Full steam ahead for Puffin Billy’s Festival charge

The sun ought to shine for Fontwell's Thursday afternoon racing

Irish raiders among the Fontwell fields

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Puffin Billy is firmly on track for the Cheltenham Festival.

The five-year-old gelding dazzled the region’s racing fans when he cruised to success on his debut at Fontwell in March of last year.

And now connections are hoping he can cap a stunning 12 months with victory at Prestbury Park in six weeks time.

Trained by Oliver Sherwood, the son of Heron Island has been entered in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – the annual curtain-raiser for the four-day jump racing spectacular.

He has also been pencilled in for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle the following day.

Sherwood and his team are keeping their options open as to which of the two Grade 1 battles he will contest.

But whichever they choose, Puffin Billy will no doubt be a serious contender after beginning his career with four consecutive victories.

The first of those wins came in a bumper at Fontwell.

And he quickly marked himself out as one to watch as he romped to a 17-length triumph over Seebright over the 2m3f trip.

The Irish-bred talent then made a mockery of the 7lb penalty he picked up for that success when he thrashed Lord Protecter by nine lengths at Ascot on his return in November.

Sherwood took the opportunity to switch his rapidly-improving gelding to hurdles.

And Puffin Billy thrived in his new surroundings as he recorded a maiden win at Newbury before cruising to success in the Grade 2 Mitie Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle back at Ascot in December.

That victory earned him a rating of 150 and a shot at the best young hurdlers in training at the Festival.