Dodging Bullets returns to defend his Champions Chase crown for Paul Nicholls at Cheltenham on Day Two of the Festival, and the Betfair Ambassador also has some strong claims in the two handicap hurdles. Read Paul's exclusive thoughts below...
"We do like him and didn't want to risk ruining what seems a good handicap mark for this race by running him somewhere before the Festival."
14:10 - Le Mercurey
Booked his ticket for this with a fine run in finishing a close third in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot which he looked like winning going to the last before losing momentum at that fence. The form is solid as he gave 7lbs to the first two that day.
This is a fair bit tougher and I do wonder if he has the tactical pace on quicker ground round this track.
An outside chance.
14:50 - Two Runners
A gorgeous horse whose preparation for this has gone really well. This is the first handicap for Politologue. Last year we won it in the same colours with Aux Ptits Soins who we felt was well handicapped and hand on heart I can't say whether a mark of 142 for Politologue is a generous mark.
While the ground was almost unraceable when he won so impressively at Exeter last time I think he will appreciate the better going here.
Politologue is a good horse, would have won on his debut for us at Cheltenham earlier in the season but for losing Sam Twiston-Davies going to the final hurdle and is a strong each-way shot in this.
Is on a roll after winning his last three races. I thought he did well to win at Huntingdon last time considering that he was not at his best as I ran him again quickly under a penalty only seven days after he hacked up in the mud at Wincanton.
Baoulet Delaroque is progressive, he continues to thrive at home and it would be awesome if he could win this off a mark of 140. It is not out of the question.
15:30 - Dodging Bullets
Enjoyed a marvellous time last season, running up a sequence of victories on his way to winning this race a year ago. Unfortunately our plan to follow the same route this winter was foiled by a splint problem that put Dodging Bullets on the sidelines for two months.
We have been playing catch up with him ever since and I was probably too optimistic in believing he would be straight enough to win on his comeback at Newbury just over a month ago.
If Dodging Bullets was a footballer returning from injury he would only have been asked to play 40 or 50 minutes, not the full 90 minutes. So in hindsight I'd say he did well to finish second to the race fit winner. He has improved a fair bit since then, looks tremendous and has also schooled well.
But with Un De Sceaux in the field it is going to be hard for Dodging Bullets to retain his crown. Take the favourite out and hopefully our horse has as good an each-way chance as any of the others in the line-up.
16:10 - Sire Collonges
Is in great form as he returns for another crack at this race in which he has run so well in the past. He couldn't be in better shape.
Sire Collonges slipped up when he would have gone very close on this course in November and he was then second to Josies Orders, beaten only two lengths, in December. On that form he has solid claims each-way now.
Tom Jonason, my assistant, rides Sire Collonges every day at home and the horse will think he is loose at Cheltenham with only 11st 4lbs on his back.
16:50 - Two Runners
Diego du Charmil
I've tipped this one up at a couple of Cheltenham previews on the basis of what he has been showing us at home. Diego du Charmil has also worked very well with our nicest juveniles when we have taken him away for a racecourse gallop.
But I am not getting carried away as he has not run for us yet and sometimes the ones who shine on the gallops don't deliver on the racecourse!
Diego du Charmil should probably have won on his final outing in France before joining us when he finished very strongly. We do like him and didn't want to risk ruining what seems a good handicap mark for this race by running him somewhere before the Festival.
Hopefully he will run a big race here on his debut for us. But if he doesn't win then we will probably keep him a maiden for next season.
Romain de Senam
Won nicely on good ground at Wincanton in October and has struggled a bit since in testing conditions.
I'm sure the drier going now will suit Romain de Senam who will appreciate the likely strong gallop which should help him settle better in this race as he tends to be a bit keen.
On what we see at home Romain de Senam is our second string here. Then again races are not won at home.
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