BEN Pauling began training on his own in 2013 and must have thought the game was easy, as Barters Hill and then Willoughby Court scaled heights that quickly brought him plenty of attention.

It is not until this season, however, that Pauling – who counts Cheltenham as his local track – feels he is heading to the Festival with a team of horses capable of taking him back to the top table.

Barters Hill was his first Grade One winner in the 2015 Challow Hurdle, while Willoughby Court broke his Festival duck in the 2017 Neptune (now Baring Bingham) Novices’ Hurdle.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Barters Hill was Pauling’s first top-class horse Barters Hill was Pauling’s first top-class horse (Image: PA)

Le Breuil (National Hunt Chase) and Global Citizen (Grand Annual) have provided further Festival success for the Naunton-based trainer, although both came away from the highest level and this year he has legitimate contenders in all three novice hurdles.

Tellherthename heads for the Supreme having got back to winning ways at Huntingdon, which was also where Baring Bingham hope Handstands won recently, while The Jukebox Man has been kept fresh for the Albert Bartlett since a fine third in the Challow Hurdle.

“I’d say this is going to be our strongest team, certainly in quality if not quite numerically,” said Pauling.

“I think we’ll send between eight and 10 this season and without doubt it is our strongest team, they’ve found their own way there without us pushing to place them, if that makes sense. Hopefully, they’ll all go there and do their best – and if their best is good enough, then fine.”

As well as the three novice hurdlers, who should all have bright futures whatever they do at Cheltenham, the 40-year-old has a handful of handicappers with live chances as well.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Ben Pauling celebrates Le Breuil’s Cheltenham success in 2019 Ben Pauling celebrates Le Breuil’s Cheltenham success in 2019 (Image: PA)

“The races all pick them themselves really. I suppose the fact the Supreme is the first race of the meeting means Tellherthename is unlikely to get his favoured good ground, but he won on soft at Huntingdon the other day. I just don’t think he handled bottomless ground like it was at Aintree,” he said.

“What I wasn’t prepared to do at Newbury (when a non-runner) was run on bottomless ground so close to the Festival, his owners want Festival winners.

“Once the ground went so soft at Newbury (for the Betfair Hurdle), it was never a question and here we are with a horse who appears to be in very good form, he worked very well at Kempton recently.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Handstands is heading for the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle Handstands is heading for the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle (Image: PA)

“Handstands (pictured), I think I’ve persuaded the owners that I’m very keen to go, as they were up in the air.

“He won at Huntingdon recently. He’s a funny horse, as Harry (Cobden) came to school him before Huntingdon and jumped off saying he felt like a 105 handicapper, yet just after the race he said he’d have no idea where the bottom of him is, as he didn’t have to try very hard.

“Hopefully, he’s an improving horse. It’s whether he’s ready for a race like the Baring Bingham.

“The Jukebox Man ran well in the Challow and hasn’t run since because that probably took a lot out of him, I think three miles will be right up his street.”