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Cheltenham trainer gives plans for Festival

Cheltenham trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies discussed his horses’ chances at a press conference at Cheltenham Racecourse yesterday.

He reckoned he’d have around a dozen runners at the Festival and thought Al Dancer was his best chance of the week in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Unbeaten in four starts this term, he won the rearranged Betfair Hurdle at Ascot earlier this month. The trainer said: “Al Dancer has come out of the Betfair Hurdle really well. He won nicely there and that race at Ascot didn’t seem to take too much out of him at all. He is very exciting and the softer the ground the better.”

Twiston-Davies felt Bristol De Mai was overpriced for the Gold Cup. He added: “Bristol De Mai has always been quite a fragile horse and in the past, we have sometimes rushed to get him to Cheltenham Festivals, but he hasn’t had a single problem this term.”

Of his handicap runners, he thought Ballyandy had a good chance in the Coral Cup.

Another Cheltenham trainer has small team

A second Cheltenham trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, has a small team of just three or four lined up for Cheltenham this year. However, they include 2017 Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco. He heads for the Ultima Handicap Chase on Tuesday rather than the Gold Cup. His long-term aim is the Grand National. O’Neill said: “Minella Rocco has had wind problems and been lame behind. He is a big horse and it can be difficult to keep him right. We have tried our best with him and failed with most of it!”

O’Neill said Sky Pirate would either go for the four-mile National Hunt Chase on Tuesday or the Kim Muir on Thursday. However, Cloth Cap definitely runs in the four-miler. Champagne At Tara will go for the Grand Annual on Friday.

O’Neill concluded: “We don’t have anything too spectacular for Cheltenham this year. It’s a small team, but all of the horses are in good form.”




About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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