DAVID Jennings kicked off the first Cheltenham Preview Night of the year as a number of esteemed panellists and a colossal crowd filed into Tyrone’s Bardic Theatre.

With Robbie Power, Tony Keenan, Johnny Dineen, David Casey and Gavin Cromwell all in attendance, and Mick Fitzgerald and Shark Hanlon dropping in virtually, punters had their notebooks at the ready for any pre-Festival nuggets.

As discussion got underway, Jennings wasted no time in asking the question everyone wanted the answer to – where will Ballyburn go?

While remaining tight-lipped on his target, David Casey was full of praise for the horse, telling the audience that he’ll win whatever race he goes for. He was also sweet on the chances of Tullyhill who “has as much ability as Ballyburn, but jumping is his Achilles heel.”

With the panel unanimous that the Ronnie Bartlett-owned gelding was head and shoulders above the other novice hurdlers, attention quickly turned to the novice chasers in the Arkle.

While they all agreed on a winner in the opener, the water was a little muddier for the Arkle. Johnny Dineen, David Casey and Tony Keenan all decried the chances of Marine Nationale, as Casey and Robbie Power put forward Quilixios as the each-way play. Of the Closutton battalion, Casey was keenest on Gaelic Warrior.

In the bag

Back on song for the Champion Hurdle, all agreed that Constitution Hill had the race in the bag, but subsequent news of a bad piece of work at Kempton will have ante-post punters holding fire.

The only disagreement was between Johnny Dineen and Mick Fitzgerald – is Constitution Hill the best ever? Mick said the mantle would only be his if he matched Istabraq’s three wins in the race, Johnny said he’s the best ever, even if we never see him again!

Swiftly onto the Mares’ Hurdle where Lossiemouth had a full camp. David Casey gave her as the biggest certainty of the week but when asked about whether she could beat Constitution Hill in the 2025 Champion Hurdle, he replied with a firm “no.”

Day two

While day one saw harmony amongst the panellists, day two was a different story. The Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle saw only tentative votes with Ballyburn’s target a mystery.

Robbie Power gave a chance to Slade Steel who “is a very good horse. He just ran into an exceptional one at the Dublin Racing Festival.”

Ballyburn may have been lauded as racing’s next superstar, but the opinion on Fact To File in the Brown Advisory was more mixed. David Casey oozed confidence, stating: “He’s a hell of a horse. He has everything,” but Tony Keenan wasn’t so keen, citing the lack of credibility of his form, and planted his flag firmly in the camp of the English horses, namely Grey Dawning.

The Champion Chase proved much more straightforward, with El Fabiolo ticking the boxes for everyone. Robbie Power was particularly keen to take on Jonbon saying “His form at Cheltenham is terrible. He won’t finish in the first three.”

The panel all thought a frontrunning ride on Edwardstone will only play into the favourite’s hands, and with David Casey agreeing his performance at the DRF was El Fabiolo’s best yet, he was confident that there was even more to come.

Despite news from the track informing the audience that the Cross-Country course was currently under water, Robbie Power and Johnny Dineen were still buoyed with confidence on the chances of Minella Indo, while Tony Keenan wheeled out his NAP of the week in the bumper, The Yellow Clay. David Casey said Patrick Mullins will probably ride Jasmin De Vaux.


The Turners Novices’ Chase on Thursday brought about one of the bets of the week for Johnny Dineen and Robbie Power, with the duo putting forward Facile Vega.

David Casey didn’t disagree, stating that Closutton still have huge faith in the horse, while Tony Keenan continued to trumpet for the English novices, putting forward Ginny’s Destiny.

Robbie Power’s confidence continued into the Ryanair as he thought Envoi Allen had a massive chance, backed up by David Casey who was hoping Fastorslow would go here, as “he’d win this with his mouth open.”

Banbridge was well fancied by most if he gets his ground, but Johnny Dineen thought it was odds-on that he’d end up a non-runner.

While Gavin Cromwell was choosing his words carefully throughout the night, the audience saw a glint in his eye when he talked about Letsbeclearaboutit in the Plate, but that picture was quickly muddled when Johnny Dineen weighed in that “with any luck in running, Crebilly is an absolute certainty in that race!”

Robcour have a strong hand in the Stayers’ Hurdle and Robbie Power was called upon to go through their chances. He came down on Teahupoo as the one to back, with “last year’s ride not being Davy Russell’s finest hour in the saddle.”

With bottomless ground the desired conditions, Tony Keenan wasn’t sure if English soft would be soft enough, and while Gavin Cromwell didn’t think Flooring Porter could trouble those at the top of the market, he said there’s “a good chance” they go for the hat-trick and was effusive in his praise of Danny Mullins’ two perfect rides in 2021 and 2022.

With the Mares’ Novice Hurdle labelled as the race of the week, the panel was divided on the three big hopes, with Dysart Enos, Brighterdaysahead and Jade De Grugy posters all seemingly adorning their respective trainers’ walls.


The closing day of the Festival started much the same as the opening day, with the panel unanimous on the favourite. The stage was filled with confidence that Sir Gino is already past the post.

Johnny Dineen and Gavin Cromwell both agreed that the Albert Bartlett can be primed for funny results, but Gavin was hopeful of supplementing Haydock winner, Nowisthehour if the ground looked like being soft.

Tony Keenan gave one of his stronger fancies of the week here, with Readin Tommy Wrong but was worried that Closutton don’t seem to rate him. “I backed him in Naas!” was David Casey’s reply.

As the panel moved onto the Gold Cup, the audience heard from a typically bullish Shark Hanlon on the chances of King George winner, Hewick. Johnny Dineen quickly dispelled any audience excitement after Shark’s confident update with a deflating four words “He has no chance.”

With Shark joking he had a spy at Closutton, he was also eager to tell punters that the English might get three winners across the week at best!

David Casey couldn’t look past Galopin Des Champs, citing that there are no chinks in the horse’s armour and most of the panel agreed. Robbie Power couldn’t offer any reason that Gerri Colombe will make a dent in the 23-length deficit from Christmas and thought it was likely that Gentlemansgame was the best of the Robcour duo. With attention focussing on who would finish second, Tony Keenan and Mick Fitzgerald put forward Grand National and dual Festival winner, Corach Rambler.


Dinoblue was also a confident vote for most in the Mares’ Chase and Robbie Power was very keen on King Of Kingsfield in the County Hurdle for team Elliott.

Waterford Whispers was identified as the J.P. McManus plot horse for the Martin Pipe, although that glint returned to Gavin Cromwell’s eye as the night drew to an end, as he nominated course winner Encanto Bruno as one to watch in the same race.

BoyleSports €100 Charity Bets:

Tony Keenan: The Yellow Clay 11/1 (Champion Bumper)

Robbie Power: Envoi Allen 4/1 (Ryanair)

Gavin Cromwell: Letsbeclearaboutit 12/1 (Plate Handicap Chase)

Johnny Dineen: Crebilly 7/1 (Plate Handicap Chase)

David Jennings: Corbetts Cross 3/1 (National Hunt Chase)

David Casey: Quilixios EW 10/1 (Arkle)