Cheltenham: Barry Geraghty I have great regard for State Man

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The newly appointed racing ambassador for William Hill, Barry Geraghty, takes a look back at the exciting events that took place at Cheltenham over the past weekend and scans the top-tier cards that will be run at Leopardstown during the Dublin Racing Festival.

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Cheltenham Trials Day

Looking back at Cheltenham last Saturday and Energumene was just too fresh in the rescheduled Clarence House. He also didn’t jump as well as he normally does. The Old Course is more of a speed test which should suit him better when coming back over for the Champion Chase.

I’d say if Editeur Du Gite lines up against him, Paul [Townend] will be happy to sit on his tail. I thought Niall Houlihan gave the winner a brilliant ride and Tom Cannon rode Edwardstone to beat Energumene and just ran out of puff once he got past Editeur Du Gite.

I’m a big fan of Edwardstone and he has stepped up on last year. I know he won the Arkle last season but I just wonder if the New Course suits him better as it’s more of a stamina track. I’d be marginally with Energumene at the Festival at this stage. I think he’s better than he showed last Saturday.

It was great to see Ahoy Senor get it together for Lucinda Russell and her dad who was a part owner. It was a very good performance and Sounds Russian also ran really well. Noble Yeats stayed on well at the end and I wouldn’t discount him in the Gold Cup with cheekpieces back on.

Protektorat ran like he needed the run to me. He raced keenly, hit a flat spot and then ran on again. He ran a better race than people might think and the two I’d take out of the race for the Gold Cup would be him and Noble Yeats.

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Leopardstown on Saturday

There are four Grade 1s at the Dublin Racing Festival and the first of them, the Nathaniel Lacy (1:20), is probably the most competitive. Good Land was very impressive when he won in Leopardstown so he has an obvious chance.

Weveallbeencaught has a good level of form, beating Rock My Way last time who won at Cheltenham last weekend. He was then behind Hermes Allen in November so it will be interesting to see how the form stacks up.

Sandor Clegane was very impressive in Punchestown, but I’d say the forgotten horse is AMERICAN MIKE. He disappointed last time at Navan, but he has a good level of form from his bumper days and he’s been given time to recover. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him a big player in this – he is possibly proven at a higher level than the opposition.

LOSSIEMOUTH should take all the beating in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (1:55). She beat Gala Marceau 7 ½ lengths over Christmas giving her 3lbs and she’s off levels here. So far she has shown that she’s a good bit ahead of what’s on show in this race and what we’ve seen in England.

I think the Irish Arkle (2:30) could be the race of the season so far. Willie has thrown all his two-mile darts at this one and there’s going to be a lot of pace which will suit APPRECIATE IT. I imagine he’ll slot in fourth or fifth and Banbridge should benefit from the strong pace as well. Paul Townend has gone with Appreciate It over Dysart Dynamo and El Fabiolo, and I would side with him also.

The Irish Gold Cup (3:05) should be straightforward for GALOPIN DES CHAMPS. He was keen last season which is why he was kept to two and a half miles, but he was so relaxed on his reappearance in the John Durkan.

I just felt he was taking a few too many chances last season and was being too brave, but he was really good and measured in Punchestown. It was a very good performance.

Stattler ran well to be second to Minella Indo in Tramore, giving him 8lbs at a track which wouldn’t have suited. He’s a horse with a lot of potential but he has a bridge to gap to get to Galopin Des Champs.

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English action on Saturday

Gordon [Elliott] sends over GERRI COLOMBE for the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase (2:20) and he should take the beating. Sandown will be a better test than Limerick and he’s five from five. It takes a good horse to do that.

I rode him this week and he felt great. Of the opposition, Monmiral is interesting but if Thunder Rock can get his jumping together he could pose a bigger threat. Again, this race will reveal plenty when it comes to comparing the English and Irish form.

Up at Wetherby, I think BALLYGRIFINCOTTAGE will get the job done in the William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase (2:40). He was good in Haydock and has the strongest form on offer here. O’Toole could be best of the rest.

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Cheltenham : Leopardstown on Sunday

I had the pleasure of sitting on MIGHTY POTTER (1:40) this week and he really is a gorgeous horse. I was a big fan of him last season, but I’ve been so impressed with him in Down Royal and Fairyhouse this term.

James Du Berlais has a good level of form and made a good impression in Fairyhouse, but I think Mighty Potter could be one of the standout novice chasers. Gaillard Du Mesnil went all last season without winning a chase and I don’t see a reason why he will trouble the favourite.

The Dublin Chase (2:10) looks a one-horse race according to the betting, but I’m not so sure. BLUE LORD was impressive in Leopardstown and had some good form as a novice. Last time out was a big step up on what he had shown, but the Leopardstown form might be slightly questionable.

Chacun Pour Soi was disappointing last time, so we could be getting a bit carried away with Blue Lord. He’s the most likely winner, but I’m not sure he should be as clear as the market suggests. Gentleman De Mee has the strongest level of form of the others, but that was last season.

The Irish Champion Hurdle (3:10) is a really competitive race. STATE MAN is a very good horse and I have a lot of respect for him, but I also do for Honeysuckle who didn’t run badly in the Hatton’s Grace. The return to a left-handed track on better ground will suit her and I expect a big show.

I thought Vauban ran a brilliant race last time considering how poorly he jumped on his first run back. It’s a more open race than the betting suggests and while State Man is the most likely winner and the right favourite, he’s going to be tested by Honeysuckle and Vauban.

A lot of people weren’t overly impressed with FACILE VEGA here at Christmas, but he did what he had to do and he should be too good for the others in the two-mile novice hurdle (3:40). I think he’s a very good horse.

High Definition needed every yard in Leopardstown last time and will need to improve but the second franked the form in Fairyhouse last weekend, so you’d have to give him respect but I’m a big fan of Facile Vega as an individual.

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