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Cheltenham Horse Racing Day 1: The Jockeys View

horse racing

State Man Is The Main Man On Cheltenham Day One

Sean Bowen insists his chances of riding a winner in the big race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival have improved – but admits he still expects State Man to win the Champion Hurdle.

The Welsh jockey rides Not So Sleepy in Tuesday’s feature race, which has been denied its biggest draw card in the absent Constitution Hill, last year’s winner.

But Bowen – who is involved in a thrilling battle for this season’s champion jockey title with Harry Cobden – reckons Not So Sleepy is on an upward curve.

“A couple of weeks ago, it looked like he had no chance, but it’s a better ride now than it was a few weeks ago,” said Bowen, who was speaking at the DragonBet Cheltenham Preview Evening.

“But State Man looks a near certainty. I have been even more impressed with him this season than I have been previously. 

“He is obviously going to go off at a very short price, but if it comes up soft then Not So Sleepy will run well.

“Irish Point will have a chance and has been aimed at three-mile races, but now that Constitution Hill is out, all of a sudden he’s a two-miler again.

“Iberico Lord would need to improve massively on ratings to finish anywhere.”

Fellow Welsh jockey Alan Johns also reckons Tuesday’s big race will be won by State Man, now that the much-anticipated showdown with Constitution Hill has been denied to punters.

“The race has changed complexion with the news that Constitution Hill is out of the race,” said Johns.

“I think State Man is a very good horse and I think he would win most Champion Hurdles. He’s solid as a rock and he doesn’t do much wrong. There’s not much value at 3/1 on.”

Much of the attention elsewhere on day one will centre on Lossiemouth as she attempts to win the Mares’ Hurdle, a step up in distance at two-and-a-half miles.

Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan said: “Lossiemouth looks a different class to everything else in this race. She’s an absolute machine.

“If she takes her form from her last race into this one, you would think she can’t beaten.”

Bowen has two rides booked at Cheltenham on Tuesday – he also rides Roaring Legend in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – but will only race on two days at the festival and he chases his dream of a first champion jockey title.

The Pembrokeshire rider is currently 11 victories behind Cobden and added: “My main aim this season is to be champion jockey. I am 11 wins behind, so I need to look elsewhere and try to get a few winners.

“There is plenty of time left, but I imagine I will be doing two days at Cheltenham and two days elsewhere.

“I am Huntingdon on Wednesday and at Ffos Las on Friday.

“Cheltenham is a very hard place to win, especially when you are not riding any favourites. So, on those other two days, I’ll be riding elsewhere and trying to get as many winners as I can.

“I need a few days where I pick a good number of winners.”

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