We spoke to double Cheltenham Festival winner Nick Scholfield to find out just what it feels like to win a race at the biggest meeting on the racing calendar and to find out what he’s backing in day one. He’s joined four-time Champion Jockey Richard Johnson and racing broadcaster Tony Calvin in the Industry Expert Syndicate as they try to take down the £20,000 Place 6. If you want to join them, click here.
Which races Nick looks forward to at Cheltenham
Which race do I look forward to the most at Cheltenham? Whichever one I’ve got a good ride in! If I wasn’t riding though, obviously you’d have to say the Gold Cup is the race. However, the Supreme Novices is another that I really enjoy. Year on year it produces so many top class horses that, along with the Gold Cup, it’s the one I always look forward to.
What it feels like to win at Cheltenham
I’ve won at Cheltenham twice. It’s certainly a different feeling to winning anywhere else. In honesty it’s more a relief than anything else because Cheltenham heaps a lot of pressure on the shoulders of everyone involved. It’s our Olympics really. Grade 1s are always special but Cheltenham Festival could make or break your season. A win there can do so much for you and I was lucky enough to have it quite early on in my career but then had to wait another few years for another one. So I was able to enjoy the second one a little more but the first one is undoubtedly a day I’ll never forget.
Day 4 Pick
13:30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle
It’s a good renewal this year. The English have a strong hand with Goshen, Solo and Allmankind. I’m a big fan of Solo and I’d love to see Goshen do well for Gary Moore as Jamie’s a good friend of mine. However, I can personally see SIR PSYCHO running a big race for Paul Nicholls. Although he looks second string on paper, he’s a strong stayer and there’s plenty of pace in the race so I reckon he can just stay on through them.
Selections: SIR PSYCHO
14:10 – Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
It’s a minefield like a lot of these handicaps. Dan Skelton’s horse MOHAAYED won it last year and he looks back down on a realistic mark, he’s had a wind op and he’s obviously been trained for the race. So I’ll back him to defend his crown.
14:50 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
I’m going to go with RAMSES DE TEILLEE at a bigger price. He is a chaser, he’s not your obvious novice type but he’s done very well this year over hurdles. I just don’t think he’s done anything wrong and is a lot older than most of the others in the race and that experience could count for a lot.
Selections: RAMSES DE TEILLEE
15:30 – Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
I’ll go with CLAN DES OBEAUX to land the big one. He didn’t get home last year but I think he can get up the hill as the ground’s drying out a bit now and with the likes of Tizzard’s horse outside I can see it not being quite so fast and furious so I’ll go with him.
I’ve had a couple of good runners in the Gold Cup and you’re buzzing on the start line but in a different way to the Grand National, where the buzz comes from the fact that there are so many runners that it’s carnage.
Selections: CLAN DES OBEAUX
16:10 – St. James’ Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Hunters’ Chase
To be honest I don’t follow the Hunters’ Chase in great detail. However I know Jonjo O’Neill and there’s a runner he really likes in this in MINELLA ROCCO. A former placer in the Gold Cup, he’s a very classy horse and they’re in great form.
Selections: MINELLA ROCCO
16:50 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
Another big field and you need a lot of luck in running. I’m going to go for Dan Skelton again in this race and TWO TAFFS. He should be ok with 11 stone 1 on his back, he’s a good jumper and they’ve had this race in mind for a while.
Selections: TWO TAFFS
Day Three picks
13:30 – Marsh Novices’ Chase
There are some old favourites here with Samcro and Faugheen. It would be great if one of them could win and there probably wouldn’t be a more popular winner all week than Faugheen. However, I’m going to have to side with MELON who never runs a bad race at Cheltenham.
14:10 – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
As a jockey, you have to take these big fields as they come. You can’t have too many fixed plans depending on the pace or whether there’s a charge early on. You obviously know everything about your own horse but there are so many runners that you have to be reactive to the different scenarios.
I’m going to go with last year’s winner SIRE DE BERLAIS. He’s 7lbs higher this time but I think the track and everything about the race suits him.
Selections: SIRE DE BERLAIS
14:50 – Ryanair Chase
Personally I really like the chances of Min to beat last year’s winner Frodon. If Min comes here with his best form then I should think that will good enough to take this race.
15:30 – Stayers’ Hurdle
It’s got to be PAISLEY PARK. I just can’t see past him. The only horse I can see chasing him home is CITY ISLAND so if you’re looking for a less obvious selection for your Place pools, in case the unthinkable happens, he’s a good option.
Selections: PAISLEY PARK, CITY ISLAND
16:10 – Stable Plate Handicap Chase
It’s an open enough race with lots of runners. There’s a lot of horses here who have been out of form but if they did come back to form they’d have a big chance. I’m going to go with a real outsider in SNOW FALCON. He’s top of the weights but has got a 7lb claimer on and I just think that if he can come back to anywhere near his best form that will be good enough to stand a great chance.
Selections: SNOW FALCON
16:50 – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
The Mares’ Novices’ is another one that it looks as though the Irish could dominate. The way Henry de Bromhead’s first day won, his horses are in good form and I can see him going again with MINELLA MELODY.
Selections: Minella Melody
Day Two picks
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
This is a proper race with plenty of decent horses coming in and I’m going with the second favourite, Sporting John. He’s an unbeaten Philip Hobbs horse who should be able to continue that run by overcoming Envoi Allen. They’re both unbeaten and one of them has to lose that record, I’m siding with Sporting John.
Selection: Sporting John
Result: 1st Envoi Allen, 2nd Easywork, 3rd The Big Getaway
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase
I’m going to stick with Champ for Barry Geraghty today. I reckon that Barry will get his jumping going and he should hose up with Copperhead following him home.
Selections: Champ, Copperhead
Result: 1st Champ, 2nd Minella Indo, 3rd Allaho
Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
The biggest field of the week, an absolute minefield. It’s a race dominated by the Irish and I’d expect them to win it but what with it’s tough to say. I’m going to go with Bachasson, the Mullins ride.
Results: 1st Dame De Compagnie, 2nd Black Tears, 3rd Thosedaysaregone, 4th Cracking Smart
Queen Mother Champion Chase
I would have gone for Altior, with Chacun Pour Soi finishing second. However, in light of the disappointing news that he won’t be there, I’ll make Chacun my pick. It’s a great race and Defi Du Seuil is fantastic but I just think that what Chacun Pour Soi did at Punchestown last year, I can’t get it out of my head.
Selection: Chacun Pour Soi
Results: 1st Politologue, 2nd Dynamite Dollars
Tiger Roll will win and it’s great for racing. He’ll win this and then try to defend at the Grand National, which is an impossible task really. However, he’s defied logic before so you never know.
Selection: Tiger Roll
Results: 1st Easysland, 2nd Tiger Roll, 3rd Out Sam
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
I’m going with the Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden entry, Thyme White. I’ve won this race before and I think Paul is very good in these. Off a mark of 133 he could be the one.
Selection: Thyme White
Results: 1st Aramax, 2nd Night Edition, 3rd Saint D’Oroux, 4th Recent Revelations
Day One picks
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
For me it’s Shishkin to win this one as I absolutely love him as an individual. Whenever I watch him I think he’s got pretty much everything in his locker and I strongly fancy him to win this one.
I’m also keen on Edwardstone to improve on the better ground and he has a decent chance of placing.
Selections: Shishkin, Edwardstone
Result: 1st Shishkin, 2nd Abacadabras, 3rd Chantry House
Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase
Notebook definitely has his quirks but, regardless, I’m a big fan of his. He comes into this in good form, off the back off four straight wins at Leopardstown and Punchestown. He should justify his favouritism and win here but I also like the look of Rouge Vif, who I can see running on into the places.
Selections: Notebook, Rouge Vif
Result: 1st Put The Kettle On, Fakir D’Oudairies, 3rd Rouge Vif
Ultima Handicap Chase
I keep changing my mind in this race but I think I’m going to go with one at a slightly bigger price in Cepage, who is trained by Venetia Williams. He won his last outing at Cheltenham in January and I can certainly see him running well again.
I was torn between him and Brave Eagle who, at a similarly big price, could also run well and finish in the places.
Selections: Cepage, Brave Eagle
Result: 1st The Conditional, 2nd Kildisart, 3rd, Discorama, 4th Vinndication
Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
It’s the big race of the day and I’m going with Pentland Hills to win. I feel confident that the better ground and the wind op will help him and he looks like he has the making of a winner this year. I’ll also take Coeur Sublime to place.
Selections: Pentland Hills, Coeur Sublime
Results: 1st Epatante, 2nd Sharjah, 3rd Darver Star
This is straightforward. Benie Des Dieux wins all day long. She fell last year at the last when several lengths clear and will put that right this time. The fall was the only blemish in her last nine races, of which she won the other eight.
Selections: Benie Des Dieux
Results: 1st Honeysuckle, 2nd Benie Des Dieux, 3rd Elfile
Novices’ Handicap Chase
I’m riding Champagne Court for Jeremy Scott in this one so I’m going to stick with him. I’ve won on him three times, including twice in November at Plumpton and Sandown, so fingers crossed for another success.
Selections: Champagne Court
Results: 1st Imperial Aura, 2nd Galvin, 3rd Hold The Note
Keep an eye out for our huge Cheltenham pools throughout the 2020 festival. Good luck!