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Tuesday, January 13, 2004


Ferdy Murphy revealed today that last year's Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup second Truckers Tavern will run in the £80,000 Pillar Property Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday, January 24.

This season the nine-year-old has finished the runner-up to Keen Leader in the Grade Two Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock on December 13.

Two weeks later, on his most recent start in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby, Truckers Tavern was still in with every chance - about two lengths down in third place - when taking a tumble five fences from home.

"Truckers Tavern has come out of Wetherby in absolutely fantastic condition - he jumped the fence but just slipped. It was never a problem with him and he was 100%. Actually down in the stable yard, we could have run him again as he was that up for it afterwards," said the North Yorkshire-based trainer.

"Davy [Russell, jockey] said Truckers Tavern gave him a great feel and he thought he was travelling alright - it was just unfortunate but those things happen. The ground that day became a little bit greasy on top due to the good ground followed by rain.

"Davy had already ridden Benrajah in the novices' handicap chase for Martin Todhunter. That horse is a real good jumper and Davy said before Truckers' race that he was slipping and sliding all over the place."

Truckers Tavern's outing in the Pillar Property Chase - the prestigious extended three mile one furlong event - will be racegoers' last opportunity to view the Phardante gelding in public before he lines up for another crack at the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup on Thursday, March 18, at the Cheltenham Festival.

"A run over hurdles, then the run at Haydock, then an outing at Christmas, the Pillar Property Chase and then the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup - that's always been the plan and we haven't changed it," explained Murphy.

Last year Truckers Tavern stayed on well in the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup but had no chance of beating winner Best Mate, who proved 10 lengths too powerful for Murphy's charge in winning the championship chase for the second successive season.

Asked if Truckers Tavern could beat Best Mate in March, the trainer replied: "You always like to think that because that's the kind of game we're in. On the form this year Best Mate is outstanding.

"After last year's run I was very interested to hear Terry Biddlecombe [assistant trainer of Best Mate] say that Best Mate had improved a stone from the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup the year before. The time of the race would suggest that - it was 11 seconds faster than the previous season so probably they were right and I think Jim Culloty [Best Mate's jockey] said the same.

"We feel now that Truckers Tavern has probably improved a stone from last year so if we get a bit of soft ground it will certainly bring us closer to Best Mate."

Simon Claisse, Cheltenham's Clerk of the Course, reported the going on both chase and hurdle courses at Cheltenham on Tuesday morning as: "good", with the current weather forecast being for mild and unsettled conditions.

Saturday, January 24, is the last day of racing at Cheltenham before the 2004 Festival on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, March 16, 17 & 18.

Admission prices for this fabulous day's racing on January 24, which is well supported by six other races, are Club and Tattersalls combined £18 (advance booking before Friday, January 16 £15) 16-24-year-olds £10 (please note that the Courage Enclosure is closed for this fixture).

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

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