Up The Ante

March 1, 2019 News
THAT tingle of excitement you are feeling is because the mighty Cheltenham Festival is just over a week away from starting.
With the greatest four days of jump racing so close, we spoke to a number of leading racing figures to find out who they are most looking forward to seeing in action at the festival.
 
Nigel Twiston-Davies
Horse: Al Dancer
Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Tuesday
What they say: “He’s very exciting and the softer the ground the better. He’s as good a two-mile novice hurdler as I have trained. I’d say he’s our best chance of the week and, if he wins that, I could go home happy.”
 
Jonjo O’Neill
Horse: Minella Rocco
Race: Ultima Handicap Chase, Tuesday
What they say: “He’s in good form. He goes there with a live chance – that’s what we’re hoping for. He’s a big horse and it can be difficult to keep him right. It’d be nice to win, but we’ll need luck in running.”
 
Tom Taaffe
Horse: Riders Onthe Storm
Race: Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, Tuesday
What they say: “He’s all systems go for the Close Brothers and I’m really pleased with how he’s training. Listen, he’s done everything right and has only had three starts over fences plus he was very good at Punchestown last time. I’d say he’s the ideal horse for a race like this.”
 
Derek O’Connor
Horse: OK Corral
Race: National Hunt Novices’ Chase, Tuesday
What they say: “I’m really looking forward to riding this horse. He looks to have the right profile for the race and he felt good in his prep run at Warwick. The form of that race hasn’t worked out great, but at the same time he’s a horse on the up and everything should suit him at Cheltenham.”
 
Ben Pauling
Horse: Bright Forecast
Race: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Wednesday
What they say: “I think a lot of him and he seems in very good order. Nico de Boinville should be able to ride him which is good and he would not be too dissimilar to Willloughby Court, who won the race for us in 2017.”
 
Charlie Longsdon
Horse: Castafiore
Race: JLT Novices’ Chase, Thursday
What they say: “Castafiore has been a revelation for us over fences. I think the key to her is a mares’ allowance and getting 7lb off the boys is a big thing. She could go for the JLT because of the mares’ allowance which could give her a right old little chance in that.”
 
Sam Waley-Cohen
Horse: Elusive Belle
Race: Tattersalls Ireland Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, Thursday
What they says: “I can’t wait to ride Elusive Belle in the mares’ race as I think she’s super exciting. She ran a really novicey race last time when she was far too keen didn’t get herself together. She’s got a great engine, is a real athlete and I can see the faster pace suiting her.”
 
Rebecca Curtis
Horse: Lisnagar Oscar
Race: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, Friday
What they say: “He’s come out of his Haydock run really well and I couldn’t be happier with him. I was very impressed with him at Haydock as it’s not always the easiest course and he’s an out-and-out stayer, so you’d hope Cheltenham would suit him more. He’s improving and I’m quite hopeful for him at the festival.”