STRONG LINE-UP EXPECTED FOR BETFAIR CHASE WITH MORE JOINING IN & OTHERS EXPECTED
Keen Leader and Take The Stand plus possibly Trabolgan and Lord Transcend are due to join an increasingly strong line-up for the inaugural £150,000 Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 19.
The Betfair Chase is the first leg of the Betfair Million, the biggest ever bonus seen in jump racing, which will be won if a chaser takes all three races involved, the other two being the Stan James King George VI Chase at Sandown on Boxing Day and the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 17.
Last season's leading novice Trabolgan could go to Haydock for the Betfair Chase and trainer Nicky Henderson will speak to owner Trevor Hemmings before committing the 2005 Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner.
The Seven Barrows handler said today: "I'm afraid we don't know for certain whether he goes to Haydock. It's something I shall have to discuss with Mr. Hemmings over the weekend.
"There's no doubt it's a possibility. The Betfair Million is a fantastic carrot but on the other hand Trabolgan has obviously got a long-term future.
"He's the baby in this pack and it's all a matter of whether it's the right thing to go and take on these top horses in his first run out of being a novice."
Connections have given the matter much thought and will make the decision about the seven-year-old's participation as late as possible.
Henderson revealed: "We've discussed it several times and it's still being discussed. The million is very tempting. It's there, but I think one has to say that it's not the temptation of the million one has to bear in mind at this particular moment, it's the horse's interests.
"We have to declare on Monday but I'll talk to Mr. Hemmings at Cheltenham over the weekend and we'll decide what to do."
Hemmings, a long-time supporter of Haydock and racing in the North West, is upbeat about the Betair Million and is keen to take up the challenge if possible.
Mick Meagher, who represents the owner, added today: "Mr Hemmings thinks that the Betfair Million is a great idea. A decision will be made about Trabolgan sometime next week.
"If Trabolgan doesn't go for it this year, then Mr. Hemmings would certainly be keen in the future if the right horse came along.
"Trabolgan was one of the best novices in the country last year but he'd have to improve a bit against these horses. If everything was right though, he may have a shot.
"The three tracks would suit him. He acts around Cheltenham and with the King George being at Sandown this year, that should be no problem. He was beaten at Haydock last season but that was down to the heavy ground on the day."
Keen Leader fell at the fourth in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last month and trainer Jonjo O'Neill is hoping for a clear round from his charge at Haydock.
The master of Jackdaws Castle said today: "He definitely goes for the Betfair Chase, all being well.
"I was very disappointed at Wetherby. We didn't get a race into him or anything. It's annoying but that's him - he's good one day and he's bad the next.
"He likes Haydock. He likes the ground there and he likes the track so we might as well go back there. It's a big call for him. There are good horses going for the Betfair Chase so he'll have to be at his best but he's in good old form and we hope for the best."
Keen Leader has a good record at the Merseyside track, having won two of three starts there. His only defeat there came in last season's Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase, when he ran a fine third under top-weight.
O'Neill continued: "I don't know about the King George and the Gold Cup. I think it might be Haydock, Haydock and Haydock this season.
"We are tempted by the Betfair Million but I'm not sure that he's the right horse for it, but if he got the same ground everywhere he might."
The trainer also reported that Iris's Gift will not be running at Haydock: "He won't be going for the Betfair Chase and he won't be at Cheltenham this week either. He'll probably run at Newbury in a novice chase."
Take The Stand, second to Kicking King in last season's totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, pleased his trainer Peter Bowen when third to Ollie Magern in the Charlie Hall Chase.
Bowen said of the nine-year-old: "He's still in good form and he'll definitely go for the Betfair Chase. I was delighted with his Wetherby effort - that was a good run. I think he'll improve a bit from that race.
"The soft ground wasn't ideal that day, so hopefully it'll dry up a bit but I wouldn't have much hope of that the way it is now. We've certainly had some rain here."
The Pembrokeshire trainer has one eye on the Betfair Million saying: "Take The Stand is in good form so we'll see how we go. If he did go and win the Betfair Chase then, with the bonus on offer, we'd have to go for the King George, while the Gold Cup is the ultimate target.
"Tony Dobbin will continue to ride the horse when he's available."
Howard Johnson may unleash the hugely promising Lord Transcend in the Haydock Grade One contest.
Graham and Andrea Wylie's eight-year-old gelding was a good fourth in last season's Hennessy before registering an impressive success in the Peter Marsh Chase over the course and distance in January, when he defeated First Gold and Take The Stand.
Johnson could not commit the lightly-raced grey yet: "I'm not sure if he'll go yet, the way my horses are. They can't get out of second position so we'll see.
"I haven't got a plan for any of my horses until they start winning. They're running alright without winning. It's just one of those things. I hope he could go to the Haydock race but we're just playing it by ear."
Johnson ruled out his other dashing grey from the Betfair Chase. The County Durham trainer plans to give Grey Abbey a rest until the New Year.
He said: "Grey Abbey definitely won't be going. He won't run until the Pillar Chase at Cheltenham in January. He's going down the same route as last time.
"Although he was beaten in the Charlie Hall, he was out of sorts. His glands were up when he came back so he'll have a break"
Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kicking King, Kingscliff, Ollie Magern and Beef And Salmon are also among those targeting the Betfair Chase.
To win the Betfair Chase - Betfair Bet: 5-4 Kicking King, 5-1 Ollie Magern, 10-1 Beef Or Salmon, 14-1 Kingscliff, 21-1 Take The Stand, 22-1 Lord Transcend, 25-1 Trabolgan, 37-1 Keen Leader
For the Betfair Million to be won - Betfair bet: 2-11 No, 5-1 Yes
Haydock 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.
Betfair co-founder Andrew Black is pleased at the massive interest the Betfair Million has generated.
Black said: "I'm delighted the connections of some of the sport's leading chasers are targeting the Betfair Million which should be a spine-tingling early season highlight.
"We answered racing's call for a race like this to be staged and it would be a personal thrill to sign over a million pounds if a horse could achieve the realistic goal of winning the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Gold Cup."
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.
POWELL LOOKING FORWARD TO THE OPEN
Paddy Power Open Betting On Top Jockey & Trainer
Brendan Powell is set to be represented by Palace Walk in the £30,000 Grade Two ConcordatJet.com Juvenile Novices' Hurdle (3.55pm) on Saturday, November 12, the second day of Cheltenham's Open Meeting.
The three-year-old gelding comes into the race looking for a third straight victory, following wins at Wincanton and Ludlow and the trainer is hopeful of a bold showing.
Powell said today: "He's in good form and doesn't get any penalties which is a help, although now that a few of the better ones are running he might be up against it.
"He's only won two ordinary races but he won them well. He's very fit and very well and hopefully he'll run a nice race. He's been there and done it, jumps well, and Timmy Murphy rides him again.
"My main worry at Cheltenham is that the ground could turn too soft for him, as I think he's a better horse on fast ground, but we'll go there and give it a shot. I've nothing really in mind for him after this race and I'll probably give him a winter break and bring him back in the spring."
The Winchester-based handler is also aiming to run the unbeaten Tokala in the £15,000-added Festival of Food Bumper on Sunday (3.50pm), the closing race of the Open Meeting. Some very decent performers have landed this contest, most notably Best Mate and Back In Front, in recent years.
The four-year-old has won his previous two races and last time out on October 26 defeated 16 rivals over course and distance with a gutsy front-running display.
Powell revealed: "He's in brilliant form and has improved from his last run, although he probably needs to in this race.
"We don't know what he beat at Cheltenham last time as many of them hadn't run before, but for a four year-old to carry a penalty and win how he did, doing it the hard way from the front, it must have been a good performance.
"He's a lovely horse, as tough as nails, won't go down without a fight and goes there in good heart. He's improved probably seven or eight pounds fitness-wise for the run as he wasn't fully wound-up.
"The idea was to go over hurdles with him as he's a great jumper but it's a good prize on Sunday and I'm looking for a big run. The ground won't worry him at all - it was on the softer side of good when he won recently and he coped with that great."
The ground at Cheltenham is soft, good to soft in places after rain last night but clerk of the course Simon Claisse is expecting the going description to improve for the start of racing on Friday.
Tickets will be available on the gates for all three days of The Open.
Friday/Sunday admission prices are Club/Tattersalls: £20 (16-24s: £12); Best Mate £8.
Saturday's admission prices are Club: £30 (16-24s £20); Tattersalls: £20: Tattersalls seat: £15; Best Mate £10.
Car Parking: Free.
For further information, please contact Peter McNeile, Cheltenham's Commercial Manager, on 01242 537 600
PIPE & MURPHY BOTH ODDS-ON FOR OPEN TITLES
Martin Pipe is the ½ favourite with Paddy Power to be the leading trainer at this weekend's Open Meeting at Cheltenham.
Pipe is the trainer with the best record at The Open, recording his best-ever tally of seven in 2001, 2002 and last year. The stable's main rider Timmy Murphy also heads the list for the leading jockey at the Open Meeting.
Paddy Power, head of communications for Ireland's biggest bookmaker, said: "Pipe's name goes hand-in-hand with the Paddy Power Open Meeting and it goes without saying he's going to be the leading contender for top trainer."
Paddy Power Bet:
Cheltenham Paddy Power Open Meeting - Leading Trainer
½ Martin Pipe
7/2 Paul Nicholls
7/1 Philip Hobbs
12/1 Nigel Twiston-Davies
14/1 Jonjo O'Neill
25/1 Howard Johnson
33/1 Nicky Henderson
6/1 Pipe not to train a winner at the Paddy Power Open
Cheltenham Paddy Power Open Meeting - Leading Rider
4/6 Timmy Murphy
10/3 Ruby Walsh
7/1 Richard Johnson
10/1 Tony McCoy
16/1 Graham Lee
16/1 Carl Llewellyn
25/1 Tony Dobbin
40/1 Robert Thornton
40/1 Paddy Brennan
Paddy Power Gold Cup - Latest Betting
3/1 Our Vic
9/1 Brooklyn Breeze
12/1 My Will
12/1 Forget The Past
16/1 Celestial Gold
20/1 Kandjar d'Allier
20/1 Le Passing
20/1 Mariah Rollins
25/1 Lord Sam
28/1 Euro Leader
28/1 Full House
33/1 It Takes Time
33/1 Windsor Boy
40/1 Banker Count
50/1 East Tycoon
66/1 Wet Lips
Each Way 1/4 Odds 1, 2, 3, 4
Please note prices are subject to fluctuation
UAE RACING UNDER STARTERS ORDERS
Champion Durcan has full book of rides at the Emirates-sponsored opening meeting
Reigning United Arab Emirates champion jockey, Ted Durcan, kicks off the 2005 - 2006 racing season with a full book of rides at the Dubai Racing Club's opening meeting at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday evening.
Post time for the first race of the six-race card on Emirates Racenight, the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Cup, is 7.00pm.
Durcan, who has been crowned champion jockey on five occasions, partners Juantorena for champion trainer Mazin Al Kurdi in the feature race of the evening, the AED 60,000 Emirates Airline Stakes for Thoroughbreds over 1,100 metres.
Juantorena was a head winner on his last run back in March at Jebel Ali when beating the Satish Seemar-trained Doctor Hilary, who he will face again on Thursday.
Waajeb, a winner at the opening meeting of last season, looks to have an outstanding chance in the feature. The Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained son of Silver Deputy, the mount of Royston Ffrench, is giving 10kgs to the top weight, the Al Kurdi-trained San Salvador, Gary Hind in the saddle.
Saleem Golam, who dead-heated as the 2005 UK champion apprentice with Hayley Turner, takes the ride on Nevisian Lad, a winner of a Newmarket Group Two in July but then failed to sparkle in his two subsequent outings. The son of Royal Applause is having his first outing on the dirt could use Golam's 1.5kg allowance to his advantage.
Thursday is the first of 21 racemeetings that the Dubai Racing Club will be hosting at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse this season. The US$31,000,000 Dubai International Racing Carnival starts on January 19th 2006 and culminates with the Dubai World Cup meeting, the world's richest raceday, on March 25th 2006.
Racing on Thursday kicks of with the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa Cup for Purebred Arabians. Durcan looks to have a great chance in this 1,800 metre race aboard the Al Kurdi-trained Prince Amin, an easy winner in March at Abu Dhabi over 2,200 metres.
Ahmed Ajtebi, who will be representing the UAE in the Emirates International Apprentice Jockeys Championship which begins next Thursday at Nad Al Sheba, partners the Al Raihe-trained Otranto in the Arabian Adventures Classic, a Thoughbred maiden over 1,200 metres.
Mr Magistrate can put up a good show for the Al Kurdi-Durcan team in the third race of the evening, the Emirates Sky Cargo Trophy over 1,400 metres. Willie Supple, who finished runner-up in the 2005 jockey's championship, takes the ride on the top weight, the Erwan Charpy-trained Muwassi.
Course winner Burgundian, trained by Al Kurdi and ridden by Richard Mullen, can go close in the fourth race of the evening, the 1,800 metre Skywards Plate. The son of Red Ransom was a winner last time out but has not been seen for 11 months.
Gold History, stablemate of Burgundian, is another in the race who looks to have every chance.
Rich Pickins, a distance winner at Sharjah at the tail end of last season, could be worth watching in the final race of the evening, the 2,000 metres Emirates Holidays Handicap. Trained by Musabah Al Muhairi, the six-year-old gelding will be partnered by Seamus Heffernan.