Gearing up for Cheltenham Festival 2022: ones to watch from Newbury and Warwick

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  • Several winners from Newbury’s card on Saturday 12 February, which featured Europe’s most valuable handicap hurdle, look ones to watch as the Cheltenham Festival in March fast approaches. Over at Warwick, Alan King was said to be “delighted and relieved” as he now targets one of the big races. Here are five Cheltenham-bound horses from the weekend to keep an eye on…


    Trying three miles for the first time, the Betfair Denman Chase winner Eldorado Allen (pictured) gave Colin Tizzard the option – or rather headache – of supplementing (£30,000) him for the Gold Cup. However, he is already in the Ryanair Chase – a race the trainer won with Cue Card nine years ago. Under Brendan Powell, he beat Royale Pagaille 2¼ lengths, with Clan Des Obeaux 10 lengths back in third.


    The Tom Lacey-trained Fortune And Glory booked his place in next month’s Champion Hurdle when he carried a big weight to victory by the narrowest of margins over the novice I Like To Move It in the Betfair Hurdle, the most valuable handicap hurdle in Europe, on Saturday.

    Beyond the unbeaten reigning champion Honeysuckle, to whom Tom Lacey’s seven-year-old will have to concede the 7lb mares’ allowance, it looks an open Champion. Appreciate It will go straight there, not having raced this season, Sharjah is out and any number of horses, including Fortune And Glory, have each-way chances, especially as he stays further than two miles and, clearly, is suited by a strong gallop.

    Stan Sheppard, who rode him, is really having a break-through season, having won the Welsh National on Iwilldoit and now the Betfair. And his timing, sending on the seven-year-old two out when he was travelling well, and hanging on to win by a short-head, was perfect.

    Stan said: “I’ll be honest, I was looking through the race and couldn’t for the life of me work out why he was the price he was. Soaring Glory was 8-1 and we beat him at levels in the Christmas Hurdle, and we were getting weight off him today. It’s just brilliant, I was pretty confident beforehand, but I’m glad I got this one right.”


    The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old duly made all to comfortably beat Pats Fancy, a good winner of his previous two starts, 3½ lengths, giving him 16lb in the novices’ limited handicap at Newbury. If anything can put it up to his Irish equivalent Galopin Des Champs, it is Bravemansgame.


    While one cannot see Venetia Williams’s Funambule Sivola shaking up either Shishkin or Energumene – or even Chacun Pour Soi – in the Champion Chase, it is nearly Oscar time and we need a few best-supporting actors. Funambule Sivola beat Sceau Royal, a good marker, two lengths in the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase, which would put him in the mix for a minor placing.


    At the start of the season, I am not sure too many people would have thought Edwardstone – a decent handicap hurdler without quite setting the world on fire last season – would have gone to Cheltenham as favourite for the Arkle. However, Ireland’s two-mile novice division does not look its strongest, while Alan King’s son of Kayf Tara has become dependable and very solid.

    First time out, he was brought down, but he has not looked back since winning the Henry VIII by 16 lengths, the Wayward Lad by 10 and Saturday’s Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick by more than four lengths from Third Time Lucki and Brave Seasca, smart novices in their own right. It was the perfect Cheltenham prep.

    “I’m delighted and relieved,” said King. “I felt going from Kempton at Christmas straight to the Festival was too long for him, because he can get very fresh. He used to be strong, but he’s getting progressively better. Those big handicap hurdles last season – he was third in the Betfair Hurdle and fifth in the County Hurdle – manned him up and he’s a mature horse now.”

    • Read Marcus’s full report on the weekend’s racing action in Horse & Hound, in shops on Thursday 20 January

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