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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Aspen Darlin is the form filly going into the £80,000 Group Two Countrywide Steel & Tubes Rockfel Stakes (4.25pm) at Newmarket on Champions’ Day, Saturday, October 18, following a fantastic effort on The NatWest Rowley Mile two weeks ago.

Trainer Alan Bailey is hopeful of another top notch effort after the Indian Haven juvenile finished half a length second to Serious Attitude in the Group One 32Red.com Cheveley Park Stakes over six furlongs on October 3. He reports the filly to be in fine form ahead of her first attempt at seven furlongs.

Bailey revealed this morning: “Aspen Darlin came out of the 32Red.com Cheveley Park Stakes very well, she has never left oats since she ran and is well in herself. She has gone in her coat but she had at Newmarket last time, so she’s all set for the Countrywide Steel & Tubes Rockfel Stakes.

“There was very little between Aspen Darlin and Serious Attitude on a line through Sneak Preview, who was second to us at Ayr, so we expected a good run last time.

“The extra furlong will be no problem at all on Saturday. I’m not saying she’ll improve for it because she couldn’t have done much better than she did last time. She’s as game as a pebble, is well in herself and I think she’ll run a big race.”

Aspen Darlin, who will again be ridden by Jimmy Quinn, has proved a bargain for her owners, the Indian Haven Syndicate, who paid just 10,000 euros for her at Tattersalls (Ireland) in September last year.

The versatile and consistent filly, who has already raced nine times this year, collected the Group Three Firth Of Clyde Stakes on heavy going at Ayr in September and could return to The NatWest Rowley Mile next spring for the Stan James 1000 Guineas.

The Newmarket trainer continued: “It doesn’t matter what the ground is. She’s a remarkable little thing, she goes on anything, you wouldn’t know you’d got her, she’s never any bother and is a real Christian of a filly.

“She might go for the Stan James 1000 Guineas, she may go for the Irish Guineas or even the French or Italian. All being well, she’ll go for a Guineas somewhere. The owners have got a cracking filly and are delighted to have her.”

The Countrywide Steel & Tubes Rockfel Stakes could also feature the Richard Hannon-trained Souter’s Sister, successful in the Group Three Sakhee Oh So Sharp Stakes over the course and distance on October 3. The filly had the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Moonlife and Nashmiah from the Clive Brittain stable in second and third that day, and the pair could reoppose. Hannon could also saddle Baileys Cacao, as well as Pennys Gift.

Jim Bolger took the prize in 2006 with subsequent Stan James 1000 Guineas heroine Finsceal Beo and the Irish handler could look to Forest Storm, Blas Ceoil and Oh Goodness Me.

The Countrywide Steel & Tubes Rockfel Stakes has a fine recent record with the 2005 winner Speciosa, trained by Pam Sly, also going on to Stan James 1000 Guineas glory and the 2004 heroine Maid’s Causeway taking the runner-up berth in the Classic before winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot for trainer Barry Hills.


Newmarket’s Director of Racing Michael Prosser has changed the official going description to ‘good’ following showers through Wednesday.

Having finished walking the track at 4.30pm today, Prosser declared: "We have had 4.5 millimetres of rain today and I’ve changed the ground to good. The GoingStick reading is 7.8.

“The forecast is for possibly further showers overnight, bringing potentially another one to two millimetres. By dawn, those showers should have dispersed and then we are advised that we are set for three dry days.”



Meeting - The Showcase, Cheltenham Racecourse
Dates - Friday, October 17 & Saturday, October 18
First race - 2.20pm (both days)
Going - Currently good (watering to maintain)
Admission prices - Club/Tattersalls from £18 (in advance). Best Mate from £9 (in advance). Accompanied children under 16 admitted FREE to all enclosures. FREE car parking. Tickets available from www.cheltenham.co.uk or by calling 08445 793 003.

Trainer Philip Hobbs is set to give Fair Along his first start over hurdles for more than 18 months in the £20,000 Royal Gloucestershire Hussars “Help For Heroes” Handicap Hurdle (2.20pm), run on the second day of The Showcase, at Cheltenham on Saturday, October 18.

The six-year-old gelding disappointed on his latest start over the smaller obstacles in the Grade Three Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle at The Festival in 2007, just three days after he had finished five lengths second to My Way De Solzen over fences in the Grade One Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.

The son of Alkalde, who was also runner-up in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in 2005, returned to Cheltenham last season and stayed on to take third behind Master Minded and Voy Por Ustedes in the Grade One Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival.

He has been successful twice at Grade Two level at Prestbury Park, beating the likes of Afsoun and Kasbah Bliss in the Concord At jet.com Juvenile Novices' Hurdle at The Open in 2005, prior to a nine-length victory over Natal in the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase at the same meeting 12 months later.

Having bypassed a possible tilt at Flat glory in the Cesarewitch, Minehead-based Hobbs now hopes that Fair Along can return to winning ways in the two mile and five furlong contest.

Hobbs explained: “We’ve entered Fair Along in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars “Help For Heroes” Handicap Hurdle and he’s entirely likely to run in the race.

“He seems in good order. He was third in last year’s Cesarewitch at Newmarket but we thought that we would miss the race this year because we have Liberate in this time around and I think that the race took a lot out of him last season.

“He’s rated 11lb less over hurdles and we thought that it might help him. The problem is that he’s a bit in the twilight zone over fences because he’s not quite good enough for the best at level weights and he would be carrying a lot of weight in handicaps.

“So we’ve decided to give him a chance over hurdles. Hopefully, we will start him off at Cheltenham on Saturday and, if he runs a good race, we will take it from there.”

The feature race on Saturday is the £50,000 Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase (3.25pm), and trainer Alan King is hoping that progressive novice Ouzbeck can get back to winning ways in the extended two and a half mile contest, which is run over the same course and distance as the Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open.

The six-year-old Denham Red gelding unseated Robert Thornton early on in a novice chase at Market Rasen on his latest start at the end of September, but had previously racked up a hat-trick of victories on his first three appearances over fences, culminating in a 32-length demolition of Chrysander at Bangor-on-Dee in July.

King commented: “Ouzbeck has been entered in the Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase and he’s all set to take his chance.

“He over-jumped at Market Rasen on his last start where he just pitched on landing and parted company with “Choc”. It’s was just one of those things - Market Rasen can be a touch trappy at times.

“I think that Cheltenham could suit him because he might just have a slight preference to go left-handed. It’s no big deal but, in an ideal world, I would prefer him to go left-handed.

“He’s rated 142, which is a tough mark on what’s he’s done so far over fences, but he won three races now so we can’t run him in many of the novice chases at the moment. I thought he was rated high enough over hurdles on 135.

“We have few options with him so we’ll run him against the big boys and see how he gets on.”

The Showcase gives members of the public the chance to get more involved in different aspects of racing. Prior to racing, racegoers can visit the parade ring and the weighing room and even win the chance to judge the Best Turned Out horse in a race, watch a race as an owner or make a trophy presentation. The Showcase Exhibition brings together information about breeding, owning, training, riding and caring for horses in their retirement, plus demonstrations covering aspects as diverse as how a horse is saddled and how a fence is built.

The going at Cheltenham is currently GOOD. The course is being watered to maintain good ground.


Cheltenham Racecourse today announced that Glenfarclas, the family-owned producers of award winning Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, are to back a series of five major Cross Country Steeplechases this season across three countries, concluding at The Festival next March.

The series, which includes all three of Cheltenham’s Cross Country races, takes in additional races at Pau in South-West France in January, and Punchestown in February to create a monthly highlight for Cross Country specialists.

The three Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeplechases at Cheltenham, which are all covered by Channel 4 television, take place on Friday, November 14, at The Open, Friday, December 12 at the Boylesports International and Tuesday, March 10, at The Festival. The Pau and Punchestown events are run on January 18 and February 1 respectively.

In a new twist this season, Glenfarclas will be backing an innovative incentive to encourage international competition. Any horse remaining in the same ownership throughout, and participating in both the French and Irish legs of the series, will be eligible to run at the Festival for double prize money, meaning that a qualifying winner would get a bonus in excess of £30,000 and potentially, the race could be worth up to £100,000, double the advertised prize fund, which would make it the most valuable Cross Country race in Europe.

Peter McNeile, Cheltenham’s Director of Sponsorship, said: “We are delighted to welcome Glenfarclas as sponsors at our three biggest meetings each season and the new bonus is a fascinating and exciting twist to a unique pan-European series. Glenfarclas is a brand famed for its single-mindedness and I’m confident that this bold move will further increase the international competitiveness of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeplechase at The Festival. As a whisky drinker myself, I am equally confident that Glenfarclas will appeal to the racing enthusiast too.”

John Grant, Chairman of Glenfarclas, said: “We are very proud to be associated with such a prominent series of races at Cheltenham and believe it to be in perfect synergy with the Glenfarclas brand. This commitment to an initial three-year partnership is a sign of our confidence that this is the right vehicle for Glenfarclas at a difficult time for everyone. We look forward to a long and successful relationship with Cheltenham”.

Charles Hamer, Marketing Director for Pol Roger, which has sole distribution rights for Glenfarclas in the UK, added: “We are delighted to be sponsoring the Glenfarclas Cross Country series. This is a great opportunity for us to work with Cheltenham to showcase our brand across Europe. The five events, particularly the race at The Festival, will provide a tremendous platform for the brand. It would be terrific if the new Glenfarclas Bonus produced even more interest in what is already a unique series of races.”

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