Albion chairman Tony Bloom experienced the thrill of owning a winner at the Cheltenham Festival last year.

Now a group of Seagulls supporters are trying to follow suit, with a horse bought on the cheap and dismissed as a useless no-hoper when he started out on the flat.

Sussex Ranger is a leading contender in Friday's Triumph Hurdle at the showpiece meeting, where Bloom won the Albert Bartlett with Penhill over the smaller obstacles 12 months ago.

Penhill (below right), off the track injured since then, makes a comeback in Thursday's Stayers' Hurdle.

The Argus: The excitement will be nearing fever pitch by then for Martin Hess and fellow joint owners of Sussex Ranger in the Tongdean Partnership syndicate.

Hess, 58, the managing director of an IT company and Albion supporter since the Goldstone days, is a 1901 club season ticket holder at the Amex.

The assortment of football and horse racing fans in the ten-strong syndicate includes recruitment and security consultants and a hotel concierge.

Main shareholder Hess has been a part-owner in syndicates before, but nothing compares with the rags-to-riches story of Sussex Ranger, bought from sales in France by Horsham trainer Gary Moore for a relative pittance.

Hess said: "I had a horse in Lewes with Suzy Smith, then I had one with Pat Phelan based up in Epsom called Alfie The Pug.

"Alfie the Pug was more like Alfie The Slug, so we got shot of him.

"I contacted Gary on behalf of the syndicate looking for an unraced horse, a flat horse actually. Gary phoned me up from the Deauville Sales in France and said there was a horse he liked for ten thousand euros (£8,800), so we went for him.

"He was a box walker, walked around his box at the stables. Somebody had bought him for 30,000 euros, then sent him back. Gary quite liked the breeding on the dam's side.

"He gave him a bigger box with a couple of windows to look out of, then he phoned me up and said 'I think we need to have his nuts off to calm him down a bit'.

"I joked with Gary, said if he is a gelding he can't run in the Derby. I think Gary thought I was an idiot at that stage!"

The Argus: Sussex Ranger (above) made an inauspicious start to his career on the flat. Hess said: "He had his first outing at Goodwood in September 2016 as a two-year-old, absolutely walked out of the stalls, came seventh of eight and I thought 'Oh my God we've got another Alfie The bloody Slug here!'

"The second race was at Kempton and he showed a bit more promise, then he raced for a third time in December at Kempton on the all-weather and did okay.

"We put him away and he came back as a three-year-old, not until June, ran at Windsor and looked a bit better.

"It was at that stage that Josh Moore, Gary's son, said 'I want to get on him in the autumn because I think he will make a really good hurdler'.

"We ran him a couple more times on the flat, then Gary popped him over hurdles at Fontwell in October and he trotted up by eight lengths.

"He really took to them, jumped well, led from the front, won going away.

"I could tell Gary thought he was good. We then put him in a class two juvenile hurdle at Sandown in early December and he won going away by 18 lengths. He was third favourite that day. We all went completely nuts.

"It was at that point we said 'Come on Gary, can we start talking about the 'C' word (Cheltenham)?'. Gary was playing it down. A few of us like our racing but we never, ever thought we would get a horse run at the Festival.

"He put him in the juvenile finale at Chepstow, a class one, grade one. We Have A Dream (below left) from the Nicky Henderson yard and Sussex Ranger pulled clear and he beat us by one-and-a-half lengths.

The Argus: "We Have A Dream is now second favourite for the Triumph and we are fifth or sixth favourite."

Sussex Ranger's name derives from the fact that syndicate member Karim Mouaj, head concierge at a Hilton Hotel in London frequented by Hess, is a QPR supporter (Loftus Hove was an alternative candidate).

His colours will be easy to spot - Albion blue and white stripes with eyecatching yellow sleeves and cap - as he comes up the Cheltenham hill.

Sussex Ranger, ridden by three-time champion jockey Ryan Moore, finished fourth in his prep race on the flat on the all-weather at Kempton. He is 16-1 with most bookmakers to complete a fairytale by winning the ultra-competitive Triumph Hurdle.

Hess said: "We Have A Dream is one of our rivals and we are all living a dream.

"They (syndicate) could never have afforded to own a horse outright and then to have one in a top race at the Festival...they are all out getting their tweed suits made to measure for the big day.

"We are getting a posh people carrier to take us there. It will be nice to have Sussex punters backing him, as long as they don't shorten the price too much!"