Cheltenham Festival preview: Off The Fence team debate Honeysuckle in the Mares’ Hurdle, Stayers’ Hurdle hopes and Gold Cup picks | Racing News
The Off The Fence team are back with their in-depth Cheltenham Festival preview show as Vanessa Ryle, Barry Geraghty and Tony Keenan make their selections for all four days of the meeting.
Among the many headline acts appearing on the opening day of the Festival, plenty of eyes will be on the likes of Facile Vega, Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle – all winners from 2022.
Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle lost her long unbeaten crown this season and now returns to the Mares’ Hurdle field, aiming to bring the house down with another memorable victory.
Later in the week, the Stayers’ Hurdle could be one of the races of the Festival with returning champion Flooring Porter up against a whole host of new challengers.
The week concludes on Friday, March 17 with the showpiece, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as Galopin Des Champs takes on the might of Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame and Grand National hero Noble Yeats.
Watch Off The Fence Live during Cheltenham Festival week every night from Monday March 13 to Thursday March 16 on the At The Races Facebook and YouTube page.
“The one I wouldn’t land on is Honeysuckle. I do think she is going backwards and her form has dipped ever since the initial Champion Hurdle win.
“She was very good last season but just not quite as good and she’s dipped again this year.
“I’ve had Marie’s Rock in mind for this for a while but it sounds like she’s not going for this now. I’d be less cold on Epatante but the price isn’t great.
“Brandy Love was okay at Punchestown but it’s a quick turnaround.
“I’d lean towards Echoes In Rain. I think her form has improved. The trip might stretch her a bit but she’s a strong stayer over two miles.”
“I’d be the opposite to Tony, I’m very sweet on Honeysuckle. I think she’s crying out for further.
“At Leopardstown, it was decent ground and they didn’t go overly quick then she looked as if she didn’t have the pace she once had.
“At Cheltenham, with a bit of sun on her back, I think she’s the one to beat.
“Epatante could come here but I don’t see any reason why she should overturn the form with Honeysuckle.
“Love Envoi has to have a chance and Brandy Love would have to be of interest too.”
“I think it’s a stronger race than last year.
“Blazing Khal has been very good but still has to step up – he hasn’t taken the sort of scalps as some of these have.
“Teahupoo was really good at Gowran and in the Hatton’s Grace and I don’t think he’s going to be as ground dependent. He’s going to be the one for me.
“I’m still not convinced by Home By The Lee and I’m not sure about the strength of the Dublin Racing Festival form.
“Flooring Porter hasn’t had the ideal prep and generally needs his first run so I’d wonder about his fitness.
“If Klassical Dream was to turn up with the same level of form as the Hatton’s Grace, I think he’d be value, but Teahupoo is the one I’d like to be on.”
“This race is on a different level to that disaster last year!
“I’ve been a Teahupoo fan for a good while now, but you’ve got Blazing Khal, Marie’s Rock and Gold Tweet to add to the mix now.
“I agree with Barry that Blazing Khal has to step up but is going the right way.
“Marie’s Rock is a danger to them all but she can be quite free and whether a three-mile slog will suit her – I’m not sure.”
“It’s a quality race but Galopin Des Champs could just be a little bit better than the rest. I think he is a proper superstar.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to be an end-to-end gallop so if there is a question mark about his stamina, it won’t be tested to the level it might have been in other years.
“I’m not going to jump on the Bravemansgame bandwagon because he still isn’t proven at the track.
“A Plus Tard has a long way to come after bombing out at Haydock. There could be a little bit of improvement from Noble Yeats and I like Stattler as a potential each-way play.”
“I’m not against the favourite [Galopin Des Champs], apart from the price, but I’m going to go with the best piece of staying form and that’s from Bravemansgame.
“The King George looked like a proper race. He was well on top of L’Homme Presse.
“Paul Nicholls has said this is a different horse this season and I think he’s correct.”