NEARLY EVERY race at Cheltenham produces an interesting story, but two on Wednesday and Thursday could provide special Wexford tales involving Run for Oscar for the Top of the Hill syndicate and Princess Zoe, the veteran flat racing champion who will be having just her second race over hurdles.
On Wednesday Pat O’Hanlon’s Top of the Hill syndicate and trainer Charles Byrnes from Limerick will be hoping to replicate their World Hurdle win (one of the four major races) of ten years ago with Solwhit when they have Run for Oscar (7/1 second favourite at the time of writing) contesting the Coral Cup.
Pat and wife Mary, from Newtown Road in Wexford, and all their family will be travelling over for the occasion with some confidence.
The horse stamped his potential for the race when collecting £103,000 for winning the Cesarewitch on the flat in impressive style at Newmarket last October.
He followed that up with a creditable run in a three-mile Class 1 hurdle at Haydock and after another third at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve he has been mothballed and prepared for his date with destiny on Wednesday. His main rival may well be Camprond for Philip Hobbs.
On Thursday there is potentially another of the stories of the week as Princess Zoe, the Group 1 winner on the flat for Paddy Kehoe and his sister Patricia from Glynn, switches to hurdles at the ripe old age of eight after 34 runs on the flat, to tackle the mares’ novice race.
Trained by Tony Mullins, who has had a 40-years association with Kehoe, she won nearly half a million euros on the flat, but Paddy Kehoe loves Cheltenham and was very keen to have a run there.
Zoe has had just one run over timber, ridden by Danny Mullins at Punchestown on January 30 when caught on the line in a dead heat with Henry De Bromhead’s Ladybank, ridden by Rachael Blackmore. The predicted soft going would be a definite advantage for her.
It will be a very emotional race for De Bromhead as it honours the memory of his 14-year-old son who was killed in a pony racing accident last summer.
He runs Magical Zoe in this race, and it would bring the house down were he to win it.
However, it would be a dream come through for Kehoe if his ‘Zoe’ pulls it off, and there will be a lot of local interest as this intriguing encounter unfolds at the historic venue.