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Tuesday, January 8, 2001


Wincanton's important John Bull Chase, worth £20,000 added, has a new sponsor.

The Highclere Group of Companies is backing the two mile five furlong chase, which takes place at Wincanton's new fixture on Saturday, January 19, 2002. Prize money for the race has risen by 14% (+£2,500).

The Highclere Group, which provides venture capital, is already involved in another form of horseracing sponsorship, being the official sponsor of Wiltshire-based trainer Seamus Mullins. The owners of the Highclere Group have a number of horses in training with Mullins, who won the 1999 John Bull Chase with The Land Agent.

Through the 1990s the Highclere Group Of Companies John Bull Chase was won by a number of top-notch performers, including Toby Tobias (1990 & 1992), Panto Prince (1991), Sabin Du Loir (1993), Deep Sensation (1994), and Dublin Flyer (1995). Last year the contest fell to the Venetia Williams-trained Bellator, third in the 2000 King George VI Chase.

This year the Highclere Group Of Companies John Bull Chase has even more significance as it is due to be the scene of the comeback for the 2000 Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Looks Like Trouble. The Noel Chance-trained chaser has been off the track since November, 2000, when he returned home lame after winning at Down Royal in Northern Ireland.

Saturday, January 19, will also see the opening of Wincanton's new stand and more information will be released about this shortly.

Stephen Higgins, Racecourse Manager at Wincanton, said: "We look forward to welcoming the Highclere Group of Companies to Wincanton and are extremely grateful for the generous sponsorship of the John Bull Chase."


Wincanton Racecourse looks set to beat the weather on Thursday, January 10, 2002, with all of the six scheduled races having attracted a very healthy number of entries.

Wincanton was one of the few racecourses to be able to stage racing on Boxing Day and the usual good crowd enjoyed the exciting action.

Racing is due to get under way on Thursday with the ELITE RACING NOVICES' HURDLE (1.30pm) over two miles. There are currently 74 entries for this race and it may permitted to divide. Henrietta Knight's exciting prospect Southern Star took this event last year. Decent novice chase action takes place in the second contest of the day, the CORSCOMBE HANDICAP CHASE (2pm) over two miles and five furlongs. Among the 36 entries for this race (which may also be divided) is Martin Pipe's high-class staying hurdler Bounce Back, who was second on his chasing debut at Ascot before going on to score over fences at Chepstow.

There is further novice hurdle action in the third race on the card, the BLACKMORE VALE NATIONAL HUNT' NOVICES' HURDLE (2.30pm) over two miles and six furlongs. This race could divide as it currently has 78 entries including the Alan King-trained Gola Supreme, winner of his only race to date at Ascot.

Two handicap chases are next on the agenda. First up is the SPONSOR AT WINCANTON HANDICAP CHASE (3pm) over two miles and five furlongs which has 21 entries, followed by the TOTE BOOKMAKERS HANDICAP CHASE over three miles, one-and-a-half furlongs for which there are 31 entries.

Racing closes with a contest for conditional jockeys, the JAMBOREE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS' HANDICAP HURDLE (4.05pm) over two miles.

Stephen Higgins, Racecourse Manager at Wincanton, said: "Wincanton looks set to beat the weather on Thursday, January 10, and the racing should be very competitive and exciting."

Admission prices are £15 for the Club Enclosure, £10 for Tattersalls and £5 for the Course Enclosure. Students (with ID) are admitted to Club for £7.50 and Tattersalls for £5, while Juniors (aged 17-22, with ID) can enjoy both the Club and Tattersalls Enclosures for £7.50.

Accompanied children aged 16 and under are admitted FREE to all enclosures while car and coach parking is also FREE (except for cars going into the Course Enclosure where there is a £5 charge).

Advance Bookings can be made by telephoning 01963 32344 or by logging on to wincantonracecourse.co.uk. The next fixture at Wincanton is on Saturday, January 19, 2002.


Doncaster's opening meeting of 2002 takes place on Monday (14 January) - the first of 28 scheduled racedays during the year on Town Moor (20 days staging Flat racing and eight over Jumps).

The feature race is The Tote Julia Rodney Intermediate Handicap Chase, a £10,000 contest over the extended two miles and three furlongs sponsored by the Tote. Julia Rodney is a member of The Sun Punters Club, which is also sponsored by the Tote; she won a national competition to have a V.I.P. day out at a British racecourse and have a ‘named race' supported by the Tote.

The titles of the other five races refer to the Exhibition & Conference Centre at Doncaster Racecourse. With indoor space of 4,300 square metres and state-of-the-art facilities, The Exhibition Centre is a leading venue of its kind in Britain, hosting many large events such as The National Custom & Sports Car Show (13 & 14 April), The Driffield Championship Dog Show (10 - 13 October) and the Hobsons EC & T Show (a computer exhibition featuring software for the education sector on 14 November). All three shows have races named after them on Monday.

Racing is scheduled to begin at 1.20 p.m. with The ‘Civil Marriage Ceremony Venue' Novices' Hurdle over two and a half miles, a race title which draws attention to the fact that Doncaster is licensed to conduct marriage ceremonies in the historic weighing room.



THE European Pattern Committee has confirmed that the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in April is to be upgraded from Listed to Group 3 status. Sponsored by Derrinstown Stud, the trial has been won by some high class fillies including the 2000 winner Preseli which had won the Group 1 Moyglare Stakes the previous season.

The EPC has also upgraded the Flying Five from Group 3 to Group 2 level. Last season the Flying Five was on by Ishiguru and in 2000 it was won by Namid, who subsequently landed the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp.

Originally staged at the Phoenix Park, this five-furlong sprint has been run in recent years at Leopardstown but now moves to the Curragh due to development work at Leopardstown. Also moving temporarily to the Curragh is the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes and the Phoenix Sprint Stakes.

Another change confirmed by the EPC is to the conditions of the Group 2 Goffs International Stakes at the Curragh. Having attracted just three runners last year when it was a nine-furlong contest for three-year-olds and upwards, the 2002 edition will be run over a mile and confined to three-year-olds. Goffs will continue to sponsor the evert.


THE FREEZE which led to the cancellation of all turf racing in the UK on the weekend of January 5th-6th didn't affect Ireland where meetings took place at Cork, Fairyhouse and Naas.

Arguably, the most exciting performance of the weekend came at Naas where the six-year-old Inca Trail made a highly impressive winning debut in the bumper. Owned by Philip Myerscough, this full-brother to Best Mate is trained by Edward O'Grady who said, "This horse is a bit delicate and melted on me last season. He has been Hobdayed, as was Ventana Canyon in the same ownership some years ago at this stage of his career, and we won't mind if he turns out as good as that one." Inca Trail is now as low as 6/1 for the Festival Bumper at Cheltenham.

Also at Naas, O'Grady had the favourite for the Grade 3 Slaney Novice Hurdle in Over The Bar but this 13/8 shot was beaten into third by Canary Wharf. The winner is trained in Ballinasloe, Co Galway by John Bleahen who said: "This is dream stuff for me." Asked about plans to bring Canary Wharf to Cheltenham, the trainer added: "I've been there once in my life and was privileged just to be there. To bring a horse there would be a dream - I'd need to get advice on that but if he does go he'd only have one more run beforehand."

At Fairyhouse, Curragh trainer Dessie Hughes saddled two winners and leading trainer Noel Meade won a beginners chase with Oa Baldixe. Thick fog delayed racing at Cork where top weight Lisaan won the valuable Powers Gold Label Handicap Hurdle. The County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival could be on the cards for the Bill Durkan-trained winner.


CHAMPION jockey Tony McCoy has picked out Ericsson Chase winner Foxchapel King as a sound each-way bet for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Irish-born rider, still on course to ride a record number of winners this season, was impressed with the Mouse Morris-trained gelding which, he says, "stays and jumps, two big factors in winning a Gold Cup".

Foxchapel King, who began his racing career in an Irish point-to-point, is generally priced at 33/1 for the Gold Cup. Earlier this season, he won the Champion Chase at Down Royal, defeating Florida Pearl.

Adrian Maguire, who rode Florida Pearl at Kempton, will keep the ride in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 10th, a race Foxchapel King is also being aimed at, along with current Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Sackville.

In another Gold Cup development, Florida Pearl's stable companion Alexander Banquet has been supported for the big race at Cheltenham. Coral Bookmakers report a series of four-figure wagers for the nine-year-old which has been cut from 33/1 to 20/1.


Last seasons Turkish 1000 guineas winner, Mary Ellen notched up the seventh win of her career when defeating Rock of Gibralter's half-sister D'Articleshore, in a seven furlong Group 3 contest at the weekend, she was also victorious at the international meeting held in October in Istanbul.

Mary Ellen, a daughter of Sri Pekan, was one of the leading 3yos last season, and looks set for a prosperous 2002 season as does the very consistant runner-up D'Articleshore. In 2001 D'Articleshore ran 15 times notching up 5 wins and numerous placings.


IRISH jockeys and horses continue to do well in Dubai. A treble for Ted Durcan at Jebel Ali on January 4th extended his lead in the UAE riders' championship which he has won for the past two seasons.

Pat Smullen and Wayne Smith both had winners on the same card while Willie Supple, Daragh O'Donohoe, Gordon Power and champion Irish apprentice Tadhg O'Shea have also been doing well in the Emirates recently.

Among the Irish-bred horses to visit the winner's enclosure in Dubai was Resplendent Star, winner of the Listed Jebel Ali Stakes on December 21st. Bred by the Airlie Stud, this five-year-old cost just 16,000gns as a yearling.

The entries for the Maktoum Challenge Series in the UAE have just been released and the powerful Godolphin contingent includes the Irish-bred Tobougg along with Arc winner Sakhee, China Visit, Best Of The Bests and Noverre.


TED WALSH has become the first Irish trainer to receive a horse from Britain's leading National Hunt owner Sir Robert Ogden. Walsh, well-known for his work as a TV commentator and as the trainer of Aintree Grand National winner Papillon, has been sent a five-year-old full-brother to Grade 1 winner Berude Not To.

The owner's racing manager Barry Simpson said: "Sir Robert has purchased a number of young horses in Ireland over the years and feels he would like to continue supporting the Irish racing industry in the future."

Another interesting prospect in-training with Walsh is the four-year-old Monitoring which has already been backed at 33/1 for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Yet to make his debut over jumps, Monitoring was originally trained in France by Nicolas Clement who also used to train Walsh's 1997 Triumph Hurdle winner Commanche Court, also winner of the 2000 Irish Grand National.


LEOPARDSTOWN Racecourse will host the 2002 World Cross Country Championships on March 23rd and 24th. A total of 800 athletes from around the world are expected to compete in the event which should attract over 7,000 spectators.

The track's racing manager Tom Burke said: "These races get worldwide coverage and will help to put Leopardstown on the map." Burke is confident that the athletes won't damage the racing surface. "They'll be running on part of the chase course which, obviously, we won't be using again until Christmas. The runners will also go over some rough areas of the golf course and will cross the track in two positions where coverings will be in place."


THE TALENTED racemare Tryphaena is due to come up for auction at the Goffs February Sale (Feb 11th-13th). Winner as a three-year-old in Germany, she accumulated a total of eight successes after joining Willie Mullins's yard, four times on the Flat and four over hurdles.

Her biggest success on the level was in the Leopardstown November Handicap (she also finished second in the same race) and she was runner-up in the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh. Over hurdles, she won the Ladbroke Racing Hurdle at Fairyhouse and the Murphy International Hurdle at Punchestown.

In addition to a fine race record, she is a half-sister to two champions, namely Turfkonig and Tryphosa. The former won the Group 1 Bayerisches Zuchtrennen and seven other Group races and is a successful sire while Tryphosa is a Classic winner of the German 1,000 Guineas (the ARAG Preis).


LEADING Irish rider Paul Carberry has had a poor start to the New Year as he struggles to make a full recovery from a painful thumb injury. He sustained the injury at Leopardstown on December 28th and immediately stood himself down from the winning ride on Foxchapel King in the Ericsson Chase.

Carberry returned to the saddle at Thurles on January 3rd but even though he won on his only mount at the meeting, his sore thumb flared up again and he was forced to again give up his remaining rides. At time of writing, the jockey expects to be back in the saddle in time for the important Pierse Hurdle meeting at Leopardstown on January 13th.


AIDAN O'BRIEN was honoured at the RTE/Hibernian Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Dublin's Burlington Hotel on January 4th. The Ballydoyle trainer was named winner of the National Award for his outstanding achievements in 2001 when he trained 23 Group 1 winners worldwide.

O'Brien was also short-listed for the overall award, along with champion rider Tony McCoy, but this prize, voted for by the public, went to Irish soccer team manager Mick McCarthy.

Ted and Ruby Walsh were among the sporting personalities present at the function which was broadcast live on Irish television. The Team of the Year award went to Galway's gaelic football squad while golfer Christy O'Connor junior was inducted into the Hall of Fame.


GEOS has been confirmed as a likely runner in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 27th. The versatile jumper, trained by Nicky Henderson, is one of seven British-trained runners among the 19 entries for the two-mile race, worth 130,000 euro.

Outlining plans, Henderson said: "He's in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the (Smurfit) Champion Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle. In fact, he's in anything and everything and while it's tempting to go both ways I'm leaning towards the AIG Hurdle."

Four-time winner Istabraq is an unlikely runner in the AIG though Bust Out, which ran Istabraq to a head at Leopardstown on December 29th, is expected to turn out again.


THE 22 members of the One-O-Eight Racing Club are looking forward to a trip to the Cheltenham Festival with Rathgar Beau which won at Thurles on January 3rd. The gelding's trainer Eamon Sheehy said: "We will look for another novice event for Rathgar Beau whose owners want him to go to Cheltenham for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Then we will try to win a Flat race or two with him."

Also impressive at Thurles was the Willie Mullins-trained Scolardy but this four-year-old is likely to be aimed at the Punchestown National Hunt Festival in April rather than going to Cheltenham for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.


There was an Irish-bred winner in South Africa when 2/1 favourite Dancal, ridden by Jeffrey Lloyd, won the Grade 3 Clairwood Xmas Handicap, worth 100,000 rand, at Clairwood Park...There are eight Irish-trained horses among the 43 initial entries for the 2002 Cheltenham Gold Cup and they include 6/1 ante-post favourite Sackville...The 32 entries for the two-mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham include the leading Irish-trained contenders Knife Edge and Native Upmanship...The Edward O'Grady-trained Sheltering was the star attraction at Lisgoold point-to-point on January 6th and the 10-year-old remains on course for the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham after a workmanlike victory.

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