In the build up to the Cheltenham Festival, a huge number of experts and analysts dissect each race. They see if they can offer a unique perspective that will give an insight to others about the relative positives and negatives of the runners at the four day extravaganza.
Someone who has a more unique perspective than most is Barry Geraghty. He is the second most successful Festival jockey of all time. Geraghty will not be riding this time, with his retirement coming in July last year. But the Irishman has had his say on this year’s showpiece, nominating his lay of the week. She runs in the Champion Hurdle.
Barry knows what it takes
Geraghty rode the winner of this race last year, Epatante. He has full confidence she will repeat the trick and overcome the other mare at the top of the market. His lay of the week is the hot favourite, Honeysuckle.
Ground concerns were at the fore in Geraghty’s analysis of the race, stating that ‘’it was soft to heavy when Honeysuckle won at Leopardstown’’ and that the likely Good to Soft going for this week was ‘’a big thing in [Epatante’s] favour.’’
Reflecting on last year’s renewal Geraghty continued, ‘’it was soft ground last year when she won it and we were very worried about that… she surprised me on the day, she managed to cope and she won impressively.’’ The return to the scene of that victory, on a sounder surface than that day, gives Geraghty the confidence that she can overcome Henry De Bromhead’s mare.
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An unblemished record
Despite this, it must be noted that Honeysuckle comes into this race defending her unbeaten record. Epatante is on the comeback trail after a disappointing defeat to Silver Streak at Kempton. But Geraghty said that, ‘‘I spoke to him [Nicky Henderson] last week and he was very happy with her, so we can’t ask for much more.’’
Both Geraghty and Henderson will be hoping that Epatante can repeat the trick. She can inflict a loss on Honeysuckle in what is sure to be one of the most intriguing races of the festival.