The meteoric rise of Lambourne based trainer Harry Whittington is arguably what makes Cheltenham Festival captures the nation's imagination as it does year-on-year.

Last year a virus in the yard scuppered any hopes of a runner at the prestigious Spring meeting at Prestbury Park, but this year he will go into the week with three live chances, none more so that stable star Saint Calvados in the Arkle.

Speaking exclusively to Oddschecker, Whittington opened up about how the past 12 months have revolutionised his operation, whilst failing to disguise a giddy smile when asked about the prospect of entering the winner's enclosure next month.

"At the end of the day, Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of our sport. 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."

When asked specifically about five-year old Saint Calvados, who only had his first run in the UK on Dec 30th last year, Whittington admitted that the past 6 weeks had been something of a whirlwind.

"It's frightening where we've got to in such a short space of time.

"Andrew Brooks [the horse's owner] 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.

If there was any doubt whether Saint Calvados belongs in Arkle company, Whittington is already looking ahead to future Cheltenham glories.

A Festival win on Tuesday 13th March could well be the first of many, for both horse and trainer.

You can view this, and more exclusive Oddschecker Cheltenham Festival news here.

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