In a frank, but for those with a financial interest in the horse, rather worrying interview with The Times on Tuesday, Andy Stewart, joint-owner of leading Irish Independent Arkle Chase contender Ghizao, suggested that he does not believe his horse is good enough to win the two-mile novice chasing crown, writes Elliot Slater.
Stewart's comments are hardly likely to inspire confidence in those that have already placed a Cheltenham bet on the horse, forcing the odds down to as short as 7/2 joint-favourite with some firms, but Stewart is only giving his opinion of the form book, going on to suggest that if Ghizao did manage to lift the title it would be a weak renewal of the race.
The Tiger Hill gelding finished 12th behind Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle last year before coming home eighth in a big field in a hot Aintree handicap hurdle, but since switching to chasing this term has looked a seriously hot prospect and done little wrong in his three outings over the larger obstacles.
Almost certainly in need of the outing when appearing to ‘blow up' between the final two fences before eventually finishing second to Kilmurry at Cheltenham in October on his chasing bow, Ghizao then returned to Cheltenham the following month and stepped up to Grade 2 company, jumping like a buck and slamming subsequent narrow Grade 1 runner-up Captain Chris by an eased down 10-lengths.
At Newbury in late December the seven-year-old confirmed the form, beating Captain Chris with something to spare once again, and has been given a break before coming back fresh to bid for the ‘Arkle' on March 15. Ghizao, Finian's Rainbow and Medermit are vying for favouritism with most firms in what I believe promises to be a cracking contest – even if Mr Stewart doesn't agree.