Cheltenham: First ever Festival winner in the offing for Ferguson

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The first race of the final day of the Cheltenham is restricted to four year olds and provides trainer John Ferguson with his best chance of claiming his first ever Festival winner.

Having saddled six runners in the previous three days, the Suffolk trainer has not seen any of them finish better than 12th but in the 6/1-rated Broughton has an excellent opportunity to do far better than that.

That none of those previous Ferguson runners went off at anything below 16/1 (with all of the other five starting at 20/1 or greater) shows how well respected Broughton is for the Triumph Hurdle.

Enjoying a stellar season, Ferguson has trained 38 winners over hurdles. That’s a figure that far outweighs anything he’s ever managed before, with his next best target the 17 he recorded last season.

A Festival gold still remains the ultimate target and in the Bloomfields-owned German horse he must be getting butterflies at the thought that his time has finally come.

A useful flat racer, winning three and finishing as runner up twice in 12 starts, Broughton made an eye catching start to his hurdle career when losing by a head in a Grade 2 two-miler at Doncaster.

He followed that up with his first win last time out, showing a turn of pace to run five lengths clear in a listed race at Musselburgh and will lean on his flat racing experience to keep a good pace in the Triumph.

The ground also suits with all of his four wins of any type coming on good, soft or good-to-soft turf and with Ferguson convinced there is more improvement to come, it’d be silly not to side with a trainer who rarely talks up his horses’ hopes.

At 8/1 Royal Irish Hussar, who was the Triumph Hurdle trial winner earlier this year but lost to Broughton at Doncaster, is another option while Guitar Pete, second in that same race, is respected at 6s.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.