Noel Fehily talks Cheltenham changes, recent winners and Friday rides

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I had a rewarding day at Huntingdon last Sunday where I had two good winners.

Bags Groove won for the third time over fences and will now go for the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Harry Fry ran him at Huntingdon to see if he would get three miles. He likes going right-handed and they should get some decent ground at Kempton, so everything should suit him.

Charbel was a great spare ride to pick up in the Peterborough Chase. He was very good, jumped great and won well. To be fair he deserved to win a good race as he had been knocking on the door a few times.

Cheltenham changes

After a review of last year’s Cheltenham Festival the BHA has published a number of recommendations to improve horse welfare at the meeting.

Nobody wants to see horses getting injured, especially at the Festival where the sport is more under the microscope. So anything that can improve horse welfare must be a good thing.

Reducing the field size of the Grand Annual is a major one. It probably could even be reduced a bit more. With it being the last race of the meeting everyone is shoved in there and sometimes there have been too many runners in the race. It will only help.

However I am not sure removing the claims from the Martin Pipe is necessarily a good thing.

If you are the claimer in the yard who has ridden the horse why shouldn’t you get that chance to shine on the big stage.

There are not that many races to have a go in. If you’re a good conditional claiming 5lb you should be allowed to claim that 5lb.

I’m not sure that is going to make any difference to the race.

The trainers will probably still use their own conditionals, the only difference will be they won’t be able to use their claim, which they should have.

I’m not sure it is going to work. I can’t see how that is going to improve welfare at the Festival.

Friday’s rides

I am back at Cheltenham on Friday for two rides and I am hoping that Singlefarmpayment (2.30) will go well again.

He is a horse that is always knocking on the door, especially around Cheltenham.

The 3m3f trip last time was probably too far for him for his first start of the year. He does go well at Cheltenham but it was quite a hot race and they went a good gallop all the way.

He arrived there at the second last and I thought he didn’t stay so now he takes a drop back in trip. Having had a run I would hope he could improve on that first effort.

Champagne City (1.20) was third 12 months ago in the handicap hurdle he contests but he is now 9lb higher in the handicap having won at Newton Abbot in the summer.

Good ground will help him but he needs to improve again and if he can finish in the money I would be delighted with that.

Noel

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Noel Fehily

Noel Fehily is one of the finest jump jockeys in the business. Winner of the famed King George VI and a two-time victor of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Noel will be bringing you his thoughts in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival exclusively on Ladbrokes.