Preparations for the Festival were in full swing at Cheltenham racecourse on Wednesday and with 13 days to go until the opening day, a number of trainers gathered at a press conference ahead of the four-day spectacular.
Olly Murphy has enjoyed a banner season thanks to Itchy Feet’s Grade 1 success at Sandown earlier this month and the Scilly Isles winner looks likely to head to the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase next month.
The six-year-old, owned by Kate and Andrew Brooks, is reported to be in good form ahead of the Festival and Murphy said: “We’re looking forward to running Itchy Feet and he hasn’t done a lot wrong.
“He’s a horse that people have loved to knock when Laurina didn’t turn at Sandown but at the same time, he was a facile winner of that race in the end.”
Itchy Feet will be joined in Murphy’s Cheltenham squad alongside the Barbara Hester-owned Brewin’upastorm, who heads straight to the Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Chase having had two runs over fences this season, and Pertemps Hurdle hope Skandiburg.
Murphy added: “Brewin’upastorm hasn’t done a lot wrong and I know we haven’t seen him for a while but he’s very good fresh. He won his bumper, hurdle and novice chase first time out and it doesn’t bother me that he hasn’t had a prep run.
“Obviously, the Irish look like they’ll have a strong hand in the race, but my lad has done nothing wrong and I’m looking forward to running him.”
“Skandiburg has been mapped out for the race in the last six months. For a young trainer like me, you want to be winning on the big stage and I’d love to think that I’ve got some good darts to throw at the board; it’d be lovely if one of them hit the bullseye.”
The anticipated clash between Altior, Chacun Pour Soi and Defi Du Seuil will see the trio vie for the crown in the Champion Chase on the Wednesday of the Festival.
Altior is bidding for a third successive success in the contest but will face significant danger from the Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil, who is unbeaten in all three of his starts and was last seen winning the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.
Hobbs said: “Everything has gone very well since he won at Ascot so we’re looking forward to the big day. Personally, I’d rather Chacun Pour Soir and Altior didn’t get there, it’d be much easier! If they’re all there and he can win that’d be great.
“Having gone two miles all season and being unbeaten, it was the obvious race to go for.”