Festival Notebook - 15 February 2012

Chris Sleep and Will Lattimore have their second batch of horses to follow ahead of the Festival.

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Festival Notebook

You'll find plenty of analysis of the leading contenders for the feature races at the Cheltenham Festival elsewhere on our MEGAsite, but in our Festival Notebook we're aiming to highlight those horses that have gone under the radar so far for the big races and those that are being targeted at the races outside of the Grade 1s at the big meeting. This section will be updated every week in the run up to the Festival to build up into an index of horses to watch out for at the big meeting.

Trained by Nick Williams | Submitted by Chris Sleep
Jewson Novices' Chase
A horse that has run well at the Cheltenham Festival before, admittedly he fell at the last but he would have been a clear 2nd to Carlito Brigante in last years Coral Cup. Despite a fall ( when likely to win) on his chasing debut he has jumped well and lost nothing in defeat when chasing home Al Ferof and Cue Card on his most recent starts. He has a clear chance in the Jewson, especially as the two horses to have beaten him over fences have other targets at the Festival. Its likely his is a little overpriced to give Nick Williams his first Cheltenham Festival winner.

Trained by Willie Mullins | Submitted by Will Lattimore
Champion Bumper
This race has been dominated by Irish-trained horses for many years in the past, but the English trainers have put a stop to that with victories from Cue Card in 2010 and Cheltenian 2011. However considering Willie Mullins has a 33% strike-rate in this event over the last 20 years you have to start looking at his entries for this year`s contest before any other. This son of Kayf Tara has seen the racecourse twice he finished second to the well-regarded Mount Benbulben at Thurles back in February of last year (looked green), but showed a lot more zest when coasting home by 13 lengths at the same track last month. He is due to race this weekend at Naas over 2m3f and if he is to be a leading player for the big one you would expect an easy victory which I do. In my opinion I think he will appreciate better ground, which he should get come March and he is my idea as the best hope of the Mullins camp.

Trained by David Pipe | Submitted by Chris Sleep
Any Festival Handicap
A winner on his hurdling debut at Chepstow in January last year, where he beat the useful Cotillion. However, he failed to build on that promise and connections quickly realised that he needs time between his races. Returned at Ascot in December and was given a confident ride when making a winning handicap debut off a mark of 129. Has since been raised 19 lb’s to a mark of 148 which will make life more difficult but he could still run well in a Festival Handicap. Also has a world Hurdle entry

Trained by Charlie Swan | Submitted by Will Lattimore
National Hunt Chase or RSA Chase
If he makes it to the festival he is most likely to line-up in 4m National Chase for amateur riders on day two. It`s worth mentioning he was still travelling well in last year`s 3m Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle only to be badly hampered 2 out and was pulled-up before jumping the last. He is slowly starting to get his act together over fences he won a decent novice chase at Navan back in December when getting the better of Berties Dream (previous winner of the Albert Bartlett) by a short-head in a driving finish over 3 miles in heavy ground. Since that success he found the 2m4f trip a bit on the sharp-side when finishing a close third to the in-form Seabass (winner since) at Limerick over the Christmas period and in his recent outing he was very unlucky to be brought down when travelling best of all with two to jump at Punchestown last weekend. The step up in trip won`t be a problem and is one to put in your notebook.

Trained by Charlie Longsdon | Submitted by Chris Sleep
Supreme Novices' Hurdle
A 100+ rated flat performer who made a pleasing hurdling debut when chasing home the useful Tetlami at Kempton on Boxing Day. He showed a pleasing attitude that day and he again displayed that when dispensing with a moderate field at Southwell. Given his lofty flat rating he is likely to go well in the Supreme Novices Hurdle.