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Owner hopes for the best for Kings Palace: Bryan Drew Interview

Owner Bryan Drew is following the mantra of ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’ with his leading Cheltenham Festival fancy Kings Palace.

Drew has plenty of reasons to hope for the best with his seven-year-old unbeaten in three starts over fences and 4-1 for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

On the other hand, he has good reason to prepare for the worst with Kings Palace weakening rapidly and falling at the last when fancied for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last season.

For the time being, hope and excitement are the overriding emotions, and Drew says: “The vibes are pretty good [from the yard] and he’s in good form. He strained himself a little bit with that awkward landing at Newbury last time but he’s fully recovered from that and is in pretty good shape.

“Everybody seems to think that last year’s Albert Bartlett run counts against him in that they went too fast for him first time around and he ran out of gas on the second circuit. That may be true although he did need a wind op after that. If you look at the finishing time of the Albert Bartlett, I don’t think his run the previous December [over hurdles] was too different so I like to think it was a breathing problem as opposed to a stamina problem but we’ll find out come the RSA.”

Kings Palace wears his heart on his sleeve when he races, heading out into the lead and putting in bold leaps which have so far left his rivals toiling. It is a style that Drew enjoys and he feels aggrieved his pride and joy has had his chances at Cheltenham knocked on the basis of a couple of below par performances.

“He’s very flamboyant and was the same over hurdles,” Drew says. “He’s a front-running horse and likes to be prominent, although he doesn’t have to lead. He’s got tremendous enthusiasm for his job and he’s a pleasure to own. It irks me a little bit to see all the pundits writing him off on the basis of one awkward fall and a pretty useless two-horse race at Newbury. I don’t think taking on a bigger field is an issue at all frankly. It’s not our fault that horses in general have run away from him this season.”

He adds: “We go to the race with lots of hope but we remember the experience of last year and the disappointment so we’ll be keeping our feet on the ground.

“If he runs to the best of his ability then he’s got a strong chance. He’s short in the betting and we can’t do anything about his potential rivals but as long as he’s there fit and healthy he’ll give a real good account of himself.”

While Kings Palace may be Drew’s best chance of a winner at Cheltenham, he is not the owner’s only chance with Moon Racer increasingly fancied for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. The six-year-old was a classy winner of his only start for the Drew and trainer David Pipe, who also trains Kings Palace, and a big future is expected for the horse whether he wins at Cheltenham or not.

“His first run in October was fantastic,” Drew says. “It was a pretty hot field and we had been hearing all morning about how everyone else liked their runners in the race. He won out of a very small set up in Ireland and I bought him about a week later in Cheltenham. With no disrespect to his previous trainer Michael Ronayne, he’s only got a small yard and I thought this horse in the hands of a serious trainer could be quite useful and I was correct in October. He travelled nicely, dictated the pace and then blew them away that day. We didn’t bring him out sooner because he wasn’t 100 per cent and we’d had a few niggles with him. In the end, we ran out of time to go novice hurdling so we let him take his chance in the bumper and he’s got a full run at things next year with him.”

Un Temps Pour Tout will also carry Drew’s colours at Cheltenham in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle with the owner hoping for a top-three finish in Thursday’s contest.

Drew says: “He’s in good nick. We were hoping to get another run into him in mid-February at Haydock but he wasn’t 100 per cent and we decided against that. “He’s had a racecourse gallop at Exeter which he came out of very nicely but I think he’s got to find ten lengths to figure in the World Hurdle. It’s not impossible for him to find that as he’s a very good horse but it’s a very hot race. If he gets to the top three I think he’ll have done very well.”

Since starting his involvement in racing three years ago, Drew has been a big investor in the sport and is thrilled to be a position to challenge for major prizes at Cheltenham.

He says: “This is what I’m in it for – getting good horses to big races – and it comes no bigger than the festival. I got lucky with Kings Palace as he was my first horse and if he’d been rubbish I may have stopped at one or two. But I fell in love with the game and have invested more. The festival is the pinnacle of the year and I’m extremely excited but am also trying to protect myself and those around me from the potential disappointment.”