Mark Blandford's Next Sensation is racing at Cheltenham Festival

RACING fan Mark Blandford will be achieving a lifetime’s ambition at the Cheltenham Festival tomorrow (Friday).

The entrepreneur will be a proud owner when his horse, Next Sensation, races in the Grand Annual Chase.

The seven-year-old charge has strong county connections – he was bought through Brightwells, is trained by Michael Scudamore and will be ridden by Richard Johnson.

“It has been my lifetime’s ambition to have a horse good enough to run on merit at the Cheltenham Festival,” said Blandford, who founded Sportingbet plc.

“Next Sensation is a narrow favourite in an open race with 24 horses. There’s no such thing as a certainty but Michael Scudamore said he’s never seen him in such good shape and the drying ground will suit him.

“Tom Scudamore usually rides him but Tom has a retainer with David Pipe and he’s got another ride in the race”

The Grand Annual Chase takes place tomorrow at 5.15pm and Blandford said ‘there will be some really proud people from Herefordshire if a miracle occurs’.

Next Sensation has won three of his last four races and is one of the most improved horses racing in the country, said Blandford.

“I have been going to Cheltenham since I was a schoolboy,” said Blandford.

“My dad, Roy, has been going for 65 years and my grandfather, William, rode in the first festival at Cheltenham in 1911.

“The racing colours are red with black braces and are family colours from the time when my grandfather and father had their racing colours.

“We have got four tickets into the owners and trainers bar and my wife Pat is coming with me and our two daughters, Lucy and Sophie, are taking days off work to come with us.”

Blandford bought Next Sensation through Brightwells as a winning Irish point to pointer.

“I was advised to buy him by Michael Scudamore and Tom Malone, a bloodstock agent, and we were delighted to buy him,” he said.

“Shortly after we bought him we ran him in terrible ground in Hexham and he came second out of three and we were somewhat disappointed.

“He was placed in a novice hurdle in Hereford and then Michael Scudamore and his veterinary team sorted out the horse and he’s been amazing ever since.

“Next Sensation ran at Plumpton with a rating of 105 and he won his three races at a canter.

“His last run was at Doncaster three months ago and he now rates at 142.

“He’s only seven years old and has improved by about three stone in a season.”

Blandford and racing legend Peter Scudamore are tipping the favourite, Bobs Worth, to win tomorrow’s showpiece race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, at 3.20pm.

Venetia Williams has 66-1 shots Katenko and Houblon Des Obeaux in the big race and Tom Scudamore is poised to ride The Giant Bolster, a 16-1 chance.

But the firm ground does not suit Harry Topper, the charge of Hereford United chairman David Keyte, and he will no longer be running.

Instead, Harry Topper looks set to compete in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on Saturday.

There was disappointment at the festival on Tuesday for Checkley owner Stewart Williams when King Massini unseated his rider in the Baylis and Harding Handicap Chase.


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