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bob worth his weight in gold

We all have opinions going into the Cheltenham Festival, but the one man whose opinion matters more than anyone else is Noel O'Brien, the Senior National Hunt Handicapper in Ireland.

O'Brien rates the horses throughout the season and is widely regarded as one of the best in the world in his profession, so we caught up with him today to get his thoughts on the week ahead.

What will win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle?

"I just think, although there is a strong Irish challenge, what My Tent Or Yours did in Newbury was as good as we have seen from a novice in a while and he sets the standard."

Is Hurricane Fly a banker or is Cheltenham not his track?

"It is very unfair to say Cheltenham is not his track as he won the Champion Hurdle there two years ago and, okay, he didn't run to his best last year, but didn't run to his best from a long way out and I think that run is best ignored. For me, he is a superstar and will prove it again tomorrow."

Would you run Quevega in the World Hurdle?

"If I was her owner I would but I know her owner's concerns and they want a winner at Cheltenham. To them a winner at Cheltenham is more important than possibly finishing third or fourth in the World Hurdle but I think she is more than capable of running in the World Hurdle as she has proved in Punchestown."

Best Irish Novice Hurdler?

"Tough question. Pont Alexandre and Jezki are equally rated on 154. Jezki has proven that, but with Pont Alexandre it is 154+ and he has the scope to go higher. But there is little or nothing between them."

Best Irish Novice Chaser?

"The likes of Boston Bob is crying out for a trip, hasn't done enough yet really, and Back In Focus has been very good but looks like he clearly needs a trip. It is probably between that two and Arvika Ligeonniere."

Is Sprinter Sacre vulnerable in any way?

"I don't see it. I think he is a beautiful jumper, can make the pace or come off the pace. I just don't see any negative."

Can you solve the puzzle that is the Champion Bumper?

"I think I'll do what I normally do for the bumpers over here and leave before it!"

Is Our Conor best Irish chance in the Triumph for some time?

"I think he is. He is unbeaten and is a very smart hurdler. I think if there is a change in ground that he will be able to handle it. He is unlucky in that there also seems to be quite a strong English challenge, but he has proven that he is 6lbs above the rest here and he will definitely be placed."

Who will win the Gold Cup and why?

"Because of the nature of the race I will go with Bobs Worth. He is proven over the track, and will love the trip. Often the extra quarter of a mile finds out horses in the Gold Cup but it will be no problem for Bobs Worth. I cannot see Sir Des Champs out of the first three however."

Best bet of the week?

"I think Pont Alexandre in the Neptune. I think with the forecast it shouldn't be too fast and he looks like a machine."

Finally, will an Irish horse win the Aintree Grand National and, if so, which one?

"I think it is as strong an Irish challenge in years from the top to the bottom end. For a small stable, Ted Walsh has two outstanding candidates and that is unreal for him, Seabass being third in the race last year and Colbert Station being the less exposed. Willie has a hand in the race that Paul Nicholls would be proud of. On His Own was going well when he fell at Beechers last year and if I was to go for one I would go for On His Own. It is as good a chance we have had in the last five or six years of winning the race."


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