Paddy Power Column: Sivola set to add to the Cheltenham Revelry

THE Cheltenham Festival will be in full flow by the time you read this and hopefully my tips for the first two days which I made last week - Rock On Ruby and Pont Alexandre – will have made you rich!

THE Cheltenham Festival will be in full flow by the time you read this and hopefully my tips for the first two days which I made last week - Rock On Ruby and Pont Alexandre – will have made you rich!

The World Hurdle is the feature this Thursday and with the ground looking like being soft, I’m opting for the Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola.

Williams has not enjoyed a lot of luck at the olympics of jump racing and is still searching for his first success but the way that this lad has been performing could change that nasty statistic as he goes in search of a hat-trick.

It’s a huge shame that Big Buck’s won’t be appearing this year, but it was heartening to hear owner Andy Stewart say that he would go straight for this race next season and without his participation this time, it has made the contest a more open betting heat.

My selection has only lost once this term and that was to Big Buck’s in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in December. He then easily won the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later in the month before getting the best of a heroic battle with Oscar Whisky, who is his main market rival this week, by a neck in the Cleeve Hurdle over this course and distance in January.

Both of those victories pointed to this horse being a genuine World Hurdle contender but he wasn’t cut for the race as much as he might have been because these successes came on heavy ground and everyone assumes Prestbury Park will be good ground for the festival.

But this year, while it is not just a two-horse race, it does look likely to ride soft which will give the eight-year-old a huge shout.

Wouldn’t it be great to get an Irish winner in Friday’s Gold Cup and I think we just might courtesy of Sir Des Champs.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but this fellow must have been a good thing off a mark of 134, 32lb lower than his chasing rating, when he won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle a couple of years ago.

The form of his Lexus Chase defeat at Leopardstown in December doesn’t look good enough to secure chasing’s blue riband but the one thing about this horse is that he absolutely loves Cheltenham and always comes good at this time of year, also winning the Jewson Novices’ Chase last year.

My fancy has won on heavy and good ground and while it may well be soft this week, that won’t be anywhere near as bad as some of the puddings he’s been running on at home this season and that really should play to his strengths.

He goes in to the race full of confidence having beaten Flemenstar in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month and the home challenge will have to pull out all the stops to prevent him completing a hat-trick at Cheltenham.

I’m going to tip Wales at 11-10 to beat England in the rugby Six Nations on Saturday in Cardiff despite enduring a dreadful game of rugby on Saturday in which the Welsh did beat Scotland but without any real panache.

This is always an emotional game and even more so when the two sit first and second in the table, and the way the Welsh relied on kicking against Scotland rather than using the ball to greater effect and scoring tries will have greatly encouraged the English.

But England were also ragged in a 18-11 home win against Italy and the pressure of securing the Grand Slam and with the crowd against them, they might not have the bottle!

Selections

Thursday Cheltenham 3.20pm Reve De Sivola; Friday Cheltenham 3.20pm Sir Des Champs; Saturday Millennium Stadium 5pm Wales to beat England