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Wednesday, December 17, 2008



CALATAGAN AIMING FOR HAT-TRICK OF WINS IN SKYBET.COM CASTLEFORD HANDICAP CHASE AT WETHERBY




Trainer Malcolm Jefferson is confident that Calatagan can gain a third successive victory in the £30,000 skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase (3.00pm), highlight of the second day of the Sky Bet Christmas Meeting at Wetherby on Saturday, December 27.


The nine-year-old made all of the running in the 2006 renewal of the two-mile contest to beat Coat Of Honour by two lengths and returned 12 months later to record a length and three quarters victory over Almaydan.


Malton-based Jefferson is looking forward to seeing the chaser, who was also successful on his only other visit to Wetherby in a handicap chase in October, 2006, return to his favourite course.


He revealed: “Calatagan will definitely be entered in the skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase and, all being well, he will bid for a third win in the race next week. He seems fine and has been in great order since his last run at Cheltenham in mid-November, when he was third. He was staying on up the hill on that occasion but he will be a better horse at Wetherby.


“Sometimes you just get horses who love certain tracks and Calatagan certainly seems to love it round Wetherby. He’ll be running off a mark of 140, which is the same rating that he won off last season so I would be hopeful that he will be there or thereabouts once again - the race seems ideal for him.


“They went like the clappers in the skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase last year and Calatagan was a bit outpaced mid-race but he stayed on well and I was delighted when he got up. The year before he made all, so he doesn’t mind what sort of pace they go. Tom Dreaper rode him to victory on both occasions and I am sure he would love to take the ride again, but we will see who’s available nearer the time.

“We like to give him a few starts on the Flat in the summer because he is bred for the level and it sharpens him for the jumps. He was pulled up on his first start over fences this season because he didn’t stay two and a half miles in a decent race at Cheltenham, but he’s better over shorter and I would be hoping to see him win at Wetherby once again.”

Sponsored by Sky Bet for the seventh year, the Sky Bet Christmas Meeting offers two days of superb racing action, headed by the £65,000 Grade Three skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (1.45pm), run on Boxing Day, Friday, December 26.


The three mile, one furlong contest has a rich tradition of attracting some of the top staying chasers, previous winners include Gunner Welburn in 2003, who finished fourth in the Grand National the same year, and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Truckers Tavern in 2004.

This year’s renewal looks set to be another superb race with Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase winners State Of Play and Ollie Magern set to take their chances. The Howard Johnson-trained Grade One Arkle Trophy winner Tidal Bay is also set to be entered in the race.


A six-race card on Boxing Day also includes the £10,000 Merry Christmas From Sky Bet Handicap Hurdle (2.15pm) and the £12,000 skysports.com/super 6 Handicap Chase (2.50pm).


Apart from the skybet.com Castleford Handicap Chase, the six-race card on the second day of the Sky Bet Christmas Meeting includes the £12,000 skyvegas.com Novices’ Chase (2.30pm) and the £10,000 skypoker.com Introductory Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle (1.55pm).


Advance bookings are selling well and racegoers are advised to book early to avoid disappointment, particularly for the Premier Enclosure, which is normally a sell-out on both days. Tickets can be purchased at www.wetherbyracing.co.uk or by phoning 01937 582 035.

Admission Prices (December 26 & 27): Premier Enclosure £27, Paddock Enclosure £16, Pick of the Paddock £21 (includes admission to the Paddock Enclosure, £4 Refreshment Voucher, £2 Tote Betting Voucher and Racecard), Pick of the Premier £38 (includes admission to the Premier Enclosure, 2 x £4 Refreshment Voucher, 2 x £2 Tote Betting Voucher and Racecard).


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