Friday January 29

You rarely win an Oscar without an impressive dress-rehearsal en route, and Trials day at Cheltenham tomorrow should answer a few unsolved questions regarding the Cheltenham Festival, with four of our star names heading off to Prestbury Park and another six trying to enhance their reputations at Doncaster.

Our Cheltenham quartet all feature prominently in the ante-post betting lists, and, outlining his thoughts, Alan said:”Smad Place heads the team in the BetBright Trial and he goes there in good order, having worked well last week-end. I wasn’t disappointed with his effort in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as I’d said all along that it was a huge step up from the Hennessy.

“Unfortunately, he launched himself at the ditch early on down the side and that got him on the back foot, but I still maintain it was a solid run. We were never going to adopt the same tactics as we had at Newbury as it would only have set the race up for the others, but he was second in this race last year and how he shapes will determine whether we go for the Gold Cup or the Ryanair Chase at the Festival.

“Our star novice Yanworth attempts to make it four in a row in the Neptune. He has done nothing wrong and took the transition to Grade 2 company in his style at Ascot, and, though he now steps up in trip, Barry Geraghty feels it will suit him and we were always of the opinion last season that he had plenty of stamina. His form so far is looking rock-solid and he is an exciting prospect, but, like Smad Place, this trial should tell us which route to take at Cheltenham.

“The Triumph Trial has long been the target for Who Dares Wins. He was impressive when we rode him positively at Doncaster and I have been delighted with his progress since. Physically, he is strengthening all the time and he, too, worked well last week-end, so we are looking forward to giving him valuable experience of Cheltenham.

“Our Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Annacotty returns to Cheltenham for the freebets.com Trophy. He is 7lb higher than when winning this race last year, but his little break has freshened him up. He got behind early on in the Caspian Caviar Chase at the December meeting, but he was staying on well at the end to finish sixth and it was an ok run. He is well and we’ll give it another go.”

Switching to our Doncaster runners, Alan added:”Ziga Boy showed his appreciation for some rare decent ground when winning over the track last month. He won very well, too, though I thought a 15lb hike was fairly harsh. Sadly, Tom Bellamy, who gave him such a smashing ride, can’t do the weight this time, but we have been lucky enough to book Brendan Powell, and, hopefully, the rain will stay away from Yorkshire.

“Jamie Insole, one of my conditionals, keeps the ride on McCabe Creek in the opener at Doncaster. They just bumped into one at Taunton last time, but Jamie has done a lot of work at home teaching him to switch off, and he is certainly settling better, so, though the horse is coming back from a break, he has been pleasing us in the mornings.

“Another returning after a break is Turn Over Sivola, who runs in the two-mile handicap chase. The better the ground the better his chance, and dropping back in trip should suit him as he looked not to stay the two miles and five last time.

Minella Charmer runs in the Albert Bartlett trial, and this step up to Grade 2 company should tell us whether he is a Festival horse. He was second to a smart horse in Born Survivor on his hurdling debut at Warwick and then won easily at Plumpton, but we should learn just where we stand with him here, while finally we run Kir Royal and Cajun Fiddle in the two divisions of the mares bumper.

Kir Royal finished third against the boys at Newbury and is ready to return after her break, while Cajun Fiddle is better than she looked at Towcester, where the ground had become very cut-up by the time she ran.”