Dorking could deliver Festival victory for Crawford

Stuart Crawford is set to have a small but select squad for the Cheltenham Festival and has highlighted Dorking Cock in the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase as his best chance of a winner.

The nine-year-old won four times when trained in the UK by Tom Lacey and has added another two strikes since switching to the County Antrim-based handler.

However, it was his performance at Down Royal when hunted down late by David Christie’s Vaucelet that is giving Crawford plenty of cause for optimism.

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Only a neck separated the duo at the winning post in the St Stephen’s Day feature, but whereas Vaucelet is the general 2-1 favourite for the amateur jockeys’ contest, Dorking Cock is a best price of 14-1 to turn the tables at Prestbury Park.

“Realistically our best chance would be Dorking Cork in the Foxhunters,” said Crawford.

“I think Vaucelet is a very good horse and he’s as good a young hunter as there is around and I would think there is plenty more improvement to come from him.

“Certainly that day at Down Royal, when the two horses hit the line they went a good bit further before they pulled up. So it would definitely be interesting to take him on again.

“We will definitely be looking forward to him. The horse has been lightly raced and was bought with the race in mind. He has just had a few niggly issues last season and we didn’t get running him where we wanted, but hopefully this year it will all go according to plan.”

Gold Cup Bailly gathered a growing reputation when winning his first three chasing appearances, but had to settle for second behind Thomas Darby at Ayr in his most recent start.

Gold Cup Bailly looks an exciting prospect for Stuart Crawford
Gold Cup Bailly looks an exciting prospect for Stuart Crawford (PA)

The seven-year-old holds an entry for the National Hunt Chase, but a lack of rain could see both him and Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle outsider Ailie Rose skip the Festival.

Crawford continued: “Gold Cup Bailly is in the National Hunt Chase, but he also has a couple of other options and I don’t know whether the ground will be slow enough for him. He probably wants a bit more dig in the ground, so it’ll probably depend on the weather between now and then.

“I’ve a little mare in the mares’ hurdle but she probably wants it a bit slower as well, so she’s another we’ll have to gauge closer to the time.”

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