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Friday, October 31, 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 - from £9; accompanied children under 16 admitted FREE to all enclosures. Tickets available from www.cheltenham.co.uk or by calling 08445 793 003.

Trainer Paul Nolan hopes that Cuan Na Grai can gain another big handicap victory in the £100,000 Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle (2.20pm), run over an extended two miles on the third and final day of The Open at Cheltenham, Sunday, November 16.

The lightly-raced six-year-old gained the biggest success of his career in the 2006 Galway Hurdle, where he made all of the running on his handicap debut to defeat Shandon Star by four lengths.

He went on to finish sixth in the Grade Two Anglo Irish Private Banking Novices' Hurdle at The Open in November, 2006, but an injury sustained during the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in April, 2007, kept the Erins Isle gelding off the racecourse for 16 months.

After warming up with a good second on the Flat in a Killarney maiden at the end of August this year, Cuan Na Grai is reported to be in rude health following a pleasing fourth on heavy ground in the Grade Two Tipperary Hurdle on October 5.

Co Wexford-based Nolan, who won the Greatwood Hurdle with Accordion Etoile in 2004, commented: “Cuan Na Grai has been entered in the Greatwood Hurdle and I hope that he will take his chance in the race. He’s also been entered in the Morgiana Hurdle on the same day, but I wouldn’t want to run him on ground any worse than soft and I think we would get the better ground at Cheltenham.

“He’s a good horse. He was unlucky because he got injured in the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown and he was off the track for a spell. He ran very well on the Flat on his first start for over a year and then ran a great race on soft ground at Tipperary.

“He won his maiden and novice races well. I was concerned before the Galway Hurdle that the handicapper had clobbered him, but he just kept improving. He won there on fast going and he’s a better horse on faster ground, but we are hoping that he would be able to cope with a little bit of cut.

“When he ran at The Open two years ago, my horses weren’t really firing and I had a very lean time from November through to February. There was a bit of a virus going round my yard so I scratched that run.

“We did consider going for the Greatwood at that time but he was only a novice and it wouldn’t have been easy with a novice. We would be hopeful that he would be a Greatwood horse this year with a bit more experience under his belt.”

As well as Cuan Na Grai, Nolan could also be represented in the Greatwood Hurdle by Mudslinger. The Gigginstown Stud-owned gelding has been performing consistently well in handicap hurdles throughout the early part of the season, gamely winning a competitive contest at Bellewstown in August and finishing a quarter-length second under top-weight on his latest start at Gowran Park on October 4.

Nolan continued: “Mudslinger is another possible for the Greatwood Hurdle, but he would be at the other end of the scale in terms of weight. He wouldn’t be that far ahead of the handicapper and is a more exposed horse.

“He’s shown a decent level of form in handicap hurdles and he seems to be more consistent than last season. I thought he would have won last time out but he make a mistake at the last. His performances this year suggest that he has improved and I would be interested to see what weight he is allotted in the Greatwood Hurdle.

“If he can get in off a nice light weight then he would certainly be a contender for the race. He’s another horse who is better on faster ground and, although he’s got few secrets from the handicapper, I think he’s got the quality to run a good race at Cheltenham.”

The weights for this year’s Greatwood Hurdle, which has attracted a superb entry of 47, will be revealed on Wednesday, November 5.


Following its successful inauguration in 2005, the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, November 22 and 23, 2008, sees the fourth running of the Northwest Racing Masters.

An exciting addition to the jumping calendar, the Northwest Racing Masters involves top-class racing at both Haydock Park and Aintree. The weekend has quickly established itself as a popular event with the racing fraternity and the public. Haydock Park hosts the £225,000 Grade One Betfair Chase on the first day of the Northwest Racing Masters, which was won in great style by Kauto Star for the second year running in 2007.

He brushed aside a high class field in 2006 to come home 17 lengths clear of Irish raider Beef Or Salmon. Kauto Star remained unbeaten all season and captured the Betfair Million bonus for also winning the Stan James King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

Exotic Dancer, who finished two and a half lengths behind Kauto Star in the Gold Cup, reduced that margin to half a length in the 2007 Betfair Chase but was always being held, with Beef Or Salmon another 18 lengths back in third and horses of the class of Turpin Green and My Way De Solzen further in arrears.

A cracking first Betfair Chase in 2005 also attracted a high-class field and the Robert Alner-trained Kingscliff beat the Irish pair of Beef Or Salmon and Kicking King, who started favourite and had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous season.

The second day of the Northwest Racing Masters takes places at Aintree with a thrilling race programme that includes the £120,000 totesport.com Becher Chase and the £80,000 totesuper7 Grand Sefton Chase, both run over the Grand National course. This makes the day unique as it is the only raceday to feature two races over the Grand National fences. See the following copy for details of these races.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has dominated the totesport.com Becher Chase for the past two years, scoring with Eurotrek in 2006 and Mr Pointment last year. Both horses went on to contest the John Smith’s Grand National.

Subsequent John Smith’s Grand National winners Amberleigh House (Becher 2001, GN 2004) and Silver Birch (Becher 2004, GN 2007) both won the totesport.com Becher Chase prior to landing the world’s greatest chase while the 2003 victor Clan Royal finished second behind Amberleigh House in the Grand National. The 1998 winner Earth Summit had won the Grand National the previous season.


The exciting Northwest Racing Masters, at Haydock Park and Aintree, offers two of the very best jump racing days of the year.

Haydock Park takes centre stage on Saturday, November 22, when the highlight is the £225,000 Grade One Betfair Chase, won for the past two years by the mighty Kauto Star.

The card at Haydock Park on November 22 is entirely sponsored by Betfair and also features the £100,000 Betfair "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle over three miles, as well as the three-mile £50,000 Timeform Betfair Racing Club Handicap Chase and the £50,000 Betfair Hurdle for four-year-olds over an extended two miles.

Total prize money for the day comes to a massive £505,000 - the richest-ever day for jump racing at Haydock Park and an increase of £50,000 on the 2007 figure.

totesport.com Becher Chase day at Aintree is the second and final day of the Northwest Racing Masters weekend on Sunday, November 23. With two races over the famous Grand National fences in the £80,000 totesuper7 Grand Sefton Chase and the £120,000 totesport.com Becher Chase, there's no need to wait until the John Smith’s Grand National in April to experience the unique thrills of witnessing the spectacle of racing over the Grand National course.

Now firmly established as a trial for the John Smith's Grand National, the totesport.com Becher Chase attracts some of jump racing's best known horses. The 2007 John Smith’s Grand National hero Silver Birch landed the totesport.com Becher Chase in 2004, while Amberleigh House was successful in 2001, three years prior to his famous Grand National victory .

The Northwest Racing Masters offers the ideal opportunity to experience the tremendous atmosphere of a day at the races on a great winter warming weekend. On the second day of the Northwest Racing Masters, Aintree will mark the start of the festive period when Father Christmas will pay a visit to the famous racecourse with REAL reindeer! An ice rink with free boot hire is guaranteed to add magic sparkle ahead of the Christmas countdown

Located in one of the most vibrant regions in the country, the Northwest Racing Masters meeting offers a great opportunity to discover England's northwest. It is an ideal time to combine a love of racing with a visit to Liverpool and the rest of the region.

Haydock Park, St Helens, one of the most visited racecourses in the UK, offers first class racing all year round. It is located half-way between Liverpool and Manchester, just off junction 23 of the M6 motorway.

Aintree Racecourse is home to the John Smith's Grand National and is between Liverpool, European Capital of Culture 2008, and Southport - the perfect destination for a weekend break with beautiful beaches, great attractions and superb shopping.




Time Race Distance Value TV
12.30pm Betfair Newton Novices' Hurdle (Listed) 2m abt 1/2f £35,000
1.05pm Betfair Hurdle 2m abt 1/2f £50,000 BBC
1.40pm Betfair "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle 3m £100,000 BBC
2.15pm Betfair Chase (Grade One) 3m £225,000 BBC
2.45pm Timeform Betfair Racing Club Handicap Chase 3m £50,000 C4
3.20pm Thanks To Betfair Stevenage Handicap Chase 2m £35,000
3.50pm Timeform Newcomers Standard Open NH Flat 2m abt 1/2f £10,000
Total - £505,000



Time Race Distance Value TV
12.30pm Weatherbys Bank Maiden Hurdle 2m 110yds £7,000
1.05pm Weatherbys Handicap Chase 3m 1f £14,000
1.40pm totesuper7 Grand Sefton Handicap Chase 2m 5f 110yds £80,000 BBC
(Over the Grand National Course)
2.15pm toteswinger Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f £30,000 BBC
2.50pm totesport.com Becher Chase (Listed) 3m 2f £120,000 BBC
(Over the Grand National Course)
3.25pm Jackson Lloyd Novices' Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f £14,000
Total - £265,000




Year Horse Owner Trainer Age/Weight Jockey SP
2005 Kingscliff Arnie Sendell Robert Alner 8-11-08 Robert Walford 8/1
2006 Kauto Star Clive Smith Paul Nicholls 6-11-08 Ruby Walsh 11/10F
2007 Kauto Star Clive Smith Paul Nicholls 7-11-07 Sam Thomas 4/5F


Year Horse Owner Trainer Age/Weight Jockey SP
2005 St Matthew Keith Nicholson Sue Smith 7-11-04 Padgh Whelan 25/1
2006 Halcon Genelardais Ian Payne/Kim Franklin Alan King 6-10-02 Robert Thornton 5/1JF
2007 Millenium Royal J Vasicek Francois Doumen FR 7-11-12 Christophe Pieux 20/1

NB: the contest was run over traditional hurdles in 2005 and 2006. It was run over Fixed Brush hurdles for the first time in 2007.

totesport.com BECHER CHASE
Over the Grand National Fences

Year Horse Owner Trainer Age/Weight Jockey SP
1992 Kildimo Lady Harris Sue Smith 12-10-03 Lorcan Wyer 9/1
1993 Indian Tonic Joanne Richards Nigel Twiston-Davies 7-10-06 Chris Maude 4/1
1994 Into The Red John Huckle John White 10-10-04 Richard Guest 13/2
1995 Young Hustler Gavin MacEchern Nigel Twiston-Davies 8-12-00 Chris Maude 2/1F
1996 Into The Red John Huckle Mary Reveley 12-10-00 Tony Dobbin 9/2
1997 Samlee White Lion Partnership Philip Hobbs 8-10-00 Rodney Farrant 6/1
1998 Earth Summit The Summit Partnership Nigel Twiston-Davies 10-12-00 Tom Jenks 6/1
1999 Feels Like Gold Independent Twine Man. Co Ltd Nicky Richards 11-10-00 Tony Dobbin 9/1
2000 Young Kenny Trevor Hemmings Peter Beaumont 9-12-00 Russ Garrity 9/4F
2001 Amberleigh House Halewood International Ltd Ginger McCain 9-10-09 Warren Marston 33/1
2002 Ardent Scout Alicia Skene & W S Skene Sue Smith 10-9-11 Dominic Elsworth 14/1
2003 Clan Royal J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill 8-10-12 Liam Cooper 11/2
2004 Silver Birch Des Nichols Paul Nicholls 7-10-01 Ruby Walsh 4/1F
2005 Garvivonnian Angela Long Ned Mitchell IRE 10-10-04 Garrett Cotter 33/1
2006 Eurotrek Paul Green Paul Nicholls 10-11-07 Liam Heard 25/1
2007 Mr Pointment Stockton Heath Racing Paul Nicholls 8-11-05 Sam Thomas 15/2

Over the Grand National Fences

Year Horse Owner Trainer Age/Weight Jockey SP
2003 Dark Room J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill 6-10-06 Liam Cooper 7/1
2004 Forest Gunner John Gilsenan Richard Ford 10-11-02 Peter Buchanan 7/1F
2005 Hakim T N Siviter John Spearing 11-10-12 Paddy Brennan 18/1
2006 I Hear Thunder Nick Elliott Bob Buckler 8-11-02 Daryl Jacob 12/1
2007 Lampion Du Bost The Dodoz Partnership Jim Goldie 8-9-11 Phil Kinsella 66/1

THE totesport.com BECHER CHASE

The inaugural running in 1992 of the totesport.com Becher Chase over the Grand National fences went to the Sue Smith-trained Kildimo and the Yorkshire trainer gained a second success a decade later when Ardent Scout prevailed under an excellent ride from Dominic Elsworth to get the better of 2004 John Smith’s Grand National hero Amberleigh House by 24 lengths.

Amberleigh House himself won this prestigious handicap chase in 2001 when driven out by Warren Marston to prevail by two lengths from Smarty. The 2004 Grand National saw previous winners of the Becher Chase fill the first two places as Clan Royal was runner-up to Amberleigh House after being successful in this event by a short-head from that same rival in 2003.

Another Grand National winner to capture the totesport.com Becher Chase was Earth Summit. Seven months after he had won the world’s most famous chase in 1998, Earth Summit returned to Aintree and defeated the previous year’s Becher Chase winner Samlee by 16 lengths. In addition to saddling Earth Summit, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has also won the Becher Chase on two other occasions, courtesy of Indian Tonic in 1993 and Young Hustler two years later. Indian Tonic scored unchallenged by six lengths from Southern Minstrel, while Young Hustler was successful by the same margin from Sir Peter Lely.

Young Kenny was cheered home in 2000 as the market leader, beating subsequent winner Ardent Scout by half a length for popular Yorkshire-based trainer Peter Beaumont. The Ardross gelding fell on his only attempt at the John Smith’s Grand National, but he did win the Scottish version in 1999.

Into The Red is the only dual winner of the totesport.com Becher Chase so far. He was victorious for trainer John White in 1994, when coming home unchallenged by 15 lengths from Feathered Gale and then, two years later, when under the care of Mary Reveley, he ran on well for Tony Dobbin to score by three and a half lengths and deny 1995 victor Young Hustler successive wins.

Tony Dobbin was on the scoresheet again three years later aboard the Nicky Richards-trained Feels Like Gold. The 11-year-old galloped clear of his opponents and eventually won eased down, with Him Of Praise taking the runner-up spot, 11 lengths adrift.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Silver Birch justified favouritism in the 2004 totesport.com Becher Chase under Ruby Walsh to master Just In Debt by a length in a thrilling renewal. He also captured the Welsh National in 2004 and, after being sold out of Nicholls’ stable for just 20,000 guineas, made one of the greatest comebacks to win the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National for Irish trainer Gordon Elliott.

Ned Mitchell’s Garvivonnian became the first Irish-trained winner of the totesport.com Becher Chase when taking the contest in November, 2005, at the initial running at the Northwest Racing Masters weekend. He held on in a thrilling finish from the fast-finishing Nicholls-trained Le Duc by three quarters of a length, with Just In Debt a neck away in third.

Nicholls claimed his second win in the totesport.com Becher Chase in November, 2006 with the talented Eurotrek, who defied top-weight to defeat Bewleys Berry and 19 others in decisive fashion under Liam Heard, though there was drama after the last when it momentarily looked as if the winning jockey was going to take the wrong course.

The champion trainer was back for more in 2007 when he equalled Nigel Twiston-Davies’ record of three totesport.com Becher Chase victories by saddling Mr Pointment. The eight-year-old excelled over the Grand National obstacles, despite being inexperienced over fences, beating the previous year’s runner-up Bewleys Berry by a length.

The totesport.com Becher Chase receives plenty of runners, many of whom are having their first start over the Grand National fences and the race is increasingly seen as one of the best John Smith’s Grand National trials, with three winners also being successful in the world’s greatest chase.

Three favourites have prevailed - Young Hustler (1995), Young Kenny (2000) and Silver Birch (2004) - but there have also been three shock results - Amberleigh House was a 33/1 chance in 2001, while Garvivonnian (33/1 - 2005) and Eurotrek (25/1 -2006) also caused upsets.


The totesuper7 Grand Sefton has attracted good fields since its revival five years ago after a 38-year break. The handicap chase is run over one circuit of the Grand National course, with 18 fences jumped
during the two miles, five and a half furlongs.

The old Grand Sefton took place over further - just under three miles - and ceased after the 1965 renewal, which was won by The Fossa.

The totepool Grand Sefton Chase was re-established in 2003. Well-known Irish owner J P McManus saw his famous green and gold colours carried to victory by the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Dark Room. Partnered by Liam Cooper, the six-year-old was one of eight in with a chance jumping the final fence and kept on best of all after the elbow to score by three lengths from Scotmail Boy.

The race went to the Richard Ford-trained Forest Gunner under claimer Peter Buchanan the following year. The winner had earlier won the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting when ridden by the trainer’s wife, Carrie.

That pairing subsequently finished fifth in the 2005 John Smith’s Grand National, equalling Rosemary Henderson’s highest-placed finish by a woman in the race.

The 2005 renewal, worth £60,000 and run on the same day as the totesport.com Becher Chase, was the first under the umbrella of the Northwest Racing Masters. The John Spearing-trained
Hakim took the honours under Paddy Brennan who soon had his mount out in front. They were never caught as Hakim jumped for fun and stayed on gamely at the business end to defeat Fiori by two and a half lengths.

There were 20 runners in the 2006 contest which went the way of the Bob Buckler-trained I Hear Thunder, a 12/1 chance, who jumped well and stayed on strongly for conditional jockey Daryl Jacob to come home seven lengths clear of Shannon’s Pride.

Hakim, attempting to land the race for a second year in a row, again tried to make all the running, but this time got no further than the eighth fence.

The race was even more popular in 2007 when 22 lined up before the starter. There was a shock result as 66/1-chance Lampion Du Bost, trained by Jim Goldie in Scotland for the Dodoz Partnership, which includes former Scotland striker Billy Dodds, and ridden by Phil Kinsella, won entirely on merit, with his jumping being near exemplary.

For old articles (from 1st March 2000) go to the Newslink Archive

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