The waiting is almost over. The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is finally upon us. But there are still plenty of outstanding questions before the roar goes up for the Supreme on Day One.
Are you backing Apple’s Jade or Buveur D’Air for the Champion Hurdle? Can Presenting Percy really win the Gold Cup? And is Paisley Park as big a good thing as he seems? Read on and find out.
How will Presenting Percy fare with one prep-run?
There’s no reason Presenting Percy can’t win the Gold Cup off the back of a single prep-run. But there are doubts over whether he should be favourite.
No horse has managed the feat since the 1920s after all. Others boast better form in the book too.
Clan Des Obeaux has excelled for Paul Nicholls with convincing wins over market rivals in the King George and Denman Chase. On form alone he should be a worthy favourite.
Yet it’s Patrick Kelly’s charge who is the jolly. That’s largely down to a 100% record at Cheltenham which was added too last year with a supreme jumping performance to win the RSA Chase.
The trainer went with a similarly strange preparation last year. He’ll have the eight-year-old in top working order again, although one prep-run makes others – especially Clan – much more appealing.
Apple’s Jade or Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle?
No-one thought Gordon Elliott or Michael O’Leary would listen. But listen they did. Apple’s Jade will clash with two-time Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air in one of the unmissable races of the Festival.
So who will come out on top; the dual-winner, or the challenger? It’s going to be tight, although we’re inclined to side with the mare. Not only will she receive 7lb from the champion, she also boasts better form this year.
The seven-year-old has won over 2m 4f, 2m and 3m by a combined distance of 73l this term. She’s smashed up some good horses in the process.
Buveur, on the other hand, has been beaten by Verdana Blue, won a nothing race at Sandown and seen his Fighting Fifth form take a knock following Samcro’s disappointing season.
Apple’s Jade must prove herself at elite level over 2m. But given the weight, contrasting form and her unbelievable season so far, it could be a Queen rather than a King in the Champion Hurdle.
Can Paisley Park hold off the veterans in the Stayers’?
Paisley Park has really come out of the blue to take the staying division by the scruff of the neck.
Now his task is to follow up a superb win in the Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance with another over 3m at the Festival. That could be easier said than done in a tricky old race.
Emma Lavelle’s progressive raider is the standout pick. But challengers Faugheen and Supasundae are both Grade 1 winners, albeit over 2m rather than 3m.
Both have the pace that is sometimes required to launch a challenge in this race, especially if it’s run at a slower tempo, which would be to Paisley Park’s disadvantage.
Jockey Aidan Coleman doesn’t have a great record at the Festival either, although he does have a fantastic relationship with the horse.
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All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication