Whilst we know that here at Plumpton we have some great competitive racing and quality horses gracing our turf throughout each season, we also know that we aren’t necessarily the first thought in trainers minds when they think of a getting a horse ready for Cheltenham (for many reasons – E.g. Track configuration). That is one of the reasons that we offer our Cheltenham Bonus Series each year for the Novice Chasers, to attract quality runners over the course of the season. This usually works superbly well, although there has only ever been one winner of the Bonus, after Voy Por Ustedes won the Arkle in 2006 after a novice chase qualifying win here in December 2005 showing how difficult it is to do. There has been some close calls too, most memorably with Baron Alco who won two novice chases in 2016/17 before coming second in the Grade 3 Plate to Road to Respect, who then was placed in both a Gold Cup and a Ryanair – talk about bumping into one!
Unfortunately this season’s reduced Bonus Series has not worked out so well with our 4 winners (Black Kalanisi, Thebannerkingrebel, Full Back and Twenty Twenty) not being declared in any races at the Festival for one reason or another. Next year we hope to have a similar season to 2018/19 where at one stage 3 of our 5 qualifying race winners where favourites for their Cheltenham targets (Kalashnikov in the Arkle, Ok Corral in the National Hunt Chase and Master Dino for what is now the Marsh Novices’ Chase). Some of our previous Bonus Winners are still running at the Festival this year, and so you will still plenty of representation from this series including Eamon An Cnoic (3 entries), Top Notch (Paddy Power Plate), Theinval (Grand Annual), Kalashnikov (in the Ryanair) and Champagne Court (Paddy Power Plate). Lets hope one of them gets their noses in front……although we would like to add that the bonus is only valid in the season they won the qualifying race!!
As far as we can see here at Plumpton, we only have two winners from races here this season that are likely to run at the festival – Khan who won here in January is jocked up and looking like he’ll be declared in the Ballymore, and Dr Sanderson who looks like he’ll go in the Paddy Power Plate too and definitely requires decent ground which he had here when winning in October. We’re sure there will be plenty of other placed horses taking their chances although knowing which handicaps they are running in is not clear at the time of writing (except for maybe Defi Des Carres who looks set for a great showing in the Cross Country after pulling up in the Sussex National in January).
The best horse running at this year’s festival that we’ve seen on our hallowed turf in recent years is probably Roksana. She cruised home here to win her Novice Hurdle in November of 2017 and has progressed remarkably to look like a proper Grade 1 performer this season, giving Thyme Hill and Paisely Park a great race in the Long Walk at Ascot. She is priced at 3/1 (second favourite) for the Mares Hurdles on the opening day of the festival and has a superb chance of winning her second Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Kalashnikov is also running in a grade 1 (Ryanair) and he certainly comes into the reckoning even if that is a particularly strong renewal of the Ryanair this year.
Elsewhere, Plumpton representation from previous years runners is particularly strong in the Pertemps Race where there is potential for 5 horses to have raced here get into the final field (No Comment, Keeper Hill, First Lord De Cuet, Potters Hedger and Poker Play) as well as the Paddy Power Plate (Dr Sanderson, Paddy’s Poem, Eamon An Cnoic, Vivas and Top Notch) and the Coral Cup (Sandymount Rose, Debestyman (owned by Plumpton Members!) and Vive Le Roi). Our particularly strong bumpers have shown career progress to over the last few years with great horses such as Eden Du Houx, On the Slopes and First Lord Du Cuet all going with chances this week after starting their careers here.
Finally, we are still very much team Sussex for the week and wish all our regular and loyal owners and trainers the absolute best of luck with any runners. And whilst he hasn’t raced here, one winner I’m sure we’d all love from Plumpton’s perspective is the potential superstar in Goshen. Come on Gary, Jamie and Steve Packham!
Kalashnikov in December 2018 Roksana in November 2017