The Pep Talk – Cheltenham

Mares Hurdle – 12th March 2024

This market is headed by a couple of four-year-olds which is why I’m dipping my toes in. Time and time again we see how difficult it is for these talented juveniles to step into open company.

I know the Mares Hurdle is a slightly different proposition to the Champion Hurdle, but these days the level isn’t worlds apart. The fact that Lossiemouth and Gala Marceau are still yet to be seen this season and don’t have any entries over Christmas is also a cause for concern in my mind. I would have thought Mullins may have wanted to see how they cope in open company relatively early in the season.

I think Ashroe Diamond is a fair price here and I think she’ll be Mullins’ number one come race day. She has been absolutely rock solid since day one, winning the Aintree Mares Bumper and consistently running well in graded hurdles. She was third behind Marine Nationale and then Facile Vega in Grade 1s, showing she’s up to mixing it in the top company against the geldings. Then when back against her own sex, she duly won a Grade 3 and then bolted up in the Grade 1 at Fairyhouse over a mile and a half. She travels so well that I thought she wouldn’t want much further than two miles, but she was so much better than them it was unreal.

The fact she reappeared in the Hattons Grace and went off 7/1, finishing third behind Teahupoo and Impaire Et Passe shows not only how highly thought of she is, but also how good she actually is. 

Ashroe Diamond could have started off in the Morgiana Hurdle over two miles, but the fact she immediately went to two and a half shows some intent for that trip for the forthcoming season.

On official ratings, she does have something to find with the likes of Love Envoi, but I think she’s pretty talented and given her trainer's record in this race, she commands a lot of respect.

Recommended Bet

Back Ashroe Diamond @ 8/1

Brown Advisory Novices Chase – 13th March 2024

As with the majority of the novice races, it’s not hugely clear how the Mullins pack will be shuffled, but at the time of writing, Klassical Dream probably rates as his likeliest best chance in here. He jumped really well on his chasing debut and was a high-class hurdler. But I don’t know the last time a horse with a double-digit age last won a novice chase at the Cheltenham Festival

5/1 about Stay Away Fay is still value – I can see him being 2/1 on the day regardless of whether he goes to the Reynoldstown or not. This is a proper horse that is getting better and better each time he steps onto the track.

He’s already won at the festival when gamely holding off all rivals to win the Albert Bartlett last season and despite not following up at Aintree, he has continued his progression and taken to fences like a duck to water.

The shape he makes over his fences is brilliant and some of the leaps he puts in are remarkable (if you haven’t watched his win at Exeter, take a look at his jump at the last). 

He made all at Sandown to beat the strong-travelling Giovinco, finding loads for pressure and continually pulling out more. That horse is pretty good, so to put him away in the manner he did is a testament to how good Stay Away Fay is.

He has everything regarding ground versatility, jumps superbly, is tactically adaptable, travels, finds loads for pressure and has a great attitude. This could be a future Gold Cup horse.

Recommended Bet

Back Stay Away Fay @ 5/1

Alex Peperell