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What will it take for a Shropshire-trained horse to win at the Cheltenham Festival?

When the 2022 Cheltenham Festival kicks off next March, horse racing enthusiasts from Shropshire and the surrounding areas will be desperate to see a local winner. The level of quality in the region is high, with Venetia Williams’, Michael Scudamore’s and Henry Daly’s yards all in good form. Of course, Cheltenham pits the cream of the crop against each other, which is why victories there are like gold dust.

According to the odds, a win doesn’t appear likely. But we’re an optimistic bunch, so we want to know what it will take for Cheltenham success to happen. In so many ways, the following aren’t out of the realms of probability.

Plenty of rain

If there’s one thing everyone knows about Venetia Williams’ horses, it’s that they love the soft ground. The muddier the better as far as the trainer is concerned, which is why Royal Pagaille is such an enigma. The horse racing results for today and the past couple of months highlight his solid form. Still, his odds for the Gold Cup remain 40/1 after the events of Saturday at Haydock.

That’s with the ground verging on the good side. Should the conditions suit him, the odds will drop quite significantly. After all, the heavier ground is an excellent equaliser when most horses are suited to running on faster ground. Okay, that may not be enough, but Royal Pagaille has another ace up his sleeve – experience.

Williams entered the horse into the 2021 Gold Cup. He didn’t do much, yet he’ll be much better off for the run because the occasion won’t intimidate him the second time around. With more favourable conditions, he’ll be threatening.

A strong pace

The Scudamore family is another member of the horse racing fraternity to have close ties to Shropshire due to Michael Scudamore Senior and Peter Scudamore. Michael Junior and Tom Scudamore are also embedded in the sport, and it’s the latter who has a ride in the Gold Cup. He’ll likely be on the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap.

Unfortunately, Cloth Cap’s odds are currently 50/1, making him a rank outsider. What the horse does have in its favour is stamina. As the favourite for the 2021 Grand National, he is used to running four miles and jumping huge fences. The Gold Cup is only three miles and two furlongs, which pales in length.

Since Cloth Cap’s stamina should be superior, the only way for it to win is to set a brisk pace and try and outrun the pack. Front running isn’t a popular style, yet it’s effective. Just ask Paul Nicholls after Frodon won the Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Neighbourly love

Honestly, it will be hard for the region to claim many victories at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival because of the continued strength of the Irish raiders. Last March, for example, the Irish had more than 30 winners, and Rachael Blackmore was crowned the event’s top jockey. With that in mind, we may have to search for success elsewhere, as after Saturday, there’s little evidence that Irish dominance is flagging.

You don’t have too look far as the Skeltons are based down the road in Warwickshire. Plus, the family yard has an in-form runner for the Arkle Chase. Third Time Lucki has recently won two races at Cheltenham, albeit at a lesser meeting. Regardless, he has experience of the course and can use it to gain home advantage.

Also, Third Time Lucki is a highly rated horse in his own right, something the odds reflect. Appreciate It is the 5/2 favourite, with Third Time Lucki ranked as the 10/1 fourth favourite, which shows that the Skeltons will be in with a shout on 15 March 2022.

Who will you be cheering on when Cheltenham rolls around?

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