Phillip Hobbs Cheltenham Team
Phillip Hobbs may not get as many headlines in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival as the likes of Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls, but the Minehead based trainer has trained 18 Cheltenham Festival Winners. Those victories include a Champion Hurdle with the much-loved Rooster Booster, and a Champion Chase with Flagship Uberalles.
The Hobbs Cheltenham Team for the 2017 Cheltenham Festival is headed by Triumph Hurdle favourite Defi Du Seuil, and it was interesting to hear what Hobbs had to say about him and some of his other intended Festival runners.
Defi De Seuil
Hobbs says he definitely runs in the Triumph, despite having an entry in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Has carried all before him this season, and would be very hard to beat on soft ground on several lines of form, including over the course and distance. Good ground an unknown, but Hobbs doesn’t seem worried by the prospect of it.
Entered in the two-and-a half-mile novice handicap chase, but may need a few of the higher-rated runners to come out if he’s to get a run in this usually very tight 0-140 handicap. Must have a great chance if he does get in though as, having not won over fences so far, he looks well-handicapped on a mark of 136 compared to his hurdles rating.
For Good Measure
The Pertemps Final is where’s he’s heading, which is no surprise after an excellent second to Call To Order over course and distance earlier in the season – and he goes there with a decent chance.
Garde La Victoire
A Champion Chase entry looks unlikely to be taken-up, and the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate or Grand Annual look more winnable assignments. Fell at last year’s Festival, and his brave-style of jumping could make for some scary moments for his supporters.
Finished a short-head in front of For Good Measure at Cheltenham in before Christmas and, like his stablemate, he’s heading for the Pertemps Final. Where one finishes the other shouldn’t be faraway. Improved on the flat this season.
Had some hard races this season, especially when not seeming to stay three-and-a-half miles in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock. The Ultima Handicap Chase on the first day could be his target, and he’s run well at the Festival before.
Rock The Kazbah
Entries in the JLT and RSA may prove beyond him, but he could be an interesting runner in the Ultima Handicap Chase, judging how he ran on strongly over 2½-miles at Cheltenham earlier in the season.
Has fallen into the category of too high in the handicap for handicaps, but not good enough for graded races, this season. However, this Cheltenham winner could be a very interesting runner in the Cross-Country Chase, a race Hobbs has won before with Balthazar King.
The Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate looks the right race for a horse with plenty of Cheltenham Handicap form, and his front-running style will take many opponents out of their comfort zones, though he’s likely to be vulnerable to better handicapped rivals.
Wait For Me
Not really fired this season but, having finished fourth in the 2016 County Hurdle, it will be no surprise if he runs another good race in the 2017 renewal of that race.