Cheltenham Festival 2012 

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Cheltenham Festival Aspirations

Alan King reckons Hold On Julio could be heading to the Cheltenham Festival, following his second runaway victory at Sandown on Saturday, with the JLT Specialty Chase being the likely target.

Hold On Julio
© Racehorse Photos

Hold On Julio
The nine-year-old joined the Barbury Castle handler following a hunter chase victory at Kelso in the spring and he has made a brilliant start for his new connections. After bolting up at Sandown in November, the lightly raced gelding returned to Esher to beat a field of established handicappers with ease.

"I was delighted with him. His jumping could have been better but he powered away in the end and hopefully we can sort the jumping out. He's had problems in his early career but apart from a bout of ringworm a few weeks ago, we've had a lovely clear run with him," said King.

"When we started working him in the autumn, everyone who sat on him fell in love with him, so we knew he was a good horse.

"He was a stone higher than he was on his first run and I'd imagine he'll go up another stone now, but when you win a £50,000 race, you don't mind as much!

"The three-mile handicap (JLT Specialty Chase) on the opening day of the Festival would look the obvious target for him at Cheltenham and I'd imagine he'll have another run somewhere beforehand.

"I haven't had a proper look yet but we'll try to find something in the middle of February."


Exciting Highclere juvenile Ranjaan was beaten on his hurdling debut at Newbury and then fell on his next appearance at Doncaster, but the Paul Nicholls trained four-year-old looked all class when winning at Kempton over Christmas and is prominent in ante-post lists for the Triumph Hurdle.

"There are no immediate plans for him as like a lot of horses at this time of year, he's had his flu vaccination. He's just been having an easy time since Christmas," said Highclere racing manager Harry Herbert.

"Paul was thinking of getting him back on track in February some time with the hope that he will then end up at Cheltenham. Whether that will be for the Triumph Hurdle or the Fred Winter, time will tell and a lot will depend on his next race.

"We were thrilled with him at Kempton and I think he's a horse who is improving all the time, and hopefully there is a lot more to come.

"On his first run at Newbury he was very rusty and sluggish, but he's sharpened up a lot since then. Hopefully he's a horse with a big future and he should make an exciting chaser. It's been an exciting start to his career, so hopefully that continues."

Highclere may be better known for their exploits on the Flat, but they are enjoying a fine time over jumps this season.

Herbert added: "Everyone is enjoying the jumping at the moment and of course, Cheltenham is the dream for everyone. The dream is alive for us.

"As well as Ranjaan, Emma Lavelle's Penny Max has won his last two over fences. I think there is a race for him at Ascot coming up and depending on how he gets on there, he could go to the Cheltenham Festival as well I suppose.

"Another nice horse is Tuscan Gold, who we bought off Sir Mark Prescott and sent to Alan King. He didn't seem to stay on his first run at Huntingdon so he's going to come back in trip and we'll see how he gets on."


Margaret Mullins will leave it up to Mumbo Jumbo’s owner Barry Connell to decide whether the talented gelding will compete at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

The five-year-old was an impressive winner on his bumper debut at Gowran Park in September before finishing an unlucky sixth in a Listed event at Cheltenham, having been hampered running down the hill.

He bounced back to winning form with a most taking performance at Leopardstown over Christmas and he could now be in line for the Champion Bumper.

"He's come out of Leopardstown good and he's on a bit of a break now. He's out in the paddock at the moment kicking and bucking, he's full of himself," said Mullins.

"It was a good performance at Leopardstown. The time before at Cheltenham he ran very green, but I'd say going over there made a man of him.

"He's a lot more settled now and he could go back to Cheltenham for the Champion Bumper, although that would be up to Barry. If he was to go to Cheltenham, he'd go straight there now. He wouldn't have another run beforehand.

"There is also the option of going to Punchestown, so I'll leave it up to Barry to decide, but he's a really nice horse and a really good jumper as well."

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