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Cheltenham 2017: Sloans will hope to have their hand on The Storyteller

By Ron McKnight

The Templepatrick-based Sloan family have enjoyed Cheltenham Festival success in the past with Flaxen Flare winning the Fred Winter Hurdle in 2013 — and they will be aiming for more of the same this week with a pair of runners with excellent potential.

The Storyteller has been reported as one of the top gambles of the Festival, but is in top form and looks a real threat for glory.

Joe Sloan said: “It’s definitely not the owner’s money.”

Trained by Gordon Elliott, who also saddled Flaxen Flare to victory, The Storyteller has won on his last two starts, including at Down Royal.

The six-year-old runs in Mrs Pat Sloan’s colours and the entire family will travel to Prestbury Park.

Runfordave, who is also trained by Elliott, is the other Sloan contender for honours in the hugely competitive Coral Cup.

Elliott will send over a very large team this week but Runfordave justifies his inclusion after finishing third to the highly regarded Any Second Now with the runner-up Crack Mone entered for the Grade 1 Supreme Novice Hurdle by champion trainer Willie Mullins on the first day of the Festival. Runfordave also won at Clonmel last month. 

Joe Sloan admitted: “Races anywhere are hard to win but even more so at the Cheltenham Festival. It’s just special to be involved and have a couple of runners with all the family attending. We just hope for the best on the day.” 

The Foxhunters at the Festival has yielded considerable success for local connections and is the premier target for amateur riders.

Newry duo, trainer Liam Lennon and rider James Smyth, claimed the prize in 2014 with Tammy’s Hill while Cullybackey trainer Ian Ferguson sent out Zemsky to win with All-Ireland Champion rider Derek O’Connor aboard in 2011. 

The locally-owned Call Collect, with County Down amateur rider Raymond Martin in the saddle, completed the Foxhunters double  — Aintree/Cheltenham in 1989 and 1990 — and the winning rider is now a steward on race days at Down Royal.

Anseanachai Cliste, Balnaslow, Chosen Dream, Valmy Bair and Quiet Account are all trained in the province and engaged in this year’s renewal.

The latter could represent Crossgar trainer Colin McBratney, who saw his runner Marito denied in a photo finish last year, while Carsonstown Boy — placed three times in the Foxhunters – was also runner-up in 2014.

McBratney said: “He’s fit and well. He won the same race at Armagh as Carsonstown Boy before he finished second. Hopefully he’ll run a big race if he gets a run.”

Anseanachai Cliste was Champion Irish Point to Pointer last season when winning seven in a row and made a triumphant return to action recently to bring his unbeaten tally to eight. 

Trained in Portadown by Stephen McConville, the horse will be ridden by his son Michael with the family long having wanted to be represented in the Foxhunters. 

Stephen said: “He’s fine after his seasonal return and will come on from that. We’re hoping he gets to run and is in great form. The tough test and uphill finish should suit him.”


FAMILY FORTUNES: Nessa Joyce with the Sloans, who are hoping to add to their Cheltenham story, and (left) one of their big hopes, The Storyteller

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