HORSE RACING fanatic Josh Abley (@Josh_Abley) analyses the field for the final race on Day 1 of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, the National Hunt Challenge Cup.
National Hunt Challenge Cup | Tuesday 12th March 2019, 17:30 | ITV4
It is worth noting that with the rain forecast early on Tuesday morning, I am anticipating the ground to be on the soft side and that has been factored into my selections.
In the last race of the day, the National Hunt Challenge Trophy for amateur riders, OK Corral is probably one of the worst priced favourites of the week, in my book, and I am taking him on with a horse who went close in this last year.
Although OK Corral has bags of class, shown by him being the highest rated out of these by some way when ignoring Ballyward, I can’t help but think the bookies will have the last laugh on day one.
Reasons to doubt OK Corral
OK Corral seemingly ticks all the boxes for a Festival winner and has every chance of proving me very wrong. He has previous Festival form and the top amateur rider booked for a race restricted to amateur riders, and he is owned by a man who has had numerous winners of this race in the past.
However, he is trained by Nicky Henderson. Although he is a master of his trade, horses that come out of Seven Barrows are known for their speed and for taking a pull. These characteristics are also clearly very prominent in OK Corral as well, who didn’t really settle when seemingly wanting to go faster last time out when winning at Warwick over three miles.
This suggestion that Nicky Henderson is better training quicker horses over a shorter trip is also backed up by the fact that he has only trained one winner over 3m4f since 2006, with 52 losers to stomach along the way. This stat, combined with the way OK Corral runs his races makes me think he will be beaten, running below his official rating off 153 in the process.
Impulsive Star can shine in the last
Although it is worth noting Ballyward and Discorama seemingly have great chances, I can’t have Ballyward at 3/1 either, and Discorama falling at the last time isn’t exactly ideal preparation for a race that requires 25 fences to be jumped. Therefore, my preference is for the second season novice chaser Impulsive Star, who was last seen winning a competitive Classic Chase at Warwick.
Impulsive Star was really game that day and showed a terrific attitude under Sam Waley-Cohen, who retains the ride. Most jockeys will be getting on their horses for the first time in this amateur contest, but Sam owns the horse and has ridden Impulsive Star eight times, and even won a Gold Cup, which definitely doesn’t reduce his chance.
Also, the form of that Classic Chase is working out really well, with Cross Park and Carole’s Destrier both winning good races since suggesting Impulsive Star’s rating off 139 underestimates his ability.
Impulsive Star was fourth in this last year, but Waley-Cohen has stated the horse is a different animal this year and surely arrives at Prestbury Park with a greater chance than he did last year. It is worth noting that last year’s race was also quite a strong renewal, with the Ladbrokes Trophy winner and a subsequent Grade 2 winner finishing in front of Impulsive Star that day.
He is currently best price 16/1 with four places (Bet 365) and I’m recommending a one point each-way bet. Everything points to a massive run from the Neil Mulholland charge and I will be disappointed if he is outside the first four, having not given the market principles a run for their money.
National Hunt Challenge Trophy – Impulsive Star (16/1 each-way Bet365)