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Matt Donlan on Sunday: Excitement builds ahead of the big one
THE time is almost upon us, the excitement has reached fever pitch - and the greatest show on turf is tantalisingly just two days away.
The 2014 Cheltenham Festival swings into life on Tuesday with the eyes of the horse racing world turned onto Prestbury Park for the greatest four days in National Hunt racing.
There are, as always, all the usual talking points, including the postscript of the saga involving Irish trainer Philip Fenton.
Fenton sends out the much fancied Last Instalment in Friday’s Blue Riband Gold Cup but the brilliant horse, owned by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary, will be under something of a cloud.
Fenton faces charges of possessing anabolic steroids and other banned substances in his yard but has yet to enter a plea in a process that has already taken two years since the initial raid on his premises by Department of Agriculture officials and that court case has been adjourned until after the Festival.
All of the trainer’s Cheltenham entries have been tested and all are clear but there is a whispering campaign suggesting there could be a core of people within the sport hoping Last Instalment will not take the supreme prize.
It makes for another fascinating story from the Festival - and there could be no nicer tale than old favourite The Giant Bolster taking the prize for David Bridgewater.
Last year’s winner Bob’s Worth is the favourite but Tom Scudamore, who rides The Giant Bolster, really fancies the top prize.
They could be one and two and I will also be taking Harry Topper for a place, even though drying ground has made the investment - made when the going at HQ was best described as on the empty side of bottomless - slightly more vulnerable than it appeared.
All in all it promises to be a majestic festival.
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