Last year success came through chaser Oiseau de Nuit in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, with Stephen Clements piloting home the Colin Tizzard trained gelding. That combination bids for a repeat victory this year, though 79-year-old Warner thinks his best chance lies elsewhere.
Indeed, on paper, Warner thinks this could be his best year ever at Cheltenham. He has high hopes of Grand Vision who holds entries in both the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Warner is in no hurry to decide which of the two he'll run in. He said, "I was impressed by the way he won at Haydock. I saw him win on TV while I was away on holiday and I thought he'd be my best chance of winning at Cheltenham this year, but he's got to get in the Pertemps. He's got 10 stone 5lb and he might just creep in."
If his two horses with Colin Tizzard don't come through, Warner has two Philip Hobbs trained chances, Featherbed Lane and Big Easy, both of whom are double entered. Despite being an improving horse, Warner and Hobbs think it's unlikely Big Easy will get into either the Coral Cup or the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. It looks like he'll have to wait until next year for an opportunity.
Featherbed Lane is another example where we can take advantage of the ‘non-runner no bet’ concession that Matt wrote about earlier today. Warner says, "He'll be left in the World Hurdle (66/1 with Boylesports) in case something goes wrong with Big Buck’s and his in the Coral Cup. He'll definitely run in one of them."
Three out of three would be something beyond Warner’s dreams, and personally, I'd be surprised if any of them came first this year. But I'll have a bit of Featherbed Lane and stand ready to trade is often if necessary.