DURSLEY racehorse owner Terry Warner admits he would be surprised if he is celebrating his tenth Cheltenham Festival winner next week.
Warner has been taking his horses to the prestigious meeting for 30 years and has enjoyed some of the best moments of his career there, most notably when Rooster Booster won the Champion Hurdle in 2003.
His hopes rest on Calculated Risk, Grand Vision and former Festival winner Oiseau De Nuit this year, but they are all considered outsiders.
Warner said: “It’s a fantastic place to have a winner but everyone else thinks the same.
“It would be a surprise if I had a winner. I’ve got no real live chances in any of the races.”
Warner believes Grand Vision represents his best chance of success, but only if he can reproduce the form he showed before suffering an injury, which kept him out for almost two years.
The eight-year-old finished third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle two years ago but didn’t race again until being pulled up at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and goes in the Pertemps Network Final next Thursday on the back of second and third placed finishes at Warwick and Ffos Las Racecourse respectively.
Warner said: “If he’s as good as before, he’ll have a chance but I think horses never come back quite as well as they were before the injury.”
Oiseau De Nuit gave Warner his last win at the Cheltenham Festival in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase in 2011, and he has been entered into the final race of the four-day meeting for the fifth year in a row.
The 11-year-old finished third last year and triumphed in the Red Rum Handicap Chase in Aintree last April, but Warner thinks his age and a 11st10lb handicap could count against him.
Warner said: “He’s a good old faithful servant but is so high in the handicap.
“He likes Cheltenham and he won’t disgrace us.”
Calculated Risk will make his Cheltenham Festival debut but a late decision will be made on which race he will go for.
The five-year-old, who has won two races this season, is likely to go for either the Coral Cup on Wednesday or Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on Friday, but is also entered in the Vincent O’Brien Handicap Hurdle on Thursday.
“It will probably be a longer trip,” said Warner.
“It depends on the other entries. If he improves he’s got a chance.”
Warner is expecting to see some shocks in the Festival and has tipped Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti to triumph in the Gold Cup, while fancying Our Conor to beat two-time Champion Hurdle winner Hurricaine Fly.
“I think Paul Nicholls will win (the Gold Cup),” said Warner.
“He nearly won last year and I don’t think the favourite (Bobs Worth) is as good as he was.”