Queens Gamble has Cheltenham form in her favour as she faces off against the might of Ireland in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Oliver Sherwood’s talented mare has impressed twice at the track in her short career, beating Milton Harris’ five-time scorer Mullenbeg by 10 lengths on debut before downing another subsequent victor when scooping Listed honours at Prestbury Park in the autumn.
Despite defeat in her prep race at Market Rasen, Sherwood believes Queens Gamble is more than capable of holding her own and has the six-year-old fighting fit for her return to the track she loves best.
He said: “It’s difficult to assess the form on two ways – firstly taking on the Irish and then going up against the boys for the first time. But she’s entitled to be there and she hasn’t missed a beat.
“She’s in great order and I’ve been really happy with her prep. She loves Cheltenham and the only thing I don’t know is how she will handle this soft ground, but you’re not going to know until you try.
“They set out to beat her at Market Rasen and we got the tactics wrong, so fair play to Paddy (Brennan) and Fergal (O’Brien, jockey and trainer of winner Dysart Enos). She lost nothing in defeat as far as I’m concerned and she goes there with a live each-way chance on Wednesday.
“Johnny Burke knows her inside out, so we keep our fingers crossed.”
Willie Mullins has a record 12 victories in this Grade One event and has taken home the trophy for the past three years.
He is responsible for 10 of the 24 heading to post and it is no surprise to see him well represented at the top of the market.
Patrick Mullins has chosen to ride Dublin Racing Festival runner-up Fact To File, which leaves Paul Townend free to take over aboard impressive Navan winner It’s For Me.
“He has done nothing wrong and is unbeaten in a point to point and a bumper for the owners,” said Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
“He has got to move forward from that and improve, but he is a very likable horse and in an open year, he has a sound chance.
“There’s no doubt he has to improve from what he has done so far. That said, he is a likable horse with potential, but it is a big step up in class.”
The fly in the Mullins ointment could well be the John Kiely-trained A Dream To Share, who was snapped up by JP McManus after downing Fact To File at Leopardstown, with both runners now sporting the famous green and gold silks at Cheltenham.
Kiely is one of the elder statesman of the training ranks and hopes the five-year-old can remain unbeaten and provide him with the Cheltenham Festival victory that is missing from his CV.
He said: “He’s run very well so far. He’s in good form and we are hoping for a good run. It would be nice if he could keep living up to his name – he has done so up to now.”
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