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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Meeting - The Open, Cheltenham Racecourse
Dates - Friday, November 14, Saturday, November 15 & Sunday, November 16
First race - 1.15pm Friday, 12.50pm Saturday, 1.10pm Sunday
Admission prices - Friday & Sunday: Club/Tattersalls: from £20; Club 16-24: from £17; Best Mate: from £9; Saturday: Club/Tattersalls: from £27; Club 16-24: from £22; Best Mate: from £10; Accompanied children under 16 admitted FREE to all enclosures. FREE car parking on Friday & Sunday, from £4 on Saturday. Tickets available from www.cheltenham.co.uk or by calling 08445 793 003.

Philip Hobbs had his string in cracking form at The Showcase, saddling three winners at Cheltenham’s two-day season curtain-raiser, and the Minehead trainer is considering a further assault on Prestbury Park at The Open, which runs from Friday, November 14 to Sunday, November 16.

The £60,000 Grade Three Servo Computer Services Trophy (2pm), run over an extended three miles, three furlongs on November 15, is on Parsons Legacy’s agenda after the 10-year-old won the IG Index Handicap Chase over an extended three miles on day one of The Showcase, October 17.

Parsons Legacy has twice made the frame in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at The Festival, his best effort coming when second in 2007, an endeavour that was followed by a close third to Hot Weld in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

Hobbs revealed this morning: “Parsons Legacy might well run in the Servo Computer Services Trophy if the ground is not too soft. The distance will suit, although he would need good going to be able to take his chance.”

Hobbs also enjoyed success at The Showcase with Ring The Boss in the Tiger Developments Novices’ Chase over an extended two and a half miles and According To Dick in the Betfair Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Ring The Boss, a prolific winner over hurdles, may bid for a follow-up over the course and distance in the £22,000 Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase (4.05pm) on the Friday of The Open.

The trainer continued: “Ring The Boss could take his chance in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase on the Friday. He also has the option of running at Wincanton the Friday before and he might take his chance there as well if the ground is alright.

“He could take in both races. We will decide whether to run at Cheltenham if he misses Wincanton or depending on how he comes out of the race.”

Regarding his Betfair Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race winner, Hobbs commented: “According To Dick will now go over hurdles.”


Lucinda Russell profited from a rare foray to Cheltenham when Mirage Dore triumphed at The Showcase on October 18 and the Scottish handler is now eyeing further Prestbury Park success at The Open on Sunday, November 16, with her progressive hurdler.

Mirage Dore, owned by Duncan Davidson, heads to the £25,000 Cheltenham Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (2.25pm) having defeated Fair Along over the course and distance in the two-mile, five-furlong Royal Gloucestershire Hussars “Help For Heroes” Handicap Hurdle.

Russell revealed today “Mirage Dore has come out of the race well and will return to Cheltenham for the Intermediate Handicap Hurdle on the Sunday of The Open. He won well and I think he’s quite a progressive horse. He’s only five and I think he’ll keep on improving.

“We bought him at the Cheltenham April Sale in 2007 (for £65,000)and he hasn’t been out of the first three in all his races for us. When Duncan came to me and said he wanted to buy a horse, he said to me he wanted a winner. He said he doesn’t do anything but winners, so we bought him Mirage Dore and it has all worked out.”

Mirage Dore has raced 10 times for the Perth and Kinross handler, winning four of his last five starts. Rose Dobbin, the owner’s daughter, has partnered the French import in each of those races.

Russell believes that there is more to come from Mirage Dore and, although the Muhtathir gelding has been beaten in three attempts at two and three-quarter miles and beyond, she has not ruled out another try at the longer trip.

She said: “We tried him over further before and found he didn’t stay but he was maybe a bit weaker then. He’s stronger now so we could try further again but the two miles five is working well just now and we’ll stick at it for the moment.

“I don’t know whether he may turn out better than a handicapper, I’ll know more after The Open. There’s always the option that we can go chasing with him in time because he’s a cracking jumper. Good or good to soft ground is probably his ideal.”

The Open at Cheltenham is one of the highlights of the Jump season, showcasing three days of fantastic racing at Prestbury Park.

The main event of the three-day meeting is the £150,000 Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup (2.35pm) over an extended two and a half miles, which takes place on Saturday, November 15.

Sunday features the £100,000 Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle (2.20pm) over an extended two miles, while Friday sees the popular £25,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase (3pm) over three miles, seven furlongs.


Wetherby hosts the highlight of its year with the prestigious two-day bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Meeting on Friday, October 31 and Saturday, November 1.

The feature race is Saturday’s £90,000 Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (3.30pm), which will be run over a distance of three miles and a furlong. The contest is the first major test for the leading staying chasers and has been won by some outstanding performers in recent times.

The mighty One Man was victorious in 1996 prior to success in the Grade One King George VI Chase at Kempton the following month. The Gordon Richards-trained gelding returned to Wetherby 12 months later to triumph once again and went on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 1998 Cheltenham Festival.

See More Business was another dual winner of the race, following up his Cheltenham Gold Cup success with victory here in 1999 before going on to King George VI Chase glory. He returned to Wetherby the following season to record an effortless 30-length triumph.

In 2006, Our Vic provided trainer David Pipe with his first big race success when beating subsequent Grade One winner Neptune Collonges, and the David Johnson-owned gelding has since gone on to victory at the highest level in the Ryanair Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Ollie Magern returned to Wetherby last season to notch his second bet365 Charlie Hall Chase triumph following his initial success in 2005, and the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained gelding is on target to return this year to defend his crown.

The 10-year-old looks set to face another tough challenge this season as both State Of Play and Monkerhostin, who finished second and third in last year’s race, are likely to return to Wetherby to contest the race once again.

State Of Play, who won the Hennessy Gold Cup on his seasonal debut in 2006, went on to finish fifth behind Denman in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown but disappointed on his two subsequent starts at Cheltenham and Aintree.

Trainer Evan Williams blames his exertions in Ireland for the gelding’s loss of form at the end of last season but reports his star chaser to be in rude health ahead of an intended appearance in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.

Williams commented: “State Of Play will definitely be entered in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase. He’s in grand form and he had a great start to his season in the race last year. It was just unfortunate that I made a good job of messing up his campaign by taking him to Ireland for the Lexus Chase, because it took him an incredible amount of time to get over that race.

“We ran him at Aintree to make sure that he had a nice day out and went out to the fields with a happy experience under his belt, instead of finishing his season with a gruelling slog.

“He’s in great shape at the moment. He’s an absolute diamond of a little horse and it’s the best time to catch him first time out. He’ll be carrying six pounds less in the race this year after losing his penalty and I think we can go into the race with things slightly more in our favour this time round.”

Monkerhostin has also been pencilled in for his seasonal return in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, having finished his last campaign with a brave victory in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on the last day of the season in April.

Trainer Philip Hobbs hopes that the 11-year-old gelding, who finished fourth behind Kauto Star in the 2006 King George VI Chase and the 2007 Cheltenham Gold Cup, can build on that triumph on his favoured fast ground.

Hobbs said: “We will enter Monkerhostin in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase and there’s every chance that he could run in the race. There’s also a handicap chase at Ascot the same weekend and we will make up our minds nearer the time.

“He tends to go well fresh and he definitely wouldn’t mind good to firm ground at Wetherby. He ran well to finish third in the race last season and he enjoyed jumping round the fences there.”

The Saturday of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Meeting also includes the £42,500 Grade Two John Smith’s Hurdle (2.55pm), a three mile, one furlong race often contested by some of the season’s top staying hurdlers, and the extended two-mile £40,000 Listed bet365 Best Odds Guaranteed Mares’ Hurdle Race (2.20pm), which was won in thrilling fashion by Annie’s Answer last season.

Friday’s six-race card includes the extended two-mile £18,000 Listed Weatherbys Bank Wensleydale Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle (2.10pm), and the Listed bet365.com Handicap Chase (2.45pm), run over an extended two miles, won last year by Wetherby specialist and subsequent Cheltenham Festival scorer Mister McGoldrick.

Tickets are on sale for both days racing and are available by calling the course on 01937 582035 or online at www.wetherbyracing.co.uk.


The top 30 racing ponies and riders in the country will be battling it out in the prestigious 2008 Charles Owen Pony Racing Finals at Aintree Racecourse on Saturday, October 25 .

A series of 20 Pony Races has taken place around the country since April, with ponies accumulating points per win and place. The top 15 in each category (138cm & Under and 148cm & Under) have qualified for Aintree, which hosts the annual Finals at its meeting this weekend.

Many of the riders, aged 11 – 16 years, are set to pursue a career in the saddle professionally and being crowned 2008 Charles Owen Pony Racing Champion is the perfect stepping stone to a career in racing.

Rebecca Morgan, Chief Executive of The Pony Racing Authority, said: “In such a short time Pony Racing has developed phenomenally and the standard of riding is astounding, in fact many of the riders already look like professional jockeys in the saddle! Both finals look set to be really competitive and are the culmination of the 2008 Charles Owen Pony Racing Series which is racing’s own X Factor, providing opportunities for anybody interested in race riding to have a go.”

Leading Jump jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton commented: “I have seen the Pony Races throughout the Summer and the riders are very stylish and competent. Some of them have already progressed from Pony Racing and are now riding against me professionally [eg. Hadden Frost, Rhys Flint and Felix de Giles] and it’s a great initiative to encourage race riding from a younger age.”

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