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Thursday, December 21, 2006



WETHERBY TO COVER WHOLE TRACK AHEAD OF SKY BET CHRISTMAS MEETING




Wetherby racecourse has taken the decision to cover the whole track ahead of the Sky Bet Christmas Meeting on Boxing Day, Tuesday, December 26 and Wednesday, December 27.


The sheeting, covering some 23 acres, will go down tomorrow, Friday, December 22, with extra frost protection blankets at certain points and will remain in place over the weekend up until Boxing Day morning.


James Sanderson, Wetherby's Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, said today: "The weather forecast is rather uncertain as regards to frost over the next few days and, with that in mind, we have taken the decision to cover the entire track ahead of the Sky Bet Christmas Meeting."



OSSMOSES SET FOR skybet.com ROWLAND MEYRICK CHASE




HODGES PONDERS WETHERBY FEATURE FOR PREACHER BOY

Progressive chaser Ossmoses will make his first appearance over fences this season in the Grade Three £50,000 skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase, the highlight of Wetherby’s Boxing Day card on Tuesday, December 26.


The nine-year-old gave permit holder Don Forster the biggest success of his career so far when galloping to a 15-length victory in the valuable Red Square Vodka Gold Cup at Haydock in February, before going on to run an excellent second behind GVA Ireland in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter the following month.


He made his return at Wetherby on December 2, running fourth behind Heraldry in the Trust & Deal Locally At Benfield Ford Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and seven furlongs, an effort that pleased his County Durham-based handler.


Forster said today: "He’ll almost certainly run at Wetherby on Boxing Day in the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase. It was a super run back over hurdles, as he wasn’t totally fit.

"As you would expect with such a big horse, he needed the prep race, which has definitely brought him on.


"The three mile and one furlong trip is probably his minimum over fences these days, but the conditions at Wetherby are usually very testing at this time of the year, and that will be in his favour.


"His jumping is sound and he can jump out of testing ground as he’s a big, powerful horse, a real old-fashioned chaser, whereas many top-class horses cannot handle very deep going."

Forster believes there is more to come from his stable star, and revealed that the John Smith’s Grand National could well be on the agenda later in the season.

He continued: "I hope that there is more improvement in him - he’s bred to be mature at nine or 10. He started off late because before the age of six, he was just too weak.


"He always runs well and gives his best. I’m sure he’ll run with credit at Wetherby, but he will come on again for this outing.


"Richard McGrath will ride him. The big target this season is the Aintree National, when I hope to have him at his peak, and we’ll be hoping for soft ground come April."

Ron Hodges is also considering the Wetherby Boxing Day showpiece for his improving young chaser Preacher Boy, who ran his best race to date last time out when an excellent third behind State Of Play in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury on December 25.


The seven-year-old has an alternative engagement in the Welsh National the following day, and his trainer is keeping a close eye on the weather before committing his charge to either race.


Hodges explained: "Preacher Boy is entered in the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase and the Welsh National - where we go depends on the ground. He doesn’t want it too heavy, and if it’s too testing at either venue, then he won’t run at all.


"At Newbury, the jockey (Leighton Aspell) said he wished he would have gone for home sooner - he got tapped for a bit of toe turning into the straight and just stayed on at the same pace. A bit further would almost certainly suit him.


"He’s come out of the race great and is in top form. He hasn’t had much racing, and I think he will definitely improve given time.

"Preacher Boy is over 17.1 hands - he’s the biggest horse I’ve ever trained - and however good he is this year, hopefully he’ll be even better in a year’s time."

Other horses among the 21 entries for the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase include the Paul Nicholls-trained Sleeping Night, Sir Rembrandt, twice placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the 2006 Scottish Grand National winner Run For Paddy, 2004 skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase hero Truckers Tavern, the progressive King Killone, the Ferdy Murphy-trained Leading Man and Rosses Point.


Ground conditions at Wetherby are currently soft, heavy in places, with dry weather forecast before Boxing Day.


The gates open at 10am on Boxing Day, skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase Day, for a six-race card, with the first race off at 12.50pm. Free mince pies and mulled wine will be available for early arrivals on a first come, first served basis.

The course gets very busy around midday, so racegoers are advised to arrive at the track before then.

Live music will come from the Endeavour Ceilidh Band on both days. The ‘LA Jazz’ will also perform on Boxing Day, and the Baron von Rhinestein Bavarian Band on Wednesday, December 27, the second day of the Sky Bet Christmas Meeting at Wetherby.


Entertainment for young racegoers comes in the shape of ‘Pat’s Puppets’ in the Family Marquee, while ‘Musical Ruth and her Magical Piano’ will be delighting the crowds on Boxing Day. There is also a new ‘parenting facility’ in the Paddock Enclosure.


Advance bookings for the 2006 Sky Bet Christmas Meeting are advised at www.wetherbyracing.co.uk, especially as Premier Enclosure tickets on Boxing Day have now sold out, though there remains plenty of availability for both the Paddock and Course Enclosures on that day.


Admission Prices (December 26 & 27): Premier Enclosure £26, Paddock Enclosure £15, Pick of the Paddock £19 (includes admission to the Paddock Enclosure, £3 Refreshment Voucher, £2 Tote Betting Voucher and Racecard), Course Enclosure £5. Accompanied children under 16 are admitted free to all enclosures.




KAUTO STAR "SIXTH BEST CHASER SINCE OUR RATINGS BEGAN" SAY TIMEFORM




He would have won last 24 King Georges and is 18lb clear of Boxing Day rivals

If you are thinking about laying Kauto Star at 1.68 (just over 4-6) on Betfair for the King George, then you could well find yourself matching Timeform's Jim McGrath's bet request - and that is not normally sound punting practice.


Actually, Timeform's managing director and Channel 4 form guru McGrath reckons there is one horse that can beat Kauto Star in the Boxing Day showpiece at Kempton - but the would-be layers should be aware that is Kauto Star himself. Here are the three reasons why:

* Since Timeform ratings for jumpers began in the early 60s only FIVE horses have achieved more in any steeplechase than Paul Nicholls' star.


* Kauto Star's rating suggests he would have won the last 24 runnings of the King George (it became a level weights championship in 1982)

* If the King George were a handicap, Timeform would have him 18lb clear of Monet's Garden and Racing Demon

All of which suggests that Betfair better start writing out a million pound cheque now to Clive Smith, Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls and his stable staff, who will share the prize.

It appears that in only the second year of offering the Betfair Million - a seven-figure bonus paid to winning connections should any horse win the Betfair Chase, The King George (or Lexus) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup - racing has unearthed a superstar capable of sweeping aside all before him in those Grade 1 staying chases.


Many of the greatest chasers have made their mark on Britain's traditional Christmas showpiece, among them Arkle, Mill House and Desert Orchid. And McGrath certainly rates Kauto Star up with there with the best.


McGrath explained: "Timeform ratings for jumpers began in the early 60s. Since then, only a handful of horses have achieved more in any steeplechase than Paul Nicholls' exciting six-year-old. Arkle (212), Flyingbolt (210), Mill House (191), Desert Orchid (187) and Dunkirk (186) are the five in question.


"Kauto Star's current Timeform rating of 184 was achieved on his reappearance in October when winning the Bonusprint.com Old Roan Chase at Aintree, a limited handicap in which he beat Armaturk (received 9 lb), one of the most consistent chasers in training, by an easy 21 lengths. That outstanding display was subsequently followed up by one of similar merit in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and, last time out, in the William Hill Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown. At the moment his figure ranks him alongside Moscow Flyer and Burrough Hill Lad in our comprehensive list.


"The King George didn't become a true level weights championship until 1982. However, taken at face value, Kauto Star's rating suggests he'd have won all 24 renewals since conditions changed. Is racing that simple; are ratings that reliable? Probably not. Assessing easy winners can be tricky and Kauto's figure actually includes an "add on" of 6 lb.


"However, even applying just his "base" rating of 178, and after treating every other "easy" King George winner in the same fashion, he still appears good enough to have won all but two of the aforementioned two dozen, the exceptions being those won by See More Business in 1999 (182) and by One Man in 1995 (179)."

A different analysis of Timeform's Kempton ratings lends further credence to the argument that he only has to stand up to win. If the King George were to be run on handicap terms, judged on the Halifax organisation's current assessment, this is how those weights would look:

How Timeform rate the King George as a handicap

Kauto Star 11.10
Racing Demon 10.6
Monet's Garden 10.6
L'Ami 10.1
Ollie Magern 10.0
Monkerhostin 9.13
Exotic Dancer 9.10
Mister McGoldrick 9.8
Commercial Flyer 9.2
Ballycassidy 8.13
Yes Sir 8.10
Puntal 7.11

However, McGrath did sound one note of caution.


"Anyone using statistics alone to determine the outcome of any race should beware," added McGrath. "Importantly, neither Racing Demon nor Monet's Garden are fully exposed. Therefore, their current ratings may not represent their true merit, especially bearing in mind that both step up to 3m for the first time on Boxing Day.

"But, on all known form, Kauto Star will win."

To win the Stan James King George - Betfair bet: 1.67 Kauto Star, 6.8 Monet's Garden, 9.2 Racing Demon, 19 Exotic Dancer, 22 Monkerhostin, 28 Yes Sir, 70 Ollie Magern, 95 Commercial Flyer, L'Ami, 310 Ballycassidy, 460 Puntal, 480 Mister McGoldrick.



JOOLS HOLLAND AND HIS RHYTHM AND BLUES ORCHESTRA RETURN FOR THEIR 11TH NEWMARKET NIGHT




Newmarket Racecourses can now confirm the second act for Newmarket Nights 2007. Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra will return for their 11th year at Newmarket’s July Course on Friday, August 3, joining Australian rock band INXS who will take to stage after racing on Friday, June 22.


“It is a tribute to his brilliance on stage and enduring popularity that Jools Holland, together with his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, will be back performing on Newmarket’s July Course next summer for an 11th consecutive year and, very probably, helping us to achieve yet another Newmarket Nights sell-out,” said Lisa Hancock, Newmarket’s Managing Director.


Tickets for Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra are now on sale. Book online and receive a 5% discount at www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk or call 01638 675 500.


Tickets are priced at:

Premier Enclosure - £28

Grandstand and Paddock Enclosure - £18

Garden Enclosure - £12



EXETER TO BECOME A JOCKEY CLUB RACECOURSE




Exeter Racecourse is set to join the Jockey Club's portfolio of racecourses. The Directors of Devon and Exeter Steeplechases Ltd and Racecourse Holdings Trust Ltd are pleased to announce that agreement has been reached in principle for Exeter to become part of RHT, which from January 2007 will operate under the title of Jockey Club Racecourses. Following completion of the relevant due diligence reports, the racecourse is expected to become the fourteenth course to join the group. The formalities are expected to be completed early in the New Year.

As part of the agreement, Jockey Club Racecourses is committed to a £2.4 million investment programme to be completed within the next three years. This investment, which is subject to the provision of a Levy Board loan towards the funding, is expected to include a rebuild of the weighing room complex, as well additional corporate boxes and viewing stands. Delivery of the planned development will add a significant, new dimension to standards of service for racegoers, as well as considerably expanding the potential for non- raceday activities.

Major General Nick Vaux, Chairman of Exeter, said: "We are delighted to have reached agreement with the Jockey Club's racecourse group for what will undoubtedly be an important stage in the continuing development of this famous West Country racecourse. As the running of racecourses becomes a more competitive and commercial business, we believe that Exeter's inclusion within the leading racecourse group in the country will enable the track to continue to progress and guarantee the provision of quality racing for the longer term.

"We are proud of the standing that Exeter Racecourse has acquired within the National Hunt community but we believe that the transfer to Jockey Club Racecourses will enhance that reputation still further as the group shares our commitment to promoting and developing National Hunt racing."

Andrew Coppel, Chief Executive of Racecourse Holdings Trust, said: "This is an exciting development and one which we believe will be beneficial for both parties.

"The addition of Exeter is a boost to our existing portfolio and, with the assistance of some financial support from the Levy Board, we are looking forward to overseeing the proposed investment programme. Throughout the group's history, from the initial purchase of Cheltenham over 40 years ago to the present day, we have repeatedly demonstrated our commitment to securing the future of courses as well as supporting National Hunt racing."

Racing started on Haldon Hill 350 years ago in the reign of Charles II. Exeter now holds 16 fixtures a year, between October and May. The two mile track is often considered to be one of the most demanding but fairest courses in the country. The racecourse has the reputation for identifying future National Hunt champions and both Desert Orchid and Best Mate began their exceptional careers at Exeter. The principal race of the winter programme is the Haldon Gold Cup (currently the William Hill Gold Cup which is run in November).


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