GAVIN CROMWELL: It’s an exciting time for Gavin and his yard, as they prepare to send five horses to the Cheltenham Festival next week, each of which he previews below.
The Cheltenham Festival is the four days in the calendar all of us in racing look forward to and this year is no different. Yes, it’s going to be a bit strange with no fans around or owners, but it’s still Cheltenham and I’m sure it will be a fantastic four days. We’re set to send five runners over and we’d like to think all of them will run well. To have two contenders in Grade 1s is very exciting for the yard and here are my views on them as well as the other runners.
Darver Star – Arkle/Marsh Novices’ Chase
We haven’t made up our minds yet as to which race Darver Star will run in, although we are probably slightly leaning towards the Marsh at this stage. He’s still not certain to run at Cheltenham at all, but if he does make the trip over, the race over the longer distance is the more likely option.
He hasn’t been at his best in his last few runs, but they’ve shown he really doesn’t like soft ground, so the better ground at Cheltenham will definitely play to his strengths. He was third in the Champion Hurdle last year showing his liking for the track which is obviously another positive. Whichever race he does end up in it won’t be easy, but we know the ability he has and hopefully he can show it next week.
Flooring Porter – Stayers’ Hurdle
It’s very exciting to have another live contender in one of the Championship races at Cheltenham. We always thought Flooring Porter had potential but I’m not sure many of us saw him progressing quite as much as he has. We supplemented him for the Grade 1 over Christmas and he was very impressive in winning that, so this was always going to be the next logical step. He goes well fresh so it’s not a concern that we haven’t seen him since, though I must admit the lack of a running rail is a bit of a worry.
He’s a little bit quirky and the rail just helps him, so there not being one in the Stayers’ is a small concern. He’s proven he’s the best of the Irish, though, and we’ll just have to see how that form shapes up with the likes of Paisley Park and Thyme Hill. Both are clearly very good and are the rightful favourites.
Wolf Prince – County Hurdle
Wolf Prince has been second in two Grade 2s this season and he was second in a Grade 1 last year, so he’s a horse with plenty of ability. He’s been given six pounds extra which doesn’t make his life easier and he’s probably up against it given how competitive the County is, but we’d be delighted if he could run well.
Vanillier – Albert Bartlett
You can put a line through Vanillier’s run last time as my horses weren’t quite firing on all cylinders. He also had a very hard race in the Grade 2 at Limerick over Christmas, so he might still have been feeling the effects of that run as well. He’s a real gutsy and tough horse who should be really well suited to the demands of the Albert Bartlett. There are loads in there with chances, but he’s definitely a bit of each-way value at his current price.
Gabynako – Martin Pipe
We’re looking forward to running Gabynako in the Martin Pipe on the Friday. He was placed in a Group 1 this season behind Bob Olinger and he’s back in handicap company here, so he’s swimming in much calmer waters. The UK handicapper hasn’t been too harsh giving him a mark of 141 – just three pounds higher than his UK rating – and we feel that’s a workable mark. He’s in great form at home and Conor McNamara, who gets on well with him, takes the ride.