RACING boff Gaurav Chaddah (@Gchaddahjourno) 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
I was a big fan of the way OK Coral (4/1 William Hill) won his novice chase at Warwick in January and the booking of Derek O’Connor that day straight away suggested that this race was always the target but I have my reservations.
The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old won well that day but I can’t help but feel they might have him in the wrong race here. Henderson isn’t known for a good record in marathon races and there is real question marks about his stamina to stay four miles; I think he could be vulnerable.
Henderson’s comments regarding this don’t make for great listening either, and whilst he may be the best horse in the race, I think the trip may ask too much of him.
Ballyward (3/1 Betway) has always looked like he’ll enjoy the step up to four miles and has enjoyed a fruitful campaign this season, having won at Punchestown quite easily before dismantling Chris’ Dream by 11 lengths in a Grade 3 last time. Chris’ Dream has since franked that form.
This is was his only entry so the plan has been apparent from day one and he’s trained by Willie Mullins and will be ridden by Patrick Mullins, the same combination for last year’s winner Rathvinden.
Discorama (8/1 Ladbrokes) was upsides with Ballyward at Punchestown last time before falling and whilst it’s difficult to say whether he would of won or not, I feel Ballyward would have stilled finished first and this step up in trip will suit him a lot more than it’ll suit Discorama.
The Mullins horse is the one to beat.
National Hunt Challenge Cup – Ballyward (3/1 Betway)