Cheltenham Festival preview – Jason Hall looks at Sussex trainers’ hopes

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The Cheltenham Festival is once again upon us and throughout the four days next week at Prestbury Park the hopes and dreams of the racing world will be played out on a stage that always provides the highest quality racing and some of the most exciting spectacles of the National Hunt season.

Sussex trainers Nick Gifford and Gary Moore will be sending some of their best horses to the big meeting – and though it is impossible to be confident of success in such a competitive environment they are certain of their runners’ ability to perform creditably on the big stage.

Nick has booked a leading Irish amateur to ride On Trend in the Kim Muir Chase and I spoke with him earlier in the week.

“Richard Harding has won the Foxhunter’s and is a leading amateur,” he said. “He came down to school On Trend last week and was pleased. The horse is in good form, all he does is stay and he wouldn’t want it to get too quick. He can get a bit low at the odd fence but if all goes well I think he can get involved in the finish.

“Tullamore Dew will go for the JLT Speciality Chase and loves Cheltenham. He’s capable and could surprise.”

The JLT is also the target for Gary Moore’s Fruity O’Rooney who will bid to improve on last year’s second in the same race – and the 20 owners of the syndicate run by Heart of the South Racing will be delighted with the trainer’s comments about the well-being of the horse.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with him going into the race and he should never be ruled out of finishing in the frame. Some rain would be helpful but he’s run well on the track on all sorts of ground.”

I have mentioned before that Cue Card is my idea of the Ryanair Chase winner and his win at Ascot recently reinforced my confidence. Whilst I respect the Gold Cup favourite, I agree entirely with the trainer of Captain Chris that his horse is overpriced and represents excellent each way value.