GROUND DRIES OUT SLOWLY, BUT GOING REMAINS SOFT AT NEWMARKET
With the sun beating down on Newmarket for a second consecutive day following 35mm of rain on Tuesday night, Director of Racing Michael Prosser walked the track this afternoon and gave this assessment:
“There's a marginal improvement since yesterday as you would expect at this time of year following two dry and sunny days. The average going stick reading is 6.7 compared with 6.4 yesterday. I am leaving it as officially Soft, though there is every chance that it will change to Soft, Good-to-Soft in places by the time we start racing tomorrow.”
Reflecting on Saturday's Champions' Day card, Prosser added:
“I have been at Newmarket for 7 years and this has to be the strongest racecard that I have known in that time. I can't ever remember a more compelling two-year-old line-up than the one we have for have the Darley Dewhurst Stakes, which will help to cement its position as the premier juvenile race in Europe once again, while the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes field looks right up to scratch. All the supporting races have attracted excellent line-ups, so I couldn't be happier.
“With the fine weather set to continue through the weekend, we are in for a fantastic day on Saturday. Watching a host of champions on the track will hopefully be the perfect prelude to seeing England crowned World Champions once again on the rugby field that evening!”
GEAKE HOPEFUL OF BOLD SHOW FROM BLACK HILLS AT CHELTENHAM
Meeting - The Showcase, Cheltenham Racecourse
Dates - Friday, October 19 & Saturday, October 20
First race - 2.20pm (both days) Gates Open: 11.30am (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.
Trainer Jonathan Geake is looking forward to the new jumps season at Cheltenham with his progressive chaser Black Hills, who will make his reappearance in the £50,000 Pyments Quantity Surveyors Handicap Chase (3.30pm), run over an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham this Saturday, October 20, the highlight of day two of The Showcase.
The ultra-consistent eight-year-old, who never finished out of the first three in nine outings last term, ran a cracker on his only previous visit to Cheltenham, when touched off by Ofarel D’Airy in the Messier-Dowty Landing Gear Novices’ Handicap Chase over two miles, five furlongs on April 19 this year.
Black Hills followed that effort with a comfortable success at Sandown on his final outing of last season, and his handler anticipates a bold show from his charge at the weekend.
Geake said today: “Black Hills is all set to run at Cheltenham in the Pyments Quantity Surveyors Handicap Chase. He is quite an easy horse to get fit, although he will most likely improve for the run. I am very pleased with him, though.
“Of course, he is moving from his novice year and is up against the big boys now. We will see how he gets on - he’s rated 138 and these are the types of races he needs to run in now.
“In an ideal world, he wouldn’t want the ground too tacky. He has won on all types of ground, but as he is such a very good mover for a large horse, he does tend to get a little weighed down in sticky ground. The trip will be perfect.
“I think his best run all last year was when he got beat in the novice handicap chase at Cheltenham - he just got beat on the line. Once or twice he bumped into some very well-handicapped opponents and took the brunt of it.”
As for future plans for Black Hills, Geake is plotting a possible return visit to Cheltenham for The Open next month, although he does have plenty of options.
The Andover handler continued: “The obvious target would be the Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open meeting on November 17, although there are also races for him at Aintree and Ascot.
“I’m convinced that he doesn’t want three miles on heavy ground, as although he does probably stay that distance, he would not want a slog. Fairly easy ground that he can float off is ideal.
“I would be very hopeful of a good run on Saturday. He is only eight and I hope he can continue improving - this season he could be quite exciting.”
GOING CURRENTLY GOOD TO SOFT, GOOD IN PLACES
The going at Cheltenham is currently good to soft, good in places on both the hurdles and chase courses, and dry conditions are forecast up to the start of The Showcase on Friday, October 19.
Simon Claisse, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course & Director of Racing, said today: “We had 35 millimetres of rain on Tuesday night and the ground is currently good to soft, good in places on both the hurdles and chase courses, with a GoingStick reading of 6.4.
“Had we not had the rain, we would have had to water this week. We held off on Monday because of the forecast.
“Although we had lots of rain in June, July and the first half of August, the ground had dried out quite quickly by the beginning of September, and we have been watering since.
“We are very happy with the surface - a number of trainers who have looked at the Cheltenham turf have said they have never seen it looking better. We can’t wait to get started and it’s great to see some Irish raiders entered for our first meeting of the new season.”
COMPETITIVE RACING AT CHELTENHAM ON FRIDAY
Cheltenham’s new season gets underway on Friday, October 19, with a competitive seven-race card, beginning at 2.20pm with the £10,000 cheltenham.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle, where there are seven declarations headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Officier De Reserve, who reverts to hurdles after running well in novice chase company last season.
Seven also go to post in the £12,5000 Tiger Developments Novices’ Chase (2.55pm) including Templer trained by Philip Hobbs, a ready winner at Fontwell last time out.
A highly-competitive £22,000 Jewson Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (3.30pm) is in store with 14 runners set to line up for the extended two mile affair, including the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Hot Zone, unbeaten in his last three outings and Danehill Willy from the yard of Evan Williams and unbeaten in two starts so far this year. Platin Grounds from the in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies stable and recent winners Golden Alchemist, Classic Gold and Cape Greko are also declared.
Friday’s richest race is the £30,000 Showcase Handicap Chase (for the Studd Challenge Cup) (4.05pm) where the nine declarations include Mr Pointment, who showed very useful form in both novice hurdles and novice chases over the past two seasons. He is now in the care of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, having previously been trained by Charles Egerton. Always Waining has been in good form over the summer while the Venetia Williams-trained Nice Try looked progressive last season.
The final three races on Friday’s card are the £10,000 DLA Piper UK Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle (4.40pm, 10 runners), the £10,000 D N H Helicopters Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (5.15pm, 15 runners) and the Club 16-24 Maiden Hurdle (5.50pm, 17 runners).
RYANAIR SPONSORSHIP EXTENDED FOR A FURTHER FIVE YEARS AT THE FESTIVAL
Cheltenham today announced that Ryanair, the world’s largest scheduled airline and official airline of The Festival, has agreed to extend its sponsorship of the newly promoted Grade One Ryanair Chase for a further five years to 2012.
The Ryanair Chase was one of the new races which came into existence when The Festival extended to four days in 2005 and gives an opportunity for horses that excel over two miles and five furlongs to have a top-class conditions race to aim at. In its first three years, the race has fulfilled that role perfectly, with all three winners being highly rated horses that had excelled in handicaps over the same distance at Cheltenham previously. By any measure, Thisthatandtother in 2005, Fondmort in 2006 and Taranis in 2007 were worthy winners.
Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair (and owner of 2006 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, War Of Attrition) said: “I’m delighted with the progress that The Ryanair Chase has made in its short history from a brand new race three years ago, to one of the highlights of The Festival now. We at Ryanair have a great rapport with the excellent team at Cheltenham and are proud to be one of the major sponsors in March, so I was keen to mark the upgrading of The Ryanair Chase to Grade One by agreeing to cement our relationship for a further five years.”
Cheltenham’s Director of Sponsorship, Peter McNeile, added: “Naturally we’re very grateful to Michael and the team at Ryanair for demonstrating their commitment to what is now one of the most important races at The Festival in this way.”
Ryanair also sponsors the food for stable staff at the Festival and provides prizes of free flights in a daily draw for them, which is a great incentive for those at the sharp end of Jump racing.