Meeting - The Showcase, Cheltenham Racecourse
Dates - Friday, October 19 & Saturday, October 20
First race - 2.20pm (both days)
Admission Prices - Club & Tattersalls combined - £20 a day (£15 aged 16 to 24); advance booking £18 or £34 for both days. Best Mate - £8 a day; advance booking £14 for both days. Accompanied children under 16 admitted FREE too all enclosures. FREE car parking.
Cheltenham’s new season is rapidly approaching, with the new two-day Showcase meeting on Friday, October, 19 and Saturday, October, 20.
The new meeting has been transferred from its previous weekday slot to the weekend, allowing the two-day fixture to benefit from a far higher profile. Prize money has increased to a total of £233,000, an increase of £72,500 on the 2006 figure.
Two trainers considering their options for The Showcase are Peter Bowen, based at Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire and Leyburn handler Ferdy Murphy.
One of the races to benefit most from the increased prize money on offer is the £50,000 Pyments Quantity Surveyors Handicap Chase. The extended two-and-a-half mile contest provides trainers with a stepping-stone to some of Cheltenham’s premier handicaps later in the season, especially the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the boylesports.com Gold Cup.
Peter Bowen’s chasers have been in fantastic form over the summer, with Iron Man winning the totesport.com Summer Plate Handicap Chase and the bluesqcasino.com Handicap Chase at Market Rasen.
Fifth behind Iron Man last time out at Market Rasen on July 21 was stablemate Lankawi and Bowen believes that the progressive five-year-old has the necessary profile to line up at Cheltenham.
Bowen revealed today: “Lankawi is only young, and he’s very well and fit, having had a run in the summer. The Pyments Quantity Surveyors Handicap Chase is a very good race to have at this stage of the season, and I might be tempted to run Always Waining as well.”
Lankawi enjoyed an excellent campaign last season. Having been switched to fences, the talented gelding rattled off a hat-trick of victories in novice chases. He then ran in the valuable betfair.com Handicap Chase at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting at Aintree, finishing second, seven lengths behind 2006 Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase winner Reveillez.
Always Waining also finished behind Iron Man on his most recent start at Market Rasen on September 29, beaten just under seven lengths in third. The unexposed six-year-old won three times over fences last season while earlier in this campaign he collected the totesport.com Handicap Chase at Uttoxeter on May 5 by a length and a half from Joaaci.
Bowen could also be represented at The Showcase by the useful handicap hurdler Decisive.
He continued: “There’s a good 0-140 handicap hurdle (the £20,000 Wateraid/Severn Trent Water Handicap Hurdle, run over two miles and five furlongs on Saturday, October 20), and we could run Decisive in that.”
Decisive has been lightly raced, and has shown his best form on a fast surface. The eight-year-old was last seen finishing second in the competitive three-mile bluesquare.com Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen on September 29.
Ferdy Murphy enjoyed a brace of successes at The Festival in 2007, with Joes Edge taking the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase, and L’Antartique’s triumph in the Jewson Novices’ Chase.
The latter will be aimed at the Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open, while the Yorkshire-based trainer nominates Three Mirrors as his intended runner for the Pyments Quantity Surveyors Handicap Chase. Three Mirrors enjoyed a progressive campaign last season, winning three times, including on his final start of the season in the Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase at Ayr on April 20.
Murphy commented: “We have a lot of chasers this year, and Three Mirrors will probably run at The Showcase in the valuable two-and-a-half mile chase (the Pyments Quantity Surveyors Handicap Chase).
“He seems quite forward, and has done much of his running on good to firm ground. He’s very consistent and jumps well.”
“Nine De Sivola is another possibility for The Showcase, although I might wait until The Open with him. We could do with some rain, because the ground is a bit fast at the moment.
“I’ll definitely send some horses down for The Showcase as the prize-money is so good.”
Nine De Sivola ran well in handicap company last season, finishing second in both the Irish Grand National and the Scottish Grand National. The six-year-old fell in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup at The Festival, coming down three fences from home when staying on well.
Murphy is currently in the Czech Republic with cross-country specialist Ivoire De Beaulieu, who will race in the Velka Pardubicka on Sunday, October 14. The 11-year-old will be aimed at the cross-country chases at Cheltenham later in the season.
The Showcase is so named because the meeting is designed to involve racegoers in the wider aspects of the sport.
Hurdler’s Hall, near the paddock, will be transformed into an exhibition of every conceivable aspect of Jump racing - including breeding, owning, training and caring for horses.
There will be a chance for racegoers to try their skill as a commentator or weigh in like a jockey.
Throughout each afternoon, a trail around the course will encourage racegoers to go to places that are normally off-limits such as going to the start, having the chance to judge the best-turned out horse and making a presentation.
Cheltenham will show Premiership football on certain televisions at the course on Saturday, October 20. The Everton versus Liverpool game can be watched from 12.45pm in the Istabraq Bar in Tattersalls and the Desert Orchid Bar in the Best Mate enclosure.
The Aston Villa v Manchester United match will be shown from 5.15pm on the big screen in the Centaur, working around the last race (5.45pm), and continuing until it finishes at 7pm.
The Centaur bars will remain open until 7pm.
ART MASTER ON COURSE FOR RACING POST TROPHY
Upper Lambourn handler Sylvester Kirk is hoping to finish 2007 with a flourish by saddling the progressive Art Master in the £200,000 Racing Post Trophy, the final Group One race of the British Flat season, run over a mile at Doncaster on Saturday, October 27.
The son of Peintre Celebre, who broke his maiden tag with a ready three-length success on soft going at Leicester in July, failed to get competitive on quicker ground behind subsequent Group Two Urban-i Champagne Stakes victor McCartney in a mile Listed contest at Salisbury the following month, but got back to winning ways on the Polytrack at Kempton on October 6, with a decisive victory in a mile conditions event.
Sylvester Kirk revealed today: “The plan is to take Art Master to Doncaster for the Racing Post Trophy and hopefully we will get soft ground up there. His level of form may not be quite good enough for the race, but we’re hoping with suitable conditions it will be a big help.
“He did it very well at Kempton. They went a strong pace and he picked up well to score by a couple of lengths, going away at the end. He has come out of the race very well and is in good form.
“At Salisbury he didn’t run his race and we are putting that down to the fast ground. He was very free and that wasn’t his form. He won very nicely at Leicester on soft ground and that is what he wants. Art Master is a strong and very clean-winded horse and I think there is the potential for plenty of improvement with him.”
Kirk has three entries remaining in the Racing Post Trophy after the latest forfeit stage, although explained that Art Master was likely to be his sole runner in the Group One contest later this month.
He continued: “Ramona Chase unfortunately clipped heels and came down last time. He’s in great form now though and runs at the weekend, but he probably won’t go for the Racing Post Trophy. Opera Prince is a well-related sort and will go for a maiden next.”
A total of 63 horses went forward after the latest forfeit stage for the Racing Post Trophy, including the unbeaten Raven’s Pass, who slammed subsequent Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes victor City Leader by seven lengths in the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown on September 1.
Winker Watson, winner of all three starts this year, is one of nine remaining entries for Peter Chapple-Hyam, while the Jessica Harrington-trained Curtain Call has been confirmed as heading for the Racing Post Trophy, and is one of 19 Irish-trained entries still engaged.