The famous winner’s circle at Cheltenham will be much busier than usual if either Pentland Hills or Ballyandy can win the Unibet Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, the opening day of the Festival.
Pentland Hills, who will be cheered on by members of the Owners’ Group, is among the market leaders in the Grade 1 feature a year after initiating a big race double in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival and following up in the Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.
Here’s a look back at Pentland Hills’ victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle last year! 🙌
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) January 6, 2020
However, he was narrowly beaten by the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Ballyandy in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock Park in January, giving his owners the Options O Syndicate hope that he can confirm the form up the Cheltenham hill.
Here are the some of the other shared ownership runners with a change of achieving Festival glory.
The Festival’s opener, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, is the target for Colin Tizzard’s six-year-old Master Debonair, who was good enough to win the Grade 2 trial at Ascot in December. Owned by the Gosden Mob and Sprayclad UK, he has proven form around Cheltenham and looks a live outsider.
Henry Ponsonby Racing’s Who Dares Wins is without question one of the most successful syndicate-owned horses in the modern era, having excelled on the Flat, over hurdles and over the bigger obstacles.
Last year’s Northumberland Plater hero looks set to re-appear in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase after winning the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park, though Alan King’s eight-year-old also holds entries in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase and the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
— Great British Racing (@GBRacing) February 22, 2020
The Imperial Racing Partnership is no stranger to success so hopes will be high for Cheltenham placed Imperial Aura if he runs in the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase over what appears to be his optimum trip of 2m4f. Kim Bailey also has the gelding in three other races including the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase.
There won’t be a dry eye in the small Devon village of Stoodleigh if Nigel Hawke’s Repetitio can win the Grade 3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for Atlantic Friends Racing. He strengthened his credentials by taking a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in December after finishing third in the Triumph Hurdle Trial there and deserves his prominent position in the ante-post markets alongside runners from the powerhouse yards of Henderson, Nicholls, Elliott and O’Brien.
Meanwhile, Tom George’s Bun Doran was progressing well when taking the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park over Christmas but came unstuck when coming down at the water fence in the Game Spirit at Newbury last month. Nonetheless, the nine-year-old has earned his place in the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup on Friday for the successful Crossed Fingers Partnership.
— Great British Racing (@GBRacing) December 27, 2019
Slate House, another Colin Tizzard contender, had to be pulled up in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January – a dress rehearsal for the Grade 1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase – but knows his way around Prestbury Park and should give a good account for his syndicate of Jones, Nicholas and Romans.
Slate House battles to Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase victory ahead of Black Op! pic.twitter.com/jKyvpUX1lf
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) December 26, 2019
The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, one of the highlights of day three, looks set to feature the syndicate-owned Emitom, who sprung into contention for the Spiro Partnership when he drew away from his rivals to land the Group 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park last month.
Trained by Warren Greatrex, who won the race with Cole Harden in 2015, Emitom also produced top class form to chase home the classy Champ in last season’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree
At bigger odds will be Rebecca Curtis’s Lisnagar Oscar, who threatened to spring a 50-1 surprise when finishing third to hot Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Paisley Park in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance.
Reserve Tank will have to head to the Festival without a ‘prep’ run after his intended engagement at Exeter fell victim to the recent Storm Ciara. Colin Tizzard’s dual Group 1 winner, who struck at Aintree and Punchestown last season for The Reserve Tankers, looks set to head for the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase.
Another contender in that 2m4f feature is Jonjo O’Neill’s Annie Mc, who will be cheered on by the Coral Champions Club. She couldn’t arrive at Cheltenham in better form having won at Weatherby, Wincanton and Bangor-On-Dee.
The young jockey is marching towards the Champion Conditional title as he extends his lead at the top of the table to 18! 🏆pic.twitter.com/lXRkjATVez
— Great British Racing (@GBRacing) February 7, 2020
The name Williams could make the headlines in the Grade 3 Pertemps Network Final. Venetia and her Racehorse Syndicate III may be represented by Burrows Park, who ran with credit in the Listed Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton Park in January, while namesake Nick has definite claims with One For The Team, who arrives on the back of a solid success at Newbury for the Forty Winks Syndicate.
The Owners Group, who have such exciting claims in the Champion Hurdle with Pentland Hills, are out to bookend the Festival with victory in the race they call the amateurs’ Gold Cup, the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup. They run Alcala, who is trained by Paul Nicholls and has warmed up with a first and second in hunter chases at Haydock and Fontwell.
Bigger odds will almost certainly be available about smart point-to-pointer Southfield Theatre, who scored in that sphere for trainer Sara Bradstock and Southfield Racing last month after winning a Larkhill Open before Christmas.
In the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup, Hampshire handler Chris Gordon takes on some of the big yards with On The Slopes, who arrives on the back on a victory in a novice handicap chase at Kempton Park. The consistent six-year-old runs in the colours of Skill Scaffolding.
Not Another Muddle was fifth in the race last year and returns for another crack for owners Saloop, headed by former jockey and racecourse owner Richard Muddle. The Gary Moore-trained grey hasn’t been seen in public since finishing second at Fontwell Park last April, however.