Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson goes into the Cheltenham Festival this year with a big chance of landing the biggest prize of the week, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is a partner of Protektorat, one of the fancied runners for the race.
The seven-year-old is the leading British hope for the 3m2f contest on day four of the meeting at Prestbury Park. He continues to improve over fences in what is just his second campaign over the bigger obstacles.
Trained by Dan Skelton at his Lodge Hill stable, Protektorat is a 10/1 shot for the Gold Cup. Those looking to back Ferguson’s horse can also pick up a Cheltenham free bet offer, which can be used on the feature race of the week.
Protektorat prevailed at the Grand National Meeting at Aintree last April in one of the leading novice chase races of the season. With that race taking place in Liverpool, it would have given the former United boss a great deal of satisfaction.
Skelton’s chaser showed his liking for Aintree again on his latest appearance on the track. He blew his rivals away by 25 lengths in the Grade Two Many Clouds Chase, finishing ahead of former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River.
Ferguson and his partners in the horse have resisted the temptation of running him since that race on the 4th of December. They want their runner to be as fresh as possible for the Blue Riband event of the Festival.
Irish Horses Dominate Betting for Gold Cup
This year’s Gold Cup is expected to be one of the strongest renewals of the race for years, so Ferguson’s horse faces strong competition. The betting for the contest is headed by A Plus Tard, one of several entries from Ireland.
Last year’s runner-up prevailed in the Betfair Chase at Haydock back in November. That is one of the leading races in the 3m chase division and the way he won that contest suggests he will have an excellent chance of going one place better this year at Cheltenham.
2021 winner Minella Indo is also expected to return, as he bids to defend his crown. He has yet to score so far this season, but connections of the horse will be hopeful of another big run as he returns to the scene of his major triumph.
Former Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins is represented again in the Gold Cup by dual winner Al Boum Photo. The horse is bidding to complete a hat-trick of wins and become only the second horse since 2000 to achieve that feat.
The strong team from Ireland for the prestigious National Hunt contest also includes Galvin. He won the Grade One Savills Chase at Leopardstown on his most recent appearance. Gordon Elliott’s horse is also a former Cheltenham Festival winner, as he prevailed in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase in 2021.
Ferguson has been a huge supporter of horse racing during his football career and since he retired. Victory in the Gold Cup would be a huge achievement for the United legend.