Runners head towards the finish at Cheltenham

24th January 2014

Festival Trials Day: Big Day at Prestbury Park

January. It is hard to find anyone who can truly get enthusiastic about this month, but for racing fans it does come with a kick in its tail, Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day.

Not only is it one of the last chances for horses to lay down their claims for March, it is also a much needed reminder that those four days at Prestbury Park are on their way. With them comes longer days, (fingers crossed) the sun, and the promise of cheering old favourites and young guns on to glory.

I am no tipster and this is not a tipping blog, but there are plenty of horses running tomorrow that I will be looking forward to see run and not just the obvious one!

The seven race card starts with the 2 mile Grade 2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial and several interesting runners. Ballyglasheen, a surprise winner of the Triumph Trial at the December meeting will be looking to prove that was no fluke for his trainer Evan Williams while Goodwood Mirage made a winning debut at Kempton two weeks ago and looks an interesting recruit from the flat for Jonjo O’Neil and Lady Bamford.

Vicenzo Mio was hugely impressive winner at Kempton Park over Christmas but he has 6 lengths to find on that previous meeting with Ballyglasheen. Arguably the one they all have to beat is recent Grade 1 winner Le Rocher who disappointed in a French Grade 1, but came back to be an assertive winner of Chepstow’s Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

If you are looking for a race to cheer a Cheltenham specialist home, the Grade 3 Trophy field includes the quickly improving Double Ross for the Twiston-Davies yard. He has recorded back to back victories at Cheltenham in the Grade 3 Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup in December and the Grade 3 Fairlawne Handicap Chase on New Year’s Day. Not many horses win three Cheltenham handicaps on the bounce, and he would be a very popular winner.

One of feature races of the day is the Argento Chase. Rocky Creek looks certain to go off favourite for Paul Nicholls, but local trainer Kim Bailey will hope to see a return to form for his charge Harry Topper who will appreciate the softer underfoot conditions. The trainer’s blog states that they will probably run him in cheek pieces to help his concentration. Bailey thinks very highly of Harry Topper and he is as genuine a horse as you could meet. Then there is soft-ground specialist Houblon Des Obeaux for Venetia Williams whose horses seem to love these conditions.

But really I am just skirting around the big issue, because without doubt the biggest story of the day is the return of the possibly the greatest staying hurdler we have ever seen… Big Buck’s. He has been off a long time and he won’t get it all his own way, with mudlark Reve De Sivola likely to get his favourite conditions.

He will also have to fend off a challenge from over the Irish Sea as Willie Mullins sends over Boston Bob who arguable would have won the RSA Chase at the festival last year but for falling two out. He made an impressive winning return to hurdles at Punchestown back in December. Rebecca Curtis will be hoping to a return to form for At Fishers Cross who hasn’t quite lived up to his promise at the end of last season with jumping being an issue on his first two starts this year.

Either way, tomorrow holds much promise and the Festival is on its way.


Abigail Sawyer is the Group Digital Manager of The Jockey Club.