CRAIG KIESWETTER is eyeing a successful Cheltenham Festival week with several runners in with a real chance.
The ex-England cricketer turned professional golfer has spent his years since cricket retirement working alongside stud manager Patrick Wynn-Jones and his brother to bolster their army of runners at Barnane Stud.
Kieswetter starred alongside Kevin Pietersen and Ben Stokes in a highly successful England team.
He was pivotal to the success in the World T20 tournament of 2010 – one of the highlights of English cricket this century.
Kieswetter's cricketing days are well behind him after being forced to retire early following a horrific facial injury.
Despite turning his hand to golf professionally, it looks like the 35-year-old's full attention has turned to horse racing with a solid group forming.
Willie Mullins-trained Echoes In Rain is one of his stars and is amongst the favourites to land next week's Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.
She only trails superstar Honeysuckle, Marie's Rock and Brandy Love in the betting at present, sitting around the 7/1 mark.
With first place landing £67,524, Kieswetter is aiming to kickstart his festival with a bang on the opening day.
And he is hoping she can continue to be underestimated in the contest and is buoyed by the positive messages he's received from the legendary Ruby Walsh.
He said: “If the ground is right and the pace of the race is right, we are really expecting her to explode out and give a really good account in the latter stage of the race.
“There will be less pressure on her and I don’t want to say she’s flying under the radar, but there will be a lot more horses in the race who are better fancied.
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"And if I’m honest, I’d prefer the position of being under the radar, under cover somewhat and coming through and causing a bit of a surprise.
“I’m quite happy with the position we are in and it is really encouraging to hear Ruby Walsh and others within the yard talk encouragingly about her.
"It sounds a bit cliched but we just want her to come home safe to the paddock, whatever the result may be.”
Alongside Echoes In Rain, Kieswetter also owns Il Etait Temps in partnership with the Hollywood Syndicate.
Il Etait Temps saw off superstar stablemate Facile Vega when the pair met at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.
The latter had been the talk of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle prior to that defeat – and remains favourite at 2/1 as things stand.
But Il Etait Temps is as short as 6/1 to win the Festival opener as he comes into this one off the back of a Grade 1 win.
Kieswetter expects another bold bid from Il Etait Temps and reckons a strong round of jumping puts them in with a shout of landing the £76,000 prize.
He told PA Racing: “There will obviously be huge talk about Facile Vega and rightly so because he looks a terrific horse.
“But the manner in which Il Etait Temps ran and won at Leopardstown – when he kept up with the hot pace and was able to accelerate – if the speed of the race is run right for him and the ground is right for him, I don’t see any reason why he can’t run another great race and walk away respectfully.
“There is no doubt he is a lovely horse and as Willie has said, if he jumps well he will be right there and thereabouts.
“It is exciting to go to Cheltenham off the back of a Grade One win and it gives us some confidence, but we’re definitely not taking things for granted.”
Another of Kieswetter's runners, Gust Of Wind is a bit bigger odds at 33/1 currently to win the Triumph Hurdle on the final day.
There's another huge pot up for grabs with a cool £75,964 for the winner there.
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