LUNGO SENDING ARMAGUEDON INTO BATTLE AT WETHERBY - CALATAGAN ON COURSE FOR skybet.com CASTLEFORD CHASE
Len Lungo is hoping that Armaguedon can provide some extra Christmas cheer for his Carrutherstown stable in the £30,000 skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase, run over two miles at Wetherby on Wednesday, December 27, day two of the Sky Bet Christmas Meeting.
The talented eight-year-old looked like a star of the future in his bumper days, winning twice and finishing third in a Grade Two event at Chepstow, but his career has since been punctuated by injury and absences from the track.
However, he looked as though his problems were behind him when making a winning return over two miles at Ayr on November 29, defying joint top-weight to come home the impressive 13-length winner from Stormy Beech.
Lungo said today: "We were delighted with Armaguedon's win at Ayr. He's always been a nice horse, but obviously he's endured plenty of problems, and had to have over a year off with a leg injury. We have to be careful to get the ground right with him, as he's a big, heavy horse.
"Unfortunately, he was put up 13lb for his latest win, which won't make it easy at Wetherby. I think it's a big ask in such a competitive race for an inexperienced horse. Saying that, we're happy with his form, and he is an intended runner at this moment in time.
"Hopefully, we'll get a full season from him this time round. He likes soft ground and I think two miles is the right trip. He's won at places like Newcastle and Ayr, so the track won't be a bother to him. Brian Harding will probably take the ride, as Keith Mercer will most likely be at Kempton."
Also confirmed on course for the skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase is the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Calatagan.
The seven-year-old won impressively over the course and distance on October 27, in the bet365 Call 08000 322 365 White Rose Handicap Chase, where he beat fellow entry Show Me The River by three and a half lengths.
Calatagan has not been disgraced in top company on his last two outings, finishing 10th behind Exotic Dancer in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham over an extended two and a half miles on November 11, and then running seventh to Demi Beau in the valuable Carey Group Handicap Chase over two miles and a furlong at Ascot on November 18.
Jefferson revealed: "Calatagan definitely heads for the skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase, and he goes there in good form.
"His rating means that you have to go for some of these good races. He actually ran a blinder at Ascot last time, where he made a mistake and then got brought to a standstill by another horse.
"To be honest, I actually thought he was better on decent going before he won at Wetherby on soft ground. He jumped well that day and kept on strongly. Tom Dreaper gets on really well with him and he will be on board again.
"I would love to think he could win the race - it's a great prize. Calatagan is in grand order and he's a course and distance winner on testing ground, which are all things in our favour. I'm optimistic that he's going to put up a bold show."
Other entries for the skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase include the Howard Johnson-trained pair Coat Of Honour and Kasthari, the former successful over two miles at Wetherby on December 2 in the Wetherby Racecourse Exhibition Centre Handicap Chase, Launde, trained by Ben Pollock, who is on a hat-trick after wins over two miles at Aintree and Haydock, and Tim Easterby's veteran performer Turgeonev, four times a winner at Wetherby.
Ground conditions at Wetherby are currently soft, heavy in places, with dry weather forecast before Boxing Day. The course have put down special protective sheeting on the track to safeguard against the threat of frost.
The gates open at 10.00am on skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase Day, Wednesday, December 27, the second of two days top-class racing at Wetherby over the Christmas period, which starts on Boxing Day, Tuesday, December 26, with skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase Day.
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.