Wednesday 13 December 2017

Katie Walsh: Superstars in racing are made of different stuff

Sire De Grugy
Sire De Grugy

Cheltenham’s Champion Chase pitches the quickest two-mile chasers against each other in what can often be a breathtaking race and hopefully tomorrow’s will be no different.

Sprinter Sacre is a horse that took everyone’s breath away here two years ago when he won the race for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty and while it’s great to see him back, I don’t give him a chance of finishing in front of either Sire De Grugy or Champagne Fever.

Everybody thought two years ago that Sprinter Sacre was the next coming of Christ and he really did look to have everything but unfortunately that is the nature of horse racing and you need to have a certain constitution to be a superstar in this sport and that is why they are so rare.

Look at Best Mate, Big Buck’s, Kauto Star, Denman, Istabraq, Moscow Flyer and Hurricane Fly to name just a few... They are superstars of the sport because they kept coming back every year.

A star is a horse that continues to perform season in, season out, not just for one season. When you keep producing it... That’s class.

Sire De Grugy obviously had issues of his own but he bounced back to winning ways at Chepstow last time and while that was only just over a fortnight ago and was only a handicap, he still went and done it and gave all that weight away so I think he’s coming back into form at the right time.

I’d love to see Champagne Fever win - I still don’t know how he got beat there last year in the Arkle because he did everything right and his run coming here at Gowran Park was very good but there’s a lot of positive vibes coming from the Moore camp about Sire De Grugy so I’m going to take a chance with him.

Willie (Mullins) looks like he’ll have both Nichols Canyon and Outlander running in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and it’s actually Outlander who I think could win this one.

Ruby (Walsh) doesn’t have any choice to make here as Outlander is owned by Gigginstown and will be ridden by their retained jockey Bryan Cooper and he’s a horse that was very good the last day at Leopardstown and he stays very well so go with him for that race.

Indeed, I think Gigginstown could well have a day to remember tomorrow. Last year they had no winners going into the last day and then went home with four and I think there is certainly potential for them to win both the Champion Bumper and the RSA.

In the RSA, Don Poli looks the stand out. He ticks all the boxes for me even though he’ll never be flashy or he’ll never be hacking underneath you but he is mighty tough and we know he stays and won around the course last year which is a big plus too.

In the Champion Bumper I’m looking forward to riding Peter Fahey’s horse Bay Of Freedom. He’s a horse that doesn’t have real winter form but he will handle the ground and I liked him the day I won on him in Galway.

Unlike the Champion Bumper at home in Punchestown, this race is open to professional jockeys, like all bumpers in England are, so it was very good of the owners, who are coming over from America for the race, to leave me on the horse when they could have had the pick of the professionals.

Willie obviously runs a massive team in this and with seven runners, it’s hard to pick between any of them but I do think Bordini is probably the stand out, while Gordon Elliott’s General Principle is a horse that caught my eye when David Mullins won on him at Punchestown so they might fight it out up the hill and hopefully I’ll be beside them.

The Cross Country race seems to revolve around the French raider Toutancarmont and there seems to be a lot of talk about him so in what doesn’t look like a vintage renewal of the race, I’m going to side with him.

Obviously, I’ll be hoping my husband Ross’ first runner at the Cheltenham Festival as a trainer will be a winning one with Dai Bando but he has a lot of weight to carry in the Fred Winter.

He travelled over Sunday and Ross has been very happy with him since he got here and the reason he has all the weight is because he is a classy horse so if he runs up to his mark we’ll all be happy but he’s certainly not an outsider by any means.

Andy McNamara rides him and knows him well and he’ll love the ground and the trip and hopefully he’ll give a good account of himself.


Katie's Choices for Wednesday

1.30pm Outlander

2.05pm Don Poli

3.20pm Sire De Grugy

4pm Toutancarmont

5.15pm General Principle (e/w)

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