Cheltenham clues: these five festival fancies still need a prep run | Horse Racing News

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Tiger Roll: an imperious winner of the Glenfarclas Chase last year

Patrick McCann

The Cheltenham Festival trials are far from over and James Stevens has picked out five leading contenders all set to make an appearance before their big targets. 

Tiger Roll

Tiger Roll will start his quest for a fifth Cheltenham Festival success at Navan next week. The ten-year-old – who bids for a third win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – will return over hurdles in the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle on Sunday.

He caused a shock when winning at odds of 25-1 at Navan last season before his dazzling 22-length win at the festival and history-making second Grand National victory.

Next week will be huge for Tiger Roll and his army of followers. Not only will he return to action, the Grand National weights are also revealed on Tuesday – his chances for a third National will hinge on the events of the next seven days. Meanwhile Sunday’s run will probably be his last race in Ireland.

Watch Tiger Roll dazzle in last year’s Boyne Hurdle


Nicky Henderson could make a rare visit to Kelso on Thursday with his highly regarded novice chaser, and RSA Chase contender, Champ. If the eight-year-old ran he would be Henderson’s seventh runner at the Borders track in the last five seasons. His strike-rate at Kelso is an impressive 67 per cent.

Champ: bids to bounce back from a fall at Kelso

Edward Whitaker (

Champ, who is also entered at Wetherby on Wednesday, is looking for a confidence boost in the Timeform-sponsored 2m7½f novice event having fallen, when travelling strongly, in the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Despite that fall, Champ has otherwise adapted well to chasing and is a 7-2 market leader for his festival target on March 11.

Reserve Tank

Colin Tizzard had wanted to take the dual Grade 1-winning novice hurdler to Exeter on Sunday but with the meeting abandoned due to strong winds, he will have to look elsewhere.

The six-year-old has not lived up to his mighty reputation over fences in three starts this season, but he peaked at this time of year last season and connections retain the faith.

He will likely run in a low-grade novice chase before stepping up in class with the Marsh Novices’ Chase in mind. He is a top-priced 16-1 chance for his festival target.

Riders Onthe Storm

Riders Onthe Storm has made a huge impression in two starts since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies. He won stylishly at Aintree before following up by seven lengths in a competitive graduation chase at Ascot, where he returns to on Saturday.

He will take on course specialist Cyrname in the Betfair Ascot Chase but his big target this year is the Ryanair at the festival. Perhaps he can strengthen his claims in a wide-open renewal and he is currently an 8-1 chance for the Ryanair.

Riders Onthe Storm: runs in the Ascot Chase on Saturday

John Grossick (

He was third on his only start at the top-level but he has been a revelation this season and it would be no surprise if he could continue his fine campaign.


Gary Moore’s JCB Triumph Hurdle contender is perhaps one of the most interesting runners looking ahead to this year’s Cheltenham. 

He has been faultless since going over hurdles, winning three from three by a combined 68 lengths, but he has not been tested at Graded level and the Triumph poses a completely different test.

He was set to put his festival credentials on the line in the Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle at Huntingdon last month but the meeting was cancelled.

Moore could look at another low-key juvenile event for Goshen or perhaps step him up in grade for Kempton’s Adonis Juvenile Hurdle on February 22.

Read more

Colin Tizzard to seek alternatives for Reserve Tank following loss of Exeter

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