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Robbie Power believes that The Big Breakaway would have a great chance of winning the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, were it not for the imposing shadow of Monkfish.
Last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle hero owns a perfect record over fences this season for trainer Willie Mullins and will be many people’s idea of a ‘Festival Banker’ in the Cotswolds next week given the impression he has created.
Power finds it hard to pick any holes in 8/11 favourite Monkfish, but he believes that The Big Breakaway is also very talented.
Jigsaw coming together for Big Breakaway
After winning his only point-to-point start in Ireland, The Big Breakaway was an expensive acquisition for current connections at ?360,000.
He recorded decisive wins over hurdles last season at Chepstow and Newbury en route to Cheltenham, where he finished fourth behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
He made a winning start to his chasing career at Cheltenham in November over the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase course and distance, but was surprisingly turned over by Bold Plan on his next start at Exeter (2m3f).
He had one more start, finishing second to Shan Blue in the three-mile Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, where Power admits he was simply outjumped in the home straight. That Grade 1 experience was a learning curve, says the jockey.
“We think he has learned an awful lot from Kempton. I genuinely believe if he jumped a bit better up the home straight he would have won,” he told the Racing Post.
“You have to remember that at the time Colin’s [Tizzard) horses weren’t firing on all cylinders either so it was a big run in the circumstances. He’s got a lot of natural ability and I think he might win it in a normal year.
“Monkfish is something else, though. His jumping is flawless and you couldn’t not be impressed by what we’ve seen so far. He’s just so straightforward. He has a snaffle bridle and no noseband or anything. He’s going to be very hard to beat, but we’ll give it a shot.”
Lostintranslation up against it with Photo opportunity
Lostintranslation finished a close third in last year’s Gold Cup, just behind Al Boum Photo and Santini. He was right in the mix jumping the last fence but the front pair had his measure up the hill.
Last year’s Betfair Chase hero has endured a fairly torrid time this season, relinquishing his Haydock crown in November before being pulled up in a second King George at Kempton over Christmas.
It didn’t get any better in the Denman Chase at Newbury last month but Power hopes drying ground and a return to Cheltenham might help spark Lostintranslation, now 33/1 to win the Gold Cup, into life.
Once again, the 2017 Gold Cup-winning jockey fears that Willie Mullins and Paul Townend hold the ace-hand in the Blue Ribband with hat-trick seeking Al Boum Photo.
“The drier the ground the better,” he said. “He’s been disappointing this season, there is no point in me saying otherwise, but if he comes into the race in the same sort of form as last year I still think he’s got a good each-way chance.
“It’s hard to get away from Al Boum Photo, he’s been there and done it. The only thing I would say is that A Plus Tard and Champ might be a bit speedier than some of those that he has faced in the race before, but it’s still very hard to knock him.”
Cotswolds stage can make or break
Trainer Colin Tizzard had to endure a 44-day winless sequence in the midst of this season as his horses struggled for form. The Dorset handler has seen things start to pick up gradually as the spring arrived and hopes are high for a good end to the season with the major festivals almost here.
Power, based with Tizzard for much of the season having committed to remaining in Britain during lockdown, acknowledges it hasn’t been the season he or the trainer would have longed for, but he knows only too well that next week could alter the landscape quite dramatically.
“A Cheltenham winner changes everything. I often find that everything is forgotten if you get a winner at Cheltenham, so fingers crossed, we can get one. Colin’s horses seem to be coming back into form at the right time anyway,” he added.