THE victory of Baywing in the Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday was just the latest big-race success for the north. It came a week after the brilliant Waiting Patiently won the Grade One Ascot Chase. The 2018 Cheltenham Festival is the mecca for owners, trainers, jockeys and, of course, punters and this year there are real hopes of a northern success. And I don’t just mean sneaking a winner in one of the handicaps. The north has a good chance in at least three Grade One championship races. So, with just over a fortnight to go until the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, we pick out five northern-trained horses who could make a big impression at the biggest and best national meeting of the year.
SAM SPINNER (Stayers’ Hurdle): Among the favourites for the Grade One Stayers’ Hurdle. It’s 10 years since there was a northern-trained favourite in one of Cheltenham’s championship races. That was Inglis Drever in 2008. Sam Spinner could go off favourite and has Yanworth and Supasundae to beat. La Bague Au Roi is also a danger. It is difficult to gauge whether his price will come in or drift in the run-up to the race. With the millionaire owners JP McManus and Simon Munir/Isaac Souede having serious candidates it might be best to wait for Sam Spinner’s price to take a walk in the market. However, with the Festival looming the bookmakers are starting to roll out their offers, so make sure to shop around for the best price. Latest price: 5/1
WAITING PATIENTLY (Ryanair Chase): Ruth Jefferson has said he will only run if the ground is good to soft or softer. And even then he may wait for either Aintree or Punchestown. A fine prospect, the seven-year-old is in good hands. And as I’ve written about before on this blog, it will not be a disaster if he sidesteps Cheltenham and goes straight to Aintree. He also looks a likely type for the King George VI Chase next season. Latest price: 9/2
CLOUDY DREAM (Ryanair Chase): If Waiting Patiently misses the Ryanair Chase then the Ruth Jefferson yard have an able deputy in Cloudy Dream. This race, especially the trip, looks perfect as long as the ground is decent. Cloudy Dream has appeared not to stay 3m in his last two races although the ground was unsuitably soft. A strong gallop over a middle distance on good ground is probably what this horse needs. Latest price: 16/1
DEFINITLY RED (Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup): Criminally overpriced at 16/1. This is probably because he is trained in the north and will be ridden by an unfashionable jockey in Danny Cook. However, Danny gets on well with this fellow and they have a solid chance of at least achieving a place. He would clearly be half the price if he was trained by a Nicholls or a Henderson. His victory in the Cotswold Chase is rock-solid form and with question marks against so many others, Definitly Red has a really strong each-way appeal. The only question mark is whether he is good enough. Latest price: 16/1
THE KING OF MAY (Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle): This one is a bit of a dark horse. Brian Ellison has high hopes for this four-year-old who showed plenty of dash on his British debut at Musselburgh. Earlier, he was twice a winner over hurdles in France, Ellison and Danny Cook were third in this race with Nietzsche last season and have a chance of being in the mix again. Latest price: 25/1