‘Messi’ leads out the Barbury team on day two

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Tuesday March 14

We rattled the crossbar with Yanworth in the Neptune Hurdle on day two of last year’s Cheltenham Festival, and, while Messire des Obeaux does not go for the race with quite the same credentials tomorrow, Alan believes that at double-figure odds he has “a great each-way chance”.

Alan has made no secret of the fact that he hopes that ‘Messi’ might be back at Cheltenham on the same day next year, going over fences for the RSA Chase, but the horse has shown this winter that he is more than capable of holding his own against the best over hurdles.

Assessing his prospects, Alan said:”Neon Wolf has impressed me enormously and I can’t see Messire des Obeaux beating him, but equally I cannot visualise him being out of the frame.

“Huntingdon was the perfect dress-rehearsal. We knew the track would not play to our strengths, but we needed to get that prep-run into him and, though at the third last he was in a bit of bother, he came there to win at the final flight, only to be run out of it by a neck by a good horse (Keeper Hill) who he was giving 8lb. Cheltenham will suit him so much better, and I hope and think that he’ll be competitive.

“We run two in the Coral Cup. I thought River Frost won quite cosily at Kempton last month, but then so did the handicapper who put him up 10lb, though our fellow will have learned a lot from that race. Who Dares Wins ran a pleasing race under a big weight to finish third at Huntingdon, where going up in trip seemed to suit him, but Gibralfaro waits for the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle later in the week.

“We are also well-represented in the Fred Winter. Fidux finished third to Master Blueyes in the Adonis, which is good form, and he will be better suited by this stiffer track; Rainbow Dreamer got hammered for winning at Fontwell but then ran well in the visor to chase home Defi du Seuil in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham, and Dino Velvet has really improved since we changed his bridle. He was a solid second at Ludlow and is able to run off the same mark here.

“Finally, Perfect Harmony runs in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. He is an ex-Irish pointer whom he bought at the Cheltenham Sale before Christmas. He’s a fine big horse and I hoped he’d finish in the first four when we ran him for the first time at Newbury in January, so it came as something of a surprise when he won. He’s got a wonderful temperament and nothing fazes him, so all the hullabaloo of the Festival won’t worry him one iota.”