Ulster all set for Festival success
There will be no shortage of Ulster interest at Cheltenham with Hurricane Fly — owned by Belfast’s George Creighton and Crossgar’s Rose Boyd — expected to land another Champion Hurdle.
Simonsig, formerly trained by Ballymena's Ian Ferguson before moving to Nicky Henderson, has more than a sound chance in his likely target, the Neptune Hurdle.
But it was the Champion Bumper chances of Moscow Mannon, trained in Downpatrick by Brian Hamilton and owned by Jonathan Flanagan, which was the hot topic of debate at this week’s Cheltenham Preview Night at the Europa Hotel.
“If this horse, who has won three bumpers this season, was trained by Willie Mullins, he would be a lot shorter,” said bookmaker Ronan Graham.
The five-year-old son of Moscow Society has won at Galway, Fairyhouse and Gowran Park on good and heavy ground and heads the market at 8-1 with Mullins' Champagne Fever.
In his last outing at Gowran Park, he beat Mullins’ odds-on Morning Royalty by seven lengths and that put an end to the latter's Festival ambitions.
“Whatever he does at the Festival, Moscow Mannon is a horse with a very big future,” said trainer Gordon Elliott who makes Sir Des Champs in the RSA Chase his best bet of the week and the winner of next year's Gold Cup.
Barry Geraghty has been booked for John Ferguson's winner-of-two New Year's Eve whose odds have shortened from 25-1 down to 12s.