Panel of experts discuss the big Cheltenham races

RACING AHEAD: With Tony McCormick
RACING AHEAD: With Tony McCormick

Racing pundit Tony McCormick from presents his weekly column. This week Tony shares a version of his popular ‘Virtual’ Preview.

Now in its third year, The Cheltenham Festival ‘Virtual’ Preview has proved to be popular among Cheltenham fans, with contributions from the likes of Racing UK’s Andy Richmond, Jumpers To Follow author Paul Ferguson, Timeform and William Radio pundit Rory Delargy, as well as Matt Bisogno, Ben Aitken and Racing Plus racing editor Nick Robson.

The preview is about 20 pages long, but here is a taster for column readers.


Supreme Novices

Tony McCormick: All winter, Min has being on everyone’s lips, is he the real deal and is he any value at the price?

Nick Robson: The vibes have been right for the last two years with Vautour and Douvan though arguably those two brought stronger form to the table.

As an alternative I’d take Supadsundae to outrun his price.

Rory Delargy: It isn’t easy to answer the first question with great confidence given he’s only got a Grade 2 to his name, but that form has been franked by Ball D’Arc, and the fact that he was quickly identified as the yard’s main hope for the Supreme is enough for him to be taken very seriously indeed.

The Arkle

People say Douvan is a ridiculous price currently, but, is there anything to challenge him?

Matt Bisogno: I’d say Douvan is the right price. He’s head and shoulders above the rest of his field on any known form.

He has to jump round and he might get challenged for the lead early, but I expect he’ll win.

Paul Ferguson: Douvan is very skinny and I certainly wouldn’t entertain backing a novice chaser around 2/5 or 4/11, but he’s not one I want to be opposing either.

Rory: One I’d consider each way if he rocks up is Fox Norton, who is miles better than he’s shown on his last two starts.

Champion Hurdle

Ben Aitken: The New One has ‘failed’ in the race the last two years although he will probably be there or there about again.

Old Guard could be a bit of forgotten contender in this as it’s easy to forget he is three from three at the track this season and he maybe just didn’t handle the tight right-handed track last time out at Kempton.

Nick: I’m annoyed with myself for not backing Identity Thief at 20-1 each-way before Faugheen and Arctic Fire picked up injuries.

I can only see him improving for better ground and if he hadn’t made a horlicks of the last at Newcastle he’s have won the Fighting Fifth without coming off the bridle.


RSA Chase

Another competitive renewal of a championship race, who wins the RSA?

Matt: I like the guts of No More Heroes, though I respect the class of More Of That.

Nick: More Of That. Taking into account his Cheltenham record, the fact he was able to give 7lb to a peak form Annie Power two years ago and how professional he has looked over fences to date, he should have too much class for No More Heroes.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

If all the contenders run to form this could be race of the Festival, what are your thoughts?

Rory: It’s the race I hope most lives up to its billing, and I’ve long been advocating a return to aggressive tactics on Sprinter Sacre. If he is asked to join the leaders before the third last, then we are in for a visual treat, and while he isn’t the monster he once was, I believe Nicky Henderson’s chaser is capable of turning back the clock.

Ben: its Un De Sceaux’s to lose as far as I’m concerned.

Matt: It must be a triple digit price that they all run to form – at least to their best historical form – and Un De Sceaux is a legitimate short favourite. Special Tiara is a bigger price than he should be.

Paul: I would love to see Sprinter Sacre win this but, as unoriginal as it is, I think Un De Sceaux wins if he stands up. I’d not be backer at the odds, however, and this is a race to watch, in my opinion.