Alan King introduces his Cheltenham Festival field


He goes for the Supreme Novices’ on Tuesday and was a high-class bumper horse last year. He won the Doncaster Sales race impressively and then was second to Steps Of Freedom at Aintree on Grand National day. He has won his last two and had a confidence booster at Plumpton.

He won well at Newbury having taken it up as Colour Squadron fell – I think he is learning all the time and gets better with the more experience he gets. He worked very well on Wednesday and he won’t mind the good ground we look like getting at the Festival if the forecast is right.

Hold On Julio

He was bought last season at Doncaster but we did not really realise what we had until we started working him last autumn. Everyone who sat on him in September and October said he was a really nice horse and he duly trotted up at Sandown on his debut for us.

He followed up next time again at Sandown despite making some fairly serious errors as he did not meet the Railway Fences on a good stride – but he did win very well. We did have a little hold up with him at the end of January as he was due to go to Doncaster and I could not get him ready for Kempton last week so the logical plan was to wait for the JLT Specialty Chase at Cheltenham. It has been a lucky race for us with Fork Lightning our first ever Festival winner in it and Bensalem last year.

Bless The Wings

He is a course and distance winner in January and goes for the novices’ handicap chase over two and a half miles. He is a progressive young horse and has won two out of three over fences – he is also in the Byrne Group Chase later in the week but at this stage is more likely to go for the novice. He jumped very well at the end of January and was perhaps in front a little bit too soon but there was a fair bit of carnage around him three out.

He stayed on powerfully up the hill and is in real good order so there is no need to give him another run after that. He won’t mind what the ground comes up as he is an adaptable horse.

Iron Chancellor

He will be heading for the four-miler.He has been placed in all his starts over fences this season and trotted up in a very weak race at Southwell. I was desperate to give him one more run and he has to go left-handed so the only place I could find was Fakenham.

He did not handle the track at all and was taken off his feet although he did stay on at the end and passed quite a few horses. The trip will not be an issue – he might not have the class for the Festival race but I hope he will be staying on towards the finish.

Secret Edge

He is in the Martin Pipe, Fred Winter and the Neptune Investment but he seems pretty unlikely to get into the former looking at the weights. I would be very nervous of the two miles in the Fred Winter on goodish ground as he finished third to Batonnier in January over further. I would love to run him somewhere so it is looking like the Neptune and he will get an extra four pounds from Batonnier in that. We will keep all the options open.


I thought a couple years ago he was our best bumper horse and he won well on his debut at Fontwell but he could not follow up in another bumper. It has taken a long time but he finished third on his debut this year at Ascot and then we brought him back over New Year at Cheltenham where he ran a lovely race staying on from the back to finish second.

We decided to let him take his chance in a graded race back at Cheltenham at the end of January and his homework on the run-up to that had been very good. He settled well in rear and moved very smoothly up to beat Broadbackbob, who was injured but Nicky Henderson thinks an awful lot about.

He has an entry in the Coral Cup but we are 99 per cent certain to run in the Neptune. He is very much a good-ground horse and is an interesting runner. He has to improve again but is giving every indication at home that he has certainly not gone backwards.


He will head to the RSA but I would be slightly concerned if the ground was quick as he has had problems in the past so we just have to be a little bit careful. He was a former high-class hurdler and was impressive on his chasing debut at Exeter.

He has been beaten twice around Newbury since and has been in top gear leaving the back straight and looks to be crying out for a step-up in trip. Maybe he does not like Newbury but I can see no reason why – he is in good order and we should see a much better horse over three miles though ideally he would want a drop of rain.


He was a reasonably good novice hurdler last season and has made rapid progress since he has seen a fence. We started him off in a novice handicap at Hereford and he was very impressive and then he really stepped up on that again at Plumpton where he gave a horse from the Gigginstown Stud in Ireland a thrashing.

There was a slight hiccup when he was beaten at Cheltenham but he returned pretty sore after he lost his near-fore shoe fairly on in the race. We gave him a bit of time to get over that and then he won the Reynoldstown at Ascot very impressively after travelling very well. One or two people think that Bobs Worth will turn the tables but I would be surprised if he did. He is a really exciting prospect and for a big horse he does operate on good ground.


He goes for Fred Winter – he is ex-French and showed good form around Auteuil as he was placed in a Grade One. We have only given him one run and he won at Newbury hard on the steel despite missing the last when he landed very awkwardly. He did well to pick the other horse up and apart from that I don’t think he came off the bridle.

I could not quite believe it when the handicapper gave him a mark of 122 following that Newbury run so we decided not to run him again. He has gone up since stood in his box to 129 but I would be very disappointed if he was not a whole lot better than that.

Something will come and ruin it I suppose and ideally I would have liked to have got another run into him but he is as good as my two Triumph horses. He has not raced on good ground but he has a decent action and I would not be surprised if he did not improve for it. He is an exciting prospect whatever happens.

Fire Fighter

He is a bit of a lad and won well at Warwick before just being touched off at Sandown. He will probably wear some blinkers in the Fred Winter just to sharpen him a little bit.


He has enjoyed a grand year as he won the Haldon Gold Cup and has been placed whenever he has run since. We sent him to Cheltenham under a big weight in December and then he ran a smashing race at Ascot behind Riverside Theatre.

I genuinely don’t know which race he is going to run in as he is in the Ryanair and the Gold Cup as every day I wake up I have a different idea as to where he is going to run. I am certain he wiil stay three miles but whether he will stay three and a quarter miles is another thing, particularly as it looks like it is going to be fiercely run as there is lots of pace.

He is in good order and worked well on Wednesday so I will sit down with the owners and see which way we want go. I just want to get him there in good order and it will be a last-minute call.

Smad Place

He ran in the Triumph Hurdle last year but summered extremely well before he threw a splint in October. He took some time after that and he did not make his debut until Ascot in January where he ran out a very impressive winner of a handicap hurdle. He went up in the weights for that and then went back to Ascot a couple of weeks ago and just failed to give Donald McCain’s winner 29 pounds and that was a smashing run.

He has been raised again so I can’t really see him winning a Coral Cup so If he goes to Cheltenham it will be for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. It will be his first time at three miles but he is probably crying out for a step up in trip. My one slight concern would be if the ground was fast and Timeform have said that if he runs to his Ascot form he would have been third in the last three World Hurdles, so he is likely to take his chance. But I want to mind him a little bit as he will be a high-class novice chaser next season.

Midnight Appeal

He has only come into the Cheltenham team last week and goes for the Kim Muir. He was an impressive winner at Sandown and it is quite remarkable as he was never really sighted in a hurdle race but has won five out of eight over fences and placed on every other occasion. He wore blinkers at Sandown and that seemed to transform him as he jumped and travelled very smoothly. He is another who won’t mind decent ground and will be ridden by Robbie Henderson.


He goes for the Triumph Hurdle and won at Kempton Saturday. I was not sure whether to give him another run before Cheltenham but he was in such good form at home. It was good for Choc Thornton to get a feel of him on the track.

We decided to take on the older horses rather than run in the Adonis and he jumped extremely fluently – he has done very little wrong and we are extremely pleased with him. I think has improved since his run against Pearl Swan at Cheltenham and that bit of match practice at the weekend will have done him no harm. I think that Grumeti and Pearl Swan are the two best juveniles we have seen – my horse has gears and is in the Penzance mould.

Balder Success

Will also run in the Triumph Hurdle but is a different type to Grumeti and we have loved him from day one. He started off at Plumpton and won easily – he then stepped up to Ascot where the race cut up and it did not tell us a great deal again.

Then we went back to Ascot a fortnight ago and I hoped he would win but he routed them.

He is very straightforward to train, has done all his winning on soft ground and handles that extremely well although I think he will go on better ground. He is not the normal type of Triumph horse that I have as he has not come off the Flat and we spent most of the season thinking he might lack a bit of match practice. He is such a straightforward horse and the way he has progressed, he deserves to take his chance.

Raya Star

Has enjoyed a very successful season and won first time out at Wetherby before finishing third behind Celestial Halo at Newbury. He then won the valuable Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot before running another sound race in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He keeps creeping up the weights and only has the one entry in the County Hurdle. I think the stiff track at Cheltenham will help him and hopefully there will be a strong pace which will suit him.


He bounced back to form after falling at Doncaster in a handicap at Wincanton last time and has gone up 12 pounds for that. He is one of the favourites for the Martin Pipe but he will almost certainly run in the Albert Bartlett. He probably wants three miles.


He is a good, tough horse and was second in the Fred Winter last year under top weight. He has been running well over fences but was clearly not good enough for an Arkle so we took him out of that He has entries in three races and I might just pop the blinkers on him for the Grand Annual. It looks like a race that will be dominated by novices – he has a nice weight at the moment so I hope that Nicky Henderson runs the top one French Opera.

Sir Harry Ormesher

He is in the Martin Pipe and Coral Cup and runs at Doncaster on Saturday so depending how he got on will determine whether he takes his chance. He comes to himself in the spring when the ground dries up.


He is my one entry in the bumper and he goes to Newbury this weekend. Again we will see how he gets on before deciding on Cheltenham.