Cheltenham Festival News

Road To Cheltenham: Five things we learnt on the latest show with Lydia and Ruby

Fri 26 Feb 2021

Catch up with Lydia Hislop’s latest Road To Cheltenham column

Lydia Hislop and Ruby Walsh dissected how the Unibet Champion Hurdle might play out on Thursday night’s show in more unmissable viewing with the Cheltenham Festival just weeks away.

Here, we pick out five talking points from the latest show before you enjoy the latest instalment in full (below).

Was it the right move to run Champ over two miles ahead of the Gold Cup?

“It’s a strange one, but I think so,” says Ruby.

“That will have taken the fizz and excitement out of him, and he will be more manageable in the Gold Cup.

“Nico will still have to get a bit of cover somewhere - he won’t line him up and get him between two horses racing to the first fence and igniting him again.”

Hear more from Ruby in the latest Road To Cheltenham about where he expects what position Nico de Boinville will take on Champ and whether he thinks this horse will last the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup distance.

Goshen is a late, but very serious, Unibet Champion Hurdle player

OK - perhaps not such a sagacious statement on first viewing for a horse currently priced 4-1 and the leading British contender for the first-day highlight.

But while Epatante and Honeysuckle are established Grade One winners, perhaps you could question Goshen by comparison in terms of his overall CV.

Jockey Jamie Moore speaks after a fine return to form for Goshen in an interview that was one of Lydia's highlights of the week

Yet Ruby and Lydia agree that his Betway Kingwell Hurdle demolition was “top-class” form, while Ruby added that this was the best the five-year-old has ever jumped. His gallop is relentless and he is a fascinating contender.

Pace v speed – and how that might affect the Unibet Champion Hurdle

Ruby believes this year’s race will be unlike last year’s renewal, when Epatante came from half-way for victory, while runner-up Sharjah came from the back.

There is plenty of pace on this time, primarily through Goshen.

The latest Road To Cheltenham lesson from Ruby Walsh here by means of explanation:

“I suppose Usain Bolt has speed and Michael Johnson has pace. Pace is being able to maintain a very high gallop; your cruising speed is your pace. A speed is turn of foot where you can show acceleration.

“Honeysuckle looks to have plenty of pace, Goshen has huge pace, Annie Power had massive pace, so did My Tent Or Yours. Pace is the ability to jump, set a pace, get up to a high speed and maintain it. Very good horses can do that, and that’s why ‘pace’ horses more than ‘speed’ horses win a Supreme.”

The forgotten horse in the Unibet Champion Hurdle?

Aspire Tower underperformed in last year’s JCB Triumph Hurdle – which Goshen was set to win so spectacularly.

But does Ruby think that was just a blip on the day?

“I do, I think Rachael Blackmore never thought he was the same horse last year.

“We haven’t seen him since Christmas but he’s a horse that can go a really good gallop and I think a really strongly-run Champion Hurdle would suit him; it didn’t at Christmas in Leopardstown.

“Look, he has a bit to prove - there’s no doubt about that - but he’s probably just a slightly forgotten horse.”

Aspire Tower is a best-priced 20-1 for Cheltenham Festival glory.

Two to note for BoyleSports Irish Grand National

Coko Beach prevailed over Espanito Bello in the Grade Two Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan last Sunday, and Ruby liked the winner’s performance.

Yet the runner-up arguably would have landed the spoils had he not badly pecked on landing at the last.

“I probably see both as Irish Grand National horses this season. They’re both novices, and novices have a really good record, a huge record in the Irish Grand National. These look like two horses who have great chances.”

Enjoy the latest Road To Cheltenham with Lydia Hislop and Ruby Walsh

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