James Shortt’s 5 to watch at the 2022 Festival


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The Ultima Handicap Chase has been dominated by local challengers for almost two decades now, with Dun Doire being the last Irish-trained winner for Tony Martin in 2006. However, despite the race’s excellent history for the Brits, I think it could change that. year with BLURRER seeks to have a good profile for Gordon Elliott. Although he jumped like ‘a bag of hammers’ as Jerry Hannon described him in a comment to Fairyhouse, he showed courage to win and followed that up with a creditable third place at the Grand National Trial at Punchestown last month .


He has previous Festival experience following his performance behind Galophin Des Champs in the Martin Pipe last year and that run suggests the trip seems ideal this time around. Five of the seven previous winners of this race have won this competition with an official rating between 142 and 148, so an improved UK rating of 146 seems manageable and perhaps fair. I think he’s a solid two-way player here, especially given his Frontal Assault win at Fairyhouse with his favorite stablemate for the Kim Muir later in the week.

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Gordon Elliott and his Cullentra House team have an excellent record in the National Hunt Chase and have a strong contender here with RUN WILD FRED. He ran a cracker in the Irish National last April and was an excellent winner from Troytown to Navan last November. Despite Naas missing with a temperature and bypassing the Ten-Up in Navan due to unsuitable terrain, I wouldn’t be too concerned about his lack of action since Christmas in Leopardstown.

Elliott is used to racing some of his previous winners of this race with Tiger Roll and Ravenhill not racing earlier in the calendar year before appearing and scoring at the Festival in March. This horse has some of the best novice hunting form in the book after running behind Longhouse Poet and Coko Beach and I think this lead will give him more improvement to score for the Gigginstown team.

I was asked about a horse in a post Cheltenham podcast for the Racing Post after last year’s Festival and highlighted SIR GERHARD as the one I’d like to see back for back to back wins in 2022. Now with only days before action begins at Prestbury Park, I’m more than happy to remain confident with the Cheveley Park runner with all signs pointing to the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the time of writing.

For some reason his owners and the Closutton team think this race looks like the best opportunity for victory and as Ruby Walsh has said in many pre-Cheltenham previews, ‘whoever shows up here will win’. . That statement is more than enough for me from the man who stays very up to date at Closutton and who previously guided Fivefourthree, Mikael D’Haguenet, Faugheen and Yorkhill to victory in this race.



After the Dublin Racing Festival and his botched jumps, I thought using his stamina a bit more and heading into this race might suit the Supreme better and I have no doubt his class will see him score despite several intriguing factors. First, he hasn’t run beyond a long 2-mile trip since winning his point-to-point at Boulta, while second, no 7-year-old has won that race in 24 years. since French Holly for Ferdy Murphy and Andrew Thornton in 1998. .

However, Jeremy’s son still ticks all the boxes for me with the best form in the book, the experience of the venue since his outstanding win last year and two solid hurdle races under his belt. Mullins has been talking about the possibility of cheeks for the past few weeks to keep him more focused, but I imagine we’ll now see a smoother jump display over that longer distance and with a good, even canter.

His first jumping win at Leopardstown over Christmas then produced several winners in the form of Highland Charge, Ashe Tree Meadow and Goven, as he tracked at ease and got the better of fine horses at the DRF despite his sloppy display of jumps. In summary, Mr. GERHARD is a bit older and wiser than this opposition and with previous experience at the venue I have no doubt he will hand Mullins another victory on the opening day two.

ALAPHILIPPE stayed well up the hill in the Albert Bartlett last year behind Vanillier and ran a creditable fifth between Stattler and Threeunderthrufive. Both of these horses have made good progress over the fences this season, with Fergal O’Brien deciding to stay over the hurdles after missing out on Aintree last April. He comes here fresh with just one race under his belt behind Sporting John at Warwick in January and looks well handicapped in my opinion.

The UK setter dropped him 2lbs for this run which was a good blow ahead of his return to Prestbury Park and I think he is another one with excellent luck either way. He was beaten by a short header by the two-time but aging former winner of that race Sire Du Berlais at Warwick and is another who is bringing Cheltenham’s previous form back to the Festival. A little cut on the ground would help his chances and I hope to have a good run despite the Irish having a great record here since 2016.


As our own Frank Hickey jokingly said during our Cheltenham preview party, the British handicapper must be on LANGER-DAN having dropped him 3Ibs for the final of the Festival. He looks extremely well handicapped, just 2 pounds heavier than last year behind Galophin Des Champs and it’s no surprise to see him favorite for this show. It was a good decision for me to skip Sandown and head straight for Cheltenham this year and no doubt his run at Taunton will have put him on the right track for this race. I think he is the best handicapped horse in the UK team at the Festival and looks set to strike thanks to another year of majority and that generous handicapper rating.

Tuesday 2:50 p.m.: Ultma Handicap Chase – blurr (in each direction)
Tuesday 5:30 p.m.: National Hunt Chase – Run Wild Fred
Wednesday 1.30pm: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Mr Gerhard (NAP)
Thursday 2:10 p.m.: Obstacle Pertemps Handicap – alaphilippe
Friday 5:30 p.m.: Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle – Langer Dan

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