Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

All Roads Lead to the Festival for Mill

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

All Roads Lead to the Festival for Mill

Article excerpt

BEFORE the start of the season, John Ferguson was more famed for his multimillion pound deals in the sales ring than anything else.

However, he has now marked himself as a trainer of true potential with a barnstorming campaign so far this term.

Ferguson hit new heights as Cotton Mill produced a performance with 'Cheltenham' stamped all over it in the Neptune Investment Management Leamington Novices' Hurdle at Warwick. Sheikh Mohammed's racing advisor was sending out Cotton Mill to complete a hat-trick, which also took Ferguson's strike-rate to well over 40%.

The gelding's gutsy triumph over Ambion Wood means Ferguson has sent out 18 winners from 42 runners, and all roads now lead to the Festival for the 11-2 winner.

Ferguson said: "He has speed, but the way he battled suggests two miles and five furlongs and that final hill might suit him."

Hey Big Spender became the first horse to win the Classic Handicap Chase after running in the Welsh National on his previous start when wearing down Strongbows Legend at the final fence of the Betfredsponsored marathon.

Will Kennedy, meanwhile, endured mixed fortunes at Kempton, winning the featured William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle - only to receive a seven-day whip ban and lose his prize-money after breaking the whip rules.

Philip Hobbs, trainer of Lanzarote runner-up Featherbed Lane, had earlier winners with Menorah and Sadler's Risk, but bookmakers took contrasting views of their Cheltenham Festival prospects.

Big-name horses often need only to pass the post in front to be shortened in the ante-post markets but the race sponsors went as far as to push Menorah out two points to 16-1 for the Arkle after a fitful round of jumping in the Bet With On Your Mobile Novices' Chase.

Hobbs won his first Arkle with Captain Chris last year, but already has two Triumph Hurdles to his name, and felt Sadler's Risk bore favourable comparison with 2004 hero Made In Japan after his victory in the William Hill - Home Of Betting Juvenile Hurdle. …

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