Cheltenham Festival 2023 Preview with the Finishing Line
The time for talking is over and for the next four days the eyes of horse racing world will be firmly focused on one place – Cheltenham where dreams become reality.
Thousands of people, including many Irish, will descend on the Gloucestershire track nestled in 350 spectacular acres in the valley of the Cotswolds for the four-day extravaganza.
For any of us that follow racing every day of the week whether it be at the local track at Tramore or the big meetings such as the festival, this is the Olympics for fans of National Hunt Racing.
But for locals Dave O’Keeffe, Andrew Halligan, Tom Raine, and the newest member of the crew Sean Dunne, they entertain the racing fans every week with the Finishing Line Podcast that focuses on finding winners.
The week before the festival like many other racing enthusiasts that host preview shows, they provided three hours of content that saw them go through the 28 races in order to point punters in the right direction.
GALOPIN TO LAND GOLD
A lover of Facile Vega long before his bumper win at the festival last year, Dave O’Keeffe is hoping that the current favourite for the opening race can get the meeting off to the ideal start, but he isn’t his nap of the meeting.
Instead it’s another Willie Mullins horse – the Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs that is his number one bet. He also has a feeling that Mighty Potter will land the Turners Chase with his other best bets including Sir Allen in the Boodles and Edwardstone for the Champion Chase. The each-way angle comes in the shape of The Very Man in the Coral Cup, whilst his lay of the meeting is Nicky Henderson’s Luccia in the Mares Novices Hurdle.
With the head and heart both telling Andrew Halligan that Honeysuckle will land the Mares Hurdle (I hope not for another reason), he hasn’t put her as his nap of the festival – instead opting for the final race on the first day – the Willie Mullins trained Galliard du Mesnil.
It’s the ultra-consistent mare Ashroe Diamond in the Mares Novices Hurdle is his next bet with his other selections also including Mighty Potter and the David Christie trained Vaucelet in the Hunters Chase on the final day. His each-way selection is High Definition in the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle, whilst is lay of the meeting is Hatton’s Grace winner Teahupoo in the Stayers Hurdle.
THE IT’S FOR ME FAN-CLUB
Bumper favourite It’s For Me is high on the list of Tom Raine in his top selections for the festival with the Naas winner only playing second best behind his nap Galliard de Mesnil in the bid for the top slot with the former definitely high in his pecking order. Strong mentions are also afforded to Three Card Brag in the Albert Bartlett on the final day, whilst Tom is also keen on Impaire et Passé in the Ballymore Hurdle on day two. Henri La Faceur in the Stayers hurdle is the each-way shot, and he sides with O’Keeffe with Luccia as his lay.
The newest recruit to the Finishing Line podcast, Sean Dunne, may be the founder of the current Champion Bumper favourite It’s For Me fan club, but he didn’t find the faith to put him up in any of his top selections instead siding with Galopin des Champs in the Gold Cup.
A big fan also of the short priced Galliard de Mesnil for the National Hunt Chase, it’s Risk Belle each-way in the Boodles, and Shoot First in the Pertemps that completes his portfolio. His each-way selection comes in the shape of Shanbally Kid in the Albert Bartlett on the final day with Impervious his lay in the Mares Chase.
THE HANDICAP PICKS
Dave O’Keeffe – Remastered (Ultima Chase), Sir Allen (Boodles Hurdle), The Very Man (Coral Cup), Sharjah (County Hurdle) Andrew Halligan – Corach Rambler (Ultima Chase), Run For Oscar (Coral Cup), Thanksforthehelp (Pertemps), Filey Bay (County Hurdle) Tom Raine – Frero Banbou (Grand Annual), So Scottish (Plate Chase), Mr Incredible (Kim Muir), HMS Seahorse (Coral Hurdle), Irish Hill (Martin Pipe)
Sean Dunne – Risk Belle (Boodles Hurdle), Stumptown (Kim Muir), Shoot First (Pertemps)
DARE TO DREAM WITH SHEWEARSITWELL
It will be a dream come true for myself being involved with the Closutton Racing Club with my brother to have a runner in the Close Brothers Mares Hurdle on the opening day of the festival when Shewearsitwell (pictured above), who is trained by Willie Mullins is set to line up in the Grade One race.
After twice failing to make Cheltenham when she was ante post favourite for the Mares Novices Hurdle in 2021 and the Mares Hurdle in 2022 due to injury, she will finally get her chance to line up in the race alongside former Champion hurdle winners Honeysuckle and Epatante, and last year’s winner Maries Rock.
There’s no doubting that the mare out of Shirocco will have to put in a career best to win, but with other Waterfordians also associated with the eight-year-old, it would be incredible if she could get close to securing the number one spot. Sometimes dreams really do come true….. Happy punting to you all.