I am a big fan of Racing Post columnist Howard Wright and usually agree with everything he writes. But I can't bring myself to agree with his view that this year's Cheltenham Festival will not be 'substandard'.
Let's consider the biggest race of the Festival - the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Vying with favouritism for the event is Beef Or Salmon- who, quality chaser that he is- has failed to produce the goods every time he has run at Prestbury Park.
At 8-1 for the race is Monkerhostin, unproven at the trip. Next in the betting comes War of Attrition- another with plenty of questions to answer. And seeing how he jumped at Newbury on his last run- how could anyone in their right mind take the 12-1 currently available with Victor Chandler for Iris's Gift? The most likely winner at this stage to me looks to be Kingscliff, but he has failed to make the line up for the last two seasons due to injury, and the ante-post price of 5-1 looks poor value. The Gold Cup is sure to provide as thrilling spectacle as ever but in the absence of Kicking King, Best Mate and Trabolgan, it's hard to claim that this year's renewal will be a vintage one. As to the other major races at the Festival, the Champion Hurdle will probably be without last year's runner-up Harchibald; the World Hurdle will be missing last year's winner, Inglis Drever and the Champion Chase will be without Azertyuiop and Well Chief.