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Thursday, November 17, 2005



EIGHT OF THE BEST FOR INAUGURAL BETFAIR CHASE




The inaugural £150,000 Betfair Chase, run over three miles at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 19, has attracted eight high-class declarations at the final 48-hour declaration stage.


Heading the field is Kicking King, winner of the Stan James King George VI Chase at Kempton and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup last season.


His trainer Tom Taaffe said today: "Everything is cool and calm as we speak and he'll be there in time for the race.


"We'll take one race at a time and that's all we can do. First of all we'll get Saturday over with and then we'll worry about the other races.

"He's being aimed at the three races in the Betfair Million and he's been put in a position where he's hopefully going to have a chance of doing it, but you have to get over the first bridge before you can go to the second bridge.


"He's won on all types of ground so the current going will be fine for him, and as for the opposition, well I respect every horse in every race."

The seven-year-old is set to face some stiff opposition on Saturday, including the recent Charlie Hall Chase victor Ollie Magern, who was the subject of a bullish report from his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies earlier in the week.


Kingscliff, runner-up to Kicking King in the King George last season, is also set to line up, as is Take The Stand, who chased the Irish superstar home when second in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. The two horses finished second and third respectively last time out behind Ollie Magern in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on October 29.


Robert Alner, Kingscliff's trainer, revealed today that he is looking forward to running his stable star.

The Dorset-based handler said: "Kingscliff is in good from. I took him out hunting yesterday to give him something fresh to think about. He came out of the race well last time and it has brought him on - I'm very happy with him and hope he will run well, although it's a very tough race.


"I wouldn't be confident of reversing form with Ollie Magern from Wetherby, as I'm sure he has also come on for the run, but we should finish near him. The good to soft ground should be fine for the horse.

"It's a very tough ask for any horse to win the Betfair Million, but if you're not in you can't win and we're all dreaming of being in with a shout. It's an exciting concept and has created a lot of interest - full marks to everyone involved with the idea. We're delighted to be in there with a chance and I'm sure it will be a great race."

Peter Bowen, trainer of Take The Stand, commented: "All the good ones are left in the race but I'm expecting a good run. The ground is good to soft at the moment and if it dries out further that will help my horse. It would be nice to win on Saturday and be in contention for the bonus."

The second Irish representative is Michael Hourigan's Beef Or Salmon, successful in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown last season and a six-time winner in Grade One company in total, while Jonjo O'Neill runs the talented Keen Leader, already twice a winner at Haydock Park including the Grade Two Tommy Whittle chase in 2003.


Completing the mouthwatering octet are the Martin Pipe-trained Celestial Gold, victorious in both the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham and the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in 2004, and Paul Nicholls' Royal Auclair, whose finest hour came when chasing home Hedgehunter in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree last season.


Kirkland Tellwright, Clerk of the Course at Haydock Park, said today that the ground at Haydock Park remains GOOD TO SOFT, SOFT IN PLACES.


He said: "We are still good to soft, soft in places.


"The weather is cold, bright and dry at the moment.

"We will putting the frost sheets down today as a precaution and everything should be fine for the weekend."

Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin said: "To have eight such high profile runners and proven big race performers, in the first running of the Betfair Chase, is more than we hoped for."

Calvin continued: "Our Betfair Million initiative has clearly helped attract the high class field and punters on our site seem to agree, with less than 5-1 being requested on any horse winning all three of the races.


"It just goes to show what can be achieved when everyone in the racing industry pulls together; bookmakers, racecourses and the BHB."

HAYDOCK PARK, 2.20PM, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19 THE BETFAIR CHASE, £150,000 TOTAL PRIZE FUND, GRADE ONE, THREE MILES

1) 12P- BEEF OR SALMON (IRE) (Joe Craig) Michael Hourigan IRE 9-11-08 Paul Carberry
2) 130- CELESTIAL GOLD (IRE) (David Johnson) Martin Pipe 7-11-08 Timmy Murphy
3) 2-5F KEEN LEADER (IRE) (Adair Catherwood) Jonjo O'Neill 9-11-08 Noel Fehily
4) 1-12 KICKING KING (IRE) (Conor Clarkson) Tom Taaffe IRE 7-11-08 Barry Geraghty
5) 2-42 KINGSCLIFF (IRE) (Arnold Sendell) Robert Alner 8-11-08 Robert Walford
6) 12-1 OLLIE MAGERN (Roger Nicholls) Nigel Twiston-Davies 7-11-08 Carl Llewellyn
7) 42F- ROYAL AUCLAIR (FR) (Clive Smith) Paul Nicholls t8-11-08 Christian Williams
8) P-53 TAKE THE STAND (IRE) (David Robbins, Frank Ridge) Peter Bowen 9-11-08 Tony Dobbin
The following horses were taken out at the final 48-hour declaration stage: Hand Inn Hand, Happy Hussar, Lord Transcend

Haydock Park stages the first day of the new North West Masters on Saturday, November 19, and, as well as the Betfair Chase, has the most valuable three-mile handicap hurdle run in Britain, the £70,000 betfairpoker.com Handicap Hurdle, among the seven races. The second day of the North West Masters is at Aintree, on Sunday, November 20.


The new Betfair Chase is the first of the three races involved in the £1-million bonus, the Betfair Million, the others being the Stan James King George VI Chase at Sandown on Boxing Day and the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 17.


The bonus, the biggest ever offered in jump racing, will be won if the a horse captures all three races.


The Betfair Million will be distributed to connections in the following proportions if won - 75 per cent to the owner, 10 per cent to the trainer, 10 per cent to the jockey, and 5 per cent to the stable staff.


To win the Betfair Chase - Betfair Bet: 2.06 Kicking King, 5.2 Ollie Magern, 10.5 Beef or Salmon, 11 Kingscliff, 14 Keen Leader, 19 Celestial Gold, 27 Take The Stand, 42 Royal Auclair.


Will the Betfair Million be won? - Betfair bet: Yes 5.3, No 1.21

Prices accurate at 2pm on Thursday November 17 - deduct 1 for traditional odds.




MAGNIER - "FRANKIE, WE STILL LOVE YOU"




John Magnier last night joked to Frankie Dettori that "we still love you" following the jockey's comments that he felt he should not have ridden Coolmore's Scorpion to win the 2005 St Leger at Doncaster in September as he is retained by the rival Godolphin stable.


Magnier, owner of Coolmore Stud, was speaking at the Cartier Racing Awards in London, held at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he part-owned four winners - Cartier Horse Of The Year (Hurricane Run), Cartier Three-Year-Old Colt ( Hurricane Run), Cartier Two-Year-Old Colt (George Washington) and Cartier Two-Year-Old Filly (Rumpelstiltskin).


"I know this is about Hurricane Run but I would just like to thank Aidan O'Brien for the two two-year-old awards we have had tonight. One would have been good but two is special," said Magnier, after collecting the Cartier Horse Of The Year Award.

"I would like to thank Aidan and his team for the older horses and to all that made it possible - least of all Frankie Dettori! Frankie - we still love you and we forgive you because you know not what you do. As everybody here knows racing is a funny game."

Magnier, who co-owns Hurricane Run with Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, bought the Montjeu colt privately during the summer from his breeder, Dietrich von Boetticher's Gestut Ammerland.


"While we are honoured to be receiving this award, we are doing so on behalf of many others and I would like to thank them," continued Magnier.

"Firstly Hurricane Run's breeders, Dietrich and Annabel von Boetticher, with whom we shared great enjoyment of this horse, as well as their adviser on the matings, Crispin de Moubray and the team at Gestut Ammerland.

"Secondly Andre Fabre, the horse's gifted trainer, and his wife Elizabeth along with his entire team including Christophe Soumillon, who rode Hurricane Run in his first two races. I think Andre's record of six Arcs speaks for itself. And finally Hurricane Run's jockey Kieren Fallon - what can I say, it doesn't get any better than that.


"There is a lot of luck involved in a competitive race like the Arc. Everything has to go right - a smooth preparation, trouble-free run on the day and you have to have the luck to have the best horse, thanks to Gestut Ammerland, we cheated a little!"

Magnier then revealed the story behind Coolmore's involvement with the bloodlines of Hurricane Run's great-grandfather Northern Dancer as well as the purchase of Fairy Bridge, dam of Coolmore's record-breaking 14-time champion stallion Sadler's Wells.


"Talking about luck it brings me to my father-in-law Vincent O'Brien's first association with the most influential stallion of the last century," added Magnier. "He'd gone to Canada to look at a yearling by Ribot for Charles Engelhard but didn't think much of him and instead came home with another yearling subsequently named Nijinsky. That was the beginning of Vincent's association with Northern Dancer, maybe it was not all luck but lucky nonetheless.


"Then we get the next part of the story. Some years later during the July Sales at Keeneland, I was on the way to breakfast one morning through the bar at the old Hyatt and I spotted (bloodstock agent) Billy McDonald's catalogue in the trash can. Inside the catalogue was a pass-out for a filly that he'd bought the day before. He'd paid $40,000 for her, and there wasn't a lot of her there. As luck would have it again she turned out to be champion two-year-old filly Fairy Bridge.

"I learned afterwards that Billy had given a $100 bill at Claiborne to the yearling manager Gus Koch - obviously a turned-on guy - to find out his pick of the draft and he said a little Bold Reason filly was the fastest in the paddock, it was obviously money well spent. Fairy Bridge's first visit to Northern Dancer at Windfields resulted, as luck would have it, in Sadler's Wells. Then 15 years later the later Sir James Goldsmith sent Floripedes to Sadler's Wells at Coolmore resulting, as luck would have it, in Montjeu.


"When Montjeu was running as a two-year-old, (Coolmore's general manager) Christy Grassick was watching the French racing one day and took notice of him. He got John Hammond and Demi O'Byrne together and we bought into the horse in a deal organised by John Warren.


"It's quite amazing from Montjeu's first crop that we ended up with Hurricane Run. But John (Warren) - who always has to get something - selects the Epsom Derby winner Motivator for Harry Herbert's Royal Ascot club. These two sportsmen have decided to retire Motivator - I tried to remind John that the hurdle race track is going to be open at Ascot and I couldn't really understand their logic!

"Quite seriously, I really think Motivator was a great horse. John Warren prepared his speech for this occasion on June 5, as he told me tonight, but everybody knows that Motivator will be and should be a great stallion. He was a good runner as a two-year-old and a good runner as a three-year-old and these guys always know what to do for the best. I really believe in the horse and furthermore I'm glad we don't have to race against him next year - or Johnny Murtagh for that matter.

"Michael Tabor often says to me "John, I don't want to know all the details, don't bore me with them. I just need to be lucky and back a few winners." As his mother Bea often says, "the proof is in the pudding." Good luck and good health everybody and thanks for having us all."

CARTIER TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT - GEORGE WASHINGTON
J P Magnier, son of part owners Sue and John Magnier, declared: "I'd like to thank all the staff at Ballydoyle who worked tirelessly throughout the year to make this possible. Lastly I'd like to thank the trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Kieren Fallon without whom also this would not have been possible."

CARTIER TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY - RUMPLESTILTSKIN
Alan Cooper, racing manager to joint-owner, the Niarchos Family, said: "It's a great honour on behalf of my principals, as well as John and Sue (Magnier), and Michael and Doreen (Tabor) to win this award. A moment ago our host referred to Tim Vigors, whose idea was the Cartier Awards. He was my father's my first employer and it reminded me a bit of history. Going back a bit on the family of Rumplestiltskin, Francois Boutin and Philip Payne-Gallwey purchased, on behalf of Mr Niarchos, her third dam Pasadoble in 1980 and from her came Miesque. That equine family has for many years given me an extraordinary privilege to travel around the world to see championship racing. It's a great honour for me to accept the trophy with all her past history."

CARTIER THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT - HURRICANE RUN
Dietrich von Boetticher, breeder and former owner, commented: "I notice this evening is jointly sponsored by the Racing Post and it was a journalist from the Racing Post who was the first person to tell me Hurricane Run was promising. He called me when I was in Paris and said he spotted this promising horse and asked why we called him Hurricane Run - and did we expect him to be a good horse. And we did because he was a great mix of a solid British female line that had been bred with a very good German colt, and she was then bred to a French colt, Montjeu. If you want to be successful, mix the three."

CARTIER THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY - DIVINE PROPORTIONS
Alan Cooper, racing manager to owner, the Niarchos Family, said: "In my role as racing manager, the stable has won several Cartier awards. For me when Divine Proportions won the Prix Diane, I noticed the reaction of the public and the great admiration for her. Then on her next start when she met her first defeat, there was extraordinary silence and astonishment from the crowd at the races. She captured the imagination of the racing public and it's a great honour to receive this trophy for a great champion."

CARTIER SPRINTER - AVONBRIDGE
Philip Deer, son of owner-breeder John Deer, remarked: "Thank you to Mr Charlton for training him so well, Steve Drowne for riding him so well and to Guy Upton and Sophie Mitchell for preparing him so well in pre-training. I think it's a great achievement for my father to breed a Group One winner, to breed the sire of a Group One winner, the dam of a Group One winner and have a half-brother to win the same Group One race - I think it's fantastic."

CARTIER STAYER - WESTERNER
Alec Wildenstein, the owner, said: "The only thing I'm sorry is that Westerner is not here, he would have talked much better than I can. He knows every trick of the game and he knows what he did. He's an exceptional horse and I'll miss him very much when he retires at the end of the year. I thank you for this award which for my family and our breeding counts very much."

CARTIER OLDER HORSE - AZAMOUR
Princess Zahra Aga Khan, daughter of owner the Aga Khan, declared: "Thank you to our sponsors for a lovely fun evening. Thank you to John Oxx and to everyone that has let Azamour develop into such a lovely strong, fast horse that has given us a wonderful year. Sometimes with these matings you wonder why? And then why do others not work, but Azamour's a joy and I can't wait to see what he does next."

Quotes from Henry Cecil, the Award of Merit winner, will follow shortly.


For more information, please contact Harry Herbert, Cartier's racing consultant (01488 669166), Florence Paul of Cartier (020 7408 5738), Lucianne Warde-Norbury of Cartier (020 7408 5717) or Mark Popham of Racenews (020 7704 0326)

Photographs of last night's Cartier Racing Awards are available - please e-mail racenews@compuserve.com

HURRICANE RUN IS THE 2005 CARTIER HORSE OF THE YEAR

Hurricane Run, winner of five races this year including the Budweiser Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, was named Horse Of The Year at the 2005 Cartier Racing Awards, which were presented at the Four Seasons Hotel in London's West End on the evening of Wednesday, November 16.


The three-year-old star of Montjeu's outstanding first crop, who is trained in France by Andre Fabre, defeated the cream of Europe's middle-distance performers with a brilliant performance in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on October 2.

Earlier in the campaign he captured the Budweiser Irish Derby after just failing to catch Shamardal in the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) at Chantilly. He remains in training for 2006 and will be a formidable force in the world's best middle-distance races.

He took the Cartier Horse of the Year Award from Azamour, Divine Proportions, Shamardal and Westerner.


Hurricane Run also won the Cartier Three-Year-Old Colt Award, coming ahead of Dubawi, Motivator, Scorpion and Shamardal.


Azamour is the Cartier Older Horse of the Year for 2005. Owned by the Aga Khan and trained by John Oxx in Ireland, the son of Night Shift put up exemplary performances to win the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot at York and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury before running a brave race in defeat when third in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park, USA. The other nominees in this category were Alcazar, Alexander Goldrun, Starcraft and Westerner.


Divine Proportions, last year's Cartier Two-Year-Old Filly, gained the Cartier Three-Year-Old Filly Award this time around.

The Niarchos Family's amazing performer, trained in France by Pascal Bary, continued to thrive in 2005, landing two French Classics, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas) and the Prix de Diane (French Oaks), as well as the Group One Prix d'Astarte at Deauville before her career came to a premature end when she sustained a tendon injury in the Prix Jacques Le Marois. Her rivals in the Cartier Three-Year-Old Filly Award were Eswarah, Maids Causeway, Shawanda and Virginia Waters.


For the second year in succession, the Wildenstein Family's Westerner gains the Cartier Stayer Award, finishing ahead of Alcazar, Distinction, Millenary and Reefscape. The highlight of his season was a magnificent victory in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot at York, while he also put up one of the greatest performances of the year when second to Hurricane Run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.


Avonbridge saw off strong competition from Cape Of Good Hope, Goodricke, La Cucaracha and Pastoral Pursuits to take the Cartier Sprinter Award of 2005. Roger Charlton's charge finished the season and his career with a magnificent victory in the Group One Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp.


Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien won both Cartier Awards for Two-Year-Olds categories.

George Washington, a dual Group One winner at the Curragh, beat off competition from Amadeus Wolf, stablemate Horatio Nelson, Red Clubs and Sir Percy to be named Cartier Two- Year-Old Colt while in the race for Cartier Two-Year-Old Filly, Group One Prix Marcel Boussac heroine Rumplestiltskin came out ahead of Donna Blini, Flashy Wings, Nannina and Silca's Sister.


The eight horse awards were decided by a carefully structured combination of points achieved in Pattern races, the views of racing journalists on Cartier's Racing Panel, and votes from readers of Racing Post and The Daily Telegraph. The Pattern races count towards 40 per cent of the total, with the Cartier Racing Panel's deliberations also having a 40 per cent share and the votes of the newspaper readers making up the final 20 per cent.

Cartier's Racing Panel consisted of Brough Scott (Racing Post & Sunday Telegraph), Graham Dench (Racing Post), Julian Muscat (Times), Colin Mackenzie (Daily Mail) and Richard Evans (Daily Telegraph).


HENRY CECIL GAINS AWARD OF MERIT

The Daily Telegraph Award of Merit for the person or persons who, in the opinion of the 20-strong Cartier Jury, have done the most for European racing and/or breeding either over their lifetime or within the past 12 months, goes to Henry Cecil, the 10-times British Champion Flat Trainer.


Cecil, one of the most popular and charismatic trainers of the modern era, truly reached the top of his profession with winners of 32 European classics, including all five English classics, and a phenomenal record of over 3,000 individual winners.


The list of past winners of the Daily Telegraph Award of Merit is as follows; David & Patricia Thompson, Lord Oaksey, Prince Khalid Abdullah , John Magnier, His Highness The Aga Khan, Peter Walwyn, the Head Family, Sir Peter O'Sullevan, Frankie Dettori, John Dunlop, the Marquess of Hartington, Francois Boutin, Lester Piggott and Henri Chalhoub.


The Cartier Racing Awards, now in their 15th year, are recognised as the most prestigious within the European horseracing industry.

Cartier Three-Year-Old Colt & Cartier Horse of the Year
HURRICANE RUN (IRE)
3 b c Montjeu (IRE) - Hold On (GER) (Surumu (GER))
Form: -112111 Owner: Michael Tabor, Sue Magnier and Derrick Smith
Trainer: Andre Fabre FR Breeder: Gestut Ammerland

Bred by the German-based Gestut Ammerland, Hurricane Run is from the family of several useful performers in Germany and proved to be the star of Montjeu's incredibly successful first crop.


A winner on his only start at two, Hurricane Run made a winning seasonal reappearance over 11 furlongs on heavy ground at Longchamp on April 15, before further advertising his ability with a decisive five-length success in the Group Two Prix Hocquart over the same course and distance on May 9.


That performance put him firmly in the picture for the Group One Prix du Jockey-Club, the French Derby, this year reduced in distance to an extended 10 furlongs for the first time, at Chantilly on June 5. He stayed on strongly in the Classic's closing stages, just failing to catch Godolphin's Shamardal who scored by a neck.


After his Prix du Jockey-Club effort, Hurricane Run was sold by Gestut Ammerland to the Coolmore team and it was decided to aim at the Irish Derby. The step up to a mile and a half proved well within his capabilities when he recorded the first Group One success of his career in that Classic at the Curragh on June 26, getting the better of Scorpion by half a length.


He was then rested until the autumn and made a winning return to action in the Group Two Prix Niel at Longchamp on September 11, when he defeated stablemate Runaway by three lengths.


His season came to a close with a spectacular effort in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on October 2. Recovering from a slow start, he came from well off the pace to deliver a strong challenge and overhaul Westerner in the final furlong, scoring impressively by two lengths.


He remains in training next year.


Cartier Two-Year-Old Colt
GEORGE WASHINGTON (IRE)
2 b c Danehill (USA) - Bordighera (USA) (Alysheba (USA))
Form: -31111 Owner: Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien IRE Breeder: Lael Stable

Bred by Lael Stable and a half-brother to the triple Group One scorer Grandera, George Washington was purchased by Demi O'Byrne for 1,150,000 guineas as a yearling, topping the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale in 2004.


The Danehill colt made an early start to the campaign, his debut coming in a maiden at Newmarket's Guineas meeting on May 1, when he ran with considerable promise to finish third over an inadequate trip of five furlongs. He duly stepped up on that effort next time out, taking a six-furlong contest at the Curragh three weeks later.


For his first run in Pattern company, Aidan O'Brien selected the Group Two Railway Stakes at the Curragh on June 26, a contest which has produced many future champions. George Washington duly built on his reputation in the six-furlong affair, coming home three-quarters of a length clear of stablemate Amigoni.


George Washington's next two outings saw him prove his class with victories in Group One events. He destroyed the opposition with an eight-length victory in the six-furlong Group One Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh on August 7.


He finished the season by taking the Group One National Stakes at the Curragh on September 8, his first start over seven furlongs, when he came home two lengths clear of Golden Arrow. George Washington goes into 2006 as the clear market leader for next year's colts' Classic - the Stan James 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.


Cartier Two-Year-Old Filly
RUMPLESTILTSKIN (IRE)
2 b f Danehill (USA) - Monevassia (USA) (Mr Prospector (USA))
Form: -113111 Owner: Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor & Niarchos Family
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien IRE Breeder: Quay Bloodstock & Niarchos Family

Rumplestiltskin, owned and bred jointly by Coolmore and the Niarchos Family, takes the Cartier Award for Two-Year-Old Filly.

The Danehill filly, from the family of those great Niarchos family performers Miesque, Kingmambo and Miesque's Son, made a winning debut at Naas over six furlongs in May before recording a second success over the course and distance in a Listed contest on June 6.


Her third outing saw her only reversal of the season when she took third place behind La Chunga in the six-furlong Group Three Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot at York on June 17.

She did not then appear until August 7, when she returned to winning ways in the Group Two Debutante Stakes over seven furlongs, accounting for Modeeroch by two lengths at the Curragh..


The season ended in spectacular style with two Group One victories. She captured the seven-furlong Moyglare Stud Stakes on September 4 at the Curragh, where she recovered well from a slow start to deny Ugo Fire by a neck.

Her final outing of the 2005 campaign was in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on October 2, when she proved she was equally effective over a mile with a length defeat of Quiet Royal after not getting the clearest of runs.

Cartier Three-Year-Old Filly
DIVINE PROPORTIONS (USA)
3 b f Kingmambo (USA) - Myth To Reality (FR) (Sadler's Wells (USA))
Form: -11114 Owner: Niarchos Family
Trainer: Pascal Bary FR Breeder: Flaxman Holdings Limited

The home-bred Divine Proportions continued the great tradition of fillies such as Miesque, Six Perfections and Denebola who have all raced for the Niarchos Family. She gains her second Cartier Award, having also taken the Two-Year-Old Filly category last year.


Undefeated in five races last year, including two Group One contests, the Kingmambo filly began her 2005 campaign with victory in the Group Three Prix de la Grotte over a mile at Longchamp on April 25, when she won easily be two lengths.


A facile Classic success in the Group One Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas) followed at Longchamp on May 15, when she was five lengths clear of Toupie at the finish.


Next time out, she had her first outing over further than a mile when stepping up to an extended 10 furlongs for the Group One Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly on June 12. It certainly proved no problem for her, as she powered home by three lengths from Argentina.


A drop back to a mile for the Group One Prix d'Astarte at Deauville on July 31 was next on the agenda and it was business at usual with a two-length win from Shapira.


Her final outing came in the Group One Prix Jacques Le Marois over the same course and distance on August 14 and involved a clash with Godolphin's Dubawi. She did not run up to her best and came home in fourth place. It was subsequently discovered that she had suffered a career-ending tendon injury.


Cartier Stayer of the Year
WESTERNER (GB)
6 b h Danehill (USA) - Walensee (Troy)
Form: -11132 Owner: Ecurie Wildenstein
Trainer: Elie Lellouche FR Breeder: Dayton Investments Ltd

Westerner collects the Cartier Award for Stayer of the Year for the second year in succession, following another superb season for the Wildenstein stable's admirably high-class and consistent performer.


His season began with a second victory in the Group Three Prix de Barbeville over two mile at Longchamp on April 30 and was followed by a facile success in the Group Two Prix Vicomtesse Vigier over the same course and distance on May 22.


That effort put him spot on for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot at York, a race in which he finished second in 2004. There was no mistaking who was the best stayer in this year's renewal of the two and a half mile, Group One contest as Olivier Peslier delivered a superbly-timed challenge to deny Distinction by a neck.


The Danehill horse did not then reappear until September 4, when connections took the decision to drop him back in trip to a mile and a half in the Group One Grosser Preis Von Baden at Baden-Baden. He stayed on strongly to be third to Warrsan.


On the back of that effort, Westerner was aimed at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, also over 12 furlongs The six-year-old put up a superb performance in that Longchamp race on October 2. Prominent throughout, it was only Hurricane Run that proved too strong for Westerner with two lengths separating the pair at the finish.


Westerner is set for one more run in Hong Kong next month before retiring to stud in Ireland.

Cartier Sprinter of the Year
AVONBRIDGE (GB)
5 b h Averti (IRE) - Alessia (Caerleon (USA))
Form: -132031 Owner: John Deer
Trainer: Roger Charlton Breeder: Mr & Mrs John Deer

Avonbridge has come out on top in an exceptionally competitive sprinter category to be crowned Cartier Sprinter of the Year. Home-bred by Mr & Mrs John Deer, the Averti horse proved very consistent throughout the season.


He made a winning debut at Newmarket in the five-furlong Group Three Palace Stakes on April 30, beating Ashdown Express by half a length.


His next two races saw him run fine races in defeat as he finished third in the Group Two Prix du Gros-Chene over five furlongs at Chantilly in June and then only found Pastoral Pursuits a length and a half too strong in the Group One Darley July Cup over six furlongs at Newmarket the following month.


After a slightly below-par effort in the furlong-shorter Nunthorpe Stakes in August and third place, beaten under a length, behind Baron's Pit in the Group Two Diadem Stakes at Newmarket in September, Avonbridge headed to France for the Group One Prix de l'Abbaye over five furlongs on October 2.


This race saw his finest performance of the year as he came home with a strong late run to take the honours by a short-neck from stable companion Striking Ambition.


Avonbridge has been retired to Whitsbury Manor Stud, where he will stand alongside his sire Averti.


Cartier Older Horse of the Year
AZAMOUR (IRE)
4 b c Night Shift (USA) - Asmara (USA) (Lear Fan (USA))
Form: -41153 Owner: H H Aga Khan
Trainer: John Oxx IRE Breeder: H H Aga Khan

A fine season from the Aga Khan's Azamour sees him crowned Cartier Older Horse of the Year for 2005.


A dual Group One winner at three, Azamour added to his reputation with two of the best performances of the season in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot at York and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, this year run at Newbury.


After finishing fourth on his seasonal reappearance in the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh on May 22, when he didn't enjoy the clearest of runs, he headed to Royal Ascot at York on June 15 for the Group One Prince of Wales's Stakes. A superb effort in that race saw him defeat Ace by a length and a half, a distance which does not do justice to the authority with which he took the race.


Connections then made the bold decision to step the Night Shift colt up in distance for the mile and a half King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. The move paid off as Azamour came from last to first to defeat Norse Dancer by a length and a quarter, with Bago back in third.


He then went to Leopardstown to attempt to win a second Irish Champion Stakes over 10 furlongs but ran his only disappointing race of the season as he came home in fifth place behind Oratorio.


His final start came in the Grade One Breeders' Cup Turf over a mile and a half at Belmont Park on October 29, when, despite not being totally at home on the soft ground and not enduring a very clear passage, he ran a fine race to finish third to Shirocco.


CECIL OVERWHELMED

Trainer Henry Cecil joined a distinguished list of past recipients of the Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award of Merit last night at the Cartier Racing Awards.


After watching a film in which tributes were paid by the likes of former jockey Steve Cauthen, his ex-assistants Luca Cumani and William Jarvis, as well as his former wife Julie, Cecil said: "I'd like to thank all those responsible for this award which is a great surprise. Having had my worse year since I started training, I feel that this award should be going to someone else - it's almost like a case of mistaken identity.


"I remember going to Leicester races on a weekday in July and didn't recognise anyone there. I had a filly running that I hoped would win and she finished third. It started to rain and I wasn't enjoying myself so I was making my way as quickly as I could to my car when an elderly man in a Colombo-style raincoat came hopping towards me.

"He asked me for my autograph and I was chuffed and said of course, feeling quite honoured. So he produced his programme with a little pen and I scribbled my name on the programme and he said - thank you, Michael'!

"I then wrote something else on the programme - on behalf of Sir Michael Stoute, who unfortunately wasn't here today because he had been summoned to Lord's. I think that was probably my highlight of the year!

"I am overwhelmed by the whole thing tonight and thank you to everybody."

He added afterwards: "I have been very fortunate to have had some lovely horses and lovely owners and lot of highlights.


"I don't like picking one good horse over another - they don't deserve it - they were all very good to me. You have your highs and your lows - there have probably been more lows than highs. People see the highs but don't see the lows.

"I have enjoyed it and I am still training in a small capacity at the moment - I still enjoy it, it has been my life and very good to me - I am very grateful."



HENRY CECIL GAINS AWARD OF MERIT




The Daily Telegraph Award Of Merit is for the person or persons who, in the opinion of the special 20-strong Cartier Jury, have done most for European racing and/or breeding either over their lifetime or within the past 12 months.

This year's Award goes to Henry Cecil, the 10-time champion trainer in Britain and master of Warren Place Stables in Newmarket.


Since taking out a licence in 1969, Cecil has built up a track record that ranks him right up with the all-time training greats. He has won 32 European Classics, including 23 in Britain, enjoyed 364 Group race successes and saddled over 3,000 individual winners. He is also the most successful trainer at Royal Ascot, having won 70 races at the meeting.


Henry Richard Amherst Cecil was born in Aberdeen on January 11, 1943, 10 minutes before his twin brother David, with whom he enjoyed a close bond.

His father, Captain Henry Cecil of the Welsh Guards, brother of the third Baron Amherst of Hackney, was killed in action in North Africa some two weeks prior to the birth.

His widowed mother Rohays subsequently married royal trainer Sir Cecil Boyd-Rochfort and moved her brood of four boys to Freemason Lodge from the family farm near Newmarket.


His formative years at Freemason Lodge stables, along with his brothers Bow, James, David and later Arthur, infused a desire to pursue a life in racing. This was undoubtedly detrimental to any potential academic distractions that may have robbed the sport of one of its most intuitive talents.


In his book, On The Level, published in 1983, Henry recalls at the age of seven being sent to prep school at Sunningdale where, with his twin David, he "went straight to the bottom form and stayed there".


He failed to get into Eton and spent the remainder of his school life at Canford School in Dorset, which he left with 10 O-Levels, before embarking on a high-spirited year at Cirencester's Royal Agricultural College, where he and David "studied drinking and gambling", before leaving without sitting any exams.

Henry was destined for a career in stud management until accepting the role of assistant to his step-father in 1964. Two years later he married Julie Murless, daughter of the great trainer Noel Murless.


Boyd-Rochfort, the man he called Uncle Cecil, retired at the end of the 1968 Flat season, at which point Henry took over the reins at Freemason Lodge.


He did not exactly hit the ground running and it was two months before he sighted the winner's enclosure. His initial victory as a licenced trainer came on May 17, 1969, when Celestial Cloud was the short-head winner of an amateur event at Ripon. That success came after a piece of anxious advice from his father-in-law. After watching the Cecil string work, Sir Noel Murless, never one to interfere, awkwardly declared: "Your horses are galloping like a lot of old gentlemen. You must make them work." Henry gratefully heeded the advice and big-race glory soon followed with Wolver Hollow in the 1969 Eclipse.


A move to Marriott Stables brought his first European Classic, courtesy of Cloonagh in the 1973 Irish 1,000 Guineas. Bolkonski's win in the 1975 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket set the ball rolling in Britain.

Wollow's 2,000 Guineas victory a year later came in Cecil's first season training at Warren Place, formerly the yard of his father-in-law, and heralded an era of success that has etched his name indelibly in the annals of racing greatness.


As the 1980s dawned, the Henry Cecil legend took shape. He reigned supreme, having ended the 1979 season as champion trainer with a 20th century record 128 wins to his name.

That was his third title in four seasons, in a year that saw One In A Million land the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and Le Moss and Kris emerge as champions.


The following decade brought five more trainer titles, while eight individual English Classic winners, including the Derby heroes Slip Anchor (1985) and Reference Point (1987), and the brilliant fillies' Triple Crown scorer Oh So Sharp (1985), were complemented by champions such as Ardross, Diesis, Indian Skimmer and Old Vic.


In 1985, the year of Slip Anchor and Oh So Sharp, Cecil became the first trainer in history to pass the £1-million mark in prize money. The 1987 season brought an even more phenomenal feat as Warren Place runners captured 180 races, smashing John Day's 1867 record of 146.


Success continued throughout the next decade with a further clutch of classic triumphs including four Oaks wins in five years with Lady Carla (1996), Reams Of Verse (1997), Ramruma (1999) and Love Divine (2000).

He produced the brilliant Bosra Sham to be champion filly, nursing her fragile feet with the patience and care with which he is renowned, while enjoying two further successes in the Derby with Commander In Chief (1993) and Oath (1999).

The latter's owner, the late Prince Ahmed Salman, summed up the feeling of many after Oath's triumph when he said, "Winning classics is easy. You just buy a horse and send it to Henry Cecil."

Yet the passing of the years has seen many of Cecil's owner-breeders pass away, while the loss of Sheikh Mohammed's patronage in 1995 was an undoubted blow.

The numbers have fallen to around 50 from a peak of nearer 200. The family standard, run up the flag pole after each Group One win, has gathered dust since Beat Hollow's Grand Prix de Paris win five years ago.

Whilst clearly a master of his craft, Cecil is loathe to take all the praise for his achievements and has always lauded the efforts of those with whom he has surrounded himself. Vital cogs in the early days like former head man Paddy Rudkin, travelling head man George Winsor, first wife Julie and more recently head man Frank Conlon to name a few, helped keep the winners flowing.


Warren Place was also the haunt of champion jockeys with Joe Mercer, Lester Piggott, Steve Cauthen, Pat Eddery and later Kieren Fallon each doing their bit and enjoying the spoils of Cecil's meticulously-planned campaigns.


The record books do not lie and Henry Cecil rewrote them as he cultivated and nurtured a string of champions. His achievements have resulted in his undoubted genius being lauded liberally amongst the wealthiest owners and the punters on the street. The racing world is honoured to have witnessed that special something.


Cecil is a trainer of great flair - a gifted horseman with an exceptional ability in assessing a horse, and possesses a rare instinctive genius that enables him to appreciate potential far earlier than most. He is also the focus of great fascination, particularly among the media - a champion trainer with a penchant for gardening and clothes.


He joins a distinguished list of past winners of the Daily Telegraph Award of Merit comprising David and Patricia Thompson, Lord Oaksey, Prince Khalid Abdullah, John Magnier, His Highness The Aga Khan, Peter Walwyn, the Head Family, Sir Peter O'Sullevan, Frankie Dettori, John Dunlop, the Marquess of Hartington, Francois Boutin, Lester Piggott and Henri Chalhoub.


The Cartier Racing Awards, now in their 15th year, are European's horse racing's equivalent of the Oscars and were presented in London before an invited audience of nearly 300 at the Four Seasons Hotel on Wednesday, November 16, 2005.


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