This appears to be one of the most competitive races of the festival this season and it’s probably one of the contests I’ve spent most time on so far and I’m still yet to come to a definite conclusion. But I’ll try my best to narrow down my shortlist and come up with a reasonable prediction.
I’ll begin with the favourite Apple’s Shakira who has done nothing wrong in her career to date gaining four victories in as many starts with three of those being under the care of Nicky Henderson. Having won at Cheltenham three times she already has one important box ticked in as much as she evidently has a liking for the track which when it comes to these young horses is important. She has looked impressive in beating small fields barely coming off the bridle but she hasn’t beaten more than 5 rivals in a race yet and in her most recent start did need to be shaken up to get to the quarters of Look My Way before asserting after the last. To me she appears to stay very well and I’ve just got this feeling that in a bigger field she may just get tapped for toe at a crucial stage. I may be completely wrong but if she is anything like her sister (which she seems to be) then her future will be over further and in a race of this quality she can go and win at the current price, even though she’s not actually as short as I was expecting given her connections and bloodline.
Nicky Henderson also saddles We Have A Dream for different owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede who is unbeaten in four starts for the yard. He won at Warwick back in November and then went to Doncaster for the Grade 2 Summit Hurdle where he bolted up with Jacob hardly moving on him, both of those wins were on a sound surface and he has looked really impressive. A Grade 1 winner at Chepstow on heavy ground which I’m not entirely convinced he liked but he still got the job done anyway and at Musselburgh last time out Nicky Henderson said that he hadn’t prepared him at all so for him to win on the soft ground was good to see. He beat Act Of Valour that day who looks to have a really strong chance in the Fred Winter for Paul Nicholls and I just think We Have A Dream is the wrong price at 10/1, he has a really good attitude along with bundles of talent and if it is better ground then I think that will only aid his cause.
The Irish have a few in here that are interesting, most notably the 1-2 from the Spring Juvenile Hurdle Mr Adjudicator and Farclas. The former was rated 81 on the flat and is unbeaten since moving to Mullins but the thing that does concern me is the Irish Champion Trainer may have another couple in here so I would interpret that as he’s not quite sure what one is best. Farclas rallied well in the aforementioned Grade 1 despite filling the runner up spot and has had less starts than his conquerer so I think there is more improvement left in that one and he can reverse the form. He won on good ground in France which is an upside to him taking a liking to a usual spring surface.
Willie Mullins has another couple of contenders in the shape of Stormy Ireland and Saldier. It’s impossible to not be impressed by the way the former won her stable debut, any horse that wins by 58 lengths has to be decent and given her connections I have no doubt that she’s very talented. However, you have to think she didn’t beat anything in that race and this contest will be a completely different kettle of fish but she could be absolutely anything! Saldier was another easy winner on his debut for the Closutton based trainer but once again I don’t really think he beat anything. He’s a dual winner on the flat and competed in group race company despite being beaten fairly comfortably. Out of the three Mullins horses I think he’d be the one that I’d side with but a big indicator will be who Ruby rides and that is anyones guess at this stage! Something that I would bare in mind about the yard though is that they’ve had 29 four old runners at the festival since 2007, none of them have won.
Redicean won the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton in very taking fashion, there were doubts about his jumping prior to that contest after he made quite a few errors in his two easy victories before but it seemed that this better quality race improved his hurdling. That bodes well for a Triumph Hurdle as they’ll likely go a proper gallop and he also seems to travel very well too. This horse has got some serious speed, his turn of foot when asked by Wayne Hutchinson in all three of his races in this sphere so far has been electric. I can see him travelling well up until the final flight and showing them all a clean pair of heels as the turbo kicks in and he’ll be long gone as the others are staying on up the run in. He was rated 86 on the flat and won over 1m6f at Redcar which is a galloping track so I don’t see the Cheltenham hill being a problem. Wayne Hutchinson described him as ‘breathtaking’ after his Adonis win and I think at 9/2 he looks a pretty solid bet.
I’m not sure anything else will be getting involved at the finish other that what I’ve mentioned above, possibly Sussex Ranger on slightly better ground but We Have A Dream has already got the better of him. I believe Redicean will have too much speed despite Apple’s Shakira looking very good and We Have A Dream is the wrong price at 10/1 in my opinion so he’s worth an each way poke.