Will Al Ferof attempt to do a One Man?
Owner John Hales has said that no decision on which race Al Ferof will line-up in at the Festival will be made until nearer the time, following his defeat in the Denman Chase at Newbury.
Paul Nicholls’ gelding, who was beaten 25 lengths into second by Harry Topper on his second try over 3 miles, holds entries in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Ryanair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
In the immediate aftermath of the Newbury race it was widely assumed that the Ryanair over the shorter trip of 2m 5f would be the ideal race.
However, the 2011 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has a similar profile to that of the brilliant One Man, (comma needed somewhere in paragraph, probably best here) who was also owned by Hales and landed the 1998 running of the Queen Mother in devastating fashion after being dropped back in trip.
That horse was also a grey and a strong travelling sort with a turn of foot like Al Ferof, and although he stayed 3 miles well he proved ideally suited by the strong gallop and 2m-trip of the Queen Mother.
Al Ferof was sent off the 3/1 second favourite when beaten 32 lengths into fourth behind Sprinter Sacre in the 2012 running of the Arkle.
That race, which is over the 2m-trip of the Queen Mother, was the last race he contested at the Festival and the distance he was beaten that day does not tell the whole story.
The nine-year-old was travelling well at the head of affairs when a shuddering mistake four out stopped him in his tracks, and from that point he was allowed to come home in his own time.
There is little doubt that he has the speed required for the 2 mile test, having finished runner-up in the Champion Bumper in 2010 prior to landing the Supreme 12 months later, and his record of four wins from six runs at the track is another big plus.
Coral currently go 14/1 about him for the Queen Mother, and in what looks a wide open renewal outside the “big two” of Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy that could well represent good each-way value if connections allowing him to take his chance.
His owner has stressed that the ground will determine which of the three options he takes at the Festival and that “all remain open”.
But if it comes up testing, then a crack at the Queen Mother would have to be very tempting given the health problems surrounding Sprinter Sacre this year and the fact that the second favourite Sire De Grugy does not have a good record at the track.