The 2020 Cheltenham Festival is upon us and as Prestbury Park limbers up for Ladies Day on Wednesday, Irish jockey Barry Gerarghty will be hoping the racing results go in his favour. The 40-year-old, who is fourth favourite to be crowned the festival’s Top Jockey for the first time since 2012, has five great chances of victory on the second day of the four-day meeting. But “who are they?” We hear you ask. Well, read on and have all of your questions answered.
Sporting John is Gerarghty’s first ride of the day; the five-year-old holding down second favourite at 7/2 for the Grade One Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Whilst it’s going to take something pretty special to beat duo Davy Russel and Gordon Elliott – who will be saddling-up favourite Envoi Allen – the Philip Hobbs-trained horse is in the form to do so. The Bay Gelding first raced in March last year, and has already won three Novices’ Hurdle’s – including impressive victories at Exeter towards the end of last year, and a win at Ascot last month, beating Pipesmoker by six-and-a-half lengths.
The Irishman will then saddle Champ, named after the legendary jockey Tony McCoy, in the Grade One Novices’ Chase at 2.10pm. It will be the Nicky Henderson-trained Gelding’s second attempt at the race after finishing two lengths behind City Island at last year’s Festival.
The eight-year-old won the Grade One Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last April before following it up with two successive victories at Newbury in November. However, a fall in the Paddy Power Resolutions Already Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day, when he was heavy-odds on favourite, ended that winning streak. This year, Champ is neck-and-neck with Minella Indo, who will be ridden by Rachael Blackmore, in the betting for the Grade One Novices’ Chase.
Dame De Compagnie
The 40-year-old will then ride Dame De Compagnie in the Grade Three Handicap Hurdle, saddling-up for successive races under Henderson and owner J.P McManus. The seven-year-old is 7/1 favourite to scoop the Handicap Hurdle in her first race at the illustrious Festival.
The Mare has built-up experience around the Prestbury Park track with her last three outings being at the Gloucestershire course. Dame De Compagnie won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in the Cotswolds last April before securing a fifth place finish in the Handicap Hurdle on the old course in November. However, back on the new track in December, the seven-year-old won the Park Mares’ Handicap Hurdle, beating Indefatigable by four-and-a-half lengths.
Defi Du Seuil
Following the announcement that defending champion Altior will not run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Defi Du Seuil was made the favourite for the prestigious race. This will be the seven-year-old’s third outing at the Festival, and there will be wins to match if the odds are anything to go by. The Hobbs-trained horse first entered the Festival in 2017, setting-off as a 5/2 favourite in the Grade One Triumph Hurdle. And, proving why he was identified as the front-runner, he beat Elliott’s Mega Fortune by an impressive five lengths. The Bay Gelding returned to the Cotswolds last season, this time winning the Grade One Novices’ Chase by two-and-one-quarter lengths over Lostintranslation.
The seven-year-old is heading straight for Prestbury Park on the back of three successive wins this season; starting with a victory at Cheltenham back in November, in the Grade Two Cheltenham Chase, beating Politologue by just over a length. The McManus-owned gelding then went on to beat Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux in the Grade One Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown by a neck, before getting one over on the 12-year-old again at Ascot in January – this time by a much wider two-and-three-quarter lengths.
Mike Pastor will be Geraghty’s last ride of the day and he is the favourite to win the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 4.50pm. The four-year-old has only raced twice since joining Paul Nicholls’ stable last November, his first outing being just over a week later as he set-off 5/2 favourite in the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham. However, after a lacklustre sixth place finish, Nicholls said ‘he choked on the soft, heavy in places, going.’ The Gelding bounced back with a win in the Juvenile Hurdle at Ludlow in January, beating Prefontaine by over six lengths.