HOPES are high at racehorse trainer Dr Richard Newland’s yard near Worcester ahead of next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Claines-based handler is set to have five runners at Prestbury Park and, with top jockey Sam Twiston-Davies on board three of them, there is cause for optimism for punters looking to back local horses.
Ahyouknowyourself and Changing The Guard represent Newland’s brightest prospects, while he says each-way places are not out of the question for his other runners, Pineau De Re, Night Alliance and Act Of Kalanisi.
“On the first day, we have Ahyouknowyourself in the Novices’ Handicap Chase,” said Newland. “He has been a very good horse for us, winning six times, including his last race, which was a novice chase at Leicester.
“He is a comparatively inexperienced chaser but, if he gets his jumping together, then he will have a good each-way chance and he should be around 20-1.
“We are going to run Pineau De Re in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle on Thursday and he is a very interesting horse – hopefully this will be his prep run for the Grand National.
“You would normally think, ‘Why on earth are they running a horse that is going for the Grand National in a three-mile handicap hurdle?’
“But, firstly, he seems to be equally good over hurdles and fences and, secondly, he ran a very good race over hurdles earlier in the year when he was second at Carlisle.
“Act Of Kalanisi has been very good this year in winning handicap hurdles and he’s going back over fences for the first time in a year in the two-mile four-furlong Byrne Group Plate, which is a 24-runner cavalry charge.
“He’d be a bit of a long shot, but he has run for us at the last two Festivals and has been a star. He’s reasonably well handicapped, but it’s a bit fanciful and he’ll be a big outsider.
“On Friday, Changing The Guard goes in the Grand Annual and he has been electric over fences. He loves jumping and has been trained with this race in mind for a very long time.
“Also, he’d want good ground if possible, so if it keeps drying out, that would suit him and I think Wayne Hutchinson will ride him.
“Sam will ride Ahyouknowyourself , Act Of Kalanisi and Pineau De Re and I’m delighted to have him as he usually has to ride for his father (trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies), but he is a member of our team and has been up here schooling the horses for the last two weeks.”
Local amateur jockey Tom Weston is in line to ride Night Alliance in the Kim Muir Chase, providing the horse isn’t balloted out of the race.
Newland added: “Night Alliance is a horse that has done very well for us this year, winning three times, including at Ascot and a big race – the Tommy Whittle Chase – at Haydock.
“At the moment, he needs a few to come out at the five-day entry stage. He should get in, but it’s not definite and we could find ourselves balloted out, which would be frustrating.”