Cheltenham punters give their tips for this week’s festival

Jerry Kiernan, Andrew McNamara, Darragh Ó Sé, Leon Blanche and Willie Penrose

Benie Des Dieux is the baker bet of two of our Cheltenham punters. Photograph:   Bryan Keane/Inpho

Benie Des Dieux is the baker bet of two of our Cheltenham punters. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Jerry Kiernan (Olympic athlete and pundit)

Jerry Kiernan
Jerry Kiernan

1) Champion Hurdle winner?

It’s a race I’m lukewarm about. It’s a bad Champion Hurdle if Pentland Hills is one of the favourites. I suppose the favourite [Epatante] but I’ve no strong opinion.

2) Gold Cup winner?

I’m a real Al Boum Photo fan. He’s had just the one run this season and that’s tried and trusted from last year. If something works you don’t change it.

3) Champion Chase winner?

I wasn’t overly impressed by Chacun Pour Soi and the way he won at Leopardstown. He didn’t have great speed in the final stretch. Defi Du Seuil has a turn of foot when it counts.

4) Banker bet?

I’m going to do a treble of Benie Des Dieux [Mares Hurdle], Envoi Allen [Ballymore Hurdle] and Tiger Roll [Cross-Country].

5) Top Trainer?

Willie Mullins again – it has to be.

6) Top Jockey?

If Mullins is top trainer then Paul Townend has to be top jockey now that Ruby Walsh is retired.

Andrew McNamara (RTÉ presenter and trainer)

Andrew McNamara with jockey David Mullins
Andrew McNamara with jockey David Mullins

1) Champion Hurdle winner?

Everyone felt there was a weak Champion Hurdle a few years ago but Buveur D’air came back from fences and won so it ended up quite a good renewal. If either Benie Des Dieux or Honeysuckle had lined up I’d have fancied them. But probably Epatante.

2) Gold Cup winner?

I love Delta Work. I think he bolted up the last day. To put down like he did at the last and run on like he did means having plenty left in the tank. You don’t do that if you’re a tired horse.

3) Champion Chase winner?

It looks as good a renewal as we’ve seen. I don’t know if Altior’s jumping is as good as it used to be. Chacun Pour Soi didn’t have an amazing finish at Leopardstown. I would go for Defi Du Seuil. He’s such a slick and sharp jumper.

4) Banker bet?

I’ll go with Envoi Allen.

5) Top Trainer?

One of either Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott, probably Willie Mullins.

6) Top Jockey?

Going with Willie Mullins for top trainer doesn’t necessarily mean Paul Townend will ride all of them. Rachael Blackmore won’t have as big a book of rides but she has plenty quality.

Darragh Ó Sé (Six-time All-Ireland winner with Kerry)

Darragh Ó Sé
Darragh Ó Sé

1) Champion Hurdle winner?

If Honeysuckle was in the field I’d have backed her. Otherwise I’ll go for JP’s mare Epatante.

2) Gold Cup winner?

There’s no standout. Philip Reynolds’s horse Presenting Percy hasn’t really sparked this year. It’s a hard call but maybe Willie Mullins and Al Boum Photo again.

3) Champion Chase winner?

I have to go with Altior again.

4) Banker bet?

I fancy Min in the Ryanair and Sempo who has been backed for the Coral Cup already.

5) Top Trainer?

Willie Mullins to just edge out Gordon Elliott, closely followed by Paul Nicholls. His horses are really flying over in England.

6) Top Jockey?

You’d have to go with Paul Townend, although with Jack Kennedy out injured Davy Russell will get a lot of the better rides with Gordon Elliott.

Leon Blanche (Boylesports representative)

Leon Blanche with Joe Schmidt.
Leon Blanche with Joe Schmidt.

1) Champion Hurdle winner?

Supasundae is an each-way bet. He’s a Grade One horse and his comeback run was very encouraging. He’ll come on for that and testing conditions would suit.

2) Gold Cup winner?

Last year’s winner Al Boum Photo has had a perfect preparation under the radar. It’s his to lose.

3) Champion Chase winner?

Chacun Pour Soi progressed from his first run, like a lot of Willie Mullins’s, and won well at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’s the younger horse with room to improve.

4) Banker bet?

I was blown away by Appreciate It when he won at Christmas and the vibes from the Mullins team are very positive for the bumper.

5) Top Trainer?

Gordon Elliott will have over 50 runners and he’ll be mob-handed in the handicaps. That can help him over the line.

6) Top Jockey?

Rachael Blackmore has a very strong team already and could pick up spares. It would be a great story if she was top jockey at Cheltenham.

Willie Penrose (former TD)

Willie Penrose
Willie Penrose

1) Champion Hurdle winner?

Epatante in a weak renewal. It’s difficult to see any horse giving 7lbs to a mare who’s only ever run one below-par race.

2) Gold Cup winner?

Presenting Percy got no preparation last year. He’s been brought along nice and slow this year with plenty of Grade One experience to peak at the right time next Friday.

3) Champion Chase winner?

Forgive Chacun Pour Soi his first run of the year when he needed it badly. I take him to confirm the promise of last year when he won at Punchestown beating Defi Du Seuil on only his second chase start.

4) Banker bet?

Benie Des Dieux to make amends for last year’s final hurdle fall and show Honeysuckle who the real Queen is!

5) Top Trainer?

Gordon Elliott to win for a third time.

6) Top Jockey?

Davy Russell.

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