herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Solwhit's got what it takes

As a jockey, this is the one week of the year you really look forward to, and it's hard to believe it is upon us already, to be honest. I am looking forward to a couple of good rides later in the week and hopefully we can break our duck over here

Before I won the National, the dream was always to ride a winner around Cheltenham.

My father rode seven winners at Cheltenham so I have a bit of catching up to do, I suppose!

Looking ahead to tomorrow and I suppose we will start with the Champion Hurdle where I am going to side with the Charles Byrnes-trained Solwhit.

He is a horse I rode on his first start in Ireland; I have always liked him a lot and his form just proves how good he really is. Solwhit has just done nothing wrong all year and has been the best of the Irish in my opinion.

He won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, and I think he will love the track at Cheltenham and will definitely get up the hill. To win a Champion Hurdle you need a horse that stays well and Solwhit has gears and stays, as he showed in Aintree last year when he won there.

Obviously he scoped wrong last week and that is not ideal preparation to be going into a Champion Hurdle, but there is no way Charles would send him over here unless he thought he was 100pc right.

Go Native is going in search of the £1m bonus and it would be great to see them win it. I won a maiden hurdle on Go Native at Kilbeggan and he is a horse with loads of class and he is all speed.

I know he won a Supreme Novices' Hurdle here last year, so he acts around the track, but I just feel that Solwhit might just outstay him up the hill.

To fill the places, I think Zaynar can put his poor run the last day behind him and run into the frame for Andrew Tinkler. I think he is the best of Nicky Henderson's three and the nicer ground will bring out the best in him.

Dunguib probably wouldn't have looked out of place in the Champion Hurdle, but as a novice they had to keep him to novices this year and I certainly wouldn't have liked to see him come out of novice company here.

He is impossible to back against tomorrow in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. I rode in the Deloitte at Leopardstown, which was a Grade One that Dunguib won, and he just went by me like I was standing still.

At the moment people are trying to compare him to Golden Cygnet, who my father won this race on for Edward O'Grady, and he will have to win a Supreme Novices' before those comparisons can be made. But he certainly looks to have that potential -- he is a fair horse.

Dunguib's jumping has been the big talking point and I have seen him jump better than he did at Leopardstown the last day. Going as quick as they will in tomorrow's race will either kill or cure him and I certainly wouldn't want to ride anything else in the race.

Of the rest, Menorah has been in good form on his last couple of runs, while Get Me Out Of Here won a good handicap the last time and his experienced jumping will give him a great each-way chance.

In the Arkle, Captain Cee Bee is the one for me. He won at Naas and was unlucky to fall at the last in Leopardstown when he looked a sure-fire winner over Sizing Europe, who went on to win the race.

He has come out after that again at Naas and put in a good display of jumping, apart from a little blunder at the last, and the quicker they go the better for him.

AP (McCoy) knows the horse and won on him for the first day, and he has acted around the track and its undulations when winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle.

Somersby won his two novice chases very well and jumped well in the main, so Henrietta Knight plotting one out for Cheltenham has to be respected and he could be the one to put it up to Captain Cee Bee.

And while Sizing Europe has done nothing wrong, he always puts in a good display, he just might find a couple too good tomorrow.

The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle looks a two-horse race between Quevega and Voler La Vedette, and it's sure to be an Irish 1-2 to send all the travelling contingent home happy.

I am going to go with Willie (Mullins) to win the race again with Quevega, but there is definitely not going to be much in it and I would be very surprised if these weren't jumping the last upsides.

Neither would look out of their league in the Champion Hurdle either, and Colm Murphy's Voler La Vedette is a very classy mare also.

The Cross Country race is a great race to ride in and I was lucky enough to get around it last year, but this year it looks to be one for Enda Bolger again.

L'Ami is getting eight pounds from Garde Champetre and it might just be enough for him to get his head in front this year with John Thomas McNamara.

Silver Birch is a great horse. He won a National around Aintree and he loves the banks so we could well run a blinder here -- don't ignore him.

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