Trainer Harry Whittington believes a first Cheltenham Festival winner would be a dream come true as Saint Calvados seeks Arkle glory on the opening day of the four-day meeting.
The five-year-old is three from three over fences this season, having won impressively on two visits to Newbury before powering to victory in Warwick’s competitive Kingmaker Novice Chase.
He defeated former Festival hero Diego Du Charmil by a stunning 22 lengths that day, and has been shortened into 6-1 third favourite for the Grade One contest behind Irish pair Footpad and Petit Mouchoir.
“It’s frightening where we’ve got to in such a short space of time,” said the Oxfordshire-based trainer.
“Andrew Brooks told me the Arkle is the target and to work back from that.
“You couldn’t imagine he’d be that short for the Arkle, but he’s talented – we’ve always known that.
“It’s an unbelievable race, it could be the race of the festival. It’ll be a magnificent festival.
“It’s a bonus running in the Arkle and if he wins great. If he comes back in one piece then great – he’s got the world at his feet.
“His speed is frightening, it wouldn’t surprise you if he ran in two or three Champion chases, his pedigree is that there’s a lot of speed in the family.”
Whittington began training six years ago, and has quickly established himself as one of his region’s leading National Hunt trainers. Although still lacking a first winner at the Festival, he did land the Grade One Manifesto Novice Chase at the Grand National meeting.
He is already enjoying his best season to date, saddling a record of 25 winners at this point in the season; four more than his record tally achieved two years ago.
“At the end of the day, Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of our sport,” Whittington added.
“The buzz of the festival, I haven’t missed a day in 20 years. Every time I go I dream of having a winner there and being able to walk in with my horse into that winners’ enclosure.
“I haven’t had the feeling yet, obviously. I imagine it’s better than sex.”
He will also run Simply The Betts (33-1) in the curtain raising Supreme Novice Hurdle, and Bigmatre (25-1) in the JLT Novice Chase.