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Parlour Games flagbearer for trainer: John Ferguson Interview

He was in Dubai last week and will be in Australia next week overseeing Sheikh Mohammed’s equine empire, but this week John Ferguson will be fully focused on Cheltenham. This season, Ferguson heads to Cheltenham with his strongest-ever team of runners aiming to build on the second place achieved by New Year’s Eve in the 2013 Champion Bumper, the trainer’s best result to date at the Festival.

His flagbearer this year is Parlour Games, a formerly classy stayer for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and now a leading contender for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. Parlour Games has been transformed in his last two starts, winning the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle last time out, and Ferguson believes it is a result of the work his team have put in getting the horse to settle in his races which now means he can unleash his full potential.

He says: “The most important thing was to get him to settle down having had a fairly long Flat career. That took us from October to May the following year to really get him to switch off to a level where he would be competitive. So once we achieved that it was a question of building his confidence. He’s got himself into a position where he’s confident, he knows what he’s doing, he jumps well and enjoys the game and his last two displays have been very impressive. He’s entitled to be a horse people talk about but whether he’s good enough to win I have no idea as it’s a question of how good the Irish horses are. If the race was confined to horses trained in England I’m sure he would be top of the market.”

Ferguson will be hoping to get off to a flying start to the meeting with Qewy creeping into contention for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and the trainer feels the five-year-old possesses a secret weapon.

“He’s really well and has come on from Newbury, so I think he’ll give a very good account of himself,” Ferguson says. “He came back from Haydock and had knocked into himself, which is why he hung at the last couple of flights, and then he won really well at Newbury beating a horse that has since gone and won easily since. He’s got pace which is a real asset and what it’s all about at the end of it.”

Strength in depth is the difference between Ferguson’s challenge this year compared to others and in Devilment and Arabian Revolution he has a useful duo for the juvenile hurdles.

Devilment will go for Triumph as it’s hard to win the Fred Winter off his mark of 142. Arabian Revolution is off 137 so he’s off the perfect mark for that race,” Ferguson says. “I think Arabian Revolution will have a great chance as he’s doing everything right at home. Devilment has continued to please me and I’m very happy with him.”

With horses sources primarily from the Flat, better ground at Cheltenham is expected to be the favour of many of Ferguson’s runners, and the trainer says: “Three Kingdoms won the Lightning Chase at Doncaster and has run well at Cheltenham so that will suit him in the Arkle. I think the quicker the ground the better he will be and he has to have an each-way chance.

“I also have Mijhaar in the Coral Cup and although his form looks like he needs to find a bit the fact it will be on quicker ground will really suit him.”