Two to watch from Venetia and Fergal
The early stages of the 2022/23 National Hunt season have made impressive reading for trainers based around Ludlow, and many will hope that bright local performances turn into victories on the major stage.
Venetia Williams and Fergal OÔÇÖBrien trained horses have great opportunities to capitalise on the momentum of their strong starts to the campaign at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Williams already has strong claims from the notable horses in her yard such as LÔÇÖHomme Press├® and of course, Royal Pagaille that could be in line for a Cheltenham victory, but her stable has strength in depth. And notwithstanding that, there is a recognition among many that there are plenty of decent targets beyond Cheltenham too. The coming months are littered with hefty prizes that are targets in their own right.┬á
OÔÇÖBrien too has competitors that could make a meaningful impact after enhancing their form in key Ludlow Racecourse fixtures. O’Brien is, of course, still waiting on his first Festival winner. Here are two horses from the two yards that could enter one of the most famous winner’s circles in the sport in March.
WilliamsÔÇÖ charge is the leading contender in the Betway horse racing odds at 6/1 to win the Welsh Grand National at the end of December and could use his success for a run in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. True greats of the sport have won the Cross Country Chase, including the two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll who triumphed on five occasions at Cheltenham Festival, as reported by The Guardian at the time.
Quick Wave has the potential to make his mark after an impressive 2022. Williams has done a fine job with her charge after his career looked to be meandering after an underwhelming 2020/21 season. Quick Wave missed 303 days of racing due to wind surgery but returned to action as a 10/1 outsider at Ludlow in the Plyvine Caterers Handicap Chase last January.
It was the first time that Quick Wave had raced over a three mile trip and he duly delivered an exceptional performance to beat out his nearest rival by 10 lengths, dominating the rest of the field at Ludlow Racecourse. Williams was cautious and opted not to race the French-bred again in the 2021/22 campaign.
Quick Wave returned to action last week at Sandown Park against a talented group of horses that included the 2/1 favourite Revel Hill. However, WilliamsÔÇÖ charge impressed once more over three miles and five furlongs with a smooth performance. He was always in control of the race and exerted his authority to pull clear two fences from the line, defeating Planned Paradise by four lengths.
Venetia Williams is on fire with her horses ƒöÑƒÑç
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) December 3, 2022
Williams may opt for the Grand National rather than Cheltenham with the Cross Country Chase due to Delta Work and Gordon Elliott awaiting at Prestbury. However, a victory in the Welsh Grand National would make the rest of the racing world take notice and the style of race is classic Williams. She is a master of the staying chaser.┬á
Paint The Dream
Paint The Dream is a prospect for the Ryanair Chase, although he will need to raise the level of his performances against the elite horses in his class. He had an encouraging start to his 2021/22 campaign by winning at Chepstow in the John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase, defeating Nicky HendersonÔÇÖs charge Janika among others with a fine performance in a season in which O’Brien came in with high ambitions as discussed here on Ludlow Racecourse.
He underwhelmed at Cheltenham before undergoing wind surgery that knocked him out of action for six weeks. On his return, he was off the pace in races at Chepstow and Wetherby, finishing well out of contention. However, he found his form in spectacular fashion at Newbury Racecourse with a sublime run in the Greatwood Gold Cup, dominating a talented field to win the event by 15 lengths ahead of his nearest rival Tamaroc Du Mathan.
OÔÇÖBrien decided not to allow his charge to compete at Cheltenham in 2022, but he did return to action at Aintree in the Melling Chase. He fared well against an impressive array of horses, but lacked the speed and cutting edge of the winner Fakir D’Oudairies, as covered by the Liverpool Echo. It was still a fine performance as a 28/1 shout to finish fourth behind the impressive French thoroughbred, Hitman and Sceau Royal, giving him and OÔÇÖBrien the chance to take momentum into the new campaign.
Paint The Dream struggled on his return to the John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase where he finished third and 57 lengths off the winner Flic Ou Voyou. Bravemansgame proved too much for him and the rest of the field to handle at Wetherby, but he returned to form at Newbury last month with a brilliant performance to notch his first win of the campaign in a 2m4f handicap.┬á Paint The Dream has a lot of talent, and represents the stable sponsor and long term supporter of Welsh racing, David Brace, of Dunraven Windows. Paint The Dream’s early years were spent in the Hunter Chasing scene, ridden by son Connor, who now ranks among the many jockeys at Ravenswell Farm.
His current form leaves a little to make up on Ryanair Chase contenders, but he would be a lively candidate for a Festival handicap over 2m4f at the right weight.