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Brian Hayes' 2023 Cheltenham Festival Preview

Brian Hayes for Bookies.com

Brian Hayes  | 6 mins

Brian Hayes' 2023 Cheltenham Festival Preview

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The 2023 Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner and excitement is definitely building. Everyone involved in horse racing is putting the finishing touches on everything now.

Check out the Racehour Festival Preview Night

Final Preparations

This week we are all just getting that last bit of work into the horses who are bound for Prestbury Park. In Willie Mullins’ yard, where I am mostly based, we take the string to the Curragh seven days before they are set to run. So, the horses who will take their place on the opening day of the festival on 14 March, had their last workout on the Tuesday just gone.

In this final piece of work, we have a good gallop, but it’s a vital exercise that we have to be careful with. We want to make sure that the horse is fit and ready after it, but you don’t want to do too much either. The very last thing any of us intend to do is to leave their race behind them on the gallops in the Curragh.

One facet of our preparations that changed this year, was actually the colour of the hurdles and fences at home. Willie has publicly said that Energeumene didn’t run his proper race in the Clarence House because he hadn’t faced a white fence before. In Ireland we jump hurdles and fences that are green and orange, and a horse can be spooked when this changes as white is obviously a particularly striking colour.

There is credence to this and all of the obstacles at home have now been changed to white.

Like the best in any sport, Willie Mullins just doesn’t leave things to chance, and all of his jumpers now have experience with white obstacles. Top-level sport is all about fine margins, after all.

Chasing a Festival Winner

Dads Lad gave me my first winner at Cheltenham back in October and that was an enjoyable day where everything went to plan. All things being well, we will be reunited in the Grand Annual. Dads Lad is far from an outside chance with bookmakers there as he handled the track beautifully that day over this distance.

I have yet to ride a Cheltenham Festival winner, and that is the dream that all of us jockeys aspire to, it is the pinnacle of our sport after all. Two horses I have got to know quite well this season are Adamantly Chosen and Impervious. Both can run very well next week.

Adamantly Chosen has entries in two handicap chases, the Turners Novices’ Chase and has now been supplemented for the Brown Advisory! He has been second on his last two starts, and looks to be overpriced with horse racing betting sites in all four races. 

On his last two starts, we finished second together in two Grade 1s when chasing home Gerri Colombe and Mighty Potter. That is proper form and he’s arguably great value wherever he turns up. If the ground does stay on the good side Adamantly Chosen can improve again.

Impervious goes for the Mares Chase, and she has really made my season. Unsurprisingly, I think she has a great chance. She has performed very well and her jumping has been good and measured. Last time out, she produced a great piece of form when beating Journey With Me and she can definitely run a huge race here.

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The Big Four

The Cheltenham Preview Nights are in full swing and now is as good a time as any to take a look at the big race on each day of the Cheltenham Festival.

On the first day, the showpiece is the Champion Hurdle and it is very hard to see Constitution Hill beaten. He looks a different class and it could well be a very enjoyable spectacle to watch. State Man is a very, very good horse and will give him a race, but Constitution Hill might be our Lionel Messi!

On Wednesday, the Champion Chase is the big race and I think Blue Lord could be overpriced at 10/1 on betting apps. The front of the market is very good, but Blue Lord is also very talented. His last run wasn’t great, but you can always forgive a horse one bad run, and I am happy to follow him in.

The Stayers Hurdle on Thursday looks a very competitive renewal, and I think Home By The Lee could run a big one. The rest of the market are young and exciting horses, and I especially like Charles Byrnes' horse Blazing Khal, but Home By The Lee has improved this season and is very solid. If this race develops into a bit of a slog, and he can avoid getting outpaced at critical stages, his stamina should see him to good effect!

The Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday is the highlight of the whole week in truth, and the favourite Galopin Des Champs looks very hard to oppose for win purposes. I was never fully sure of his stamina as I actually thought he was maybe a bit too classy, but he settled that doubt at the 2023 Dublin Racing Festival when winning the Irish Gold Cup, and racing lazily at stages which I love to see in horses racing over an extended trip.

Galopin Des Champs has learned his trade beautifully in the jumping department and this will help Paul Townend no end.

For those of you looking maybe for an each-way horse for the week, then Minella Indo at 20/1 with some horse racing betting sites could be interesting. He has the back form and never runs a bad race at the festival. He grows a leg there. He’s apparently in good form at home and could run a big race in the 2023 Gold Cup.

About the Author

Brian Hayes for Bookies.com
Brian Hayes
Brian Hayes is a leading Irish jockey based with the Willie Mullins yard and regular rider at all the big national hunt racing festivals including Galway, Punchestown Aintree and Cheltenham. The Cork native has ridden high in the riding ranks despite not hailing from a racing background and quickly becoming a relied on partner for some of the best horses in top training yards.