Cheltenham Festival preparations heat up

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by HANNAH ASPEN AS we enter the home straight leading towards the Cheltenham Festival, the horse racing world enters a collective frenzy. Every race run with a potential Cheltenham contender takes on a new significance as everything is analysed in terms of its impact on the Festival, one of the greatest events in this country’s racing calendar. Read More

Champion Hurdle: The New One has the speed


SOMEBODY asked me who I was going to back for the Champion Hurdle the other day. I replied in the style of Ruby Walsh: “I’m going to wait until the last possible moment and consider all the options. Why the rush?” Ruby must be getting bored of being quizzed about who he is going to ride in the Champion Hurdle, Faugheen or Hurricane Fly. I don’t blame him for biding his time… When it comes to taking a punt, it also makes sense to wait, especially as the state of the ground will be a major factor. Read More

Godsmejudge looks divine in Crabbie’s Grand National


CARLINGFORD Lough and Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere have been jointly-allotted top-weight of 11st 10lb for the £1million Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on April 11. The weights were unveiled at noon today at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden. The Grand National is the only handicap in which the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping Phil Smith has total discretion over the weights and can deviate from the normal handicap ratings. Read More

Saturday Yankee

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THE next three weeks is a funny time. It is the calm before the storm as the racing community builds itself into a frenzy in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival and pundits jump on the lucrative gravy train of preview nights. But Saturday’s racing still has a stamp of quality and it is last chance saloon for some potential Festival candidates… Read More

Ruby ready to Rock for Cheltenham Festival round five


by MICHAEL SUTTON There will be few more popular winners at the Cheltenham Festival than if Rock On Ruby wins the World Hurdle. The Festival at Cheltenham in 2015 is already shaping up to be an illustrious roll call of former winners. There may be no Quevega this year but Willie Mullins will still be sending Hurricane Fly and Champagne Fever over in search of their respective third Festival successes. Read More

Five 12-year-olds who won the Grand National


BY JAMES HARRISON The Grand National has been something of a preserve for horses heading towards the veteran stage of their careers in recent years. The last three winners of the Aintree showpiece – Neptune Collonges, Auroras Encore and Pineau De Re – have all been aged 11. And the two winners before that were the 10-year-olds, Don’t Push It and Ballabriggs. Read More

2015 Cheltenham Festival clues


I’VE always been slightly suspicious of Trials Day at Cheltenham as a reliable guide to the Festival itself. The meeting is usually run on deep ground, conditions that you rarely see in March, and it can throw up a few red herrings when looking for 2015 Cheltenham Festival clues. But I would be very surprised if last Saturday’s meeting fails to produce a Festival winner. It was a quality card, albeit run on soft but not bottomless ground and there were some taking performances… Read More

Be thankful for Sprinter Sacre

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A WORD about Sprinter Sacre…. Racing needs its superstars. They don’t come along too often but there was a glorious period in 2012 when both Frankel and Sprinter Sacre were at the top of their game. Two equine superstars in their pomp at the same time. We were truly blessed and racing even gatecrashed the news and features pages of the national press. While Frankel has been sowing his wild oats at stud, Sprinter Sacre has been battling a fibrillating heart problem, which surfaced after he was pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton at the end of 2013. Tomorrow he makes his eagerly-awaited reappearance at Ascot after 13 months of tests and a mountain of TLC from the Nicky Henderson team. Read More

Cheltenham Gold Cup: Ante-post focus

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IT happens nine weeks on Tuesday. You know, that familiar roar, when the tape goes up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The roar kick-starts four days of heaven for National Hunt purists. Yup, the Cheltenham Festival is well within punting distance. After the plethora of festive Jump racing, the fog has cleared a little from the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture and we now have a solid favourite. Read More

Champagne West to make it a Happy New Year


RARELY has there been a better New Year’s Day Cheltenham meeting. The Dipper Novices’ Chase is probably the best race of its kind so far this season and would not be out of place at the Festival itself. CHAMPAGNE WEST is a horse I adore and is unbeaten in his two chases. He will need 3m in time but for now a stiff 2m 5f looks ideal. I fancy him to outstay Ptit Zig. The latter has won over 2m 3f in France but he didn’t look to get home in the Aintree Hurdle over 2m 4f. Read More