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Sunday 17 December 2017

Katie Walsh: One-Way traffic to cheltenham from now on

Champagne Fever
Champagne Fever

There's a notable stretch in the evenings, racing is starting later and later by the day, the entries are out for the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival and the preview nights are getting into full flow ... it really is silly season now as far as Cheltenham is concerned.

I suppose this weekend is where we'll see the last of the Cheltenham-bound horses make their claim for a trip across the water and it'll be interesting to see does anything stand out.

It's Cheltenham Trial Day at Naas on Sunday and I think both Dad and Ruby are on a preview panel there, so they should get a good crowd and while the Festival is just over two weeks away I would have no real reservations about the close proximity. I'd have no problem running a horse at Naas on Sunday and going to Cheltenham.

Naas is a gorgeous track and a very fair track, and if anything, I'd say giving a horse a run at Naas would leave them spot on for Cheltenham. I suspect that whatever about the two graded races on the card, we should all jot down the name of the bumper winner, because whatever comes out on top there is going to stake a big claim for honours in the Champion Bumper.

Willie Mullins already has a very strong hand for the Champion Bumper this year and it's obviously a race he has had a lot of luck in and it'll be interesting to see what effect Sunday's race will have on the betting.

Reflecting on last weekend, I was delighted to see Champagne Fever back to winning ways at Gowran Park.

I suppose he hasn't been a regular winner over fences but he's a horse I still think very highly of and maybe he's just a horse that really starts to come into his own at this time of year because he's won at two Cheltenham Festival' and just got touched off in a third.

He looked to be very good with Paul Townend at Gowran last week and you see Jessica Harrington speaking this week about Jezki being a spring horse - maybe Champagne Fever is a bit the same.

I read that Willie is possibly looking at the Champion Chase and if that's where he ends up next month I will be standing by him and think he has a right chance.

Look at how open the Champion Chase is at the moment with doubts over those at the top of the betting, so Champagne Fever warrants a lot of respect and I think Hidden Cyclone is another that could well surprise a few people in that race also.

Not all the talk this week was about Cheltenham as I was over at the Royal Opera House in London for the release of the Aintree Grand National weights.

This year I am the Ladies Day Ambassador for the Aintree Grand National meeting and it was lovely to be there in such a nice setting and I'm looking forward to working in that role in the coming months, but as for the weights themselves I don't think there was any real surprises.

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I suppose those near the top of the weights look to be all headed for Cheltenham so it won't be until after the Festival that we get a clearer picture for the National, but for anyone that hasn't been to the Aintree Grand National it's certainly worth experiencing as it's a great atmosphere both at the races and later on in the evening.

Meanwhile, there is good racing at Fairyhouse tomorrow as well and I go there to ride in the bumper for Robbie Hennessy. The horse is called Dylrow, and like all of the field, is having his first run on the racecourse so hopefully we can run a nice race.

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