Cheltenham countdown

Filed on 18 Feb 2013 @ 12:42

Cheltenham Festival entries 2013 | Horses to Follow

Championship racesChampion HurdleChampion ChaseWorld HurdleRyanair ChaseGold Cup
Novice ChasesArkle TrophyRSA ChaseJewson Novices’ ChaseNational Hunt Chase
Handicap ChasesJLT Speciality Hcap ChasePulteney Land
Novices' Hcap Chase
Byrne Group
Festival Plate
Fulke Walwyn Kim
Muir Challenge Cup
Grand Annual Chase
Novice HurdlesSupreme Novices' HurdleNeptune Investment Novices' HurdleJCB Triumph HurdleAlbert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
Handicap HurdlesCoral CupFred Winter Juvenile
Handicap Hurdle
Pertemps FinalVincent O’Brien
County Hurdle
Martin Pipe
Conditionals Hurdle

Other RacesCross Country ChaseChampion BumperCGA Foxhunter ChaseMares’ Hurdle

Wednesday 27 February 2013

There are a record number of entries for the 11 handicaps at this year's Cheltenham Festival, the weights for which were revealed today.

Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins boasts a formidable team for The Festival and he accounts for the joint or sole top-weight in five of the 11 handicaps including Uncle Junior in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.

Following his victory in the Racing Plus Chase on Saturday, Opening Batsman would have to shoulder 12st 6lb if he was to take up his engagement in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase or 12st 1lb if running in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

The David Pipe-trained Ballynagour, a facile winner on his British debut at Warwick last week, has a new rating of 143, 21lb higher than his previous one, and has six entries.

His Festival options are the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase, in which he has 11 stone, Coral Cup (10st 11lb), Byrne Group Plate (10st 7lb), Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (10st 10lb), Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (11st 10lb) and Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (10st 7lb).

Meanwhile, it will take a high weight to be one of the 24 to make the cut for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle with 37 entries on 11st 6lb or above.

Donald McCain, the leading National Hunt trainer in the North, hosted the media at a visit to his Cheshire stables on Tuesday, where he unveiled his Cheltenham squad.

His hopes are headed by former Champion Hurdle second Overturn, who takes on Simonsig in the Arkle Trophy, and McCain is hoping for great things, saying: "Everybody knows Overturn. We hoped to he would take to fences and he has took to them better than we could have hoped. Everything has gone very smoothly - we have got in all the runs we wanted. He is in great nick at home and we thoroughly look forward to the race. All we need now is a bit of good ground for the first day of The Festival.

"When he ran in the Champion Hurdle last year, it was probably the only time when I have seen him shattered. We brought him out the next day and he wanted to go again - that is just him. He just cannot get enough of the job. He has been on the go since he was a yearling and we keep expecting him to cry enough at some point but he just thrives on his job and racing. I have run him once or twice when I shouldn't have because he will kid you he is in better nick than he is. I ran him in the Christmas Hurdle the year before last and he wasn't half the horse he normally is. We know him well now. We go there with a feeling that his way of racing will make it very difficult for Simonsig. We aren't going to have to change anything with Overturn. His ratings are 112 on the Flat, 166 over hurdles and 165 over fences, and 85 on the all-weather! A great credit to him. I would love Overturn to have his big day jumping. He has this gallop for two miles - he keeps galloping and is just so enthusiastic. Touch wood, the jumping has gone with it. Simsonsig has been very impressive but he hasn't been second in the Champion Hurdle."

McCain is contemplating running Super Duty in the RSA Chase, after a close second to the useful-looking Goulanes at Wetherby: "I had been very tempted to concentrate Super Duty on the Kim Muir but I am starting to think strongly about running him in the RSA. He has never had his ground this year - he is tough as nails. He gave 7lb to Dave Pipe's horse at Wetherby and has Cheltenham experience. I think take out Dave's horse and it looks a very open RSA. Super Duty would have to carry nearly top-weight in the Kim Muir - we have done it before and it would not unduly bother me but we have started to become quite tempted by the RSA. Cheltenham has been the plan for a long time and he has done nothing to suggest we shouldn't go there. He got mugged late on at Wetherby where the ground was horrible. I think there will be a big improvement on better ground. He would not have beaten Simsonsig last season at Aintree but he was still running his race when he made a very bad mistake at the second last."

Novice hurdler She Ranks Me comes off a second to Utopie Des Bordes at Sadnown recently, and McCain said: "The obvious place to go is the mares' race and there is one mare head and shoulders above the rest (Quevega). She Ranks Me has an each-way chance but we will also consider the Neptune where she gets a mare's allowance. It is a bit up in the air at the moment. She is in great nick. The ground was OK at Haydock but she could not get out of it at Sandown the other day and still ran a nice race. She has done nothing wrong all season."

Last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner looks to rekindle his form in the Champion Hurdle: "He will go to Bangor for a gallop after racing tomorrow. He seems in great nick, he has really come to. The gallop is drying up and he is happier. I have said it before, he is very much a decent ground horse. The easiest thing would have been not to run him anywhere this season, which would not have done him any good. The worst thing that could happen was he could get beat and he has got beat a couple of times and well beat. But I don't think he can be judged until he gets his ground. I am very happy with him at home.

"I like to think we will see a completely different horse in two week's time on Champion Hurdle Day. He can run a big race - this horse has tactical speed and switches off. If you watch him at Kempton (last run), he went to pick up off the last turn but could not quicken in the ground. It was my decision to run him - I thought the best thing was to get some practice into him. I would not judge him on anything you have seen this season. He was bought for £4,500 at Doncaster - a two-year-old Juddmonte cast-off who was wrong in the wind. We hobdayed him, cut him and turned him out. He has done me a few favours since then. Hurricane Fly sets the benchmark and is the one to beat."

Peddlers Cross is back over hurdles this season, and goes for the World Hurdle: "It has been a long road back - he has had niggling problems. He is in great nick. His work has not changed and he went for a run around Kempton (in January) which he enjoyed and came on from. We took him up to Musselburgh the other day and I expected him to be more impressive. Jason (Maguire) was shocked by my attitude. He was happy with Peddlers Cross who travelled well before idling in front before picking up again - Jason was trying to mind him the whole way up the straight. He is a very smart horse - his work is very special. He has always dossed in front. Will he win a World Hurdle? I haven't got a clue to be honest. He is the best work horse I have seen - he is maturing and settling. His jumping at Musselburgh was exceptional. I would expect him to be travelling very sweetly down to the second last and then I don't know. He won over two miles and five furlongs as a novice and he stayed two miles and six furlongs well at Musselburgh. There is nothing to suggest he won't stay three miles. He will get there quite late (in the race)."

Monday 25 February 2013

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies hosted the media at an open day at his Naunton stables on Monday, where he revealed he is looking forward to The Festival: "I am feeling really quite happy - nobody is expecting an awful lot. It wasn't fun in the build-up when Commander was favourite for the Gold Cup. Everybody thought he would win and so did I - in a way only things can go wrong then. When you are not expected, it is more fun the better you do rather than a kick in the nuts when you get beat.

"We have the Commander back and some very, very nice novices so it is looking good. We have not the firepower (that some stables have) or the money to go out and buy expensive horses so its is nice when my cheapies come and do the job. It is hard work but more satisfying.

"I am very pleased with how the season has gone - I didn't think we would have a good season at all. I did not think we had enough good horses but they have excelled themselves."

African Gold looks to build on a recent Doncaster success, with his trainer saying: "I would have thought it is the Albert Bartlett for him. He has done everything we wanted of him this season. He is lovely - I really like him.

"He is superb. I think the extra distance and better ground will improve him a lot. I am hoping in years to come that he will be another Imperial Commander type. He is a great big strong horse. The horses do it themselves - they are growing up and learning - that is the thing."

Master Of The Sea is another young hurdler to excite his handler: "He has been a revelation this season, going up a lot in the handicap. He will go for the Coral Cup at The Festival. We have not got to the bottom of him yet - he keeps improving. I would be very excited about the Coral Cup."

Twiston-Davies' novice hurdlers are led by The New One, who was beaten at Cheltenham last month after winning impressively at Warwick: "He will be going for the Neptune Hurdle and is in good nick.

"The big difference this time is that it will not be desperately heavy ground. He has obviously got a huge burst of speed and in hindsight we probably used it a bit too soon last time.

"He will probably take it up going to the last I would expect. There is no point sitting there, making a mistake at the last and getting run out of it. It is difficult but the ground cannot be as horrible as it was last time.

"I would hope all my horses have good chances but he would be the shortest-priced and the bookies are cleverer than most of us so maybe he is our best chance.

"There will be pace in the race. I don't really worry about the others - on the day I will obviously but we have just got to go there as fit as we can - what will be will be."

Of Tour Des Champs, who was last of three finishers in the Reynoldstown last time, Twiston Davies said: "He is in the various races -we don't know where we are going with him yet but he has done really well this season.

"The weights are coming out this week for the handicaps - which races will he get in and what are they looking like? We will declare him in all of them and then have a think. He is improving - he made a bad mistake at Ascot last week and could have run a big race there because he really stays on. Hopefully, he is a RSA horse - but if he is he would definitely win the three-mile handicap (JLT Specialty Handicap Chase JLT Specialty Handicap Chase)."

Of former Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander, Twiston Davies said: Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "His preparation has all gone very smoothly - I couldn't be more pleased. I want to give him a racecourse gallop somewhere this weekend - he is looking lovely.

"I was hoping to take him to Newbury on Saturday but they won't let us - they want us to go on Sunday. If I cannot find anywhere on Saturday or earlier this week then I might go on Sunday.

"It was an astonishingly good run at Cheltenham. If you had offered me that second I would have been delighted because he had such a bad run up to it - the fact that he had fractured a splint bone and had been swimming a lot but there is no substitute for cantering. He had only four weeks of cantering beforehand and that is not really enough. He was not fit that day and he ran a superb race.

"I cannot see him being an awfully lot worse than he was when he won the Gold Cup, despite being three years older. He seems in very good nick. The others in the Gold Cup have not won a Gold Cup before except for Long Run.

"Any trainer is only as good as his horses and Imperial Commander is a very good horse. I am not taking any credit.

"Someone will have to explain the bounce theory to me. He is not coming back very quick - this is six weeks after his run. He has been let down a bit after his second - he did not do anything the week after and we have brought him back gently. I cannot see that being an issue. I have not seen the bounce factor in other horses."

Finally, The Cockney Mackem, who was second in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase last year: "he should be going for the same race. He is in good form. He had a bit of a setback earlier this season and has only run once over hurdles when he ran well despite not liking the soft ground. He had a colic operation but a relatively simple one - they opened him up and his guts unravelled themselves. I am quite excited by him."

Thursday 21 February 2013

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls guided the media through his Cheltenham squad at Ditcheat on Wednesday.

Of Triumph Hurdle hope Far West the trainer said: "He stays and he jumps and he has a devastating turn of foot as well. Ruby (Walsh) was very impressed with him on [at Ascot] Saturday. We had gone out with a plan thinking that River Maigue would go off in front but Barry Geraghty wanted to follow us and we ended up in front. Far West sprinted away in the straight. He jumps great and has been working with Zarkandar and has improved enormously over the winter. He has got everything and is a proper little racehorse. Ruby is looking forward to the Triumph. Far West would compare favourably with Zarkandar. I suspect he will end up remaining over hurdles next season and could be really interesting."

Nicholls cautioned punters not to ovelook Dodging Bullets in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, saying: "I think he is almost the forgotten horse of the Festival. He won his first two starts this season at Cheltenham. He gave 7lb and beat River Maigue on the second of them. We were then a little bit ambitious to run him in the Christmas Hurdle. I wanted to give him a run over Christmas and have him really fresh for The Festival. He came third to Darlan and finished ahead of Countrywide Flame who was fourth. That is not bad form. I think he has a mark of 157 and he would compare favourably with Al Ferof and Noland who won the Supreme for us. He goes well fresh and has not really had his ground which is not worse than good to soft. He is really well. He wants a fast-run race so he can come from behind. I think he has a great chance and is a big price for the Supreme - we have trained him just for that race and everything is going to plan. It looks a hot race this year but always does."

Fago is likely to take on the mighty Simonsig in the Arkle, but his trainer believes he has a chance: "We bought him just before Christmas and he had some form around Auteuil. He won over two mile and five furlongs there and led at the last in a Grade One over two mile, six furlongs but faded. I think he is likely to be more of a two-mile horse like Master Minded who came to us after running over further as well. He won well at Newbury over two miles and went to Warwick and was hard on the bridle when he fell at the second last - just what I did not want to happen before the Festival. He runs at Sandown on Friday over two miles as we want to get another run into him. I think he wants to run in the Arkle because he has loads of speed. If Simonsig and Overturn go a good gallop in front, you are not going to be taking them on and the race may be run to suit him as he has plenty of speed. He is a really decent horse and I think he will be a lot stronger next season when he should be a really good two-mile chaser."

Champion Hurdle hope Zarkandar is back to his best this season: "He has been totally different to how he was a year ago. He had just won the Betfair Hurdle and was coughing. He wasn't quite right and we really struggled with him. He had a tiny little scar fracture of a hind leg in the autumn so we could not run him then. We rushed him for the Betfair Hurdle which he won. Then he started coughing and was nowhere near himself when he ran in the Champion Hurdle last year when he finished fifth after running a bit flat. Then he fell at Aintree. Otherwise he has won every race he has run in. He was three from three as a juvenile and has won all three this season. He keeps on winning and is the right age now, six. He has done nothing wrong this season. He have 17lb and beat Prospect Wells first time, then went to The International and won, galloping up the hill at Cheltenham. He idled on Saturday but won nicely. He is never going to flashy - he could have done on Saturday with a quicker pace. He jumps nicely and loves the Cheltenham hill. I think there is not a lot between Hurricane Fly, Rock On Ruby, this lad and possibly Grandouet. He prefers the New Course at Cheltenham but the Champion Hurdle is over almost a furlong less on the Old Course which is sharper. I would like to see the ground on the slow side and a fast-run race. He has got a great chance. Ruby (Walsh) was always going to have to ride Hurricane Fly this season and Daryl (Jacob) has won plenty of races on him. Daryl was always going to ride him but it makes no difference who rides him. Zarkandar is a good form and we are very happy with him."

Silviniaco Conti has been a revelation over fences this season, with Nicholls saying of the Gold Cup entry: "He has done incredibly well this season. He got beat at Ascot last season and was not right when the horses were coughing. We thought we were not going to Cheltenham with him and went to Aintree instead. He won nicely. This year he won the Charlie Hall, the Betfair Chase from Long Run and then the other day he had his prep race at Newbury which he won nicely. We had left plenty to work on and the ground was testing - I was nervous that he was going to get a bit tired but he stayed on strongly. He jumps well and I keep reading that he cannot win at Cheltenham because he has not won at Cheltenham. We have not avoided Cheltenham with him. He ran in The International over hurdles and ran incredibly well for a three-mile horse against a lot of two-milers. He missed the RSA last year and was never going to run in the Argento. He has been around loads of different tracks on different ground. I have always thought he wanted good ground but he has coped well with soft ground this season. You can ride him any way you like. We did not plan to make the running in the Betfair Chase at Haydock but Long Run did not want to go on. Ruby decided at the start to bowl along in front. He would be suited by a real fast end-to-end gallop where he can sit in third or fourth and use his jumping and hopefully stay on strongly. He has progressed nicely, done everything right and come out of Newbury well. He was fresh and well this morning. My view is that the three novices from last season - Bob's Worth, Silviniaco Conti and Sir Des Champs might be the three - Long Run obviously you can never rule out because he has been such a good horse. Any Gold Cup is hard to win but we think we are going there with a nice chance. He is workmanlike and does the job right - we have a chance of winning."

Of other horses to look out for, Nicholls advised: "Ptit Zigis is a four-year-old and in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at The Festival and at the moment is the favourite. He is a horse by Great Pretender and he had three runs at Auteuil. He was second one day and we bought him before Christmas, thinking he would be a Fred Winter horse. He went to Ludlow the other day and won quite nicely. He was quite green that day and showed plenty of promise. He had a handicap mark that day of 126 and went up 4lb for winning the race. 130 is a nice mark to be running in the Fred Winter on and he has a definite chance. The handicaps at The Festival are hard to win - we have won the Fred Winter before with Sanctuaire. He wants plenty of cut in the ground as he is a big chasing type of horse. He has pleased since Ludlow. He is a big green baby and different type of horse to Sanctuaire who went on to win a Grade Two over hurdles."

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Permit holder Jessica Westwood is lookingf orward to running her sole chaser Monkerty Tunkerty in the JLT Speciality Chase after he won the 32Red Casino Veterans' Handicap Chase at Doncaster.

Minella Forfitness denied former Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian - who was returning from a lengthy absence - in the SIG Insulation EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.

Dante's Storm heads to the CGA Foxhunter Chase, with trainer Alan Hill saying: "He's more relaxed more and the tongue-tie helped. I think he's as good, if not better, than he was two years ago. We'll go there and try to hold up this side of the Irish Sea's challenge."

It was David Pipe's turn to host the media at an open day at his Nicholashayne on Tuesday, and his squad for Cheltenham is headed by leading novice chaser Dynaste, who holds entries in the RSA Chase and the Jewson over half a mile less.

Pipe said: "He is bigger and stronger this year. He has won over two and a half miles twice and then he put up a very good performance in the Feltham at Kempton over three miles. He won't mind what the ground is and has a very similar profile to Grands Crus but he is a more straightforward horse. We will choose his race after assessing the ground and likely opposition. He is a good traveller, jumps nicely, straightforward and has a nice engine. He looks rock solid. I did not think this year's Feltham was as strong as last year's but Hadrian's Approach ran a very good race behind Unioniste which franked the form."

The trainer has another interesting novice chaser in Buddy Bolero, who rates as "one of my better chances of the week". Pipe observed: "He is lightly raced. He won last time at Leicester, very easily, though it was not the greatest of contests. He will go to the National Hunt Chase. I don't know if he will stay four miles but if he does he will be in there with a big shout."

Goulanes is also rated highly among the novice chasers: "He won well at Wetherby last time out - his first chase and a Grade Two so we put him in at the deep end. He has to improve for the RSA but is still lightly-raced and there is definitely more improvement there. He won't mind the ground. He is one of our bigger hopes for the week at Cheltenham. Roger Brookhouse bought him from Cheltenham Sales for £40,000 which looks very cheap now. He is a good jumper and has done lots of schooling at home."

Pipe's novice hurdlers are led by Gevrey Chambertin, with the trainer saying: "I was pleased he had a nice easy race last time at Wincanton. He won off 130 in not a great race and the handicapper put him up a lot - 15lb to 145. He is going to find life tougher now but he is improving.

"A rating of 145 could still be a workable mark and he is improving at a fast rate of knots. He is a very good jumper and travels well. He is a lot more straightforward than his brother. He is catching him up quickly. He will go on any ground. He will be a smashing chaser next season. He has only been beaten once in his life and I would like to keep it that way."

Gevrey Chambertin is a brother to Grand Crus, who is not a certain runner as he is having treatment for ulcers. Entered in the World Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase, Pipe said of the eight year old: "There are no plans at present and he will probably go for a racecourse gallop somewhere and see how he goes there. He may go to Cheltenham, he may go to Aintree, he may go to Punchestown or he may not run again this season - we are keeping everything open and will do what is best for the horse. We want to get him back on track because he did run a cracking race in the King George. It was very soft ground that day and in the winner's enclosure afterwards he had a good blow. He has still got the engine."

Pipe has a Chmapion Bumper contender in The Liquidator, whom he rates highly: "He is a good horse and ran a cracking race at Cheltenham in November to finish second in the Listed bumper. The plan was always to go for the Cheltenham bumper (The Festival), with one run in between and we picked a nice easy race for him at Exeter the other day. We did not want him to have a tough race and he basically had a racecourse gallop. He is not flashy sort - workmanlike and goes about his business and reminds me of Liberman whom Dad won the bumper with. He won't mind the hustle and bustle and will keep galloping up that hill. All he has done is improve since we have had him. We hope he runs a big race at The Festival."

Tuesday 19 February 2013

John Ferguson's Whispering Gallery was an impressive winner at Wetherby this afternoon, prompting his trainer to say: "I was very happy with him today. He's a horse who had undoubted talent on the Flat and for an older horse, I think he's made the transition to hurdling very well.

"I think he's ready to go into a more competitive race now so we'll see how he takes this race and then make a decision on where he goes in the next week or so.

"I hope that when he gets into a race with a stronger pace and on better ground, he could be quite exciting."

"He looks the one they all have to beat to me," says Dessie Hughes of his unbeaten JCB Triumph Hurdle hope Our Conor. The trainer told PA Sport: "What really pleased me about that last day was that it was a really good time. If we'd beaten Willie's horse (Diakali) and it was a poor time people could have said it wasn't much of a race but they can't when the time is good.

"That race is usually a good trial for the Triumph and we're very happy with him."

The four-year-old is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, and won the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last time.

Rebecca Curtis is leaning towards the Albert Bartlett Hurdle for recent course winner At Fishers Cross: "We've just freshened him up and we're on track for Cheltenham, hopefully. He'll go for the Albert Bartlett, I'd have thought."

  • From Graham Richards' Cheltenham newsletter: At Fishers Cross. Improving horse that won three hurdles in the space of five-weeks, the last coming at Cheltenham in December. A strong stayer, one would imagine the Pertemps Final will be on his agenda. Produced a fine staying performance to catch The New One close home. The Albert Bartlett looks his race at the Festival where he should be thereabouts. Will he produce a similar level on what is likely to be good or good to soft ground. 135.
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson held a media day at his Seven Barrows stable on Monday, where he assessed a number of his Festival prospects, headed of course by Champion Chase favourite Sprinter Sacre, of whom Henderson said: "He is in good form - we have those rather nasty three weeks to go. There is work to be done and there is a lot that can go wrong but at the moment everything is going well with him.

    Sprinter Sacre is the one we would be disappointed with if he doesn't win

    "He looks great and is very fresh and well in himself. He seems to be enjoying it and has had a good freshen up since the Victor Chandler Chase. The pressure is on because everybody will expect one of his flashy performances and I hope he can deliver again.

    "He has not jumped anything since the Victor Chandler - we will just remind him what to do and not to get complacent. He finds it ridiculously easy but Cheltenham is Cheltenham and the course takes plenty of jumping.

    "Barry (Geraghty) will go out and enjoy himself on Sprinter Sacre, who is as good looking a horse as I have ever had. He is a hugely-talented natural athlete.

    "He and Simsonsig are two of the best work horses I have ever had. Sprinter Sacre will not go to a racecourse to work before Cheltenham.

    "Sprinter Sacre is the one we would be disappointed with if he doesn't win. He has more than a chance - England expects!"

    Simonsig is set to run in the Arkle - won last year by Sprinter Sacre - and Henderson said: "Simsonsig is very good. He is in good form and does not take a huge amount of work. He has been very good in his two runs over fences and I think he knows what he has to do.

    "He has tremendous ability and enthusiasm for racing. It will do him no harm for Overturn to give him a lead - he has wonderful pace."

    Henderson's Gold Cup hopes are headed by Bob's Worth: "He has really got a bit to prove in that he has only really had one run outside novice chasing and that was in a handicap so he has got to do it against the big boys. It was a good performance in the Hennessy as it was in the RSA last year.

    "It is a step up and I would have liked to have run him more on the way. He had one little hiccup himself and the whole winter has been the same - the ground has been desperate. His one opportunity to run came when the ground was bottomless and I am glad we did not go for that.

    "He is a horse who is a bit more fragile than some of them and he wouldn't want a hard race in heavy ground beforehand."

    Long Runattempts to regain his Gold Cup crown, having regained his King George title on Boxing Day. "His preparation is all going to plan. We didn't run at Newbury the other day because the ground had gone completely. Both Robert and I felt that a hard race in very, very soft ground would not achieve anything and I think that was the right decision.

    "He is going to have gallop after racing on Saturday at Kempton on grass which should get him spot on. He was only six when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and then wasn't just at his very best last season. I cannot tell you that he is completely different this year but he is in very good order.

    "I boxed him and Binocular up last Saturday and drove them twice around the village before going to Mandown for a good gallop.

    "Some cheek-pieces might just sharpen him up - there is no point being proud - they are not the prettiest things in the world but if they make him go faster why not."

    "He has regained the King George and maybe he can regain the Gold Cup."

    Binocular worked last Saturday with Long Run, and Henderson is content that he is improving ahead of the Festival: "Hurricane Fly beat Binocular comfortably in Ireland but he won't beat us so comfortably at Cheltenham. The run has brought him along a lot.

    "He was lame after last year and then late in which explains the one run this season - I was tempted to run him last Saturday but the ground was heavy.

    "He will go to Kempton on Saturday and work after racing. His schooling sessions tell us how he is."

    Henderson expects a better showing from Captain Conan in the Jewson, saying: "Captain Conan will go for the Jewson. He is a good horse - he just wasn't that impressive last time in the Scilly Isles and I think you will see the proper Captain Conan come the Jewson."

    The trainer seems to hold Sandown winner Utopie des Bordes in high regard: "She is two out of two for me and won a nice Listed race at Sandown the other day over two and a half miles and we are going to up the trip to three miles because it seems she stays. We will go to the Albert Bartlett with her."

    Monday 18 February 2013

    Trainer Nicky Henderson has decided to stick to Plan A with Betfair Hurdle winner My Tent Or Yours, who will run in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. There had been calls for the six-year-old novice to be supplemented to the Champion Hurdle following his Newbury romp, but Henderson said: "He's very good and he goes for the Supreme."

    Ratings expert Graham Richards had observed last week: "If connections feel he has enough experience, his RPR from the Betfair suggests he is well worth a place in the Champion Hurdle. The highest RPR recorded in the Supreme Hurdle since 2000 came from Back In Front in 2003. MTOY equalled that on Saturday."

    Henderson also revealed that Long Run, Binocular, Bobs Worth, Kid Cassidy, Riverside Theatre and Rolling Star are all set to work at Kempton Park after racing next Saturday.

    Owner Dai Walters is leaning towards the Ladbrokes World Hurdle over the Champion Hurdle for Oscar Whisky, who was narrowly turned over by Reve de Sivola in the Cleeve Hurdle last month.

    Walters told At The Races: "We'll wait and see what the weather is like. I'll be fair to the public and say he'll go for the World Hurdle, but I have paid £1,000 this week to leave him in the Champion Hurdle as things can change."

     Graham Richards' view {More horses to follow}
    Oscar WhiskyRemains top on ratings thanks to his performances over two and a half-miles this season. Looked to have every chance in the Cleeve Hurdle when just outstayed by Reve De Sivola on the run-in. Given he handled the heavy ground; I am of the opinion he lacks the stamina to win a World Hurdle. Indeed, I believe it to be as much as an issue on good to soft or soft, as it was on heavy. Connections have stated more than once a third Aintree Hurdle is the main target, one wonders if another hard race over three-miles would scupper those hopes.149
    Reve De SivolaReverting to hurdles this seaon, the official handicapper has raised him a total of 24lb. Having run away with the Long Walk Hurdle, he displayed plenty of determination to hold off the challenge of Oscar Whiskey all the way up the run-in. His stamina is without question while he ran two excellent races on good ground at Cheltenham and Punchestown in 2010. To give you some idea how good Big Bucks is, I have Reve De Sivola 11lb behind him despite recent improvement.145

    Filed on 18 Feb 2013 @ 12:42