25 Feb 10 northern raiders at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival
MOMENTUM seems to be building in the north. The high-profile victory of Waiting Patiently in the Grade One Ascot Chase sparked an outpouring of emotion. His brilliant success came the day after the funeral of Malcolm Jefferson. Daughter Ruth now holds the licence and has already showed that she is definitely her father’s daughter, both in terms of her ability to train a big winner but also in her common-sense approach to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
However, the 2018 Cheltenham Festival remains the mecca for most. And this year there are real hopes of a northern-trained winner. We’re not talking about a big-price shock in one of the handicaps. The north has a genuine chance in several Grade One championship races. So, with just over two weeks to go until the Festival, here are 10 northern horses who could bring home the bacon at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
- SAM SPINNER (Stayers’ Hurdle): The flagbearer for the north and 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 the market leader although he has Yanworth and Supasundae to beat. La Bague Au Roi is also a danger and is each-way value. Latest price: 5/1
- WAITING PATIENTLY (Ryanair Chase): Will only run if the ground is good to soft or softer. And even then he may wait for Aintree or Punchestown. A brilliant prospect, the seven-year-old is in good hands. And as I’ve written about before on this blog, I hope he goes straight to Aintree and is trained for the King George VI Chase next season. Latest price: 9/2
- CLOUDY DREAM (Ryanair Chase): Lethal on good ground and if Waiting Patiently misses the Ryanair 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. Latest price: 16/1
- DEFINITLY RED (Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup): Overpriced at 16/1. Why? Because he is trained in the north and will be ridden by an unfashionable jockey in Danny Cook. However, Danny is riding as well as ever and gets on like a house on fire with this fellow. They have a solid chance of at least reaching the frame. He’d be half the price if he was trained by a Henderson or a Mullins. His victory in the Cotswold Chase is a rare bit of solid form going into the Gold Cup and with question marks against so many other runners, Definitly Red is bombproof. The only query is whether he is good enough. Latest price: 16/1
- BIG RIVER (RSA Chase): A potential machine but probably not quite the finished article. Lucinda Russell may take the view Cheltenham is a year early for this horse but, then again, she has said she would love to win the RSA Chase more than any other race. Big River won the Ivan Straker at Kelso in the style of a good horse. It is not unfeasible that if he takes his chance he could run a big race. Latest price: 66/1
- THE KING OF MAY (Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle): Brian Ellison has high hopes for this four-year-old who showed plenty on his UK debut at Musselburgh behind We Have a Dream. 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
- LOOK MY WAY (Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle): There was a lot to like about the way John Quinn’s juvenile ran at Cheltenham on Trials Day when he gave Triumph Hurdle favourite Apple’s Shakira a massive scare. No great shakes on the Flat, but has taken well to hurdles and better ground won’t bother him. Latest price: 20/1
- TESTIFY (Five entries): A lovely prospect who is unbeaten over fences. He is another for whom Cheltenham might come a year too soon but Donald McCain may decide to let him take up one of his five entries. All his wins have come on soft or heavy ground and a drier surface would be a concern. Williamhill have him in their 2018 Cheltenham Festival betting lists for all five races he is entered in. The JLT appears the probable target if the ground comes up on the soft side. Latest price: 33/1
- VINTAGE CLOUDS (Three entries): Is very consistent and was fourth in the Welsh National. The Grand National could be his main target but Sue Smith might give him a prep race at the Festival. He would have been third in last year’s Ultima Handicap Chase if he had not fallen at the second last. The Kim Muir might be a slightly easier race. Latest price: 25/1
- FOREST BIHAN (Grand Annual Chase): Just short of Grade One class as a novice he has been slightly disappointing in his last few races but he could be interesting if allowed to run in the Grand Annual. He has slipped a few pounds in the ratings to 154 and a strong gallop on decent ground would suit. Latest price: 25/1
What do you fancy at Cheltenham? Leave a comment below…