Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson will be gunning for Cheltenham glory today with his horse among the favourites to win the famous Gold Cup.
Since retiring from his glittering football career as manager of the Old Trafford club, Ferguson has become a huge figure in the world of horse racing.
He part-owns Clan Des Obeaux who will be running in this afternoon’s illustrious Gold Cup race.
And the seven-year-old gelding, who will have jockey Harry Cobden on board, is being hotly tipped for success, currently being priced as the second favourite at 5/1.
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Speaking of Ferguson, Cobden told the Guardian this week: “He’s a lovely man. I’ve met him three or four times. He’s inspirational and the sort of person you could listen to all day. I went to Old Trafford because of him last month.”
“I’m not a big football fan. I know nothing about football but it was a great experience as it was the first game I’ve ever been to. It was Man U v PSG and we went to Sir Alex’s box afterwards and chatted about the football. I didn’t really understand it. He said things which totally went over my head.
“I still loved listening to him and the PSG supporters were crazy. It was pretty fantastic.”
It’s that time of year again – when the top racehorses over the jumps in Britain and Ireland face off at the Cheltenham Festival to determine the best in the business.
With 28 races, including the Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle, it creates four days of gripping action that will be reflected throughout on talkSPORT and talkSPORT2.
The Gold Cup, centrepiece of the final day (Friday), is the ultimate championship event for staying steeplechasers, run over three and a quarter miles and 22 fences, a stern test of stamina and jumping ability.
This year’s field includes last year’s winner and runner-up, Native River and Might Bite, whose memorable head-to-head will go down as one of the best-ever renewals of the race.
This season Native River’s form has held up better than his old rival, and he will be one of the favourites to win again, whereas Might Bite now has plenty to prove. The opposition includes the lightly-raced Irish runner Presenting Percy, and Clan Des Obeaux, whose progress this winter has been outstanding.
The Champion Hurdle, run on the opening afternoon (Tuesday), is the equivalent championship test for hurdlers, but the smaller obstacles and shorter distance of two miles places more emphasis on pace. Buveur D’Air, from the stable of champion trainer Nicky Henderson, attempts to become only the sixth horse in history to win the race three times.
However, even Henderson thinks he will have to be better than ever to complete the treble, and the Irish mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina are, according to the betting, the most likely to thwart him. While Apple’s Jade is a battle-hardened campaigner of several years, Laurina hasn’t run as often and is harder to assess, but under the race regulations both will be carrying seven pounds less on their backs than the male horses, a significant help to them.
Another Henderson-trained runner, Altior, will be a strong fancy to take the speed-orientated two-mile Champion Chase, run on the Wednesday. He has won all 17 of his races over obstacles and needs only one more to equal the record of the legendary long-distance hurdler Big Buck’s, who completed 18 successive victories in 2012.
The Stayers’ Hurdle, on Thursday, is the hurdlers’ big stamina test, run over three miles. Paisley Park sets the standard on this season’s form, but former Champion Hurdler Faugheen has since proved himself over this longer distance and is an intriguing contender.
Throughout the week the race programme caters for all types including inexperienced novices, and there are plenty of competitive handicaps where the runners carry a range of weights depending upon their ability. But all the winners at the Cheltenham Festival guarantee themselves a place in racing history and an unforgettable night out for everyone associated with them.
talkSPORT and talkSPORT2 will be there to preview the action, reflect the drama of the races with live commentary and analysis, and share with you the best stories of the four days. It’s sure to be another epic week.
TOP TIPS OF THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL
Rupert Bell – talkSPORT racing correspondent Glen Forsa – Arkle (Tue – 2:10)
Paisley Park – Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle (Thur – 3:30)
Lee McKenzie – talkSPORT 2 racing correspondent Apple’s Jade – Champion Hurdle (Tue – 3:30)
Native River – Gold Cup (Fri – 3:30)
Micky Quinn – talkSPORT presenter Al Dancer – Supreme Novice Hurdle (Tue – 1:30)
Native River – Gold Cup (Fri – 3:30)
Tanya Stevens – talkSPORT2 presenter Ok Corral – National Hunt Chase (Tue – 5:30)
Presenting Percy – Gold Cup (Fri – 3:30)
Emmett Kennedy – talkSPORT Irish racing expert Ballyward – National Hunt Chase (Tue – 5:30) Delta Work – RSA (Weds – 2:10)
Bellshill – Gold Cup (Fri – 3:30)
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