Cheltenham Preview: David Mullins’ 2023 Festival Tips & Analysis
David Mullins' Cheltenham Tips:
- Jonbon to win the Arkle Chase - 13/8 with BetUK
- Gentleman de Mee to win the Champion Chase - 8/1 with 888
- Hewick EW in the Gold Cup - 20/1 with Boylesports
Cheltenham Festival week is nearly here and I’ve really enjoyed the season so far but it always points to the big four days in March – thank goodness it’s still four and not five days – and I can’t wait for the action to start next Tuesday.
We look like we will be treated to some serious clashes throughout the week and, whilst the Irish trainers will dominate in general, many of the big races have strong hands on both sides of the water and it’s mouth-watering.
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Many of you reading will have been busy watching the likes of the Racehour Cheltenham preview night, which I was delighted to be involved with again, and you can get some fascinating insight from the many previews on the circuit.
The talking will stop soon and the horses will take over, whilst online betting sites will be falling over themselves to get some favourites beaten.
My advice would be to go steady, it’s four days of top class racing with 28 races and winners can be hard to find so pace yourself like a Stayers Hurdle contender rather than a front runner in the Arkle.
Champion Hurdle Day – Tuesday , March 14
Constitution Hill can light up the first day and I can’t see him getting beaten, which obviously agrees with the betting for the Champion Hurdle where he is a short priced favourite.
The best race of the day could be the Arkle with El Fabiolo and Jonbon meeting each other again for the first time since Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon narrowly beat Willie Mullins’ horse at the Aintree Festival last April.
That was over hurdles and this is a different test, but it’s just one of those races that everyone will have a side in and it looks a proper race this year.
I’d side with Jonbon, who looks so professional and is more likely to do everything right than not and with Novices over fences that’s what you need.
Champion Chase Day – Wednesday, March 15
Last year I was very sure Energumene would win the Champion Chase and whilst he did just that, the race was a bit of a let down with the early departure from the race of Shishkin.
He hasn’t been as good this year as last year and I think he may lose his Champion Chase crown on the Wednesday, in the feature race.
Willie Mullins will be hopeful but watch out for Gentleman De Mee who comes good this time of year and is still only a 7yo who can improve.
He beat Edwardstone at Aintree last spring and was excellent at Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival where he beat Blue Lord comfortably.
It's also the Ballymore Novices Hurdle on the Wednesday and Hermes Allen looks very solid for Paul Nicholls’ team having had a great season so far and regular watchers of Festival Focus each week will know how taken I have been with his form so far.
Stayers Hurdle Day – Thursday, March 16
I trust Gordon Elliott to have Teahupoo right for the Stayers Hurdle, it was a great performance in the Hattons Grace at Fairyhouse with Honeysuckle and Klassical Dream in behind and that form looks good for a big run in feature on Thursday.
Shiskin will move up in trip from the Champion Chase to the Ryanair Chase this year and looks to have the race at his mercy after such a brilliant return at Ascot.
It’s a shame it’s not against Allaho, who is missing the Festival this year, but maybe they can clash in the future.
Gold Cup Day – Friday, March 17
It’s a brilliant Gold Cup this year and Galopin Des Champs was excellent at the Dublin Racing Festival, whilst plenty of Willie Mullins’ best horses seemed to run a little flat that week.
He hit the line very well and I’m not convinced by the rivals, although they contain a Grand National winner in Noble Yeats, a King George winner in Bravemansgame, last year’s winner A Plus Tard and the previous year’s winner Minella Indo.
It is set up for a excellent race and don’t rule out a big run from Shark Hanlon’s American Grand National winner, Hewick, who can surprise people and isn’t out of a place chance at huge prices in the Cheltenham odds.
We all expect Willie Mullins to win plenty of races throughout the week and Galopin Des Champs has a huge chance to end the week on the biggest of highs for the powerful Closutton team.
The Whip In Focus At The Festival
In my riding days I wasn’t a big user of the whip, I always felt three was as good as 33. But the new rules in the UK, enforced by the BHA, make zero sense the way they are now. You’d have to be massively concerned that it can’t be managed consistently.
I feel as though the jockeys would be better off with no whip at all than having to follow the current set of laws and, for me, the stewards have a similarly impossible job trying to enforce them.
They have to carry one purely for safety concerns, but how can it be consistently judged to be used correctly when every horse, every ride and every race is different? I am not sure it can.
For example, judging whether a jockey uses the whip over the shoulder height is very difficult, a horse can hang, the body position changes to suit, and it becomes very difficult to correct them when you must shift yourself in that situation.
We all remember Might Bite at the Festival in 2017 when he got lonely and headed for the stands instead of the winning post. It happens and that’s just one of many examples you will see.
Nobody want the results at a Cheltenham Festival to be changed a week later and the race records to reflect different outcomes to what we will witness at the track.
For the owners, trainers and jockeys there is a big danger of that being the case this week.
It won’t affect punters and horse racing betting sites as the results will stand on the day, but could make for some serious ramifications following the meeting and even some awkward scenes.
Plenty of the riders could miss the Grand National meeting if they get it slightly wrong in the heat of the battle and the drama of high class championship races unfold.
Will Jockey’s really leave a race behind if they are in with a chance after the last flight and only have one use of the whip left?
I know that it will be difficult for all in the saddle next week and they are being asked to adapt. If these rules stay as they currently are, they will have to do so very quickly.
Let’s all hope it’s not the main story of what looks an incredible week of racing at Cheltenham and I am wishing the best of luck to all.
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