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CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: Swindon jockey to play a starring role
WAYNE Hutchinson will play a starring role for Barbury Castle trainer Alan King at the Cheltenham Festival this week.
With King’s first jockey Robert Thornton injured and ruled out of the Festival last week, the trainer’s Cheltenham hopes are now firmly placed on Hutchinson’s shoulders.
The Swindon jockey has already been handed the saddle for fancied Smad Place in Thursday’s World Hurdle although Hutchinson admits he wishes the circumstances were different.
“Obviously I feel sorry for Choc [Robert Thornton], he is a good friend and has had his fair share of setbacks over the years with injuries,” Hutchinson told the Swindon Advertiser. “It’s disappointing for him but obviously it opens doors for me. It’s not the way you would want it to happen but these things happen in racing.”
Smad Place was third in last year’s World Hurdle under Thornton and Hutchinson believes he has claims once again.
“I’ll pretty much stay on the rides I was on in the handicaps,” added Hutchinson. “I’m on Balder Succes in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday and Two Rockers in the Neptune [Novices Hurdle on Wednesday].
“Smad Place is basically the pick really. He ran a cracking race to come third in last year’s World Hurdle so hopefully he can run like he did last year. He ran a good second to Reve De Sivola at Ascot in December and was third at Wetherby, so we’ll see.”
The Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the National Hunt season and Hutchinson admits he is relishing playing a leading role.
Last year’s Festival failed to live up to expectation for Hutchinson as he suffered two fallers (Balder Succes and Educated Evans) and a 15th place aboard Ardlui during the week.
And this year he is hoping for a change in fortunes, adding: “Cheltenham is the pinnacle of the year.
“It’s an exciting time and where every jump jockey wants to be this time of year “It’s just great to be a part of it.
“Last year went a bit flat for me but Cheltenham can be a bit like that.
“It can be a place where you can lose yourself a bit sometimes, it either goes for you or it doesn’t.”
Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre is odds on to win the Queen Mothers Champion Chase on Wednesday and Hutchinson believes the seven-year-old is the NAP of the Festival.
Hutchinson also believes this year’s Gold Cup is one of the most interesting races for some time.
“Sprinter Sacre is probably the banker of the week,” claimed Hutchinson. “I think it’s a case of how far he wins by not if. He is the NAP of the festival.
“The Champion Hurdle is an intriguing race. It’s a very open race and you could make a case for half the field with Binocular, Hurricane Fly and Rock On Ruby all in the race, you have three past Champion Hurdle winners in the race.
“The main interest will obviously be in the Gold Cup. There’s no Kauto Star or Denman anymore so I think we could see a new star born in that race.
“I think Long Run has been picked on a bit for me. He hasn’t done a lot wrong and won the King George again this year and he will be in the running for me.”
Hutchinson’s trainer King has seen his main Festival hopes Bensalem and Grumeti ruled out because of injury but the Swindon jockey believes that is just part and parcel of a racing while he thinks the familiar faces will contest the trainer and jockey titles again.
“It’s been unfortunate for Alan King losing some of his leading hopes, it’s disappointing but unfortunately that happens in racing,” added Hutchinson.
“I think you have to look at the same old faces for the trainers’ title.
“Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and for Ireland Willie Mullins are obviously the ones to be behind.
“For the jockeys’ title you have to look at Ruby (Walsh) and Barry (Gerrahty), they’ll obviously be looking to fight that one and to be fair AP (McCoy) will have a few rides too and will want to have something to say about it.”