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Cheltenham Festival

Horses to note should it get testing at the Cheltenham Festival

The riding style of Richard Johnson, pictured winning the Denman Chase on Native River, finds favour with Dinah Nicholson
Native River will love any give in the ground at CheltenhamCredit: Edward Whitaker

After the heavy snow of the last few days and a forecast for rain in the build-up to the meeting, the chances of the Cheltenham Festival starting on testing ground on Tuesday week have heightened. Here we look at which horses would benefit and those that might be disadvantaged by challenging conditions.

Mr Softees

Native RiverTimicoCheltenham Gold Cup, Friday March 16

It's not a surprise to see little bits of money for the Colin Tizzard-trained Native River for the festival feature, with the potential for ground worse than the usual good to soft.

Grinding out victories from the front is his forte and the slower the surface, the more effective his running style. He's won five of his ten career victories with the ground soft or worse.

KalashnikovSky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Tuesday March 13 or Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, Wednesday March 14

Trainer Amy Murphy is likely to favour the Supreme over taking on Samcro in the Ballymore and having shown a liking for soft ground when romping home in the Betfair Hurdle last month, Kalashnikov has to be a huge contender in the festival opener.

Kalashnikov (Jack Quinlan) wins the Betfair HurdleNewbury 10.2.18 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Kalashnikov won the Betfair Hurdle in miserable conditionsCredit: Edward Whitaker

Even if the ground isn't as testing as some anticipate, he still has a great chance with Murphy confirming his ground versatility.

Saint CalvadosRacing PostArkle, Tuesday March 13

He has won six of his seven career starts and has never raced on ground better than soft. The amount of snow that has fallen at Cheltenham will be music to the ears of connections who must find his ability to quicken in deep ground exhilarating.

With Arkle favourite Footpad drifting in the market, it could be worth having a few quid on Saint Calvados before his price contracts further.

Al Boum PhotoRSA Chase, Wednesday March 14

Willie Mullins' first string for the RSA ran the worst race of his career when fifth on good to yielding ground at Punchestown last year and has been kept to soft or worse conditions since.

Al Boum Photo: ran a disappointing race on good ground at Punchestown
Al Boum Photo: ran a disappointing race on good ground at PunchestownCredit: Patrick McCann (

The smooth traveller is almost certain to improve for the step up in trip and jumps well.

Chris's Dream Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, Friday March 16

Henry de Bromhead's six-year-old jumped into the Cheltenham picture with a 64-length demolition job at Clonmel last month in extremely heavy conditions.

Having led from an early stage, he just went further and further away from his opponents as the race went on. Both his career victories have come on soft or heavier.

Good Guys

Max DynamiteRandox HealthCounty Handicap Hurdle, Friday March 16

The subject of an ante-post plunge for the County Hurdle, he will be making his first start over the jumps since his ninth place finish in the Galway Hurdle last summer.

He has since run in two Group 1s on the Flat – including finishing third on Australian good ground in the Melbourne Cup.

Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Lonsdale Cup at York on Max Dynamite
Max Dynamite: last two runs have been in Group 1s on the FlatCredit: Alan Crowhurst

He has only run on soft or worse once since April 2015 when beaten a long way in the Ascot Gold Cup two years ago and although he won a maiden hurdle on soft, he can't use his electric turn of foot in the same way with give underfoot.

RhinestoneWeatherbys Champion Bumper, Wednesday March 14

He has looked like a very good horse in three starts on testing ground but failed to score when looking the most likely winner turning for home last time behind Blackbow and may need a better surface to be seen at his best.

Trainer Joseph O'Brien has said he will be better on quicker ground and his pedigree (by Montjeu out of a twice-raced Flat mare) supports that theory.

Penhill Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle, Thursday March 15

Another recruit from the Flat, Penhill surprised many when sprinting away from 14 rivals in the Albert Bartlett on good ground last year.

Penhill: won the Albert Bartlett on good ground last year
Penhill: won the Albert Bartlett on good ground last year

He has rarely run on soft or worse and although he does have winning form in testing conditions, his jumping was less fluent than normal.

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Tom CollinsTipster
Published on 4 March 2018Last updated 16:52, 4 March 2018