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Monday, December 29, 2008


Aintree Racecourse is pleased to announce that the 2009 renewal of the world’s greatest steeplechase, the John Smith’s Grand National, will be worth a record £900,000, an increase of £100,000 on the 2008 value.

This is the second consecutive year that the value of the John Smith’s Grand National has increased by £100,000.

The 2009 John Smith’s Grand National, run over four and a half miles and 30 famous fences, takes place at 4.15pm on Saturday, April 4.

Julian Thick, Managing Director at Aintree, commented: “Aintree is proud to be able to increase the prize money for the John Smith’s Grand National to £900,000.

“The generous support of John Smith’s has made this possible and since their sponsorship started in 2005 the value of the John Smith’s Grand National has risen from £600,000 to £900,000.”


Meeting - New Year’s Day, Cheltenham Racecourse
Dates - Thursday, January 1, 2009
First race -12.30pm
Tickets available from www.cheltenham.co.uk or by calling 08445 793 003

ISDN facilities are available for radio interviews if required

Trainer Ferdy Murphy is confident that Three Mirrors can get 2009 off to a flying start with victory in the £55,000 Grade Three skybet.com Handicap Chase (2.10pm), run over two miles and five furlongs, at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, Thursday, January 1.

The chaser, who is currently set to carry 11st 2lb, rounded off last season with a two and three quarter length victory over subsequent Munster National winner Dear Villez in a handicap chase at Ayr in April and began the current campaign at The Open with a staying-on fifth in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup on November 15.

Murphy, successful in the skybet.com Handicap Chase with Ballinclay King in 2003, commented: “We have entered Three Mirrors in the skybet.com Handicap Chase and he is a proposed runner at the moment.

“I was absolutely delighted with his run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and he has come out of that race in fantastic form. He is entitled to come on for that and is absolutely bursting for a run at the moment. He will have no problem with good to soft ground but the more the ground dries out, the better his chance - the one thing he can’t handle is holding ground.

“He was being aimed at the Boylesports.com Gold Cup at the Boylesports International and I was disappointed that the meeting was abandoned because it looked like the race was coming dead right for him. But we have to look forward instead of backwards and I am optimistic that he can he run a big race on New Year’s Day.”

A total of 20 horses have been entered for the skybet.com Handicap Chase and the weights are headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Nozic (12st 1lb), which includes a 5lb penalty following his victory in the Grade Three skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day. The champion trainer could also be represented by Galway Plate scorer Oslot (11st 12lb) and last season’s Racing Post Plate runner-up Gwanako (11st 8lb), who defeated My Petra (11st 4lb) in a graduation chase at Ascot on his latest start.

Other notable entries include last year’s second Patman Du Charmil (10st 5lb), dual Grade Two-winning novice Hobbs Hill (11st 7lb), 2005 Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle victor No Refuge (11st 8lb), as well as Private Be (10st 11lb) and Il Duce (11st 4lb), who were third and fourth respectively in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Murphy is also optimistic over the chances of Noir Et Vert in the £25,000 Centaur Handicap Chase (1.05pm), run over an extended three miles and two furlongs. The nine-year-old was fourth on his first appearance for nearly 11 months in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at The Festival in March and returned to Cheltenham to come home 10th on his seasonal bow in the IG Index Handicap Chase at The Showcase on October 17.

The Leyburn-based handler added: “Noir Et Vert is set to take his chance in the Centaur Handicap Chase and he will also come on for his first run of the season. He’s a good deal straighter now and the ground was a bit dead for him back in October and we would be looking to see him run a far better race on quicker ground.

“We will be looking at some of the marathon chases for him once again this year and I would be hopeful that he could run well at Cheltenham.”

A superb seven-race card at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day also includes the £35,000 Grade Two Aquanti “Dipper” Novices’ Chase (1.40pm), a two mile and five furlong contest that has already established itself as a true test for future champions since it was first run at Cheltenham in 2005, with previous winners The Listener (2006) and My Way De Solzen (2007) having progressed to glory at the highest level.

This year’s race looks set to be another top-quality renewal, with eight exciting novices entered. Paul Nicholls has entered last season’s Coral Cup runner-up Kicks For Free, who was second on his latest start in a Grade Two novice chase at Newbury in November, and Breedsbreeze, who defeated Massini’s Maguire in the Grade One Nigel Clark Feltham Novices´ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Tom George could run French import Tartak, while Nigel Twiston-Davies may be represented by The Cool Guy, who finished second to subsequent totesport Gold Cup winner Denman in the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle in 2006, when the race was staged at Cheltenham following the abandonment of Newbury.


The going at Cheltenham is currently good to soft and frost covers have been put down over the entire course.

Simon Claisse, Cheltenham's Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing, commented: "Providing the weather forecast is correct, we should be fine.

"It is forecast to get down to minus three or four degrees Celsius for the next three nights, but the entire course has been covered.

"The crucial factor is cloud cover. Fortunately, we have had cloud cover for the past two nights which has helped us."


Cheltenham Racecourse ushers in the New Year with its traditional fixture on Thursday, January 1, 2009, comprising a fantastic seven-race card that features the £55,000 Grade Three skybet.com Handicap Chase (2.10pm), run over two miles and five furlongs.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Fondmort won the prestigious contest in 2006 en route to a course and distance follow up in the Grade Two Ryanair Chase at that year’s Festival, while Too Forward, trained by Carl Llewellyn, won the 2007 renewal. Last year, the David Pipe-trained Vodka Bleu prevailed, getting the better of Patman Du Charmil by two and a half lengths. The 2003 running was a particularly high-class affair with the Ferdy Murphy-trained Ballinclay King, previously a winner of the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree, landing the spoils from 1999 JCB Triumph Hurdle victor Katarino, while third place went to the gallant Grey Abbey, who was subsequently the top-rated staying chaser in Britain in the 2004/2005 season.

The £35,000 Grade Two Aquanti “Dipper” Novices’ Chase (1.40pm) is proving to be one of the most informative contests for novices, having been won by top-drawer performers since it was first run at Cheltenham in 2005.

My Way De Solzen scored an impressive 17-length victory in the two mile, five furlong contest in 2007 before winning the Grade One Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at The Festival in March. Alan King’s charge was also a top-class hurdler and won the Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle over three miles at The Festival in 2006.

The Listener has established himself as one of the best chasers in Britain and Ireland since triumphing in the 2006 renewal of the Aquanti Group “Dipper” Novices’ Chase, which he took by three quarters of a length from Napolitain, with subsequent Grade One RSA Chase hero Star De Mohaison in third. In 2008, it was the Philip Hobbs-trained Lead On who prevailed, while the first Cheltenham running went to My Will.

The £25,000 Centaur Handicap Chase (1.05pm) is run over an extended three and a quarter miles and last year’s winner Irish Raptor, trained by local handler Nigel Twiston-Davies subsequently finished second in the Topham Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree. The 2007 contest went the way of Cornish Rebel, who held The Bajan Bandit by a length and three quarters for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

The quality of the day is further enhanced with the running of the extended two and a half-mile £25,000 Steel Plate And Sections Hurdle (3.20pm), which was won 12 months ago by the classy Blazing Bailey, who subsequently won at both Aintree and Punchestown as well as finishing fourth in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, while the other three winners have been Flight Leader (2007), The French Furze (2006) and Westender (2005).

Hills Of Aran, trained by Keith Goldsworthy in Wales, saw off Hennessy to collect last season’s renewal of the £25,000 Unicoin Homes Handicap Hurdle, run over three miles and due off at 2.45pm.

The day kicks off with the £15,000 Club 16-24 “Help For Heroes” Ball National Hunt Novices’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles and a furlong, which last season went the way of the Alan King-trained Oh Crick.

The concluding race is the £17,000 Listed EBF “High Sheriff of Gloucestershire’s” Millennium “Junior” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (3.55pm) over a mile and a half, which was won last season by Lord Generous, trained by Helen Lewis and out of that great Cheltenham performer Lady Rebecca.


1.05pm Centaur Handicap Steeple Chase (0-145) 3m 2f 110y £25,000
2008 IRISH RAPTOR 9-10-12 Nigel Twiston-Davies Paddy Brennan 8/1 9
2007 CORNISH REBEL 10-11-12 Paul Nicholls Ruby Walsh 11/4 4
2006 JOAACI 6-11-12 Martin Pipe Timmy Murphy 12/1 13
2005 LORD OF ILLUSION 8-10-11 Tom George Mick Fitzgerald 11/4F 11
2003* LORD NOELIE 10-11-12 Bridget Nicholls Tony McCoy 13/2 8
2002* HISTORG 7-10-04 Ferdy Murphy Davy Russell 7/1 10
2001/2002 ABANDONED
2000/2001 ABANDONED
1999* STRONG TEL 9-11-09 Martin Pipe Tony McCoy 13/2 11

1.40pm Aquanti “Dipper” Novices' Steeple Chase (Grade 2) 2m 5f £35,000
2008 LEAD ON 7-11-07 Philip Hobbs Richard Johnson 7/2 5
2007 MY WAY DE SOLZEN 7-11-04 Alan King Robert Thornton 4/9F 5
2006 THE LISTENER 7-11-11 Robert Alner Andrew Thornton 8/11F 7
2005 MY WILL 5-10-12 Paul Nicholls Ruby Walsh 4/1 5
Run at Newcastle prior to 2005.

2.10pm skybet.Com Steeple Chase (Handicap) (Grade 3) 2m 5f £55,000
2008 VODKA BLEU 9-10-13 David Pipe Timmy Murphy 7/1 14
2007 TOO FORWARD 11-11-04 Carl Llewellyn Timmy Murphy 4/1 7
2006 FONDMORT 10-11-12 Nicky Henderson Mick Fitzgerald 100/30F 13
2005 LE DUC 6-10-08 Paul Nicholls Ruby Walsh 10/1 15
2004 WHEREAREYOUNOW 7-10-01 Nigel Twiston-Davies Carl Llewellyn 11/2 9
2003 BALLINCLAY KING 9-10-11 Ferdy Murphy Davy Russell 7/2 7
2000 THE OUTBACK WAY 10-11-10 Venetia Williams Norman Williamson 4/1 6
1999 EIRESPRAY 8-10-07 Sue Smith Seamus Durack 11/2 10
1998 PETE THE PARSON 9-10-02 Jim Old Mick Fitzgerald 3/1F 6
1994 SOUTHERN MINSTREL 11-10-06 Peter Cheesbrough Adrian Maguire 9/4 4
1991* NODFORM 7-10-12 Josh Gifford Declan Murphy 15/2 4
1990* NEW HALEN 9-09-12 Paul James Eamon Tierney 7/4 5
1990* PADDYBORO 12-11-13 Josh Gifford Richard Rowe 4/1 6

2.45pm Unicoin Homes Handicap Hurdle Race 3m £25,000
2008 HILLS OF ARAN 6-10-09 Keith Goldsworthy Tony McCoy 10/1 9
2007 JUST BETH 11-10-09 Joe Fierro Derek Laverty 10/1 10
2006 ATTORNEY GENERAL 7-11-12 Jim Old Jason Maguire 15/2 14
2005 KORELO 7-11-12 Martin Pipe Timmy Murphy 7/1 14
First run 2005

3.20pm Steel Plate And Sections Hurdle Race 2m 4f 110y £25,000
2008 BLAZING BAILEY 6-11-12 Alan King Robert Thornton 11/2 7
2007 FLIGHT LEADER 7-11-12 Colin Tizzard Richard Johnson 2/1 4
2006 THE FRENCH FURZE 12-11-04 Nicky Richards Brian Harding 12/1 8
2005 WESTENDER 9-11-04 Martin Pipe Timmy Murphy 7/4F 6
First run 2005

* Race was run in December, when this meeting was run over two days

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