Harriett Graham happy to ‘dream big’ at Cheltenham as Aye Right given Gold Cup green light
The popular gelding, who is co-trained by Gary Rutherford who spent his formative years with Yorkshire racing legends Sue and Harvey Smith, was last seen finishing third behind Chantry house in the Grade Two Cotswold Chase in late January. Prior to that the nine-year-old was the winner of the Listed Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November, a long-awaited success under Callum Bewley after a string of placed efforts in graded events the season before.
Among those runs was a third-placed run in the Ultima Chase at the Festival and although the horse holds an entry for the same contest this time around, his connections will opt for the Gold Cup instead.
“I think we’ll go for the Gold Cup, you don’t get that many chances in life to go for it,” said Graham, who trains in the Scottish Borders and who recently added Rutherford to the licence.
“The Ultima is attractive but he would be carrying a lot of weight, I know you’ve got Frodon who is higher rated but he might not run.
“We just feel the Gold Cup course will suit him better and you just never know, it’s a lovely daydream to have and (owners) Geoff and Elspeth Adams are very keen for him to go for that.
“You’ve got to have a big dream, haven’t you? It keeps you travelling in the lorry and mucking out in the morning, it keeps you going.
“My dream is always that we’re winning it, he’s coming over the last and the others are stopping and he’s storming on up the hill. The roar is coming for the other horses because we’re no doubt one of the outsiders!”
Reflecting on last season’s numerous near-misses Graham said: “He went so close, it was getting really frustrating, to be honest at Newcastle in the Rehearsal, which he did win, if he hadn’t won it would have been incredibly hard to keep smiling on.
“He so deserved it, he’s got such a good cruising speed and his jumping has improved no end.
“He just deserved it but sometimes he’s just been a bit of a target for other horses to aim at,” she added.
Meanwhile, Ryanair Chase contender Eldorado Allen will lead a small but select Colin Tizzard team into battle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Dorset handler, who is due to hand over the reins to son Joe at the end of the season, is due to saddle around a dozen horses at the showpiece in the Cotswolds.
The squad might be lacking the star quality of years gone by, but Joe Tizzard is pleased with the horses that are bound for Prestbury Park.
“We’re a bit light on numbers, there’s no two ways about it,” he said.
“Those elite horses are hard to come by. We were lucky to have Cue Card, who kept taking us to the big days, and so did Native River.
“Hopefully we’ve got some youngsters who are going to progress to that stage and I think we’ve got some chances in the handicaps. We haven’t got a standout horse, that’s for certain.”
Eldorado Allen has flown the Venn Farm flag with distinction this season – winning the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter and the Denman Chase at Newbury under a resurgent Brendan Powell, as well as finishing second in two Grade Twos.
There was talk of a potential Gold Cup bid following his most recent triumph, but he will instead drop back in distance for a tilt at the Ryanair. “Eldorado Allen is our highest-rated horse going into the Festival and he’d have to have a really competitive each-way chance,” Tizzard added.