My troops got tipped up a 40/1 winner last week at Huntington when Scooter Boy won the Maiden Hurdle for Alex Hales. At Ayr on Tuesday the Nicky Richards trained Un Noble landed the 2m4f Handicap Chase for us at odds of 9/4 giving us a winning day.
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Festival Trials Day takes place at Cheltenham on Saturday, January 30 and is the final day of action at the Home of Jump Racing before The Festival in March. The seven-race programme on Festival Trials Day features four Grade Two contests and a valuable Grade Three handicap, giving horses a last chance to experience Cheltenham ahead of The Festival.
The highlight of the day is the Grade Two BetBright Trial Chase (1.50pm), staged over three miles and a furlong and a leading trial for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Four winners of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup had previously succeeded in the BetBright Trial Chase, with Looks Like Trouble most recently completing the double in 2000.
An informative trial is on the cards this year with 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-upDjakadam (Willie Mullins IRE), last year’s winner and subsequent Crabbie’s Grand National hero Many Clouds (Oliver Sherwood), the 2015 second in this race and Hennessy Gold Cup hero Smad Place (Alan King) and 2014 RSA Chase scorerO’Faolains Boy (Rebecca Curtis) all under consideration for the contest.
The main supporting action comes from the £60,000 Grade Two galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (3.35pm). The 2015 renewal of the three-mile contest went to Saphir Du Rheu.
A year before that, Knockara Beau caused a 66/1 shock in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle, getting the better of At Fisher’s Cross by a short-head with Big Buck’s a further three-quarters of a length back in third.
The George Charlton-trained 13-year-old has made 19 appearances at the Home of Jump racing, most recently when running a cracking race on his seasonal reappearance under 11st 8lb to go down by three and a half lengths in the BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle over three miles on New Year’s Day.
Charlton, who is based at Stocksfield in Northumberland, commented: “The aim is for Knockara Beau to run in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle.”
“He ran very well on New Year’s Day, I was delighted with him. I am just hoping that the rain keeps coming as the key to the horse is soft ground.”
“The race on New Year’s Day was actually run five seconds faster than when he won the Cleeve Hurdle and he was carrying eight pounds more so he seems to be getting better as he gets older!”
“He has twice run well in the Gold Cup but is a lot better over hurdles. When he was sixth in the Gold Cup (2012) he hit the third last and it stopped him. I’m not saying he would have won, but he would have been closer. He always seems to hit one over fences, which you can’t do at the top level, and we will be keeping him over hurdles.”
“He is absolutely pinging at the moment. There are some up and coming horses in the staying hurdle division and the Cleeve Hurdle looks set to be a competitive race. Our horse deserves to be there, he is fit and well and we will give it a go. I will be happy if he’s in the first six – we are not greedy!”
Grade Two action is also provided by the opening £30,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (12.40pm) over an extended two miles. Peace And Co took this race in 2015 prior to success in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival.
The fourth Grade Two contest on Festival Trials Day is the two and a half-mile £30,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (3.00pm) which has been won since the turn of century by subsequent Festival winners Monsignor, Iris’s Gift, Wichita Lineman, Bobs Worth and At Fisher’s Cross.
Un De Sceaux will prove hard to beat in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday and at Leopardstown on Sunday Faugheen looks a penalty kick for the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Yours In Sport.
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Kevan Minter – The Colonel.
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