AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

Cheltenham Festival Latest News

We’ve captured the key Cheltenham stories in snappy bullet point format from 33 days before the Festival so you can keep in touch, at a glance.

THAT COMPLETES OUR NEWS BUILD UP TO THE FESTIVAL !!!! Now all the talking will be done on the course – best of luck!

Monday 14 March – DAYS TO GO

  • A field of seven have been declared for the Racing Post Arkle Chase with Douvan having scared off some potential opposition.
  • The well-fancied Killer Crow and Thomas Crapper were both eliminated from the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.
  • Hot favourite Un De Sceaux will face nine rivals in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Sunday 13 March – DAYS TO GO

  • Another dry day at Cheltenham saw the going description change for all three courses, to Soft, Good to Soft in places.
  • Annie Power heads a field of 12 for the Champion Hurdle after Old Guard was ruled out on Sunday night.
  • Vroum Vroum Mag is among 20 horses declared for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday. Willie Mullins is looking for an eighth successive victory.

Saturday 12 March – DAYS TO GO

  • Cheltenham’s ground remains ‘Soft’ just three days ahead of the start of the 2016 Festival on Tuesday.
  • Willie Mullins is responsible for six of the remaining 14 possible runners in Friday’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
  • Neil Mulholland has all but decided to run the smart Shantou Village in the Albert Bartlett, with Richard Johnson booked.

Friday 11 March – DAYS TO GO

  • David Pipe has admitted defeat in his battle to get Moon Racer back to the Cheltenham Festival.
  • Thistlecrack heads 18 six-day acceptors for the Ryanair World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
  • Taquin Du Seuil has been supplemented for Thursday’s Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Thursday 10 March – DAYS TO GO

  • Plenty of rain at Cheltenham but clerk of the course Simon Claisse expects the course to dry well ahead of next week. The going was described as soft on Thursday morning after rain on Wednesday, but the forecast for the next week is a dry one, with temperatures set to get into double figures by the weekend.
  • Un De Sceaux will face no more than 11 rivals in Wednesday’s Grade One feature the Champion Chase.
  • Willie Mullins says he expects a “huge run” from Vautour in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup next Friday.

Wednesday 9 March – DAYS TO GO

  • Our Father, ante-post gamble for next week’s Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, has been ruled out of the meeting.
  • Antepost gamble Min heads 25 entries for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the first race of the Cheltenham Festival.
  • Augusta Kate will sidestep an engagement at Sandown on Saturday and instead take on the boys at the Cheltenham Festival.

Tuesday 8 March – DAYS TO GO

  • Lil Rockerfeller has been supplemented for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday at a cost of £20,000.
  • Yanworth, a hot favourite for the Neptune, is giving jockey Barry Geraghty ‘good vibes’ ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.
  • The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup is the “least-likely option” for Sausalito Sunrise, said trainer Philip Hobbs.

Monday 7 March – 8 DAYS TO GO

  • Victoria Pendleton is cleared to ride in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.
  • Leading Weatherbys Champion Bumper contender Aspen Colorado will not run at Cheltenham next week.
  • Pat Smullen is to ride First Figaro for boss Dermot Weld in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Sunday 6 March – 9 DAYS TO GO

  • Neil Mulholland has issued a positive bulletin on The Druids Nephew and updated some of his Cheltenham Festival plans.
  • Kruzhlinin will run in the Ultima Business Solutions Chase en-route to a possible crack at the Crabbie’s Grand National.
  • Owner Andy Stewart says none of his Cheltenham team give him the same sense of confidence as Saphir Du Rheu.

Saturday 5 March – 10 DAYS TO GO

  • Victoria Pendleton’s rollercoaster journey towards the Cheltenham Festival continued as she was unseated in a point-to-point.
  • Many Clouds, joint favourite for the Grand National could line up in the Timico Gold Cup at Cheltenham after an overnight deluge forced the abandonement of Kelso on Saturday.
  • Sametegal, winner of the featured Greatwood Gold Cup on Saturday at Newbury could be Cheltenham bound for the Brown Advisory & Meriebelle Stable Plate.

Friday 4 March – 11 DAYS TO GO

  • Annie Power still appears likely to be added to the Stan James Champion Hurdle field at the supplementary stage.
  • Jonjo O’Neill would prefer to run More Of That in the RSA Chase and thinks he’s his best chance of a Cheltenham winner.
  • Timico are giving horseracing fans the chance to stake their claim to a £250,000 prize fund in the Gold Cup- for free.

Thursday 3 March – 12 DAYS TO GO

  • Rich Ricci has said it’s the Gold Cup or nothing for Vautour. Speaking at a Cheltenham preview night Ricci said: “If he is right, he will run in the Gold Cup,” said Ricci. “He will either run in that race or stay at home.”
  • Harry Fry is leaning towards the Albert Bartlett and the Pertemps at Cheltenham for the progressive Unowhatimeanharry.
  • The going at Cheltenham has eased a shade since Sunday, when it was reported that the track was “good in places” on all three courses, and the forecast remains unsettled. Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “We’ve had about 3mm or 4mm since the weekend, and it’s made a difference. It’s now good to soft on the Old course and also on the cross-country course. It’s good to soft, soft in places on the New course.

Wednesday 2 March – 13 DAYS TO GO

  • The dual Olympic champion cyclist Victoria Pendleton scored an easy win onboard Pacha Du Polder at Wincanton but her participation at Cheltenham in the Foxhunter Chase is still to be decided. She said: “Of course I’d like to go, Cheltenham is an incredible event, I went last year, but there’s a lot more riders and that makes it very, very challenging. I’ll allow the expects to decide. It doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying, there’s always next year.”
  • The weights have been released for the handicaps at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
  • Gordon Elliott would not be shocked if Bryan Cooper decided against riding Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Don Cossack in favour of one of the other Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners.

Tuesday 1 March – 14 DAYS TO GO

  • Nicky Henderson was impressed by Altior and Vaniteux after they stepped up their preparations with a gallop at Kempton.
  • World Hurdle hope Kilcooley was the star name in action as Charlie Longsdon worked some of his Festival team at Kempton.
  • Gary Moore could be doubly represented in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival with Baron Alco and Ubak.

Monday 29 February – 15 DAYS TO GO

  • Black Hercules, ante-post favourite for the National Hunt Chase, is looking unlikely to target the 4m race, with the 2m4f JLT Novices’ Chase now emerging as his most likely target.
  • Neil King has all but ruled Lil Rockerfeller out of appearing in the Coral Cup after stressing the weight he would have to carry would leave him with an almost impossible task.
  • Mark Bradstock has reiterated that Coneygree will not race this season, but says the Gold Cup hero could make his comeback in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Sunday 28 February – 16 DAYS TO GO

  • Connections of Ballydine have yet to decide whether to go to the Cheltenham Festival next month or wait for Aintree.
  • Davy Russell was on board Don Cossack as a host of Cheltenham hopefuls worked after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday.
  • Rose Dobbin feels Jonniesofa has definitely earned a crack at the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. She said of the recent Haydock winner: “He’s in great shape, no problems at all. He’s definitely earned his place, he won’t be among the favourites but if there’s a bit of cut, he’ll run well.”

Saturday 27 February – 17 DAYS TO GO

  • The Paul Nicholls trained jumping debutant Zubayr came from last to first to give the trainer his fourth victory in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton and boost his chances for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.
  • Cue Card, My Tent Or Yours and Aux Ptit Soins were among those who worked before racing at Kempton Park.
  • Seeyouatmidnight warmed up for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham with a workmanlike all-the-way win at Newcastle.

Friday 26 February – 18 DAYS TO GO

  • Minella Reception gave himself a chance of getting to Cheltenham with a win at Warwick in the Budbrooke Handicap Chase. The 10-year-old, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, is sure to go up in the ratings and in time for his Festival entry as the weights have not been published.
  • The Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday has attracted seven runners. The race has proved an excellent Triumph Hurdle pointer and Alan King’s unbeaten Gibralfaro is set to start favourite in Saturday’s Kempton opener.
  • Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Don Cossack is set to be one of the stars on show at the annual post-racing gallops at Leopardstown on Sunday. The fixture has long been used by trainers keen to give their Cheltenham Festival contenders a day out in preparation for the journey across the Irish Sea next month and track officials are expecting plenty of big names to make an appearance.

Thursday 25 February – 19 DAYS TO GO

  • Colin Tizzard was in a bullish mood as he hosted a press morning ahead of the Cheltenham Festival and cannot see anything getting close to Ryanair World Hurdle favourite Thistlecrack.
  • Colin Tizzard labelled Cue Card the “horse of a lifetime” as he gets ready to bid for a £1million bonus in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
  • Acapella Bourgeois won the featured At The Races Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles. Winning trainer Sandra Hughes said: “He’s in at Cheltenham, but we could bypass it and go to either Fairyhouse or Aintree and he’ll also be better on better ground.”

Wednesday 24 February – 20 DAYS TO GO

  • 46 horses have been left in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham following the latest acceptance stage – headed by Min who is bidding to give owner Susannah Ricci, trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh with a fourth successive win in the race.
  • Willie Mullins is set to let Felix Yonger take his chance alongside stablemate Un De Sceaux in the Champion Chase.
  • Paul Nicholls will be without a runner in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup for the first time since 2004.

Tuesday 23 February – 21 DAYS TO GO

  • Arctic Fire is out of Cheltenham dealing Willie Mullins another major blow in his hopes of retaining the Champion Hurdle. Mullins said: “It looks like he has a little chip off a sesamoid bone which will need to be removed.”
  • Rodger Sweeney’s dream of winning the St James’ Place Foxhunter Chase for a third time with Salsify has been dashed as the 11-year-old is not qualified for this season’s renewal. The trainer has decided not to rush Salsify despite still being time for him to do so.
  • Dual Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton is set for a schooling session aboard Pacha Du Polder on Monday ahead her second ride in a hunter chase at Wincanton two days later.

Monday 22 February – 22 DAYS TO GO

  • Nicky Henderson believes Sprinter Sacre is peaking at the right time ahead of his bid to regain the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham next month. Henderson said: “Sprinter Sacre is in great form and I’m really happy with where he is.”
  • Paul Nicholls says it would be ‘no problem’ if Sam Twiston-Davies were to choose to ride The New One instead of Old Guard in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Nicholls said: “I respect Sam’s wishes to ride for his dad. It’s an open race now and can you imagine how Sam would feel if The New One won and he wasn’t on him?”
  • Pat Fahy is targeting the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Crabbie’s Grand National hopeful Morning Assembly. Morning Assembly was allotted 10st 9lb in the initial weights for the National earlier this week and Fahy believes a trip to Cheltenham will provide an ideal prep run.

Sunday 21 February – 23 DAYS TO GO

  • Henry De Bromhead has issued a positive bulletin over Identity Thief and the rest of his possible Cheltenham Festival team. De Bromhead said of his Champion Hurdle hope Identity Thief: “He’s fresh and well, he had a nice break after Christmas and we’re starting to pick it up with him now and he seems in great form – we’re very happy with him at the moment.”
  • Paul Nicholls has warned punters not to leave Saphir Du Rheu out of calculations for the Ryanair World Hurdle at Cheltenham next month. Nicholls said: “Saphir Du Rheu was second in the race last year. He does want better ground so don’t rule him out as he is going very nicely at home. I’ve just got a feeling that he will show the best of his form if the ground dries up.”
  • Nicky Henderson is unlikely to run Saturday’s impressive Ascot handicap hurdle winner Different Gravey at Cheltenham. The World Hurdle is a possibility but Henderson is favouring a 3m Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree on Crabbie’s Grand National day.

Saturday 20 February – 24 DAYS TO GO

  • The Triumph Hurdle market was thrown into confusion after the defeats of the odds-on Fixe Le Kap at Haydock and Voix Du Reve at Fairyhouse on his Irish debut for Willie Mullins. Ivanovich Gorbatov now heads an open market, despite being beaten himself earlier this month at Leopardstown.
  • Silviniaco Conti bounced back to form with a 20 length win in the Ascot Chase but won’t be Cheltenham bound. Trainer Paul Nicholls said after the race: “He won’t run in the World Hurdle, it will either be the National or the Bowl that he’s won for the past few years.”
  • Top Notch who won at Kelso on Thursday, looks set to take his place in the Champion Hurdle. Racing manager Anthony Bromley said: “All roads lead to Cheltenham now. All being well, he’ll run in the Champion Hurdle and we’ll see if he can sneak a place.”

Friday 19 February – 25 DAYS TO GO

  • Victoria Pendleton’s bid to ride in the St James’s Place Foxhunter at the Cheltenham Festival next month suffered a major setback when she unseated on her first jumps ride under rules at Fakenham on Friday. The Olympic sprint cycle champion was asked if Cheltenham was still the aim and said: “I hope so. Hopefully I’ll have another chance to ride him and to get as many rides in as possible, then it’s up to the team of experts to decide whether I’m ready – I hope I am.”
  • Silviniaco Conti heads the market for Saturday’s Ascot Chase. The dual King George winner hasn’t been seen since pulling up in his attempt to win a third successive King George on Boxing Day. Paul Nicholls is thought to be unlikely to send him to the Festival despite him holding an entry for the World Hurdle.
  • Dan Skelton won’t train many easier winners than Willow’s Saviour who had just one rival to beat at Fakenham. He went off a 1/20 favourite and Skelton said: “When they are that short you dread something stupid happening. He needed to get out there and have a good clear round and he has done that. He is in the Arkle but he needs half of them to drop out there as there are lot higher rated than him in there. The race for him is the two-and-a-half-mile handicap on the first day of Cheltenham.”

Thursday 18 February – 26 DAYS TO GO

  • Top Notch gained a clear-cut success in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso and has shortened in the ‘new look’ Champion Hurdle market. He won by 12 lengths under jockey Daryl Jacob.
  • Ryanair were unveiled as the new sponsors of the World Hurdle, taking over from Ladbrokes.
  • Clonmel winner Mount Gunnery may head for the Festival Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham. He also holds an entry in the Grade One JLT Novices’ Chase.

Wednesday 17 February – 27 DAYS TO GO

  • Dramatic and shock news with Willie Mullins announcing that Faugheen will not defend his title in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The eight-year-old has suffered a suspensory ligament injury which is expected to sideline him for the rest of the season. Mullins said: “It’s a small injury, but just bad timing, a bit like Hurricane Fly was when he missed Cheltenham. The prognosis is very good but I don’t think we are going to have him back for Punchestown. We will just call it quits for this season and hopefully come back as good as new next season. We have a very good record with putting that type of injury back without recurring. Of course it can always recur but, from what we can see on a scanner, it’s very slight and not a bad injury but just the wrong timing.”
  • Big shake-up in the Star Sports Champion Hurdle betting with Annie Power the new favourite. The mare made a winning reappearance, as expected, in the opener at Punchestown and her Cheltenham race is still unknown. Mullins told At The Races: “We could certainly get her supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. I haven’t spoken to the owner yet but I think it must be on the cards. She was very keen today, the hood probably helped her with that but I suppose it was just a schooling exercise. It was plenty for her at this stage and there will be plenty of harder bits of work to do with her.”
  • Horses trained in Ireland make up 77 of the 162 (47%) remaining entries for the four championship races – the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, World Hurdle and Gold Cup – and the Ryanair Chase and Mares’ Hurdle.

Tuesday 16 February – 28 DAYS TO GO

  • Annie Power will wear a hood for the first time in public when she makes her eagerly-anticipated return to action at Punchestown on Wednesday. She faces just two rivals in a massively one-sided event.
  • Gary Moore has confirmed that his Arkle hope Ar Mad sustained a season-ending injury when winning at Plumpton on Monday. Moore said: “He’s going to need a screw so that’s his season over. The prognosis is good long-term, he’s had a good season already and I’ve a nice horse to look forward to next year.”
  • Another horse on the sidelines is Simonsig who has been ruled out of the Champion Chase by trainer Nicky Henderson who said: “He’s just not going to be ready for Cheltenham, one way or another. We fully intend for him to make an appearance at some point – we don’t want another season to go by – so we will have to regroup now.”

Monday 15 February – 29 DAYS TO GO

  • Ar Mad earned an immediate 7/1 quote for the Arkle with Star Sports when giving weight and a sound beating to two rivals at Plumpton on Monday. Trainer Gary Moore said: “It’s a ‘job done’ sort-of-thing, you know? I was very pleased and Josh was happy with him. He’s had a nice piece of work really.” Later it emerged that the horse came back lame.
  • Cue Card will have a racecourse gallop at Kempton on Saturday week ahead of his run in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Trainer Colin Tizzard said: “He has not raced since Boxing Day, we don’t want to have a fast gallop. It was Paddy Brennan’s idea and I’ve come round to it.”
  • Danny Mullins will miss Cheltenham and the rest of the season as he will have to undergo an operation on the kneecap he damaged in a fall at Newbury on Saturday. The Irish jockey will have an operation on Tuesday which will keep him out of action for about 12 weeks.

Sunday 14 February – 30 DAYS TO GO

  • Annie Power is set to make her seasonal return in Wednesday’s Mares Hurdle at Punchestown. Trainer Willie Mullins said: “I think she will run at Punchestown. I’m happy enough with her, and she’s been working nicely.”
  • Ar Mad faces just two rivals as he warms up for Cheltenham in the Download The At the Races App Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Plumpton on Monday. Ar Mad is now a major contender for the Racing Post Arkle and his trainer Gary Moore is keen to try him back on a left-handed track.
  • Snow Falcon booked his place in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham with a win in the three-runner Boyne Hurdle at Navan. Winning trainer Noel Meade said: “Hopefully he might jump a bit better. Three miles will be right up his alley.”

Saturday 13 February – 31 DAYS TO GO

  • Top Gamble – one of Star Sports’ biggest backed horses of the day justified the market support with an easy win in the Betfair Exchange (Game Spirit) Chase at Newbury. Last season’s Champion Chase winner Dodging Bullets was brushed aside by 10 lengths on his seasonal reappearance.
  • Huge shock at Warwick with Violet Dancer beating 1/5 favourite L’Ami Serge in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase. After the race Anthony Bromley, racing manager to L’Ami Serge’s owners, said: “It’s safe to say he won’t be running in the Arkle and we’ll have to see how he is in the next few days if he will run [in the JLT]. He was jumping to his left more than usual and that was disappointing.”
  • Ballyandy shortens for the Champion Bumper after running away with the closing NH Flat race at Newbury. Despite conceding weight to all of his rivals he won by nine lengths.

Friday 12 February – 32 DAYS TO GO

  • The Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours and Hargam will have a racecourse gallop at Kempton this afternoon. The pair are set to jump four hurdles in a public workout in the middle of the afternoon jumps card. My Tent Or Yours came in for support for the Champion Hurdle with Star Sports ahead of the workout. He was narrowly beaten in the 2014 race.
  • As expected, Dodging Bullets the Champion Chase winner is among five horses declared for Saturday’s Betfair Exchange Chase. The Paul Nicholls-trained chaser has not run since winning at the Cheltenham Festival. He is likely to go off odds-on for his reappearance on Saturday.
  • Just four winners will contest the Red Mills Chase (Grade 2) at Gowran Park – won last year by Champagne Fever. Willie Mullins runs Ballycasey this year who faces competition from hat-trick seeking Smashing, Morning Assembly and rank outsider Glenwood For Ever.

Thursday 11 February – 33 DAYS TO GO

  • Willie Mullins suffered a blow with the news that JLT Novices Chase ante-post favourite Killultagh Vic has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival and probably the rest of the season. The seven-year-old was last seen when winning a Grade 2 at Leopardstown in extraordinary circumstances after a huge blunder at the last and miraculous recovery from pilot Ruby Walsh.
  • Paul Nicholls faces a huge championship challenge from Willie Mullins this year – especially if the big races go the way of the market but the Ditcheat based trainer is bullish on the chances of Dodging Bullets in the Champion Chase and he has nominated him as his best chance of a Festival winner. Dodging Bullets is set to have his first race in 339 days at Newbury on Saturday.
  • Plenty of Cheltenham clues on offer at Newbury on Saturday – weather dependent. Friday’s Bangor card and Saturday’s Uttoxeter card have already been called off but Newbury reported their ground as soft, heavy in places on the chase course and heavy, soft in places on the hurdles track on Thursday morning.