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RACING: Charlie on a mission
Dense mist, with persistent fine rain, has descended on Charlie Longsdon’s gallops at Chipping Norton.
At the foot of the hill, his string of Cheltenham Festival contenders prepare to continue their build-up to National Hunt racing’s showpiece meeting with two routine canters.
With visibility down to a few hundred yards, the first indication that they are on the way comes with the distant thunder of hooves.
It grows louder until out of the gloom sweep Vulcanite and amateur rider Claire Hart followed by the rest of the string, including Superior Quality, Hazy Tom, Pete The Feat, Pendra, Frisco Depot, Loose Chips and Ely Brown – all bound for the Festival this week.
After flashing past in an instant, they walk back past Longsdon to repeat the exercise.
With his career continuing on an upward spiral, the trainer is now keen to add a Festival winner.
“We have got to get one now,” says the 37-year-old. “We don’t expect to win. It is impossible to do so, but there is no doubt last year we said we had a couple of each-way chances, and this year we have a couple more than that.
“Pendra, Vulcanite, Frisco Depot and Hazy Tom could all be in the money.”
With the second canter completed, several of his Cheltenham hopes move on to the schooling grounds to fine-tune their jumping.
Vulcanite again leads the way, soaring over the line of four fences.
“That looked good to me,” says a delighted Longsdon. “That’s the best I have seen him jump.”
Frisco Depot is equally fluent, but Hazy Tom clouts the second fence both times.
“I could see that was going to happen,” says the trainer. “But he’s never been flashy at home.”
Back in the yard, Longsdon rattles through the prospects for his Cheltenham hopes.
Pendra, Loose Chips and Constant Contact are all entered in today’s Coral Cup and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on Friday.
“Pendra is a novice whose form is as solid as it comes,” Longsdon says. “He might be slightly ahead of the handicapper and is my best chance of going very close.”
He feels Loose Chips may be in the handicapper’s grip, but gives Constant Contact an each-way chance.
Tidal Way, meanwhile, must wait to see if he makes the cut for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Ely Brown tackles the Pertemps Final today.
“He is an improver this season,” says Longsdon. “He has won two qualifiers and is an each-way horse.”
Frisco Depot goes in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup later on the same afternoon.
“He jumps for fun,” says Longsdon. “Three miles and one (furlong) is what he wants.
“I would like his chance if everything goes to plan.”
And he feels Superior Quality won’t be out of place in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Friday.