Joseph O'Brien has three runners on the opening day of Cheltenham Festival, and fancies his one in the Arkle...
"We have him as fit as we can get him and he went really well in a school around Leopardstown last week. We are very happy with him."
Rain will help Fakir D'Oudairies win this Grade 1
Arkle Chase 14:10 - Fakir D'Oudairies
Fakir D'Oudairies is our big Grade 1 hope for the week. He wasn't far off the best juvenile hurdlers last season and he has been even better in novice chases this season. He finished second to Notebook in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting, but the race didn't really play to his strengths the way it panned out for him.
We were looking forward to taking him on again at the Dublin Racing Festival, but the ground was just a bit firmer than ideal and we decided not to run him. We have him as fit as we can get him and he went really well in a school around Leopardstown last week. We are very happy with him.
He stays really well and his jumping is a huge asset for him. There looks to be plenty of pace on here and I don't think he'll be too far away from it. Any more rain that falls will be a help to him. He is 7lb worse off with Notebook from their last meeting, but I'd be hopeful he can be very competitive.
Could run better than his price suggests
Champion Hurdle 15:30 - Darasso
It's great to have a runner in the Champion Hurdle. Even though Darasso is a very big price, it's such an open-looking renewal that we were keen to have something in there. In terms of official ratings, Darasso isn't too far off the main contenders and he is in great form at home. He faced a really tough task trying to give 7lb to Cilaos Emery at Gowran Park and he ran well enough in the circumstances.
This stronger test of stamina will help him, as will any more rain that falls. Being realistic, hitting the frame would be a great result for him, but I wouldn't be shocked if he ran better than his price suggests he should.
Gunning for a chance
National Hunt Chase 17:30 - Smoking Gun
Smoking Gun improved for the step up to an extended three miles to win a maiden chase at Punchestown on New Year's Eve. We were really pleased with him there and thought he might run a good race in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park, but he disappointed there in what were really testing conditions. He has plenty of find on the official ratings here, but he has always looked a strong stayer and he jumps well in the main, so we think he deserves to take his chance. He'll be a big price, but it wouldn't be a shock if he ran well under Tom Hamilton.