Cheltenham Festival going speculation leaves Gifford feeling a little twitchy
Nick Gifford is getting "a little bit twitchy" about the possibility of soft or heavy going at the Cheltenham Festival as he prepares his first fancied runner for the meeting in unbeaten bumper horse Didtheyleaveuoutto.
The JP McManus-owned Didtheyleaveuoutto is 6-1 second favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper after following up an impressive debut win at Lingfield by landing a Listed bumper at Ascot in December.
Didtheyleaveuoutto, whose dam is a half-sister to Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Denman, has posted his wins on the all-weather and on good to soft ground but has the action of a quicker-ground horse, according to his trainer.
"He's in great form but I've been getting a little bit twitchy about soft or heavy going at Cheltenham because he's a good-ground horse," said Gifford.
"We've never run him on soft or heavy but Barry Geraghty got the distinct impression after Ascot he wouldn't want it a lot softer than that, so we're guessing a little bit.
"We were concerned before he ran at Ascot because he does have a daisy-cutter action, but Denman handled it all right. Generally when a horse has a lot of speed the way to get them beat is to run them on very soft ground, so there would be a concern.
"You'd think the horses that have been winning bumpers on testing ground would have a distinct advantage. I'll assume he'll run because we haven't anything to go on but, if he'd run on it before and run badly, that would be a different kettle of fish."
Gifford, whose father Josh was a festival winner as a jockey and trainer, came closest to training a festival winner of his own in his second season when Straw Bear was beaten a neck 12 years ago in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
"Straw Bear was chinned but he went there under the radar a little bit," said Gifford. "He'd only won at Leicester and scrambled home at Folkestone. This is the first time I'll have ever been to the festival with something that's properly fancied. It's great and it's exciting.
"Everybody wants the ground just on the soft side for the first day because if it's not, they'll be watering. If they get that it will keep everybody happy."
The going at Cheltenham on Monday was soft, good to soft in places, with the racetrack free of snow, if not the whole site.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: "The track's clear but we've heaps of snow pushed up in various places elsewhere. It was dry until 4pm, when it started to rain as forecast. We could get 2mm tonight.
"I've left it as soft, good to soft in places everywhere. The outlook remains unsettled for the week with up to 20mm of rain in the next six days."
Jefferson Waiting Patiently
There will be no decision on the participation of Ascot Chase winner Waiting Patiently in the Ryanair Chase until the end of the week, when trainer Ruth Jefferson speaks to owner Richard Collins.
"We're going to see how this week goes," she said. "It's not purely about the ground. We decided we weren't going to speak about it until the end of this week. Rather than toing and froing, we'll have one conversation Thursday night or Friday morning."
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