Alan Marron’s Lucky 15 for Cheltenham

Alan Marron looks ahead to Cheltenham.

Bar One Racing tipster Alan Marron gives us one horse from each day at Cheltenham to include in a Lucky 15 next week.

3m6f (3m5f201y) (Old) National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+)

With the news that this is race is going to be run in honour of the late Maureen Mullins, all attention will be on the Willie Mullins-trained runners.

Embassy Gardens: Embassy Gardens was all stamina in the early stages of his career, his bumper victory on debut at Leopardstown over Christmas of 2021 was very gutsy when he got the better of Santonito in the dying strides. His novice hurdle campaign was mixed but I remember a day in Thurles when he ground his rivals into submission to win by an ever-widening thirty-five lengths.

This season his Novice Chase career has been nothing short of spectacular, he really impressed me on debut over the larger obstacles when jumping well to see off Lets Go Champ by thirteen lengths. He improved off the back of that next time out when landing a Grade 3 at Naas beating Sandor Clegane by ten lengths in the process.

In terms of his chances for Cheltenham, this race looks ideal as the step up in trip to 3m 6f looks sure to suit and when the others have cried enough he will be staying on late and fast. For a novice, his jumping this season has been very good so touch wood he can have a clear round and get us off to a flying start on Day One.

3m5½f (3m5f56y) (X-Country) Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase) (GBB Race) (Class 2) (5yo+)

Coko Beach: This new discipline for Coko Beach could be the making of him and he looked very good when winning over the banks at Punchestown on the 5th of February seeing off the likes of Genois, Fameaftertheglory, and Stattler while carrying 12 stone.

That was a very solid performance and the step up in trip should be no issue at all. He is a former Bar One Racing Troytown winner at Navan and also a Thyestes winner at Gowran Park.

He has contested plenty of staying handicaps on both sides of the Irish Sea and this race over the years at Cheltenham hasn’t been run at a crazy pace so he should be able to slot in and find a rhythm. His rating of 160 is the highest in the race and while the likes of Minella Indo and Conflated have contested graded races in their career, they could just be vulnerable to a battle-hardened gelding in Coko Beach.

In terms of the ground, he would prefer some rain and it looks like we could see some rain from Sunday until Wednesday, so if the ground was to become testing it would heighten his chance even more.

2m1f (2m179y) (New) Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Jade De Grugy: This mare will run in the Honeysuckle colours of Kenny Alexander and she has done nothing but impress me this season. She was picked up in France from the stable of Adrien Fouassier after an impressive victory in an AQPS race at Saint Brieuc back on the 2nd of October 2022.

Her Irish debut at Leopardstown over Christmas was even more impressive when she won by fifteen lengths seeing off Butcher Hollow and Whale Harbour. She travelled well throughout the race that day on heavy ground and it was a very taking performance.

She then improved off the back of that opening run when winning the Grade 3 Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. The manner of that victory was even more impressive for me, as she took a keen hold and when Brian Hayes asked her to quicken at the back of the last she scooted away.

There is no doubt that the likes of Brighterdaysahead and Dysart Enos will be formidable opponents but I think this mare is quite special and I reckon she will take all the beating.

3m2½f (3m2f70y) (New) St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) (5yo+)

Ferns Lock: Ferns Lock was impressive in winning a P2P at Dromohane and then went to Down Royal at Christmas and finished second to Its On The Line. It was his next run that really caught the eye when he travelled supremely well at Thurles to win in what the Racing Post described as a “canter”. David Christie (trainer) commented after that race that Cheltenham is the goal and that the horse is very immature and learning all the time.

The Hunter Chase division this season for me has lacked a real star and Ferns Lock could be the one to make the most progress and improve past some of the others. I was at Naas when Its On The Line just hung on last time to see off Billaway and that for me wasn’t a strong race as conditions were poor and the race fell apart.

Ferns Lock will appreciate the ground on the easy side so the weather forecast should be no real concern to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Barry O’Neill popped him off handy and tried to make most of the running. Hopefully, this will end the week on a high for us.

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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article