Ferguson chases festival Bumper payday
Alex Ferguson's I'm Fraam Govan will race in Wetherby's Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson may still be seething from his team’s controversial exit from the Champions League, but he is due to be on hand when his runner, I’m Fraam Govan, goes for glory in Wednesday’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
The five-year-old features among 35 confirmations for the Grade One heat, with trainer George Baker’s eyes firmly set on the prize.
An impressive victor over subsequent Listed hurdles winner and Grade One-placed runner Easter Day on his racecourse bow last May, I’m Fraam Govan was only fifth as an odds-on favourite on his reappearance at Lingfield in January.
However, Baker felt the all-weather track was not quite to the gelding’s liking that day and retains plenty of faith in his festival contender. “The plan is to go to Cheltenham next week,” said the Wiltshire handler.
“The owner is attending on Wednesday and hopefully we can put a smile on his face.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Shield, ante-post favourite Golantilla and leading home hope Empiracle all feature.
Shield booked his ticket with a win at Leopardstown last Sunday and could be O’Brien’s first Cheltenham runner since the triple Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq pulled up in his defence of the race in 2002.
The Tony Martin-trained Golantilla was a winner at Cork in January, when in the care of Seán O’Brien, while Jeremy Scott’s Empiracle has not run since breezing home at Huntingdon last October.
Willie Mullins has his usual clutch of entries to choose from, including leading fancy Union Dues, although big-money recruit Moyle Park is not among the possibles.
Meanwhile, the beautifully-bred Speckled Wood justified 7/4 favouritism under top-weight in the Carrick-On-Suir Mares Handicap Hurdle at Clonmel yesterday.
A daughter of the high class racemare Like-A-Butterfly, Jody McGarvey was happy to track the leaders before shaking up the five-year-old to challenge approaching the last. She soon settled the issue by quickening up early on the run-in to beat Lead Kindly Light by 3¾ of a length, with Castle Genie back in third.
Owner JP McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “She jumped great and handled the ground. Jody gave her a good ride, and she’ll go for another handicap. She is very game.”
Tom George believes Mail De Bievre is “right where we want him” after the ex-French gelding was supplemented (for £17,500) for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the festival on Wednesday.