Seven trainers taking aim at the festival with only one runner
Much of the pre-festival hype revolves around Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott-trained horses, and rightly so, but there is serious strength in depth to the Irish challenge at Cheltenham this year. From last year's Gold Cup third Anibale Fly to Albert Bartlett dark horse Derrinross, here are seven horses who represent their trainers' sole chance of getting on the score sheet next week.
Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
Trainer Tony Martin We’re happy away with him and he’s come out of Gowran well – he seems to have improved from that run. He ran a cracker to finish third in the race last year and he’s entitled to take his chance again. We’d like to see the ground come up on the soft side.
Racing Post Arkle
Trainer Terence O’Brien The race doesn’t look too hot, so I imagine it will be a big enough field as every fella will be fancying his chance. There were only five runners in it last year but that won’t be the case this year.
I’m very happy with our lad. David Mullins gave him a school at Clonmel last week and he was aboard when we worked him at the Curragh as well. He’ll ride him at Cheltenham and he seems happy with the horse.
I don’t think he’s too ground dependent but, if it came up soft, he’d handle it well. He goes on anything bar extremes. It would have been nice to get a run into him between Naas and Cheltenham, but we are where we are and we have to make do.
All things considered, I’m very happy. He has to improve seven or eight pounds, maybe even ten, but I’m hoping he can. You have to dream.
Trainer Eddie Harty He went well when he schooled after racing at Leopardstown on Monday and I'm happy with him. He just schooled five fences down the back and it all went well. He's a different horse to last year. It's amazing that a month ago last year he was second favourite for the Gold Cup and now he's a 33-1 chance for the Ryanair.
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
Trainer Philip Dempsey I think they're forecast rain next week and we hope it lashes down! The only reason why we haven't seen him recently is because of the ground.
We paid right up to declaration stage for the Grade 1 at Leopardstown [at the Dublin Racing Festival] with the hope the heavens opened but it never happened. I wouldn't risk him on unsuitable ground because he's a horse who's had his problems.
His form is working out well. He's tough, an out-and-out galloper and we're hoping for the best.
JCB Triumph Hurdle
Trainer John McConnell We’re thinking of going to the Triumph Hurdle with Hannon but we may wait for Aintree with Go Another One as that’s what Robbie Power advised us to do.
It was between the Fred Winter or the Triumph for Hannon, but we’re thinking the latter might not be as much of a cavalry charge and that might suit us that bit better as he doesn’t have a whole pile of experience.
He was probably unlucky not to win at Naas and, while Sir Erec will be hard to beat, we’re looking forward to running him.
The Big Dog
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
Trainer Peter Fahey He'll go for the Albert Bartlett as long as the ground is soft. We made the mistake by running him on quicker than ideal ground at Leopardstown the last day but, fingers crossed, he handles the softer ground and he stays well so hopefully they get a bit of rain over there. The Albert Bartlett should suit him well.
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Trainer Mouse Morris He'll be left in all three novice hurdles and we'll have a look, but the Ballymore is the race we're favouring. His form has been good and he deserves to take his chance. Bryan Cooper rides and we're hoping for dig in the ground
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