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Monday, March 10, 2003



The Queen Returns To Racecourse for First Time in 50 Years


Cheltenham Racecourse is honoured that Her Majesty The Queen will visit Cheltenham Racecourse for the first time in over 50 years on Thursday March 13, Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup Day. The Queen last visited the Racecourse in 1951 when, as Princess Elizabeth, she attended with her mother.

On arriving at the racecourse, Lord Vestey, Chairman of the Steeplechase Company, will welcome Her Majesty to the Royal Box and accompany The Queen onto the balcony facing the racecourse for the National Anthem and the raising of the Royal Standard.

At 12:20pm, in what is sure to be a poignant moment in the winner's enclosure, Her Majesty will unveil a sculpture of the Queen Mother by Angela Conner, commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire.

During that ceremony the following will be introduced to Her Majesty The Queen;

Martin Molony Rider of Silver Frame, winner of the 1951 Gold Cup when The Queen last attended
Willie Robinson Rider of Mill House, winner of 1963 Gold Cup
Michael Dickinson Trainer of first five in 1983 Gold Cup
Paddy Mullins Trainer of Dawn Run, the only horse to have won the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup
Martin Pipe Champion Trainer
Anthony McCoy Champion Jockey
Desert Orchid 1989 Gold Cup winner
Tim Holland-Martin Chairman of the Panel of Stewards
John Codner Senior Veterinary Surgeon
John Disney Senior Medical Officer

The Queen will also make the presentation to the winning owner, trainer and rider of the 2003 Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup at around 3.30pm.
Edward Gillespie, Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, said: “We are honoured and greatly looking forward to welcoming Her Majesty back to Cheltenham for the first time in over 50 years. The people who will be presented to The Queen have been instrumental in the colourful history of The Festival since Her Majesty last attended, and we hope this year's Festival will be remembered as a very special occasion.”
The bronze statue of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother will be located in a permanent position near to the Royal Box after The Festival.



GOING NEWS FROM CHELTENHAM
AT 10.30AM


Simon Claisse, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course, today reported on the eve of the 2003 National Hunt Festival that the course had missed out on rainfall over the weekend, leaving the going as


GOOD, GOOD TO SOFT IN PLACES


“We have had no rain since Friday although we are expecting the odd shower today,” said Claisse.


“We are also expecting some rain overnight and are forecast between four and six millimetres going into tomorrow.


“There should be a dry afternoon on Tuesday and also on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Postscript - Cheltenham has had a couple of showers since this report but no major rainfall.




WELSH CHALLENGERS DOMINATE TUESDAY FINALE


A unusual race will conclude Tuesday’s card at the Cheltenham Festival when the inaugural running of the Cheltenham Festival Greyhound Stakes takes place at 5.45pm.

Following the three semi-finals on Sunday, from which the first two home in each heat will line-up tomorrow, no less than three of the six dogs on show will represent Wales.


Not since the famous shock 100/1 triumph of Norton’s Coin, trained by permit holder Sirrell Griffiths, in the 1990 Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup has a Welsh challenger scored at the Festival.


All three representatives from Swansea safely qualified, with both Shades Of Johnny and Seftons Toy winning their respective heats to book their places in the 240-yard dash up the famous Cheltenham Hill.

Einon Curkagh completes the trio of Welsh wizards to give the canine gladiators from the valleys an even money chance of claiming success.

A little more predictable than the equine victory of Norton’s Coin in 1990!

5.45pm, Tuesday, March 11
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL GREYHOUND STAKES

Final Line-up:
1. Seftons Toy (Swansea)
2. Blues Best Dean (Warwick)
3. Scintillas Byron (Chesterton)
4. Java Central (Highgate)
5. Shades Of Johnny (Swansea)
6. Einon Curkagh (Swansea)


BIDDLECOMBE WALKS COURSE


Among those walking the Cheltenham course this morning on the eve of the 2003 National Hunt Festival was former jockey Terry Biddlecombe, whose wife Henrietta Knight has a whole host of leading contenders this week, headed by last year’s winner Best Mate in the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup.


“Terry said it’s a mixture of ground but overall the course is in very good condition,” said Knight.


“It will ride a lot slower than people think. It won’t be firm, anyway, that word won’t even come into it.”

The Knight runners tomorrow include Best Mate’s brother Inca Trail in the Gerrard Wealth Management Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Impek in The Irish Independent Arkle Chase, Foly Pleasant, Maximize and Southern Star in the William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase as well as Be My Manager in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase


ELLISON HOPING RAIN STAYS AWAY


Brian Ellison, who runs Fatehalkhair in tomorrow’s £80,000 William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase and Latalomne in Wednesday’s £250,000 Queen Mother Champion Chase, is hoping that no more rain falls at Prestbury Park before his charges run.


“From my point of view because I’m bringing two fast-ground horses down, I wouldn’t want any more rain,” explained the North Yorkshire trainer having just walked the course. “At the moment the ground is probably a little bit dead in places. If it doesn’t rain, it will be beautiful ground tomorrow.”

Fatehalkhair won a handicap hurdle at his favourite racecourse, Sedgefield, where amazingly he has won all of his 13 jump victories, on his seasonal bow in July, and was the seven-length third behind Tom’s Prize in a handicap chase at Doncaster on March 1 on his only other start this term.


“Fatehalkhair is in good form and ran well at Doncaster where the ground was too soft for him as he likes it quick,” said Ellison.


The handler is convinced that Latalomne would have won last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase if the Zilzal gelding had not taken a tumble two fences from home. He also believes that the bookmakers are seriously underestimating his chance again in 2003.


He continued: “Both my runners are in terrific form and both have got great chances. Latalomne is flying and he’s coming down to Cheltenham tomorrow. He’ll definitely win it this year if it goes to fast ground. I’ve already backed him and he’s around the 25/1 or 33/1 mark. That’s an unbelievable price especially if it doesn’t rain - if it rains obviously his chance will go.”


J P MCMANUS WALKS COURSE


Legendary Irish owner JP McManus walked the racecourse at lunchtime today, accompanied by a number of colleagues including jockey and trainer Charlie Swan and racing manager Frank Berry.


Asked if McManus was pleased to be back at Cheltenham, Berry responded: “Of course! The ground is good and Cheltenham has done a lovely job.”

The owner has numerous chances at this week’s National Hunt Festival including Baracouda, who will be bidding to defend his crown in the £140,000 Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday, First Gold, who will attempt to give French trainer Francois Doumen his second £350,000 Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup winner on the same day (he was successful with The Fellow in 1994), and Flagship Uberalles, who also bids for back-to-back victories in a championship contest, this time in the £250,000 Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday.

The last named was successful in 2002 for owners Elizabeth Gutner and Michael Krysztofiak Racing, who sold him to McManus after his last run in the Pertemps King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.


“Baracouda and First Gold are in good form, while we are looking forward to Flagship Uberalles having his first run for us.”


COWBOY FACES 16 IN SMURFIT CHAMPION HURDLE


The current ante-post favourite Rhinestone Cowboy will face 16 opponents in Tuesday’s £300,000 Grade One Smurfit Champion Hurdle (3.15pm). The only withdrawal from the five-day confirmations was the outsider Bob What. The field of 16 is two up on last year’s number and includes the 2002 victor Hors La Loi III, along with the runner-up from 12 months ago, Marble Arch. Four Irish-trained runners go to post headed by the 2002 Gerrard Wealth Management Novices’ Hurdle heroine Like-A-Butterfly, who will be joined by compatriots Holy Orders, Scolardy (last season’s JCB Triumph Hurdle winner) and Scottish Memories.


Nine runners line up for the £140,000 Grade One Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (2.35pm). All the main protagonists have stood their ground including Azertyuiop, Farmer Jack, Impek, Isio and Hand Inn Hand, whom trainer Henry Daly has decided to run in this race rather than Thursday’s Cathcart Challenge Cup Chase. Willie Mullins’ Adamant Approach and the Dermot Weld-trained Stage Affair represent Ireland.


Opening the 2003 National Hunt Festival is the £100,000 Grade One Gerrard Wealth Management Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2.00pm), which has attracted a field of 19. A thrilling contest looks likely with the home challenge led by Thisthatandtother, Best Mate’s full-brother Inca Trail and Martin Pipe’s Lirfox. A strong Irish challenge of seven includes likely favourite Back In Front from the Edward O’Grady yard, Tom Taaffe’s Kicking King and the Dermot Weld-trained Mutakarrim, a winner at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting earlier this season.


Tuesday’s most valuable handicap, the £80,000 Grade Three William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase (4.00pm) will have a field of 18, headed by the Mouse Morris-trained Foxchapel King. The 14-year-old Go Ballistic has been declared for this contest in preference to Thursday’s Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup. This remarkable veteran will be running at his ninth Festival, having run every year since 1994. Along with Foxchapel King, The Bunny Boiler, Youlneverwalkalone and Satchmo represent Ireland while Francois Doumen sends over Djeddah from France.


A maximum field of 24 goes to post in the £50,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (4.40pm), with the 1999 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Katarino heading the weights. Three challengers come over from Ireland - Rathbawn Prince, Silver Steel and Northern Sound.


Closing the opening action is the £60,000 Pertemps Final (5.20pm), which has also attracted a maximum field of 24. Iris’s Gift skips this contest in favour of a crack at Thursday’s Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle, leaving the Martin Pipe-trained Tucacas at the top of the handicap. In total, Pipe has eight declared runners in this contest. A quartet of runners make the trip from across the Irish Sea - Rostropovich, Farinel, No Discount and The Culdee.




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