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Former Pointing trainer Phil Kirby aims high as Doncaster winners set sights on Cheltenham Festival

10-February-2020 8:00
in General
by Peter McNeile

Next month's Cheltenham Festival runs from Tuesday 10th - Friday 13th March with four days of top quality National Hunt racing. Every weekend brings more clues as racing fans collect information to find an elusive winner over the 4 days, writes Harvey Mayson. As the big meeting approaches, we look at some recent Doncaster winners who could feature at the big meeting in March.

Navajo Pass

Donald McCain has a useful juvenile hurdler in Navajo Pass, the winner of this season’s Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle in December. McCain has enjoyed Cheltenham Festival success with White Oak (2008), Peddlers Cross (2010) and Cinders And Ashes (2012). He also trained Ballybriggs to win the 2011 Grand National, a very proud moment for the son of “Ginger” McCain, trainer of Aintree legend Red Rum.

Navajo Pass made all the running to beat Lord Lamington and earn himself a 33-1 quote in the ante-post betting for the JCB Triumph Hurdle. The son of Nathaniel is tough and consistent, finishing out of the frame only once in his first eight races under rules.

Nicky Henderson trained Peace And Co to win both races in 2014-15. Other notable winners of the Summit Hurdle include Oh So Risky (1990), Anzum (1994) and Hors La Loi III (1998). This season’s race did not appear to be a vintage renewal but Navajo Pass could have an alternative Cheltenham Festival target in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, formerly the Fred Winter.

Lady Buttons

Former Point-to-Point trainer Philip Kirby trains the popular ten-year-old mare Lady Buttons. She chalked up her fourth Doncaster win in five visits when battling to a narrow success in the Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase in December, and could provide Kirby with a first Festival winner. Kirby's a relative newcomer to the sport, only starting in 2007 with hunter chasers. He's now on track for his best ever season.

Lady Butttons already has a large following and ran with great credit at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival to finish fourth in the Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.Kirby has entered her for the same race this season as well as a tentative entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Maire Banrigh

Dan Skelton’s Maire Banrigh staked her claim to a run at the Cheltenham Festival when romping to a 13-lengths victory here in December. That was her fifth consecutive victory and maintained her unbeaten record over fences.

Maire Banrigh carries the famous yellow and red colours of John Hales, the owner of numerous leading chasers including One Man and Neptune Collonges. The daughter of King’s Theatre has been given an entry in the Grade 1 Arkle Trophy.

Cheltenham betting offers

There are already some special Cheltenham offers for new customers with over half a billion pounds expected to be staked on the 28 races. Bookmakers will be offering enhanced odds and “non-runner – no bet” terms on the big festival races.

Cheltenham betting offers at thebookiesoffers takes all the hard work out of finding the very best Cheltenham betting odds. The site also provides a run-down of the leading contenders, famous past winners and a guide to betting at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

Other Doncaster winners to note

Other Doncaster winners to keep a note of are Pagero and Global Society, trained by local boy Jonjo O’Neill and Nicky Henderson respectively. Pagero is only just starting to fulfil his potential and won easily here in the colours of JP McManus. It would be no surprise to see him pick up a valuable handicap before the end of the season, and Jonjo is a master of the Cheltenham handicaps.

Global Society joined Henderson after finishing runner-up in three bumper races for Gordon Elliott. He powered clear of Perfect Predator in very testing conditions in January and looks a smart staying novice. Jockey Nico de Boinville is already looking forward to riding him over fences but he should make his mark over hurdles.


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