Cheltenham 2012: Time for a New Braveheart
Not since the Len Lungo trained Freetown forged clear up the hill to win the Pertemps Final in 2002 has a race at the Festival been won by a horse trained north of the border. In the preceding years, success was fairly common place for Scottish raiders: 1994 – Dizzy (Peter Monteith)…
1997 - Sparky Gayle (Colin Parker), and 1999 - Celtic Giant (Len Lungo). These equine heroes all headed north having plundered a major prize from jump racing’s top table.
A logical assumption for this winless period would be that the quality of Scottish trained horses was in decline. This, however, would be completely wrong. In recent years horses trained in Scotland have won some of jump racing's major prizes. The Lucinda Russell trained Silver By Nature has twice won Haydock's Grand National Trial, Jim Goldie has had back to back victories in Aintree's Grand Sefton, and in 2010 Andrew Parker ensured that the Scottish National would remain in Scotland for the first time in many a year when Merigo galloped his rivals into the Ayrshire turf.
With the 2012 Cheltenham Festival almost upon us, what are the chances of the 10 year barren spell being broken?
At this stage the best chance of a Scottish trained victory would appear to lie in Perth and Kinross with Lucinda Russell. Brindisi Breeze is a 12/1 chance for the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle. This 6-year-old relentless galloper is held in high regard by his handler and Peter Scudamore, who see his future as being over fences. His victories have come on soft and heavy ground, so any rain between now and race time would greatly increase his chances. Another Russell charge that could have a chance is Bold Sir Brian in the Jewson. He is currently priced at 33/1, but given this horse's running style and the frantic pace that the race will be run at, it would be no surprise to see him running on from the home turn. Blenheim Brook and Quito Du Tresor are another two who, dependant on which race they go for, may be competitive at a decent price.
One of the newer trainers to the Scottish ranks is James Ewart. Since taking over from his father, he has worked hard to build up the quality and quantity of Langholm string. He has also shown that he is prepared to send his horses south to challenge for major prizes. Of his Festival entries, Quicuyo in the Grand Annual would seem to be his best chance. Currently a 20/1 chance, this much improved front runner has earned the right to line up in the concluding event. Another horse from the yard that would have a chance would be Captain Americo who has two entries, namely the Cross Country Chase and the Fluke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge. Given this stayer’s current form, he could be competitive in either of these races at a big price.
Jim Goldie is no stranger at going toe to toe with the big names of the training world under both codes. Success at the Festival has so far eluded the amiable Scotsman and this year his hopes lie with Arctic Court, Wyse Hill Teabags and Los Nadis who hold entries for the staying handicap hurdles. If any of these make the final cut into the race, they will all be expected to put up a good performance as Goldie is not in the habit of sending his horses south just to make up the numbers.
Freetown's victory back in 2002 was met with warm applause particularly from those who had traveled down from Scotland and backed him. There was no scarf or flag waving back then. Given the chances of the Scottish horses outlined above and given how all winners are greeted these days, it could be that anyone making the annual pilgrimage from Scotland this year would be well advised to pack a tartan scarf and a Saltire flag.
This could be the year of a new Braveheart!
Article by Colin Sinclair
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of HorseRacing.com.