SONNING racehorse owner Max McNeill could have up to seven runners at the Cheltenham Festival which starts next Tuesday, writes Dave Wright.

But whether they all run and in which races during the four-day meeting has still to be confirmed.

He is enjoying his best-ever season with more than 20 winners emerging from his long list of nearly 40 horses, who are trained by 10 English and Irish trainers, including Jumps champions Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.

He owns 14 outright, the others being co-owned by family members, friends and Ruscombe company Prodec Networks Ltd.

But all will run in the same colours – Reading FC style blue and white hoops, along with burgundy sleeves – although McNeill admits his No. 1 football club are Blackburn Rovers.

However, his Cheltenham entries do not include his Grade One runners Keeper Hill and The Worlds End, as they are being kept back for the Aintree meeting in the first week of April which features the Grand National.

Most of his runners will be ridden by Adrian Heskin, a vital cog of the McNeill team along with his racing manager Ian Turner.

McNeill has never enjoyed a winner during Festival week although he has had a few making the frame, and next week that sequence could continue with two or three looking good each-way value.

Tuesday is particularly special for McNeill as the 2.50pm race is sponsored by Ultima, the Reading IT business solutions company he founded 25 years ago. He is no longer the owner, but remains a non-executive director and 'a significant' shareholder. These days, he is involved in the property market.

He could well have a runner in the £110,000 Ultima race as the entries for this 3m 1f handicap chase include Mulcahys Hill, who is part-owned by his family and Prodec Networks and trained by Warren Greatrex.

McNeill describes the eight-year-old as "a bit quirky" but adds: "He ran a beautiful race to win at Cheltenham last October. He has had a wind op since and then had a run at Newcastle in January. He goes well when fresh and I think he has a good each-way chance."

He said smiling: "It would be nice to present the prize to ourselves instead of other people."

McNeill says the most exciting race for his team comes on Wednesday in the £100,000 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (2.50).

He has three entries – the Greatrex-trained Portrush Ted, The Butcher Said (trained by Olly Murphy) and Escaria Ten from Irish trainer Gordon Elliott's yard.

The Butcher Said has also been entered for Friday's Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (2.50) as well as the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle (5.30).

Group Stage, trained by Alan King, is entered in the Boodles-sponsored Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle (4.50) on Wednesday.

"He's around 16/1 so looks to have a solid each-way shout in what looks a very open handicap," commented McNeill.

He is without a runner on Thursday, but is hoping to be doubly represented in the £125,000 Albert Bartlett race on Friday by The Wolf – co-owned by Prodec Networks and trained by Olly Murphy – along with either Escaria Ten, The Butcher Said or Kiltealy Briggs (trained by Jamie Snowden), adding: "It all depends on if they get in the other races already mentioned."

No matter what happens next week, McNeill is already looking forward to the 2021 Festival, stating: "We have some exciting young novices in training who will come on and be good three-mile chasers next season and will be aimed for Cheltenham."