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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Five trainers who could saddle a Festival winner

Trainer Tom George will bid to add to his Cheltenham Festival tally with the likes of Black Op.

We look at the prospects of five trainers who hold solid claims of bagging a Cheltenham Festival winner.

The Champion Trainer market at the Cheltenham Festival invariably boils down to just a handful of trainers whose powerful strings mark them out from the rest. 

From record-breaking Willie Mullins, whose 61 Festival winners overshadows Nicky Henderson’s own tally of 60 to Gordon Elliott and Paul Nicholls - neither of whom are any stranger to Festival success - the quartet are likely to have formidable squads again when the Festival rolls around again next month.

Irish trainers have dominated the Champion Trainer market in recent years, with Mullins winning the crown five times between 2011 and 2016; while Gordon Elliott has captured the prize on each of the last two seasons. Prior to 2009, Paul Nicholls was the man to follow with the Ditcheat handler winning the accolade five times between 2000 and the turn of the decade.

The Champion Trainer crown is likely to be fought out once more by the usual suspects, and it would be no surprise to see one of the four again claiming the crown; but Brian Healy takes a look at the prospects of some of the smaller handlers who could well enjoy some Festival success.

EMMA LAVELLE


Wiltshire-based Emma Lavelle is no stranger to having Cheltenham Festival winners, saddling the likes of Crackaway Jack to win the 2008 Fred Winter Hurdle, and Paws and Claws to win the 2010 Martin Pipe Hurdle at the greatest show on turf; the Bonita Stables overseer holds solid claims of landing another big success with Paisley Park who leapt to favouritism for the Stayers’ Hurdle when turning the Cleeve Hurdle into something of a procession.

A first Grade One winner for the yard, and also for jockey Aidan Coleman when scoring at Ascot, he had plenty of notable names in behind when romping to Cleeve Hurdle success, and he looks sure to give Lavelle, Coleman and owner Andrew Gemmell - blind since birth - a huge day out when he lines up for Thursday’s showpiece.

Cleeve Hurdle winner Paisley Park has leapt to the forefront of the Stayers' Hurdle betting.




JOSEPH O’BRIEN


The son of the legendary Aidan O’Brien, the master of Carriganóg on Owning Hill, County Kilkenny looks to hold plenty of ammunition to mount a real crack at the Trainers’ Championship this year.

Not only does he train the likes of Triumph Hopeful rival Sir Erec, but he also has the likes of Arkle candidate Le Richebourg, Supre Novices’ Hurdle possible Fakir D’oudairies and possible Champion Bumper runner in the impressive Sempo to call upon.

O’Brien, who saddled the 2016 Triumph Hurdle with Ivanovich Gorbatov, joined father Aidan in the record books as a Festival winning trainer and with such high-profile names in which to go into battle, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the young O’Brien emerge as a potential challenger to the big four’s domination of the Festival in years to come.

Le Richebourg (far side) could spearhead a powerful Joseph O'Brien attack on Cheltenham.




PHILIP HOBBS


Hobbs endured a torrid time last campaign, but things are looking up again for the master of Sandhill who is enjoying a much better season, helped in no small part by the resurgence of fortunes in stable-star Defi Du Seuil.

The impressive 2017 Triumph Hurdle winner failed to fire in his two starts the following season, helping to cap a miserable season for Hobbs. But the Voix Du Nord gelding has jumped into the reckoning for the JLT Novices’ Chase with two wins over fences from his four starts to date which include the Grade One Scilly Isles Novice Chase at Sandown recently.

Hobbs may lack the firepower of the likes of Mullins or Henderson, but he has several Cheltenham Festival winners to his name, and in addition to Defi Du Seuil he could have the likes of Rock The Kasbah, Sternrubin, Jerrysback and Umndeni to contest over the four days of the Festival.

Defi Du Seuil could bid to add a second Cheltenham Festival win to his record.




RUTH JEFFERSON


While it is possible that stable star Waiting Patiently may again miss out on an engagement at the big spring festivals should the ground not be suitable for the Flemensfirth gelding, northern-based Jefferson could still hold a potential big-price surprise in Mega Yeats who caught the eye when run down late at Cheltenham back in November in a Listed bumper.

From there, the Yeats mare made a winning introduction to hurdling when successful at Wetherby and she is sure to improve on that experience. Whether she will prove good enough to land Festival success is another matter, but she does make some appeal at big odds as a potential each-way dark horse if continuing her progress.

She could be one of a small team to make the journey south from Jefferson’s North Yorkshire base, along with her stable star Waiting Patiently.

Cpuld the ground scupper Waiting Patiently's Cheltenham Festival participation?




TOM GEORGE


Summerville Boy’s win in the 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ended a long wait for Tom George, with the trainer’s only previous Festival winner being Galileo back in 2002 who won the then Royal and Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle - now the Ballymore Novice Hurdle - and the master of Down Farm could enjoy further success.

While injury has blighted the campaign of Summerville Boy, Black Op - who finished runner-up to Samcro in last season’s Ballymore Hurdle - finished a promising third in the Cleeve Hurdle and has the Stayers’ Hurdle as a target following his disappointing spell over fences.

Black Op could join the likes of stable stalwart God’s Own, Activial, Seddon, The World’s End, The Big Bite and Double Shuffle on George’s Cheltenham Festival roster.


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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Five trainers who could saddle a Festival winner

We look at the prospects of five trainers who hold solid claims of bagging a Cheltenham Festival winner.

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