Connections of leading Cheltenham candidate Sir Gerhard are split “50-50” over whether to run in either the Supreme or Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, despite his former rider Jamie Codd’s conviction that the Festival’s opening contest is more suitable.
Cheveley Park Stud, owners of last year’s champion bumper winner, will leave their final decision until next week, with the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old having shortened into 2/1 favoritism for the Supreme with most bookmakers on Thursday.
Sir Gerhard has won each of his two starts over hurdles this season, including a dominant victory in the Grade One Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and now looks to be the leading Irish hope in a red-hot renewal of the week’s traditional curtain raiser.
Speaking on the At The Races Cheltenham Preview Show, Codd – who rode Sir Gerhard in two of his four bumper wins when formerly trained by Gordon Elliott – said: “Knowing the horse, I would say he is all speed.
“A lot of people are saying his jumping might not hold up to this [the Supreme] but he is a very fast horse.
“I don’t think he’d stay the two-mile-and-five [furlongs] around Cheltenham. He’s never dropped in, even in his bumpers he was handy and had the cruising speed to make the running.
“I would be running Sir Gerhard in this race [the Supreme]. I think it’s the race for him.
“At Down Royal you just went: ‘Wow’. From the road crossing I gave him a little kick in the belly and it was instant, pure acceleration all the way up the straight and through the line. He’s a ball of muscle, just so strong. “
Mullins, who could also saddle 11/4 shot Dysart Dynamo in the race, faces stiff opposition from Nicky Henderson’s pair Constitution Hill and Jonbon.
All three of Sir Gerhard’s chief rivals won at graded level last time out, as did Elliott’s main Supreme candidate Mighty Potter.
Both Codd and fellow panellist Kevin Blake are supporters of the Grade One Future Champions winner, who is an 11/1 shot having not run since that victory at Leopardstown on December 27.
“This is a class race, there’s so much depth and so many fancied horses,” Codd said. “There is going to be a bubble burst, maybe one or two.
“You have to respect what Nicky Henderson says about Constitution Hill. I don’t think he’s beaten anything but it’s the manner with which he’s done it.
“I’d step Jonbon up in a trip. I think he’s the one that should be going for the Ballymore.
“I have a lot of time for Mighty Potter. He’s only a five-year-old and I don’t think he’s anything flash but if he’s there at the second last and still in contention then I think he’ll stay. He’s probably more of a two-and-a-half-mile horse but if the Supreme is run at a fast pace then it will turn into a bit of a slog.
“I think he’s sneaking in. They’re all talking about the main fancies and this lad could give them all a run for their money.”
Blake added: “I’m with Jamie. I’ve loved this Mighty Potter the whole way through. He shouldn’t have been beaten in the Royal Bond and ran very well in the Future Champions last time, where things went wrong and he got crossed after the first and shuffled out of his position.
“I’d like to think I have a decent read of Gordon [Elliott] and from the very start I’ve had the impression that he properly loves this horse.
“While many would have considered that he may be a Ballymore horse, Gordon has never budged on the Supreme. I think that says a lot.
“This is a brilliant Supreme, as good as we’ve had for a long time, and I don’t want to be taking a short price about anything in it. Mighty Potter is still a double-figure price so he’s the one for me. “
Sky Sports Racing’s Matt Chapman is hoping Constitution Hill can get Britain off to a winning start at Cheltenham this year.
The Irish dominated the 2021 Festival, winning 23 of the 28 races and recording the biggest landslide in the history of the Prestbury Cup.
“I’ve just been blown away by Constitution Hill,” Chapman said. “His form is more solid than Codd has given him credit for.
“The lines through Jonbon are very spurious but they do suggest he’s better than him. Jonbon looked a bit iffy at Haydock last time. He just looks really good.
“The British vs Irish thing is kind of a bit of fun because it doesn’t help you find winners but to start the meeting with that in the background and have two big British hopes and two massive Irish hopes is just great.”