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Wonderwall tuned up for Champion Bumper bid

Richard Spencer is confident his Weatherbys Champion Bumper contender Wonderwall is capable of running a big race at the Cheltenham Festival.

Spencer’s Ascot winner is a general 25-1 shot for the Grade One on day two of the showpiece meeting.

But the Newmarket trainer has high hopes the imposing five-year-old can mix it with those at the head of the market.

“Wonderwall is a really nice horse heading to Cheltenham,” Spencer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s a bit of a freak really – he shouldn’t really be doing what he’s doing, the size of him.

“His work was very good as a four-year-old, and we gave him a bit of time to start off just before Christmas – and he won very well, after doing a really nice bit of work at Nottingham before going to Ascot for that debut.”

After that November success, Wonderwall returned to the same track little more than three weeks later – and although he again ran well to be third at Listed level, Spencer believes he is capable of better.

“He probably wasn’t 100 per cent where I’d have wanted him to be when he went to Ascot (again), looking back,” he added.

“But the last 10 days he’s really come to life

“I think we’ll see a different horse again, and I hope on a bit better ground he’ll run a big race.”

Wonderwall will arrive at the Festival after a three-month break, which Spencer hopes will also help.

He added: “We thought of maybe going to Newbury for the Listed race, but it was going to be too close running in February and then trying to go to Cheltenham – so we’ve kept him a fresh horse.

“He worked yesterday (Wednesday) at home on the grass at Newmarket, and he worked very well.

“I’m really looking forward to going to Cheltenham.”

Spencer will keep sights lower with another winning bumper debutant, Peejaybee – while he reports that stable star Tyson Fury has improved again through the winter and will begin his four-year-old Flat campaign at Newbury in the middle of next month.

The giant Tyson Fury won two of his three career starts last year, doubling his tally at Ascot in October – having run with credit in the St Leger at Doncaster in between.

Reflecting on his Ascot win, Spencer said: “It just shows what class of horse he is.

“It was only his third start, and we did throw him in the deep end a bit – but he didn’t disgrace himself in the Leger.

“At Ascot, the ground was probably soft enough (for him), and he did have to carry a penalty.

“It’s hard to win under a penalty. But he’s definitely improved over the winter, and I’m looking forward to starting him off this year at Newbury.”

Tyson Fury has won twice over a mile and a half, but Spencer believes the son of Iffraaj could perhaps have the speed to be effective over shorter too.

“He’s in really good form, cantering away and has done very well over the winter,” he said.

“He’s weighing in at about 580 kilos. But all being well, he’s going to go to Newbury at the first meeting – that will be our starting point.

“We’ll see how he starts off there. I think he’s got enough speed to come back to 10 furlongs, but I don’t think we want to be doing that at the moment.

Ascot return may be next for Wonderwall

Champion Bumper hopeful Wonderwall has two possible stops on his road to the Cheltenham Festival in March.

A National Hunt Flat winner on his racecourse debut at Ascot on Saturday, the four-year-old prevailed by half a length ahead of the Nicky Henderson-trained Hamilton’s Fantasy, who is owned by the Queen.

Purchased for 105,000 euros from last year’s Goffs Land Rover Sale, Wonderwall is owned by Rebel Racing, a partnership formed by owner Phil Cunningham and trainer Richard Spencer.

Cunningham said: “He’s a lovely horse, he’s very exciting for us.

“He’s very good and he’s come out of it well – it’s all very exciting for us for the rest of the season.”

Cunningham has two Listed engagements in mind as the horse is prepared for Prestbury Park in March – a return to Ascot next month and the Winter Bumper at Newbury in February.

“He’s got a couple of options, possibly back at Ascot for the Listed race and then obviously there’s the race in February at Newbury,” he added.

“His main objective will of course be the Festival Bumper – that’s the dream. If he’s fit and well he’ll possibly line up at one, or maybe both, of those options on the way.”

Beyond this season’s Festival, Cunningham is hoping Wonderwall can develop into a useful hurdler and eventually come into his own as a staying chaser.

“We think he wants further, and he’s hopefully a three-mile chaser in the making,” he said.

“Whatever he does now is just a really lovely bonus. Obviously I spend more time on the Flat – and I think for a jumps horse, he’s really very athletic-looking.”

A son of Yeats, Wonderwall is as short as 20-1 for Cheltenham with William Hill, BetVictor and Unibet.