Trainer John Ferguson plans to take a strong host of runners for this year’s Cheltenham Festival, led by Triumph Hurdle hope Broughton.
The Teofilo four-year-old has impressed since leaving Mark Johnston’s yard and took the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh on his latest start in smart fashion, jumping particularly well in the process.
Ferguson said: “Broughton deserves his chance in the Triumph, he’s impressed me. He should run well and the race will suit him.”
In the leading Novice races at Cheltenham this season, the Bloomfields handler plans to run Three Kingdoms in the showcase Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Fennell Bay in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and finally Prince Siegfried in the Albert Bartlett over three miles on Gold Cup day. The notable absentee is this year’s stable stalwart Sea Lord who was last seen when well beaten behind The Liquidator at the Open Meeting.
Three Kingdoms’ only defeat this season came at Cheltenham in a handicap off 124, but the form has worked out well and since then he’s won his last two starts, notably beating subsequent impressive Listed hurdle winner Vibrato Valtat, who himself is fancied to run well at Prestbury Park next week.
Fennell Bay, a winner of seven races on the flat for Mark Johnston, including the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot, is likely to take the notable step up in class to the Neptune. The Dubawi gelding has won his two hurdle starts in lowly contests to date at Fakenham and Musselburgh and is not expected to disgrace himself pitched in at the deep end.
Prince Siegfried, another recruit from the flat, has had a more frantic campaign with just one win from four starts. However he was still in contention behind Supreme favourite Irving at Ascot and disliked very soft ground at Sandown when last seen in the Tolworth.
He somewhat surprisingly may step up markedly in trip and go for the Albert Bartlett. All three are expected to run nicely and appreciate better ground if the rain stays away.
In the handicaps, Cotton Mill is earmarked to run in the Coral Cup on Wednesday. The former Grade 2 winner was placed in the Betfair Hurdle last season behind My Tent Or Yours before disappointing in the County Hurdle at the Festival.
This season he again ran behind My Tent Or Yours, in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and before that was a gallant fourth in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton. Ferguson said: “He’s in really good form at home. His Fighting Fifth form is solid and he goes in with a chance.”
On the opening day, Buthelezi will take his chance in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase, which he is a general 20/1 shot for. Rated 105 at his peak on the flat, he beat a previous Festival winner in Une Artiste to win his first chase at the third attempt at Plumpton over 2m4f.
Ferguson is also expected to be double-handed in the Fred Winter, County Hurdle and the Martin Pipe.
He added: “Aalim and Certification are likely to go for the Fred Winter. We have Rainbow Peak and Bordoni down for the County Hurdle, while Ruacana and Zuider Zee are being aimed for the Martin Pipe. All should hopefully get in to their respective races.”
One of the most fascinating runners from the yard comes in the Champion Bumper, which is the target of El Namoose. A very impressive winner of his sole start at Musselburgh, the Authorized five-year-old looks to go one better than stablemate New Year’s Eve did two years ago and in a weak race at this stage, he could well outrun his current odds of 16/1.