With Shotgun Paddy as her flagship, Hampshire trainer Emma Lavelle sends her biggest and most powerful armada to Cheltenham with seven potential runners.
Like Margaret Thatcher, Lavelle is not for turning and quickly squashed speculation he would miss the Festival in favour of the Grand National after defying a competitive field and heavy going in the £60,000 Classic Chase at Warwick last month.
“There was never any real temptation of that happening,” she said of her leading hope at her stables near Andover.
“He is only a novice and six-year-olds have a shocking history in the race and it is much too early to think of that as a target.”
The ground was bottomless at Warwick but Shotgun Paddy has come out of the marathon well and will relish the extra two furlongs in the opening day’s Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt race for whom she has snapped up the leading Irish amateur jockey Derek O’Connor. “The four miles will not be an issue for him and he has more experience than others running that extreme distance. He is not that quick, perhaps he does need some juice in the ground so that he is not flat to the boards.”
However, the drying conditions will benefit other runners, none more so than Le Bec who is fancied for the RSA Chase He won his first two chases at Uttoxeter and Cheltenham before Sam Winner exacted revenge on unfavourable soft ground on his return to Prestbury Park.
“He’s in great order,” said Lavelle, right. “The key for him will be the better ground. The English horses this year are much of a muchness. There are about half a dozen who could win it. It depends what comes over from Ireland.”
There were three potential options for Timesremembered who will, however, bypass the Albert Bartlett and Neptune Investment Hurdles in favour of the handicap maize that is the Coral Cup.
A seven length on his debut at Uttoxeter, he advertised his credentials with a smooth success in the Persian War Hurdle at Chepstow before disappointing at Doncaster where she admits he was too keen and didn’t jump well.
“In the novice hurdles he would struggle a bit off level weights,” she explained of her race choice. “But he’s had a fantastic season and been very consistent. He’s a lovely horse who has done well.”
Offtheground definitely needs decent ground to be seen at his best. The much improving chaser, who won two starts at Doncaster, will go for the two and a half mile novice chase on Thursday. Lavelle who has trained two festival winners in Crackawayjack and Pause and Clause, said of the four days of glorious uncertainty: “I wouldn’t swop Shotgun Paddy and Le Bec for anything. “The atmosphere is unbelievable. You ask afterwards where did the time go? “How does it go so fast?
“We are very privileged to be part of it as a trainer and having a runner.”