Katie McNamara Column - Bring on Cheltenham

In her Limerick Leader column, Katie McNamara looks at the local hopes as the Cheltenham festival gets underway.

In her Limerick Leader column, Katie McNamara looks at the local hopes as the Cheltenham festival gets underway.

As Cheltenham looms nearer, we are now less than a week away from finding out who our new champions are.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, entries for the big races were released to the public revealing that Limerick trainers Enda Bolger, Charles Byrnes and Michael Hourigan are all planning to launch an attack on the March festival.

Entries for the 11handicaps over the four day festival closed two weeks ago and we now have a clearer view of what horses will be travelling over from Limerick. However, as we get closer to one of the biggest festivals of the year, jockeys are beginning to suss out if they will be venturing across the water to possibly partner a winner at the world famous festival.

JP McManus must also be hoping for an exceptional Cheltenham this year as he owns some of the major fancies for the top class races of the four day meeting. These include Supreme Novices favourite ‘My Tent Or Yours’, second favourite ‘Jezki’ who he recently purchased having won two Grade 1s in a row, ‘Binocular’ in the Champion Hurdle, and ‘At Fisher’s Cross’, who holds entries in both the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle over 2m 5f and in the Albert Bartlett Novices hurdle over 3 miles.

‘Get Me Out Of Here’ is an interesting contender in the World hurdle and has shown consistency around Cheltenham already. In my opinion, I think ‘My Tent Or Yours’ has a serious chance in the Supreme Novices over 2m 1/2f on the opening day of the festival.

The classy six year old took the Tote Gold Trophy very impressively two weeks ago and such was the magnificence of his display, he would not be out of place in the Stan James Champion Hurdle. McManus is well known for having a punt so if there is big money for one of his horses in any of the major handicaps next week, the bookmakers had best beware!

Our very own JT McNamara will be back in action just in time for the festival after dislocating his shoulder in a crashing fall at Askeaton point to point 3 weeks ago. The Croom jockey rode at Lemonfield point to point last weekend to ensure all was well with his shoulder ahead of next week.

According to the rider, he expects to be riding ‘Drawn ‘n’ Drank’ in the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase for Bruree trainer Enda Bolger, who will not be short of runners in the staying races throughout the week. McNamara also expects to be riding one for the Jonjo O’ Neill and JP McManus team in the Kim Muir Challenge Handicap Chase.

The anticipation of the festival gives the entire racing world something to look forward to every year. Talk and betting for each race starts as early as October as every punter is constantly on the lookout for their Cheltenham banker.

It was revealed this week that trainer Charles Byrnes is really leaning towards the World Hurdle with his stable star ‘Solwhit’. He explained to Irish Racing ‘At the moment we are planning to go to Cheltenham with him. I can’t say he’ll definitely be there, as with him, every day is a bonus, but we are looking that way now’.

‘Solwhit’ has never ran further than two and a half miles and according to his handler, only time will tell if he will get the challenging three miles around Cheltenham next Thursday.

If the nine year old gets to the festival, one would have to be confident that he will run a cracking race as he gets two and a half miles well and has just been unlucky over two miles, bumping into the classy sort ‘Hurricane Fly’ on a regular basis.

Rathkeale trainer Eric McNamara has the talented ‘Questions Answered’ entered in both the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup and the Grade 3 Byrne Group Plate Handicap Chase.

According to his trainer, the eight year old gelding will run in which ever one of the races he gets in to.

He may be a solid each way bet, having run a cracker in the Paddy Power at the same venue finishing fifth in November. The trainer will also be represented by ‘Medicinal Compound’ in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle and he also has an entry in the Pertemps Final. The son of ‘Dr Fong’ will definitely run should he get in to either race. Both horses are liable for ballot as they are both far down on the lists of entries over the four days.

Bruree trainer Enda Bolger is represented by the progressive ‘Drawn n Drank’ as I mentioned above, who is also entered in both the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle and the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase. Also entered in the Glenfarclas are ‘Arabella Boy’, ‘Doctor Pat’, and ‘Freneys Well’ where ‘Arabella Boy’ is favourite to take the showpiece. Bolger is known for his expertise in these types of races and ‘Arabella Boy’ may be one to have on your side next Tuesday.

Adare handler Michael Hourigan also has ‘Clear Hills’ and ‘A New Story’ entered in the Cross Country Chase and it would be great to see the latter run a good race at fifteen years of age.

‘A New Story’ won the same race back in 2010, was third in 2011 and ran a cracker to finish second behind ‘Balthazar King’ last year. The son of ‘Fourstars Allstars’ has ran considerably well in the last few years and will not go down without a fight again this year.