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Trainer Harry Whittington believes the yard form is improving at the right time ahead of Cheltenham



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Rouge Vif and Saint Calvados will be the two heading for the Festival

TRAINER Harry Whittington believes his yard is ‘hitting form at the right time’ as they put the finishing touches to their Cheltenham Festival preparation.

Whittington will have two runners at the Festival – which begins on Tuesday – with both Rouge Vif and Saint Calvados.

Rouge Vif, who finished third in the Arkle Chase last year, has been entered into the Champion Chase, while Saint Calvados is due to line up in the Ryanair Chase – a race in which he finished second to Min at last year’s Festival.

Whittington said: “I am very happy with them both, our horses are hitting form at the right time and I couldn’t be happier with them at home.

“I feel that they’re in as good a place as they were 12 months ago, they look magnificent and the last bit of work last week went really well.

“All the hard work is done, we just have to school them this week and we’re good to go.”

Simply The Betts, who provided Whittington and the team with a maiden Festival winner last year, has unfortunately picked up an injury and won’t be able to run again this season.

Whittington said: “It’s a real shame, but we would have done really well to get all three of them to two Festivals in a row.

“He has picked up an injury, similar to his old one when he was younger and he had to have a year off, but luckily it’s not as bad and he’ll be back for next season.

“He is ruled out, which is a real shame, but he gave us our first winner and it was a memorable day, but he’ll be back which the main thing is.”

It was a difficult winter for the Sparsholt handler as he went 91 days without a winner, but Sheila Nash ended that unfortunate run last month.

However since then, it’s been a return to form and Whittington feels that it’s perfect timing.

“They couldn’t be coming into form at a better time,” Whittington admitted. “We have had six winners in the last three weeks and it’s really great.

“It’s hard work paying off for the whole team because it’s absolutely soul destroying for everyone when you’re going through that spell.

“Every single member of my staff care just as much as I do and it’s rotten when it was happening throughout the winter.

“But we were patient, we stuck to our guns and we didn’t run any of the real nice young horses during it, but we went steady with them all and we’ve got through it and bounced back.”



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