Sky Sports Presenter & Columnist @skysports_ed
Ed Chamberlin lists Noble Prince and Boston Bob among his big tips for this year's Cheltenham Festival.
Last Updated: 09/03/12 8:22am
The sole focus in this week's column is on the magical four days at Prestbury Park next week.
The Cheltenham Festival is unique and special for so many reasons. However, the thing I love about it most is the way it brings the National Hunt season to a crescendo. Markets on the big races has been in motion for 365 days, all the season's big races build towards Cheltenham as every top horse in the UK and Ireland seems to have Cheltenham as its main objective.
These days you rarely hear a trainer saying we'll wait for Aintree or Punchestown. All roads, routes and races lead to Cheltenham. Some say that is bad for the sport but I think it's magnificent.
What a day this is going to be.
First up, a top class and highly competitive renewal of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. They have said from day one that Darlan was a superstar and AP McCoy tipped us the wink about this horse in October as a horse to follow for the season and I'm hopeful he can get the Champion jockey off to a flying start.
I know plenty of people backed him at the time at 25/1 (now 9/2 with Sky Bet). He might have won the same race that Get Me Out Of Here won off an 11lb lower mark before going on to be touched off in the Supreme. It's potentially the best piece of form in the field but will Darlan have recovered from that crashing fall and will he get up the hill?
I'm a big Montbazon fan and recommended backing him at 16/1 before he won at Newbury last month. I think he's open to loads of improvement in a fast run race on better ground. I'm sure he'll be one of a number of horses on the bridle as they fly down the hill. It's going to be a thriller.
There's no let up as the next race is the Arkle where I expect to see the performance of the week from Sprinter Sacre. The vibes were bad about Peddlers Cross before he switched to the Jewson, while I'd be amazed if Al Ferof and Cue Card have the speed to live with the aeroplane that is Sprinter Sacre. The fly in the ointment could be Menorah but that will be a white-knuckle ride for punters and Richard Johnson with his erratic jumping.
I'm hoping my beloved Binocular, who I have tipped for the last three years in this column will be able to give Hurricane Fly a race in the Champion Hurdle but you never quite know which Binocular will turn up and I fear some punters got carried away with his performance at Wincanton. The horse I fancy to run a massive race in Oscars Well. He probably can't reverse the form with Hurricane Fly but he's been primed for this race and will love the track and ground.
Quevega should light up the rest of the card, with the two handicaps looking like the usual Festival minefields, though there is a big word for Triolo d'Alene in the last.
My Cheltenham fate will be decided by the second race on the card, the Neptune.
I have been backing Boston Bob for this race for a few weeks now so I hope he runs in this but fear he may go for the Albert Bartlett on the Friday. Whichever race he goes for I think he will win. The Mullins team think Boston Bob is a bit special and his win at Leopardstown at Christmas giving 10lbs all round is by far the best piece of form on show. Get on him to win the 2013 RSA!
I have no strong feeling about the 2012 RSA as so much will depend on whether Grands Crus goes for Gold. I like Bobs Worth round this track but fear his slow jumping may cost him. The Irish fancy their chances with either Sire Des Champs or First Lieutenant.
The star of day two should be Sizing Europe once again. He looks impossible to oppose in the Champion Chase if the rain stays away.
This time last year I interviewed owner David Johnson for Sky Sports and he said that Our Father would develop in to his next superstar. He looked really impressive in his one start this term and remains a horse with a big future. I'll be with Our Father in whichever race his goes for.
Big Bucks day. I'm already looking forward to a day out with Dale Tempest and the Sky Bet team and to seeing the great horse make history.
My one big fancy that day, who I have been harping on about in this column for a long time, is Noble Prince in the Ryanair. This horse ticks every box I look for in a Festival winner. Paul Nolan has trained Noble Prince specifically for this race, running creditably on the wrong ground over the wrong trip in Ireland, to prime him for Thursday.
He is a horse that needs spring ground and most importantly he has winning form over the course and distance. Time and again next week we will see horses come alive who enjoy the track and have run well at the Festival before.
Day four is all about the Gold Cup. However, for some reason this year's renewal doesn't get my pulse racing.
I'm sure it will be different on the day if Kauto Star is fit to take part but I do think this trip gives a big edge to Long Run, who could go off at a backable price to retain his title as the public will all back Kauto. Outside the top two it is a very ordinary Gold Cup.
The Triumph Hurdle looks wide open and hard to call. The Adonis at Kempton has produced the last two winners of the Triumph and I think it may do so again but not with this year's winner, Baby Mix.
I like Sadlers Risk who finished second at Kempton. The vibes were bad for him that day and I think we'll see a very different Sadlers Risk next Friday.
Day One: Montbazon (e/w @ 16/1), Sprinter Sacre, Oscars Well (e/w), Triolo d'Alene
Day Two: Boston Bob, Sizing Europe, Our Father
Day Three: Noble Prince
Day Four: Sadlers Risk