Newmarket handler John Ferguson is hoping to end his training career with a bang at the Cheltenham Festival, and feels he has a good chance of doing so with Champion Bumper contender High Ridge.
Ferguson is leaving the training ranks next month to become chief executive at Godolphin, for whom he has had a long association as a bloodstock adviser to Sheikh Mohammed.
But before concentrating full time on his new position with the Boys in Blue, Ferguson is sending a strong team to Cheltenham in the hope of landing his first Festival winner, and he told 888sport racing ambassador Emma Spencer he has particularly high hopes for two-time winner High Bridge.
The five-year-old, who hosed up last time at Catterick, is currently a 12/1 chance for the Champion Bumper, and Ferguson feels he has all the right attributes for Festival success.
“He doesn’t have great acceleration but he’s a real grinder and I think that’s exactly what you need in the Champion Bumper,” said Ferguson.
“He won really well last time, admittedly only at Catterick, but the form has worked out well and he’s a horse that’s pleased us throughout; he’s well-bred and deserves his chance.”
That Catterick win came in December and the horse hasn’t been seen since, but Ferguson reports preparations have gone exactly to plan.
“As of this morning (Wednesday), he’s done everything he needs to do and now he’ll just canter for the rest of the week, we’ll get him down there on Tuesday and hopefully he’ll put up a good performance.”
As well as High Bridge, Ferguson has a number of other chances through the week, including Pengai Pavilion in the Supreme Novices’, Ascot handicap winner Nabucco in the Coral Cup, 100/1 chance Aqalim in the World Hurdle, course winner Devilment in the County Hurdle and five-time winner Leoncavallo, a ‘huge’ 33/1 for the Triumph Hurdle.
But he is particularly bullish about the chances of Jaleo in the Fred Winter, a 14/1 chance and another who hacked up at Catterick on his last start.
“I think he is great each-way value. I’m very pleased with him.”
Leoncavallo is another contender who he thinks has been underestimated by the layers. “He was upsides the leaders at the Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham when he unseated. The horse he beat at Wetherby before that, Sceau Royal, is a 7/1 shot and he’s 33/1 so I think he’s another with decent value.”
Pengai Pavilion was ‘off colour’ when beaten last time out but had won his previous three starts, and Ferguson not writing off his chances in the Supreme, while although big World Hurdle outsider Aqalim is a ‘monkey’, he could run a big race ‘if he wanted to’.
“We’ve got a great team of horses and just hope they all do themselves justice,” he added.