TOO FORWARD HANDED CHELTENHAM NEW YEAR’S DAY ASSIGNMENT - EXCITING QUARTANO AIMED AT BUMPER PRIZE
Carl Llewellyn is hoping to kick off 2007 in style when he saddles Too Forward in the feature Listed £40,000 Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase (2.15pm), run over two miles and five furlongs at Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day fixture on Monday, January 1.
The gelding, who turns 11 on New Year’s Day, made a smooth reappearance at Wetherby on October 28, defeating Kinburn by a comfortable three lengths, having travelled supremely well throughout the two mile and four and a half furlong contest.
Despite being well fancied for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham over the same trip on November 11, Too Forward could only finish ninth behind Exotic Dancer, although his trainer feels there were reasons for his below-par effort.
Llewellyn said today: “In hindsight I probably ran him too quickly after the Wetherby race.
“I think the ground at Wetherby was wet and easy to go through, while next time it was slightly tackier. He’s a good mover, and I think the combination of ground and the fact that he had two quick races just found him out.
“He’s had a nice break since then however, and I’m hoping the weather stays dry between now and the race. He seems back to the kind of form he was in before Wetherby, so we’re hopeful of a good run.
“It will be a very tough race, but we go there with a sound chance. Each horse has his day in these competitive handicaps, and hopefully it will be ours on New Year’s Day. Timmy Murphy rides again.”
The Listed Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase had attracted 16 high-class entries, including 2005 Ryanair Chase winner Thisthatandtother, plus stable companions Le Volfoni and Nozic, Betfred Gold Cup winner Lacdoudal, and Fundamentalist, victorious in the 2004 Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Llewellyn is also favouring a tilt at the £16,500 Listed EBF “High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire’s Millennium Event” Junior Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (3.55pm) over a mile and a half with the highly regarded Quartano.
The Platini gelding, who runs in the colours of Llewellyn’s landlord Malcolm Denmark, made an impressive debut at Exeter on December 1 when recording a facile eight-length victory, with his trainer also doing the steering.
Llewellyn explained: “Quartano is likely to take his chance at Cheltenham. He was impressive at Exeter and he seems to have come on for the run. We’d be hopeful that he can continue to progress.
“He was definitely one of the most impressive bumper winners we have had so far, although we’re not sure what he beat. Some of the vibes that day were that it wasn’t a great race, so you’re never sure how good the form is.
“Saying that, he couldn’t have done any more than win the way he did. He shows plenty of speed, but I’m sure he’ll stay further, and he’s a real chaser in the making.
“There will be plenty of nice horses in opposition at Cheltenham, so you couldn’t be confident, but we’re happy with him at home, and I will be on board again. Whether or not he goes over hurdles this season hasn’t been decided yet, although he has schooled already, and jumps well, which is encouraging.”
A superb seven-race card on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham also features the £35,000 Grade Two Aquanti Group ‘Dipper’ Novices’ Chase (1.40pm), run over two miles and five furlongs.
The 14 entries include the highly promising Don’t Push It, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, who landed the boylecasino.com Novices’ Chase over the course and distance on December 9, defeating Mr Pointment by a length and three quarters.
Hurdling sensation Black Jack Ketchum, unbeaten in eight races to date and winner of the Grade Two Mears Group ‘Relkeel’ Hurdle on his seasonal return at Cheltenham on December 9, bids to extend his winning sequence in the £21,000 Steel Plate & Sections Hurdle (3.25pm) over two miles and four and a half furlongs.
The action starts at 12.30pm with the £16,500 Betrescue Antepostmag.com ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, run over two miles and a furlong.
The £27,000 Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase (1.05pm), run over an extended three miles and two furlongs, sees the staying chasers take centre stage, with 2004 William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase hero Fork Lightning among the 15 entries, and the £27,000 Club 16-24 Handicap Hurdle (2.50pm) over three miles looks a competitive affair, having attracted 18 entries.
Ground conditions at Cheltenham are currently good to soft, soft in places, with the forecast for generally dry weather up to New Year’s Day.