Those that believe in the old adage ‘horse for courses’ (and I’m one of them), will already have Poquelin on their short-list of potential winners at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival, so the confidence expressed by the gelding’s owner Andy Stewart in a recent interview about the chance of his talented horse will be very reassuring, writes Elliot Slater.
Speaking to The Times, Stewart, someone who more often than not tells it exactly as it is, (in the same interview he admitted that he thought his ante-post Arkle Chase favourite Ghizao isn’t good enough to win), said that Poquelin is “flying at home”. He went on to suggest that he would be even more confident about the chances of his Cheltenham course specialist if the smart Somersby does indeed bid for the Queen Mother Champion chase and not take on Poquelin in the ‘Ryanair’, something the Champion Chase odds suggest is likely to happen.
A winner four times at Cheltenham, including lasts season’s Boylesports.com Gold Cup, a race he won again this term under the name of the Vote AP McCoy Gold Cup when beating Great Endeavour off a 12lbs higher mark than a year previously, Poquelin ran a superb second to the very classy Alberta’s run in last year’s renewal of the Ryanair Chase and already this term was involved in that memorable dual when narrowly beaten by the great grey Monet’s Garden, at Aintree in October. All in all, the signs are that the horse could well produce something special at the Cheltenham Festival given a little bit of luck in running.
Rested since winning at Cheltenham in December, the black Lahint gelding will arrive at Prestbury Park fresh and raring to go and, (judging by Stewart’s enthusiastic comments), clearly has been pleasing connections with his training sessions of late and seems to be on the up.
A solid 9/2 ante-post favourite for the race, Poquelin will nonetheless find things far from easy with potential rivals possibly including high-class Riverside Theatre (6/1), Tranquil Sea and Kalahari King (8/1), and last year’s winner Alberta’s Run (10/1).
Somersby appears more than likely to head to the Champion Chase, but is available at 10/1 in places for the ‘Ryanair’ for those wishing to take a chance on Henrietta Knight having a change of heart, although given the way the wind seems to be blowing right now this looks like a significant risk.