear to strong and Le Rochers French form is also average.Trained by Nick William I feel Le Rocher will be vulnerable to some lighter raced types with more room for improvement,but he very much has to be respected .
GUITAR PETE @10/1 Is the leading Irish contender , trained by Dessie Hughes he achieved a mere mark of 65 on the flat .Since sent hurdling he has been a model of progression. He won The Grade 1 Gala Retail Spring Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, that race usually acts as a very good trial for this race. He was 2nd over C&D back in November off a mark of 130 and overall boasts a very consistent profile. There is no doubt that he is talented but again I can see him running a good race without being good enough to win.
ACTIVAL @10/1 Was previously beaten by Calipto and has a very similar profile to that horse. After finishing 2nd to Calipto he won his next start( A Grade 2 Hurdle) in impressive fashion .That performance not only put him towards the head of the market for this race but it also boosts the form with Calipto and solidifies his potential. Calipto is a better horse then Actival and I think Calipto will win. Therefore Actival has a great each way chance here for his trainer Harry Fry.
BROUGHTON @10/1 Is an ex Mark Johnston inmate and is now with John Ferguson.He kicked off his hurdling career in a Grade 2 contest only to go down by a head to Fox Norton. He showed a very game attitude that day as the pair swapped the lead several times inside the final furlong. He was expected to win next time out at Musselburgh and he didnt disappoint ,beating Clarcam by 5 lengths being eased down.Like all of Mark Johnstons horses this guy never knows when he is bet and that is an extremely valuable attribute when tackling the famous Cheltenham hill.On form he has a few lengths to find with Guitar Pete but I think if it came down to a battle this guy would prevail. Has a good each way chance and should improve for good ground.
RUTHERGLEN@12/1 From the John Quinn yard achieved a rating of 77 on the flat and has taken well to Hurdles. He is 3 from 3 for hurdles start and won a class 3 contest latest. He has interesting form lines with Broughton and is only marginally behind him. However I do think Broughton is slightly better and will be better suited to Cheltenham.
TIGER ROLL @12/1 Won his first start in England before being grabbed up by Gigginstown House Stud for £80,000. He is now trained by Gordon Elliot who wasted no time throwing him into the deep end, That was the Grade 1 Gala Spring Juvenile Hurdle won by Guitar pete, He was sent off a 20/1 shot that day but ran like a market principal,fnishing a closing second . I would be confident of him reversing that form as the jockey that day Brian Cooper dropped his whip. He is a small flashy chesnut but seems to have a willing attitude judging by his head carriage .Obviously highly thought of and one of the leading Irish chances here. Should run well even with the lack of experience.
An outsider worth a mention is ABBYSSIAL @20/1 for W P Mullins. The French recruit is 3/3 in Ireland and is on an upward curve.
I am very sweet on Calipto here and I can see him going off a lot shorter priced on the day. One that worrys me is Broughton .His tough attitude should stand him in good stead in a race like this! Thanks