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Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Dessie Hughes today revealed that Hardy Eustace, last year's Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle hero, is set to return to Cheltenham on Saturday for the £50,000 Byrne Bros Cleeve Hurdle (2.35pm).

The seven-year-old, described as more than likely to run' by the County Kildare-based trainer, is one of 14 high-class entries received today for this prestigious extended two mile four furlong event.

Hardy Eustace was last of seven behind Golden Cross in a two-mile Grade One hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29, and according to his handler, there were reasons for the defeat there and the horse is now in rude health.

"Hardy Eustace has come out of Leopardstown very well and we think that he is back to his best," said Hughes. "I wasn't disappointed with that run as that inside track at Leopardstown is very sharp and we needed to get a run into him."

Although dual Grade One winner Hardy Eustace was successful over two miles in last season's Royal Bond Novices' Hurdle at Fairyhouse, where he was a length and a half too powerful for the 2003 Letheby & Christopher Supreme Novices' Hurdle victor Back In Front, Hughes believes the step up in trip should suit his charge.

"He won the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle over two miles five furlongs and this [extended] two and a half miles will suit him," enthused the trainer.

Hardy Eustace has been entered for both the Smurfit Champion Hurdle and the bonusprint.com Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, with the latter, for which he is a 16/1 chance with the Tote, his intended aim.

"Hardy Eustace will have another run in Ireland before the Festival and then the bonusprint.com Stayers' Hurdle will be the target," added Hughes.

The Byrne Bros Cleeve Hurdle has also attracted, among others, Irish-trained Davenport Milenium, the length runner-up to Rigmarole on his last start in the Tote Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, and Flame Creek, trained by Noel Chance, third last time in the same Leopardstown contest that Hardy Eustace contested.

Champion trainer Martin Pipe has three to choose from, Tarzien, Copeland and Mr Cool while Alan King's Crystal d'Ainay has run well on his last two starts, both at Cheltenham, taking the Jet UK Relkeel Hurdle in mid-December and finishing the length runner-up to Sh Boom in the three-mile Unicoin Homes Spa Hurdle at the end of the same month.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has already confirmed that Redemption, who won the George Stevens Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, when readily denying Monkerhostin by a length and a quarter, will line-up for the Byrne Bros Cleeve Hurdle, with the bonusprint.com Stayers' Hurdle as his ultimate target. The French-trained Foreman and chaser Grey Abbey, who could have his first run for Howard Johnson, are other interesting entries while Lilium De Cotte could return to hurdles after being novice chasing.

Hughes is also likely to have a representative in Saturday's £30,000 Wragge & Co Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle (2pm), which has attracted 16 entries. Recent Leopardstown scorer Guilt was acquired at Newmarket Sales for 38,000 guineas by his trainer, having been based with Pascal Bary in France.

The four-year-old put in a scintillating performance at Leopardstown over Christmas, when he easily beat Youngblood by seven lengths to win the Paddy Power Festival 3-Y-O Hurdle on just his second start over timber.

"We will probably also have Guilt going over to Cheltenham to run in the Wragge & Co Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle," added Hughes.

Cheltenham's exciting seven-race programme on Saturday features the £80,000 Pillar Property Chase (3.05pm), which has 11 of the best chasers in Europe as entries.

Ferdy Murphy has already stated that last year's Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup s
second Truckers Tavern will run and he could face a stiff challenge from the Guillaume Macaire-trained Jair Du Cochet, who beat dual Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Best Mate in November's Tote Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon by eight lengths, the Robert Alner-trained Sir Rembrandt, and the Irish-trained trio of Rince Ri, Commanche Court and Alexander Banquet.

Simon Claisse, Cheltenham's Clerk of the Course, reported the going at Cheltenham on Monday afternoon as remaining as: "good, good to soft in places", with the turfstick showing a reading of 8.1.

The current weather forecast is for a mild week with some rain which may amount in total to 10 millimetres before racing.

Saturday, January 24, is the last day of racing at Cheltenham before the 2004 Festival on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, March 16, 17 & 18. The first of the seven races is at 12.55pm.

Admission prices for this fabulous day's racing are Club and Tattersalls combined £18 and16 to 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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