MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is due to be on hand as his runner I’m Fraam Govan goes for glory in Wednesday’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
The five-year-old is among 35 confirmations for the Grade One heat, with trainer George Baker’s eyes firmly on the prize. An impressive victor over subsequent Listed hurdles winner and Grade One-placed runner Easter Day on his racecourse bow last May, I’m Fraam Govan was only fifth as an odds-on favourite on his reappearance at Lingfield in January. However, Baker felt the all-weather track was not to the gelding’s liking and has plenty of faith in him.
“The plan is to go to Cheltenham next week,” said the Wiltshire handler. “His last run was very disappointing, but, hopefully it was just a blip. Nicky Henderson kindly invited us to his gallops on Monday after we couldn’t work at Newbury and he did a lovely piece of work. The owner [Sir Alex] is attending on Wednesday and hopefully we can put a smile on his face.”
Ferguson is also dreaming of success in the Investec Derby on 1 June and has two chances of winning Flat racing’s blue riband. Telescope is owned by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s Wavertree syndicate, which includes Sir Alex, with the Old Trafford manager also one of the owners of The Welsh Wizard, trained by Charlie Hills. Both feature among 111 three-year-olds still in the frame for the big race at Epsom, with ante-post favourite Kingsbarns heading the entries.
Aidan O’Brien’s runner sealed his place at the head of the market when winning the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and is one of a staggering 35 entries for O’Brien, who will be seeking to follow up Camelot’s success in the mile-and-a-half Classic last year and increase his overall tally to four winners. Sir Henry Cecil, successful in the Derby four times, has three entries, including Lingfield winner Mighty Yar.
Today is the first day of Ayr’s two-day March meeting, with 70 runners lining up for seven races. The feature race is the Tennent’s Lager Handicap Chase over two miles four furlongs, with seven going to post.
Delightfully looks one of the likelier to score on a decent card. Trainer Lucinda Russell’s nine-year-old was narrowly successful at Newcastle in November, but is still just about on the right side of the handicapper.
Recent efforts confirm that theory, with Delightfully’s run at Wetherby underscoring her well-being. The mare finished off a two-mile-six-furlong handicap hurdle better than most, and only went down by two lengths to Forty Crown. That is significant as she has shown her best form over a longer trip. The three miles of the Patriarche Heritage Wines Handicap Hurdle would therefore appear made to measure, even though she has gone up 2lb after that Wetherby reverse.