Friday February 24

The 2017 Cheltenham Festival is now just 18 days away, and would-be contenders for a place in the Barbury team for the four most important days in jump racing have their last chance to state their case at Kempton on Saturday.

I caught up with Alan on Thursday evening, and, while he stressed that he had until 10am Friday to change his mind before final declarations, these were his thoughts about the possible Kempton raiders.

He said:”The Adonis Hurdle is a popular dress-rehearsal for the Triumph Hurdle, and since we won it with both Trouble At Bay (2004) and Penzance (2005) top performers such as Punjabi, Binocular and Zarkandar have captured the prize en route to bigger things.

“We might run two Triumph Hurdle possibles, Master Blueyes and Fidux. The latter is also entered in the Dovecote, but we have Elgin earmarked for that so I’ll sleep on things overnight and make a final decision in the morning.

“I was thinking of giving Cheltenham a miss with Master Blueyes and keeping him back for Aintree, but he bounced back so well after winning at Ludlow a fortnight ago that we have decided to test the water with him here. Fidux won his first two races and was not disgraced though beaten next time at Musselburgh.

“We can usually be relied upon to get decent ground at Kempton, which would suit not only Master Blueyes but also Elgin. He won well over the track at Christmas and was then not disgraced against the smart Neon Wolf at Haydock. He is settling better now and this should tell us whether we are being realistic in considering a tilt at the Supreme Novices.

“We are looking for improvement from Annacotty in the Betbright Handicap Chase. He has been disappointing this season, but he has enjoyed a few days out hunting recently with the Old Berks, so, hopefully, that might have sweetened him up. He seems fresh and well.

Wishing And Hoping switches back to the smaller obstacles in the Racing UK Handicap Hurdle, having fallen the last twice over fences. That prompted us to put his chasing career on hold until next winter, and, in any event, he has not had a lot of racing so a bit more experience won’t do him any harm. He’ll also be suited by the better ground.”