No Willie Mullins at Cheltenham so I’m turning to Paul Nicholls for my NAP of the weekend


WHEN I was riding, the November meeting at Cheltenham was always where the jumps season really kicked off — even without the missing battalion of Willie Mullins runners.

Willie has never targeted this meeting. Most of his big guns have just started proper work and don’t even get going until next month.


Geraghty reckons superstar trainer De Bromhead can land a decent Cheltenham potCredit: Sportsfile

For Closutton it has always been about the big meetings in Ireland at Christmas followed, of course, by the Festivals in the spring.

It is a tried and tested plan which suits Willie.

And it works — as an incredible tally of 94 winners at the Cheltenham Festival clearly shows.

What it does mean is this weekend gives everyone else a chance to grab some glory at the home of jumps racing!

It was always a meeting I enjoyed and really whets the appetite for the jumps season to come.

After this weekend all the racing at Cheltenham will be on the New Course until the first day of the Festival next March.

So this is a good opportunity for trainers to see how their runners go over the Old course which is likely to be pretty testing this weekend.

I’m looking forward to the Paddy Power Gold Cup tomorrow — the old Mackeson for those of you who remember.

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And then, on Sunday, we will get to see a great head to head with Jonbon taking on Edwardstone. I’m really looking forward to that one.

First up though there are four races on ITV4 on Friday and I reckon Henry De Bromhead — who has had his string in good form in Ireland — can take the first of them with GENTLE AND KIND (1.10).

This one was a cosy winner at Tramore on soft ground last time out and catches my eye.

She has only had two starts over hurdles, so I think there could be a good bit to come now starting off in handicaps.

Mickey O’Connor, a very talented young Irish jockey, takes the ride.

CALICO (1.45) gave Jonbon a massive fright in the Kingmaker at Warwick last season.

He was booked for second place when he came down at the final fence at Aintree in Grade 1 company last time.

That’s a strong level of form to bring back into a handicap like this and he should go well.

In the Arkle Trial (2:20pm), I like the look of MIGHTY TOM.

He has some smart hurdles form, including when only beaten five lengths into sixth in the Galway Hurdle, and has seemed to take well to fences.

He ran a nice race on his chase debut at Cork last time, finishing second to Letsbeclearaboutit, where he looked to settle much better and travel well for Danny Gilligan.

Trainer Cian Collins is a very capable handler and does well when bringing these sorts of horses over to Britain.

The Cross Country is a rematch between DELTA WORK (2.55) and Galvin who fought out the finish to the Cross Country at the Festival.

With current conditions being soft, it would point you towards Delta Work, who has the benefit of a run as well, but if the going was to improve dramatically, then that would bring Galvin back into it.

An each way alternative could be Dan Skelton’s Latenightpass.

He finished fourth in the Foxhunters’ at Aintree last season and won that contest in 2022, so with that kind of form over the National fences, jumping shouldn’t be a concern for him here.

CAPTAIN TEAGUE (3.30) is one of my horses to follow this season and would probably be my nap of the weekend.

He brings a very strong level of form from last season’s Champion Bumper and was good when starting off over hurdles at Chepstow this season.

There’s a lot of improvement expected on that run — he should improve for that first jumping experience and fitness wise.

He’s a standout horse among a nice bunch of rivals that perhaps lack star quality.

TINTINTIN (4.05) makes his first start after a wind operation.

He won on hurdles debut at Ffos Las last season and was then placed in three races, including when a good second behind Spirit D’Aunou in Huntington.

He looks open to plenty of improvement and should be capable of a good run.


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