Old boy Ned bids to roll back the years for Harding and Richards
It was in 1998 Brian Harding steered the much-loved One Man to a famous Champion Chase success for Gordon Richards. Nineteen years on the veteran jockey tries to win the race for the late, great trainer's son, Nicky Richards.
This time the horse is the wonderfully consistent ten-year-old Simply Ned, himself no stranger to the event having finished fifth to Dodging Bullets two years ago.
"He's in grand order," said Richards. "It was always the plan to give him a break after his Christmas run at Leopardstown. We didn't even sit on him through January. He just enjoyed himself in the paddock.
"He looks great and he's training well. He has a mountain to climb but he's a lovely old horse who will do his owners proud."
Race regular Special Tiara, who has finished third for the past two years, is around a 16-1 shot, though if Douvan does fluff his lines or suffer ill fortune not many would be surprised if the Henry de Bromhead-trained ten-year-old is the one to take advantage.
The trainer said: ''He's seems in terrific form and I’m delighted with him. This sunshine is great news for him as the better the ground, the better his chance, I can guarantee that.“You know what Special Tiara is going to do. He wears his heart on his sleeve and hopefully he’ll run his race. He ran a cracker in the race last year and let's hope he can do so again. I'm looking forward to it.''
There were only two supplementary entries for this Cheltenham Festival, one of them being the excellent Top Gamble, most recently third to Un De Sceaux here in the Clarence House Chase.
"If you're not in it you can't win it," said trainer Kerry Lee. "He's in the spring of his nine-year-old season and there's no better time to run in a race like this one.
"He has never run a bad race at Cheltenham and loves coming up that hill. It's great to have a horse good enough to run in the Champion Chase and I'm certain he won't be out of place in the field."
Tough ask for Cheltenham specialist
Garde La Victoire has three Cheltenham wins to his name. Trainer Philip Hobbs accepts securing a fourth will not be easy.
"He could have run in the Grand Annual, but top weight in a big field wouldn't have been ideal," said Hobbs.
"Douvan stands out but there's not a lot between the rest. If we get lucky we might have a chance of second."
Moore hoping for one way Traffic
In two runs this season Traffic Fluide has not beaten a horse, but he represents a former Champion Chase-winning trainer who approaches the contest far from despondent.
"He has been slightly disappointing so far this season but I'm hoping he just needed those two runs," said Gary Moore, successful with Sire De Grugy three years ago.
"His home work suggests he's nearly there, and I'll be disappointed if he doesn't get some prize-money."