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The Cheltenham Trials start in earnest on Saturday with a nine-card at Cheltenham alongside the Sky Bet Chase Meeting at Doncaster followed by Irish Champion Hurdle Day on Sunday.
In fact, the trials started properly earlier today when Shaneshill won the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle in gutsy fashion (this x3 Cheltenham Festival runner-up won’t be far away in the Stayers’ Hurdle) and the Gold Cup and Ryanair entry, Champagne West, made all off 154 to win the Thyestes with plenty to spare. There’s no question in my mind that they should chance their arm in the Gold Cup. On His Own and Djakadam were second in the Gold Cup after they won the Thyestes as was Hedgehunter, though his Gold Cup runner-up run was the following season. Arkle won both races in 1964.
In terms of Cheltenham Festival Preview Evenings, I will be on the panel in events held in Leixlip (February 28) including Gordon Elliott, Canterbury (March 7), Banbury (March 8) and Cheltenham FC (March 13) including Davy Russell. I also aim to attend another event or two for the craic including another whilst I am in Ireland.
Before then I’ve got have a tooth out, get some new glasses, re-design my office, set up an ebay and LinkedIn account, sort out my tax returns, attend a wedding of someone I don’t know and, worst of all, upgrade my phone and work out how the hell to transfer everything over thanks to an air stewardess who smashed my current device to smithereens.
Also before the preview evenings move into full swing, as I am assisting Aintree with much of their editorial content for their big festival including providing giant posters of all the Grand National runners all over the racecourse again, I will be at the official unveiling of the Randox Health Grand National weights on February 14th at the Victoria and Albert Museum which will be an evening event for the first time.
The weights are also going to be delivered in reverse order for the first time (if it worked so well for the first time for Eurovision last year!) by Ed Chamberlin and AP McCoy live on ITV4, leaving those watching without an embargoed list of the weights guessing who the top weight will be. Ucello Conti caught the eye with the way he travelled when second in the Thyestes today which has been won by two fairly recent Grand National winners in Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde and I’ll be interested in what weight he is allocated amongst others.
The Racing Post’s Mares series is now in the final few days and it’s looking like a final five of Dawn Run, Pretty Polly, Miesque, Pebbles and Triptych. That’s my predicted order anyway. I’ve enjoyed their countdown of the Top 50. It wouldn’t surprise me if Pretty Polly got the number one position though. I know her career very well as the very first job I was given when I started employment two days after Maori Venture won the Grand National was to proof read Michael Tanner’s book on her called An Edwardian Heroine. Heck of a first job for a young, racing nut. She won the fillies’ Triple Crown in 1904 amongst a host of other races before finishing second in the Ascot Gold Cup.
Everton winning at Crystal Palace made it seven consecutive winning editions of Premier League Picks but it’s the FA Cup this weekend so it’s a week off the footy. Fresh from making a nice profit on the Tournament of Champions in his first golf preview for us, Ciaran Meagher has taken a look at the Farmers Insurance Open for this week and has gone for value with none of his outright selections shorter than 28/1.
Right, big weekend ahead, studying up to do.