Detroit City may have edge on Hardy Eustace

Tuesday, 13 March  With the ground conditions likely to be on the heavy side this could be a very difficult festival to pick winners at and I would advise punters to look for value whatever they are backing.   In the Arkle I like the look of FAIR ALONG trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnston. This horse has done nothing wrong so far and despite being the hot  favourite I think he will win.   The Champion Hurdle could be the race of the festival. DETROIT CITY is a deserved favourite and will take all the beating. MACS JOY AND BRAVE INCA will be there or thereabouts for the Irish but the biggest threat with come from HARDY EUSTACE. The Dessie Hughes trained star has come right back into form this year and he has a real chance under Conor O’Dwyer. However I’m going to stick with DETROIT CITY to give trainer Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson a big race success.   In the Cross Country race one of the Irish star turns for many years past SPOTTHEDIFFERENCE takes his chance under jockey Andrew McNamara and will go off as favourite. The J P McManus owned 13 year old is going for an incredible 6th victory around Cheltenham and who is to say that Enda Bolger will not be leading him in again this year. He is a very gutsy performer and you will write him off at your peril. Wednesday, 14 March In the Ballymore Properties Novice Hurdle the Noel Meade trained ARAN CONCERTO will be a hot favourite to land the spoils for jockey Paul Carberry. Noel Meade says that this is the best horse he has ever trained. That’s good enough for me.   In the Royal and Sun Alliance Chase the nap of the week for English punters (and many of the Irish too) will be DENMAN. This brilliant chaser should land the odds with Ruby Walsh aboard the Paul Nicholls trained horse who was a beaten favourite here last year.   In the Queen Mother Champion Chase WELL CHIEF will be favoutite to win the two-mile crown for David Pipe and Timmy Murphy and he is the best horse in the race on form. The Irish are very well represented here with NEWMILL (last year’s winner) and NICKNAME, both of whom have real chances. However I will stick with WELL CHIEF to beat all-comers.   In the Champion Bumper CORK ALL STAR will start favourite. Others to watch out for here are DEN OF INIQUITY, MAD FISH and a very interesting one – ARANLEIGH, trained by Willie Mullins — which J P McManus bought for a quarter of a million Euro following his last performance at Leopardstown. Willie Mullins has a serious record in this race so it might be better to stick with him. Thursday, 15 March  In the Ladbrokes World Hurdle there is a very strong field declared. BLACK JACK KETCHUM has been very impressive this season but slipped up last time out which is a worry for trainer Johnjo O’Neill and jockey Tony McCoy. INGILS DREVER is a former winner of this race for trainer Howard Johnson and he cannot be discounted. However a very interesting runner here is CELESIAL WAVE which is in with a real chance of giving Adrian Maguire his first Cheltenham winner as a trainer. The Irish will be behind this one big time. Friday, 16 March  In the Triumph Hurdle The Irish horse LUANOS will be the favourite to land the big race for Eoin Griffin and Barry Geraghty. He will run well and could win. Watch out for the Johnjo O’Neill trained MOUNTAIN who is very well bred and if he runs he will not be far away under Tony McCoy.   In the Gold Cup KAUTO STAR will now be the hot favourite with the absence of War of Attrition and In Compliance. Others to consider here are EXOTIC DANCER  and BEEF OR SALMON who despite his poor record at Cheltenham will have the ground that suits him — and he has the class if he gets around. Keep an eye on the locally-owned CANE BRAKE who has been backed from 100/1 to 16/1 in recent weeks. There is no reason why the Tom Taffe battler cannot run into a place given the ground conditions.