Friday Feb 25

We hope to put the final pieces to our Cheltenham jigsaw on Saturday at Kempton, where we have no fewer than eight runners, while we are doubly-represented in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday, plus one in the bumper at Southwell, not to mention Ridgewood Storm on the polytrack at Lingfield tomorrow.

Alan said:”Ziga Boy defied a 15lb higher mark to win the Skybet Chase at Doncaster, where he clearly relished the better ground. He has gone up another 9lb for the BetBright Handicap Chase so things now get tougher, and, though I am not convinced that he will be so effective going right-handed, he has won around Wincanton so he should be ok.

Gibralfaro has his Triumph Hurdle trial in the Adonis. I have been happy with him since Ascot, though I think the handicapper might have over-reacted in putting him up 9lb for standing in his box when runner-up Connetable won at Sandown. I just hope the handicapper is right, but he is now rated 151 and there are plenty of Triumph winners who don’t get that high a mark.

“We run both Winter Escape and Oceane in the Dovecote. Winter Escape has looked impressive in his two wins at Doncaster and I was thrilled with his last performance there as the second set a decent standard. He now steps up in class and I am still thinking Aintree rather than Cheltenham, but he needs match-practice so we are looking forward to seeing how he shapes.

“Oceane is in good form after his winter break and the drier ground will certainly help him. He is in three races at the Festival and this should tell us which route we should take or indeed whether we should wait for Aintree.

Roberto Pegasus goes for the two and a half-mile handicap chase. He, too, has enjoyed a winter break and is another who will benefit from this better ground, but we are trying him in cheek-pieces for the first time.

McCabe Creek goes for the two miles and five handicap hurdle. He missed Sandown last week as the ground was testing and underfoot conditions here should suit him much better. His Doncaster win last time seems to have restored his confidence, so, hopefully, he will run well.

“We are two-handed in the concluding bumper. Criq Rock has looked smart this winter, and, while we had to take him out of Newbury recently because he scoped badly and was on antibiotics, he seems fine again now and we feel that he needs this prep-race before Cheltenham as it is almost three months since he last ran and we need to take the freshness out of him before he goes to the Festival. We also run Azzerti, who I bought last year at the Land Rover Sale in Ireland. We like him and he is ready to start.

“Finally, we have Henry Ponsonby’s Ridgeway Storm in the 12-furlong handicap at Lingfield. He ran well on his first visit there after Christmas, being still on the heels of the leaders until fading at the furlong-pole, so he deserves another shot.”

  • And on Sunday …….

 

Highlight at Fontwell on Sunday is the £80,000 National Spirit Hurdle, in which we run both Grumeti and Medinas. Assessing their chances, Alan said:”Grumeti is in good order after his mid-season break and the improved ground would be in his favour. He was going well when he made an awful mistake at the last in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot in November. Medinas would have needed his comeback run at Sandown three weeks ago, having been off a long time, and he needs more match-practice.

“Our other runner on Sunday is Elgin in the bumper at Southwell. He is owned by Elite Racing, who also bred him, and he was in training on the Flat with James Fanshawe but was too backward to run. We are looking forward to getting him started.”