Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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King Unveils Powerful Cheltenham Team

Trainer Alan King believes that Medermit, who is being aimed at The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase, offers his best chance of a winner at The Festival this year but unveiled a powerful Cheltenham supporting cast yesterday at his Barbury Castle Stables in Wiltshire.

Mille Chief

Mille Chief

King paraded his team at a media day organised by Cheltenham Racecourse and among his other leading Festival hopes is Mille Chief, who is on course for the Stan James Champion Hurdle after his victory in the Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.

“Medermit is due to do his first bit of work since his win at Sandown tomorrow (Wednesday) and he’ll have a couple of schools over the next fortnight and then head to Cheltenham,” said King. “I’m very excited by him. He has a high cruising speed, his jumping has got better with each race and he has proven stamina which I think is important in the Arkle. We’re very hopeful.

“I always say beforehand that I’d be happy with one win at The Festival but I think Medermit is my chance and I was saying that even before he won at Sandown.

“Mille Chief has taken his win well and the match practice at Wincanton will have done him good. He has a bit to find in the Champion and has never run on good ground but I think he’ll be a much better horse when he does get that. We’ve had a clear run with him all season, the last run has brought him on and I’m very happy with him. On good ground I’ll be really looking forward to running him at Cheltenham.”

Below are King’s views on some of his other leading lights for Cheltenham.

Bensalem: “He ran well on Saturday when it ended up as a slog, which wouldn’t suit him. He won’t run in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle now but he is in the Festival Handicap Chase and I also put him in the Byrne Group Plate as well as I’d by happy to run him over 2m 5f if the ground was testing. The plan is to give him a gallop on the point-to-point course at home in 10 days’ time and I think you’ll see the proper Bensalem at Cheltenham.”

Blazing Bailey: “We’ve nearly retired him on several occasions but have been delighted with him this season when we’ve not really done anything different. He’s in the Festival Handicap Chase but it must be soft enough for him to take that route.”

Bygones In Brid: “I was thrilled with his first run for me when second at Newbury on Friday when I was worried if he’d settle but he switched off well. There’s every likelihood he’ll run in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.”

Call Me A Legend: “She found two miles on good ground too quick at Sandown and is almost certain to go for the Byrne Group Plate. The step up in trip should suit her and it’s likely to be her final run before retiring to the paddocks”

Dhaafer: “He’s in the Fred Winter but on 119 so is borderline to get in. He’ll go to Warwick on Friday and we hope he gets raised in the ratings. He stays well and could wear blinkers at Cheltenham to sharpen him up.”

Habbie Simpson: “He won his first two and then bumped into Bobs Worth on his last two runs. I was hoping Bobs Worth wasn’t going for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but the vibes are that he is so we will take him on again. Our horse deserves to take his chance although he’ll probably find one or two too good.”

Jetnova: “I left him in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and also put him in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle this morning. He’s been raised to a mark of 136 and I’m not sure which way to go with him. On decent ground he could run well at Cheltenham.”

Khumbeshar: “He was third in a very strong juvenile race on Saturday and the handicapper has given him a mark of 133. If he is going to get into the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle then he will have to run in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday and if he ran very well in that then he could still go for the JCB Triumph Hurdle. We might put blinkers on him at Cheltenham.”

Oh Crick: “He’s gradually coming back to form. I was very happy last time when he was third at Sandown and have deliberately not run him again to protect his handicap mark. I think he could run very well in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase. I’ve trained him for the race all season and he appears to be in very good form.”

Ravethebrave: “He’s on 128 and I hope he gets into the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase. He didn’t get home when he ran the other day when second over three miles. I think he’s more of a 2m5f/2m 6f horse and he’s capable of running well at Cheltenham.”

Salden Licht: “He was brought down at the second last at Newbury when I think he would have finished close up as he stays on. He’s still in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, but unlikely to run, and also the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle. It will be tough for him at the top of the handicap in that but there’s not a lot else he can go for.”

Shalone: “He wasn’t quite at his best when fifth at Ascot on Saturday but that run has put him spot on. He’s entered in the Coral Cup and the Martin Pipe.”

Sir Harry Ormesher: “He’s back in very good form. He’s in the Coral Cup and Pertemps Final, but I’m not sure which he’d go for yet. He ran well in the Coral last year. He wants decent ground and it’s no problem to go to Cheltenham fresh.”

Smad Place: “He was very impressive on his debut for me at Newbury when he took me by surprise a bit. He scoped badly and had a few issues after that and wasn’t 100 per cent when finishing third in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow. The form of that race has been working out and he has pleased us in the last couple of weeks and did everything asked of him at Wincanton on Saturday. He has come out of it fine and heads straight to the JCB Triumph Hurdle although I’d be concerned if the ground was on the quick side.”

The Betchworth Kid: “He ran a blinder to be fourth in the totesport Gold Trophy on Friday and he’s in both the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle and Coral Cup. I think a strong-run two miles suits him best so the County is most likely and one of these days he is going to win a big race.”

Walkon: “He disappointed at Newbury on Friday when I think that was down to the ‘bounce’ factor and he’s come out of the race wonderfully well. He’s in the County and Coral Cup, I felt he deserved an entry but he’s not certain to go to Cheltenham.”

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