Nina Carberry backs On The Fringe for Festival glory

Nina Carberry - on her Festival fancies
Nina Carberry - on her Festival fancies
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A host of Irish-trained horses exercised at Cheltenham Racecourse on Monday morning as Prestbury Park gears up for another superb four days of Jump racing at The Festival 2017.

Trainers including Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and Noel Meade oversaw the final preparations of their Festival strings before the racing gets under way on Tuesday.

Nina Carberry, one of the finest jockeys of her generation, misses The Festival this year due to being pregnant with her first child, but the leading amateur rider provided a positive update on Enda Bolger's hopes for The Festival this year

Carberry was particularly confident that the J P McManus-owned On The Fringe, winner of the last two renewals of the St James's Palace Foxhunter Chase (Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 17, 4.10pm) could claim a record third success in the extended three mile and two furlong event.

The rider partnered the son of Exit To Nowhere to both those victories and Carberry issued a positive update on the horse's welfare ahead of this year's contest, commenting: "On The Fringe definitely has a big chance in the Foxhunters. The horse that beat him last time out [Foxrock] is not running as he has not qualified so I can't see why he can't do the treble to be honest.

"I think he will like a bit of better ground - there doesn't look like there is going to be much rain during the week. He is in great form and Enda is very happy with him. He showed he retains his old ability the last day and I can't see why he can't win this race for the third time."

When asked whether at the age of 12, Bolger's charge was still capable of winning the Foxhunters, Carberry added: "I think his age is no problem at all and he rates as the one to beat."

Carberry also suggested that Cantlow, similarly owned by McManus, had leading claims in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (Ladies' Day, Wednesday, March 15, 4.10pm). A three-length second to Urgent De Gregaine over the course and distance in a handicap on Festival Trials Day in January, Carberry said the Kayf Tara gelding would appreciate the better ground forecast for the Festival.

She remarked: "Cantlow will definitely improve from his last run. He had to give a lot of weight away the last day but on better ground I think he is a completely different horse. He loves that top of the ground surface but I think he just gets caught out a little on heavy ground. I don't think it is going to be that way this time around so I'd hope he would run a big race.

"He didn't get it all his own way at Cheltenham the last day when he was carried wide and was giving plenty of weight away so he definitely is the one to beat."

Cause Of Causes, a winner at The Festival for the last two years also runs in the Cross Country for trainer Gordon Elliott. However, Carberry has reservations about the horse's chances in the extended three mile and six furlong contest, following a well-beaten fifth over course and distance in January.

Carberry continued: "They brought him back to school over these sort of fences again as he didn't really take to it the first day so I would be a bit slightly wary of him but I think Cantlow is pretty solid to be honest on better ground."

She added: "I would think On The Fringe has a great chance and looks one of the stand-out horses of the week."