GOING NEWS WITH CHELTENHAM SEASON ABOUT TO START
Paul Nicholls reveals plans for runners
Cheltenham is primed for its opening meeting of the 2005/2006 season that will see the racecourse host a total of 16 days racing, with prize money amounting to more than £4.82 million, a new record.
Despite a dry summer and autumn, clerk of the course Simon Claisse is determined to provide decent ground for the two-day October meeting, commencing on Tuesday, October 25.
He said this morning: “The going is currently good to firm, good in places and if we hadn’t watered it would be firm all round. We ceased watering for the time being yesterday evening and will review the situation tomorrow.
“It has been nearly as dry as it was in 2003 but we have utilised just over five and a half million gallons of irrigation since the end of August.
“We had 10 millimetres of rain on Tuesday night and are forecast more tonight and tomorrow. We could resume watering before racing but that will depend on what rainfall we get by the weekend.
“We are racing on the Old Course and we stay there for The Open Meeting (November 11, 12 & 13) in November.”
Cheltenham has completed a host of changes to its courses and stables over recent seasons and Claisse reports a pause in activity.
He said: “All the improvements that we’ve done over the last four or five years were to get us to the four-day Festival, which was so successful in March.”
Cheltenham’s October meeting provides two days of quality jump racing with six races on Tuesday and a further seven on Wednesday.
Tuesday features the £15,000 added Thwaites Smooth Beer Handicap Hurdle (3.20pm). The two mile, five furlong contest was won last season by 6/1 favourite The Dark Lord under Leighton Aspell for trainer Lucy Wadham.
The card hosts a couple of novice events that are often early pointers to future big-race winners. The cheltenham.co.uk Novices’ Chase (2.45pm), over two miles and half a furlong, was won in 2003 by the Martin Pipe-trained Puntal who ended that term with victory in the Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown.
Ollie Magern took the opening long distance Waterlaw Novices’ Hurdle (2.10pm) in 2003 and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge made a successful return to this meeting last year when landing Wednesday’s £15,000-added Ian Williams Owners Novices’ Chase (3.45pm) over an extended three miles. Ollie Magern built on that triumph with a second to Celestial Gold in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury that November and then captured the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
The October Meeting’s most valuable prize is Wednesday’s £18,000 added Jewson Handicap Hurdle Final (4.20pm). Paul Nicholls has sent out the past two winners, with 5/1 favourite Goblet Of Fire emerging victorious last season under Ruby Walsh. Joe Tizzard partnered the previous year’s, scorer 13/8 favourite Albuhera.
Nicholls has a good record at the October meeting and looks set to have a strong hand again.
The trainer said: “The October meeting is a good place to start horses off at. Goblet Of Fire won at the meeting last year and he runs in the handicap hurdle (Thwaites Smooth Beer Handicap Hurdle) on the first day. We’ll run something in the two-mile novice chase (cheltenham.co.uk Novices’ Chase).
“I shall probably run Luneray in the Amateur Riders’ Chase (Winning Post at Cheltenham Amateur Riders Handicap Chase) which we’ve won for the past two years with Un Jour A Vassy, and Desert Quest goes in the maiden hurdle (Cheltenham Business Club Maiden Hurdle) .
“On Wednesday, Earth Man will run in the Jewson Final, Sweet Diversion goes in the three- mile novice chase (Ian Williams Owners Novices’ Chase), and I haven't made my mind up in the handicaps yet but, if it keeps on raining, we will have some runners.”
The first race on Tuesday is due off at 2.10pm, while the racing action on the Wednesday starts at 2pm.
The admission prices are Club & Tattersalls combined: £16 (£10 aged 16-24) & Best Mate: £6. Accompanied children under 16 admitted free.
WETHERBY’S BIG MEETING IN OCTOBER BECKONS
The bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (3.25pm), which always attracts a top class field, is the highlight of Wetherby’s popular bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Meeting, held on Friday and Saturday, October 28 and 29.
The big Grade Two race, worth £5,000 more this year at a record £75,000 and run over three miles and a furlong, already has Ollie Magern, Take The Stand and Joes Edge as possible runners.
Ollie Magern, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies in Gloucestershire, was one of the star novice chasers of last season and won the Grade Two Totty Construction Towton Novices’ Chase over course and distance in February.
Take The Stand, handled by Peter Bowen in Wales, was runner-up to Kicking King in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier this year, while Joes Edge, trained by Ferdy Murphy in North Yorkshire, took the 2005 Scottish Grand National.
Murphy revealed today: “Joes Edge goes for the bet365 Charlie Hall. He’s in good nick and has summered really well. He had a racecourse gallop at Newcastle yesterday and I’m happy with him.
“How he runs here will influence where he goes afterwards. That will tell us whether we stay in handicaps or not. If he comes out of it well, then we’ll have a look at the Hennessy but we’ll take it one race at a time. That’s how his owner likes it and it worked for the horse last year. It may be that he’s a bit of a spring horse.”
The seven-race programme on Saturday, October 29, bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Day, also features the £40,000 John Smith’s Hurdle (2:50pm), a Grade Two race run over three miles and a furlong, the opening £18,000-added Constant Security Wensleydale Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle (1:45pm), a Listed contest over two miles for three year-olds, and a new Listed race over an extended two and a half miles, the £25,000 Weatherbys Bank Handicap Chase (2.20pm).
Last year’s renewal of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase was won in pleasing style by the great Grey Abbey, trained by Howard Johnson in County Durham, who made all and jumped superbly under Graham Lee to defeat Sir Rembrandt by three lengths.
This added to the same combination’s win 12 months earlier as Ballybough Rasher, who stunned the crowd when returning the 40/1 victor, defeated the previous year’s winner Marlborough by six lengths.
In 2002 Marlborough proved two lengths too good for Hussard Collonges, with the winner going on to run a great race when second to three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Gordon Richard’s much-loved grey One Man was the dual winner of the event in 1996 and 1997. The first time he was given a beautiful ride by Richard Dunwoody to hold off Barton Bank by seven lengths, while the following year the same partnership again defeated Barton Bank, this time by a margin of two and a half lengths. One Man proved his versatility by going on to win the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The John Smith’s Hurdle could see Inglis Drever, trained by Johnson and owned by Graham Wylie, return to action. The inaugural Order of Merit champion in the 2004/2005 season, he last ran when second in the Aintree Hurdle in April.
Both the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase and the John Smith’s hurdle form part of this season’s Order of Merit which awards bonuses worth £300,000 at the end of the season and is organised by the British Horseracing Board.
Yogi, trained by Tom Foley is another possible, while Carlys Quest, successful in the Grade One Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April, was revealed as a runner today.
Murphy added : “Carly’s Quest will go in the three-miler, the John Smith’s Hurdle. I had 80 out on the gallops this morning and have a lot of nice horses among them, so hopefully we can have a good season.”
The John Smith’s Hurdle was won last year by the Nicky Richards-trained Telemoss, who got the better of Crystal D’ainay and St Matthew in an exciting finish. Graham Lee completed a Wetherby big-race double in 2003 when partnering the Kevin-Ryan-trained Gralmano to success over Royal Emperor.
Brother Joe spoiled Boss Doyle’s treble attempt in the John Smith’s Hurdle in 2002, when he beat the dual scorer by 15 lengths, with six lengths back to the third-placed Spendid. The previous year Boss Doyle, trained in Ireland by Mouse Morris, overcame Spendid, while his first victory in 2000 came at the expense of Earthmover, whom he denied by three-quarters of a length in a thrilling race.
Calomeria, from Ginger McCain’s Cheshire Stable, was the winner of the 2004 Constant Security Wensleydale Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle and captured two other hurdle events last season.
Quazar got the better of Bula Rose by half a length in the 2001 Constant Security Wensleydale Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle. Jonjo O’Neill’s charge won both the Grade Two Martell Cognac XO Anniversary 4-y-o Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and the Grade One Champion 4-y-o Hurdle at Punchestown later that season.
James Sanderson, Wetherby’s Chief Executive, reported today: “ The going is currently good and the course is in fine order after our opening day on October 12.
“We are looking forward to the bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting which has record prize money of £222,500 and an even stronger card on the Saturday, thanks to the new Listed handicap chase backed by Weatherbys Bank.”
The other races on Saturday, October 29, are the £9,500-added Book Your Christmas Party At Wetherby Racecourse Novices’ Hurdle (4pm) over two miles, plus the £8,000-added Arthur Stephenson Novices’ Handicap Chase (4.35pm) and the concluding £7,000-added Leeds Rugby Day Saturday 12th November Handicap Hurdle (5.10pm), both over an extended two miles and four furlongs.
The six-race card at Wetherby on Friday, October 28 starts at 1.55pm and features the £10,500-added bet365 White Rose Handicap Chase (3.35pm) over two miles. Other sponsors on the day include the Rocom Group, which backs the two-mile Rocom NEC Handicap Hurdle (3pm).
ARENA CONTINUES TO INVEST INTO COURSE FACILITIES - SOUTHWELL LATEST TO BENEFIT
Arena Leisure continues to invest and make improvements to its racecourses, Southwell being the latest to benefit with a recently completed £500,000 extension and refurbishment to the weighing room and both male and female jockeys changing rooms.
These areas have been doubled in size, with new heating, showers, toilets, floor coverings and air conditioning. There are new leisure areas for jockeys to relax and a separate new canteen area. A special new feature is the glass canopy to the rear, overlooking the winner’s enclosure and new podium.
The recently completed weighing room re-opened to jockeys at the beginning of October and was given a sound seal of approval by the jump jockeys who were first to experience the new and extended areas.
Noel Fehily was delighted with the result and said: “It’s top class with plenty of space” and Jason Maguire added: “I like it a lot, especially the chill out area and a great sauna too”.
The jockeys were not the only ones to approve, with valets commenting on how well the new layout worked. Senior jump valet Phil Taylor expressed his delight saying: “It’s a pleasure to work in, really spacious and both jockeys and valets enjoy playing on the football table, great idea.”
The flat jockeys who use the facility much more regularly were equally delighted with the completely transformed area Simon Whitworth said: “It’s a great improvement, now one of the best”.