In a place where dreams are made and hopes are shattered, the bravest knights of North Yorkshire will step into the most unforgiving arena to do battle with the best that Britain has to offer in just under two weeks.
Messrs Easterby, Ellison, Jefferson, Quinn and O’Meara will all make the annual pilgrimage to Prestbury Park, the home of the Cheltenham Festival and National Hunt racing which will once again play host to ‘the greatest show on earth’ as its doors open for four fantastic days racing.
Norton handler Brian Ellison sends arguably his strongest team down to Cheltenham in search of that elusive first victory that he so desperately yearns.
With 12 individual horses entered in numerous races he is clearly signalling his intent on getting the monkey off his back and breaking his festival duck.
Streets of Newyork is possibly his best chance of the week as he lines up in the ultra competitive County Hurdle on the final day in cracking form.
After a very convincing win last time out at Mussleburgh, Ellison saw this as an ideal race for his eight-year-old however he does fear the Irish challenge.
He said: “He won really well last week. He travels. He is jumping better. He is a horse that is improving all the time,
“It’s a hot race, especially when you have got the Irish coming over, and all you can do is get your horse there in good fettle, in the best form you can, and hope that he runs his race.
“It’s hard to go there and say you are going to win. Especially on the Friday because you are going to meet better ground. We know he will go on better ground but a lot of horses will run on softer and, all of a sudden, the ground changes everything.”
Of his other runners Ellison cannot hide his admiration for recent recruit Definitely Red who he views as a possible Gold Cup candidate of the future and is entered up in the Albert Bartlett and Neptune Novices Hurdles but will be unlikely to run unless the ground comes up soft which is very rare at the festival.
The Grey Taylor (Supreme Novice), Yorkist (Arkle), Soudain (Cross Country, Kim Muir), Ice ‘n’ Easy (Cross Country, Kim Muir), Full Day (Fred Winter), Top Of The Glas (Fred Winter, Triumph) Racing Europe (Pertemps, Albert Bartlett), Seamour (Triumph) Midnight Game (County Hurdle) and Conquisto (Martin Pipe) are his other hopefuls.
One family who don’t need to be shown their way to the winners enclosure at Cheltenham are the Easterbys, who have a history steeped in Festival glory thanks to Peter Easterby’s exploits in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s.
He captured a record five Champion Hurdles and two Gold Cups.
Son Tim is not short of festival success himself and as previous festival form is a reliable way to finding winners it should be worth siding with last year’s Fred Winter heroine, Hawk High.
The Habton trainer saddles Hawk High in this year’s County Hurdle where he would have a massive chance if turning up in the same form as last year.
He has ran some respectable races this season without setting the world alight and with the hustle and bustle of a big field handicap to suit he could just be peaking in time for back to back successes at the festival.
His other entries are Run Ructions Run (Mares Hurdle, Pertemps) Trustan Times (Pertemps) and Dark Dune (Martin Pipe).
Another local trainer who isn’t shy of Cheltenham Festival Glory is Malcolm Jefferson and despite this year being restricted to a team of two runners it would be no surprise to see him return victorious.
Firth Of The Clyde (Grand Annual) could be a lively outsider for him in the last race on the last day but it is his returning former festival hero Attaglance who is worth a punt at good odds.
Festival form is so vital and with Attaglance having ran twice, winning the first time and then being the unluckiest of losers last season when finishing a close second he has all the credentials to compete.
Norton-based Jefferson is a master of getting his horses to Cheltenham in tip-top condition and having ran poorly on ground that was too soft for him last time out, Attaglance has been dropped a further two pounds and now looks on a handy mark in time for a big performance in this year’s Browne Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase on day three.
The best chance of a winner for North Yorkshire at the festival hails from the John Quinn yard as he saddles Aurore D’estruval in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle on the first day.
The rapidly improving five-year-old boasts rock solid form this season and is certain to run a massive race, but her chances of winning hinge on the return of the Willie Mullins-trained supermare Annie Power, who has yet to race this season due a couple of niggly injuries.
If the master trainer returns her in any sort of form she should take all the beating.
However after giving away lumps of weight and a good beating to some talented mares last time out Aurore D’estruval is a very solid each-way play in a race lacking in depth and hopefully the red hot favourite may fail to fire.
Quinn also has other festival plans for Chieftans Choice (Supreme Novice, County Hurdle) Mr Gallivanter (Fred Winter), Forced Family Fun (County Hurdle) and L’aigle Royal (Martin Pipe).
Having had a very quiet National Hunt season this year, David O’Meara sends only a solitary representative to claim festival glory, as the ultimately disappointing Rose Of The Moon is expected to take his chance in the Cross country race at big odds hoping that the the challenging course could spark a revival for the out of sorts grey.
Beadle’s Cheltenham bets
Attaglance - Browne Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase, Day 3, 4pm, 20/1
Hawk High - County Hurdle, Day 4, 2.05pm, 25/1
Aurore D’estruval - Mares Hurdle, Day 1, 4pm, 6/1