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Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The Grade Two John Smith's Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday, October 29, has attracted a high-quality, 17-strong entry. The race, a feature event of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Meeting, is part of the BHB Order of Merit, and is this year worth £40,000.

Ireland could be represented by Yogi and Rooftop Protest. The latter is a winner of his last three hurdle races for the Co Tipperary-based trainer Tom Hogan. The eight-year-old took a two and a quarter mile Listed hurdle at Punchestown on October 19, and prior to that landed a valuable Market Rasen handicap hurdle over two furlongs further.

Hogan is keeping one eye on the weather before committing: "It all depends on how much rain you get up there, basically. He's performed well on yielding to soft ground but if it's heavier I wouldn't go. I'd have to send him on Thursday. The horse is very well.

"We try and poach races where we may think that we have a fitness advantage or whatever and we've been lucky so far this year with him. Most of our horses, if they're fit and well, they're better off to be out there earning money than to be at home in their stables.

"I don't know how fit Inglis Drever is but he'll be fairly fit, so I'm just taking a chance trying to poach prize-money from horses that maybe are not at their best - horses that are being prepared for Cheltenham next March. My horse is going there fit so hopefully we'll get a bit of prize-money. We like a bit of sterling and anywhere we can poach a bit we'll take it."

This will be Rooftop Protest's first attempt at beyond two and a half miles but Hogan isn't concerned: "Any horse that stays two miles on the flat should stay three over hurdles so I don't think that will be a great worry. We have to play at this level now because he's gone up so much in the handicap. We have to compete somewhere in this region."

The three mile one furlong contest, registered as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, is likely to see the Howard Johnson-trained champion Inglis Drever, winner of last season's Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the inaugural BHB Order of Merit, kick off his campaign.

Johnson also has No Refuge engaged to run in the John Smith's Hurdle. No Refuge landed the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle by three quarters of a length from Racing Demon at the Cheltenham Festival last March to cap a superb novice campaign.

The Nicky Richards-trained Telemoss took the John Smith's Hurdle last year by one and a half lengths from Crystal d'Ainay with Sue Smith's St Matthew a short-head third and all of that trio could do battle again.

Carlys Quest enjoyed the biggest win of his career last April when landing the Grade 1 Ballmore Properties Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown and Ferdy Murphy's 11-year-old may line up.

Brewster, recently confirmed as a likely starter by trainer Ian Williams, was a leading novice last season and won the Grade One stanjamesuk.com Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury last November.

Completing the possible line-up are Philip Hobbs' classy hurdler/chaser Monkerhostin, Native Emperor, Sh Boom, Colourful Life, Rambling Minster, Redemption, Tees Components and Tribal Venture.

The going at the West Yorkshire venue remains SOFT. Wetherby's Chief Executive James Sanderson reported: "The ground is currently soft at the moment.

"The forecast is for typical October weather - a mixture of sunny spells and showers with a drying wind.

"I would say at this stage, we are likely to have soft ground for the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase meeting."

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