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Wednesday, January 7, 2004


Owner Graham Wylie today revealed that he is hoping to run Royal Rosa in the £40,000 Grade Two Commhoist Premier Stayer's Hurdle at Haydock Park on Saturday (January 10).

The five-year-old is trained in County Durham by Howard Johnson, who is enjoying a great season thanks partly to the massive investment in horses by the millionaire owner.

Royal Rosa made an impressive debut over timber last month when winning a novices' hurdle at Hexham by 12 lengths. The Garde Royale gelding won three National Hunt Flat races last season for Nicky Henderson including a Grade One contest at Punchestown in April before being sold a record 340,000 guineas at Doncaster Sales in May

The going at Hexham was described as soft,' and according to Wylie some cut in the ground is important to his horse.

"Royal Rosa is fine after Hexham," he said. "As Graham Lee [jockey] said when he got off him there, he is a horse who needs soft ground."

After Royal Rosa had made the successful transition to hurdling at Hexham, Johnson stated that he would be entered for the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

When asked if he might also consider entering Royal Rosa in the stayers' championship, the Bonusprint Stayers' Hurdle, at the same event, Wylie indicated that he is taking it one step at a time with his charge.

"I'm not sure yet as Royal Rosa has only had the one run over hurdles," he replied. "We thought that we would see how he runs in this big race at Haydock. I wouldn't think that he'll go for the Bonusprint Stayers' Hurdle though as he's only five."

Johnson also revealed that jockey Mick Fitzgerald, who partnered Royal Rosa on all four of his starts for Henderson, told him after the Hexham success that the horses could one day be a Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup contender.

"I think that Royal Rosa could be a chaser in the making in two years. He is novice hurdling this season, hurdling next season and then chasing the following year," explained Wylie.

The owner could also run his Chivalry or Inglis Drever against Smurfit Champion Hurdle hero Rooster Booster and Australian import Specular in Saturday's £40,000 Grade Two Red Square Vodka Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.

Chivalry, last year's Tote Cambridgeshire winner on the Flat, made a perfect start to his hurdling career when proving two lengths too powerful for Vintage Premium in a novices' hurdle at Ayr in November, while Inglis Drever is unbeaten in two starts over timber, including a Grade Two novices' hurdle at Sandown last month when he beat last season's Smurfit Champion Hurdle fourth Self Defense by seven lengths.

"I'm not sure yet whether Chivalry or Inglis Drever will run at Haydock," said the owner though his trainer is tending towards the former.

Johnson reported today that Chivalry, Inglis Drever and Royal Rosa are well: "Graham (Lee) came up yesterday morning to school the three of them and they went really well - Chivalry in particular schooled brilliantly.

"The main thing is we want to get them all running against some decent horses to see how good they are before we make plans for the (Cheltenham) Festival.

"We have got to strike while the weather's right and we can get a run into them as you never know what will happen as the frost might come back and then we could get a week behind."

In other Red Square Vodka Champion Hurdle Trial news, Cashmans say that their favourite Rooster Booster is on the drift to evens from 4/5, while there has been support for the second favourite Specular, who is now 6/4 from 7/4. The Irish bookmakers then go 4/1 Howard Johnson selected (Chivalry or Inglis Drever), 14/1 Copeland, 33/1 Ben Ewar and 500/1 Fifth Generation and Tetragon.

Kirkland Tellwright, Clerk of the Course at Haydock Park, reported on the current going at the course. He said: "It is good as of today, but we are forecast to get rain over the next two or three days so it wouldn't be a surprise if it was easier on the day."

Haydock Park has a fabulous programme of races on Saturday, with the £60,000 Peter Marsh Chase being the feature and the £30,000-added Birchwood Novices' Chase also being run - prize money on offer will be over £186,500. The first of seven races is due off at 12.35pm with the last at 3.45pm.


A record 648 yearlings were entered for the 2005 Vodafone Derby at the initial yearling entry stage on Wednesday, December 3, 2003 - 80 more than 12 months ago.

The previous record since yearling entries were restarted for the premier classic in 1993 was 634 in that first year.

The 2005 Vodafone Derby, run on Saturday, June 4, 2005, will have a guaranteed prize fund of £1.25 million and is the richest race in Europe.

Members of the Maktoum family dominate the list with the highest number of entries. Godolphin, responsible for the 1995 Vodafone Derby winner Lammtarra, accounts for 67 of those engaged, Sheikh Mohammed has 73 entries, Hamdan Al Maktoum, successful in 1989 with Nashwan and in 1994 with Erhaab, has 37 entered, Maktoum Al Maktoum has nominated a further 32 with both Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum and Sheikh Obaid Al Maktoum, successful in 1998 with High-Rise, having one entry each.

The Aga Khan, who has won the world's greatest Flat race more times than any other current owner with four victories (Shergar 1981, Shahrastani 1986, Kahyasi 1988 and Sinndar 2000), has 27 entries while Dubai-based Saeed Suhail, successful in 2003 with Kris Kin, is responsible for 11 entries.

Sue Magnier, no stranger to Vodafone Derby success with Galileo carrying her colours to victory in 2001, bids to continue her run in 2005 with 32 entries - all but one with Aidan O'Brien. Michael Tabor, who races many of his horses in partnership with Mrs Magnier including the 2002 Vodafone Derby winner High Chaparral, has 27 entered, of whom 24 are with O'Brien while one is trained by Andrew Balding and two are in France with John Hammond.

The Queen has six entries - four with Sir Michael Stoute and two with Roger Charlton, while local Epsom hopes for success lie with Terry Mills' three entries.

There is a sizeable entry from across the Channel, not least from Andre Fabre's stable, with 20 engaged in one of the few big races that has so far eluded the Frenchman.

The classic entry of 648 yearlings also sees a new high of 199 different owners (compared to 175 for the 2004 Vodafone Derby). Over 60 different syndicates, partnerships and studs have entered yearlings, showing that the dream of winning is not confined to just the big owners.

"We are very grateful for the continued support of the Vodafone Derby from all the major owners," commented Epsom Downs Racecourse Managing Director Stephen Wallis, "but we particularly welcome the growing number of smaller owners and syndicates who have joined in pursuit of The Derby Dream and very much hope to see them and their horses on Epsom Downs in 18 months time."

A full list of the entries for the 2005 Vodafone Derby is available from Weatherbys.


Paul Nicholls revealed today that he intends to run both Ad Hoc and Montifault in the £110,000 Tote Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday (January 10).

Ad Hoc rounded off last season in fine style by winning his second attheraces Gold Cup at Sandown by nine lengths from Stormez, adding to his earlier success in the contest in 2001 when he was 19 lengths too strong for What's Up Boys.

While the trainer reported the 10-year-old as being "in good order," Barry Simpson, racing manager to Ad Hoc's owner Sir Robert Ogden, explained further: "The intention is to run Ad Hoc in the Tote Classic Chase at this stage and obviously a final decision will be made on Friday morning."

Ad Hoc was last seen in action in a handicap chase at Ascot on December 20, when he came home sixth of the eight competitors, going well until making a mistake three fences from home.

"Ad Hoc is fine and the trainer reports that he's in good form - we will just see how we go," continued Simpson. "One always looks at races and thinks well could we have won them?' and I think that Ascot was a race where he was probably just never quite near enough to win.

"He did make a mistake and that sort of just knocked the stuffing out of him and particularly being just his second run [of the season]."

The Strong Gale gelding has been allotted 11st 6lb in the Tote Classic Chase. He currently has a handicap mark of 152, having won the 2003 attheraces Gold Cup off 145.

"We've always felt that Ad Hoc is a horse which runs better in a good race with a lesser weight. He is harshly treated [by the handicapper], of that there is no doubt, but if you look back through his racing record he is not an over big horse and he doesn't carry big weights well," explained Simpson.

"When he's won the attheraces Gold Cup, he's won them because he's been carrying less than 11st on his back and he is a better horse with a lesser weight."

Montifault, third behind Lord Noelie in the Tote Bookmakers Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Eve and the winner of the Badger Brewery Handicap Chase at Wincanton in 2001, was described by Nicholls as "fine," after his seasonal bow at Prestbury Park. The nine-year-old has 10st 3lb in the Tote Classic Chase.

Andrew Balding is keen to run Gunner Welburn on Saturday and it is 50-50 whether the 12-year-old will run off 10st 10lb in the Tote Classic Chase at Warwick.

Gunner Welburn showed his well-being by winning the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby over Christmas by four lengths from Skippers Cleuch.

"Gunner Welburn seems absolutely fine - in an ideal world for a race like this we would have liked another week. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be able to run a big race wherever he goes at the weekend," said the Kingsclere-based trainer.

"He's gone up 8lb in the handicap for his Wetherby win and runs with a 6lb penalty if he goes to Warwick. We haven't got a lot of options after this weekend and the Grand National is very much his ultimate objective."

The distance of the Tote Classic Chase has been increased from 3m 2f to 3m 5f for the first time in 2003, the new trip being four furlongs further than Gunner Welburn won over at Wetherby.

"The extra distance would be a slight worry as he's looked a slightly doubtful stayer over further than three miles in the past. Having said that, if he's going to get it anywhere it would be at Warwick I would have thought," opined Balding.

"Barry Fenton is committed to riding three at Ascot for Emma Lavelle, who is his main source of rides, so Richard McGrath [who partnered the 12-year-old at Wetherby] will be in the saddle."

A total of 18 top-class chasers are currently still in the Tote Classic Chase, with the Henry Daly-trained Behrajan heading the weights on 11st 12lb.

Current Tote betting:

Akarus 7/2
Sir Rembrandt 4/1
Bindaree 11/2
Behrajan 6/1
What Odds 7/1
Gunner Welburn 9/1
Kings Mistral 9/1
World Wide Web 9/1
Southern Star 12/1
Ad Hoc 14/1
Artic Jack 14/1
Montifault 14/1
Take Control 14/1
Ardent Scout 16/1
Lucky Bay 16/1
Jurancon II 20/1
You're Agoodun 20/1
Carbury Cross 25/1

3 places at 1/4 odds

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