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Tuesday, March 11, 2003



There was no overnight rain at Cheltenham and the going for the first day of the Festival remains


“It is on the easy side of good and I think that it will ride like that,” said clerk of the course Simon Claisse. “The trainers who have walked the course have produced descriptions varying from soft to good to firm, so we are somewhere in between them.

“The last appreciable rain we have had was on Friday when we had 6 millIimetres and since then we have had two small bursts of 0.2 on two separate days.

“We put on 12 mills over two days a fortnight ago.

“We are looking forward to three cracking days and I hope that all goes well for everyone.

“My fancy for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle is Intersky Falcon, who has been my idea of the winner for a long time.

“The weather forecast suggests that if we have any rain over the three days it will be at around lunchtime today, and after that it is due to be dry for the rest of the meeting.”


One Ladbrokes punter was very quick off the mark in the morning and backed Rum Pointer to win himself a small fortune in the closing Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (5.20), investing Ù5,000 at 40-1 to win £200,000. The Rayners Lane firm have also laid bets of £1,500 and £2,500 over Mirjand in the same race and he is now at 25-1 from 40-1. They also report opposition to Back In Front, out from 7-4 to 15-8 in the Gerrard Welath Management Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2.0), in which he is out from 7-4 to 15-8, and to Azertiyoup, who has eased to 6-4 from 11-8 in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy (2.35). Impek, though, has been popular in the Arkle and is in by a point to 6-1.

The Irish firm Cashmans, who guaranteed to hold all their morning prices until 11am and will pay 1/4 the odds over the first five in the last two races, have produced a variety of compensation offers to ease the pain of backing losers.

They will refund stakes if your selection is second to Back In Front in the opening Gerard Wealth Management Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2.0), if it is beaten into second place in a photofinish for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy (2.35), if it is second to Rhinestone Cowboy in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle (3.15), and if you back the runner-up to Joss Naylor in the William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase (4.0).

On the direct action front Cashmans have done business over Rosaker (22-1 to 16-1) in the opener, Youlneverwalkalone (10-1 to 8-1) in the William Hill Chase and Farinel (12-1 to 9-1) and Proper Squire (20-1 to 16-1) in the Pertemps Final. They also report good support for Azertiyoup and in the Champion Hurdle for Rooster Booster, though their respective prices remain 6-4 and 6-1 respectively.

Two of the longer-priced contenders in the Champion Hurdle have been popular with Paddy Power, who have cut Copeland from 28-1 to 25-1 and Landing Light from 16-1 to 14-1. In the Supreme Novices’ they have trimmed Roseacre from 16-1 to 14-1 and Thisthatandtother by half a point from 11-2. Isio has been in demand in the Arkle and is now at 9-1 from 10-1 and Miss Fara, one of Martin Pipe’s eight runners in the Pertemps Final, is in from 40-1 to 33-1.

The Tote have had good support for Thisthatandtother in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and have brought him in from 11-2 to 9-2. There has been money for Ifni du Luc, who has come in from 20-1 to 14-1 in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase (4.40) and for Farinel from 11-1 to 8-1 in the Pertemps Final.

William Hill have also done opening race business over Rosaker and have cut him from 16-1 to 11-1, and in the same race they have laid a cash punter in a shop in Manchester a bet of £50,000 to £1,000 about Keltic Bard. Royale de Vassy has been cut from 25-1 to 16-1 in the Kim Muir and Farinel is in from 10-1 to 8-1 in the Pertemps Final.


Tomorrow begins with a field of 20 for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle, and among the big fancies will be Coolnagorna, whose trainer Jonjo O’Neill will have eight runners in action today. Coolnagorna has won his last three races and was hugely impressive when beating Calling Brave, who takes him on again, by no fewer than 29 lengths at Newbury last time. O’Neill has two other runners in the race in Saitensohn and Sh Boom, while other major fancies are the unbeaten Supreme Prince and Pizarro, one of a strong Irish challenge and conqueror of Rhinestone Cowboy in a dramatic finish to the Weatherbys Festival Bumper last season.

O’Neill has another major player in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, where there is a field of nine. His big hope here is Keen Leader, who was going like a winner when he fell in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle last season and has won his three completed starts over fences in exemplary style after falling here first time out over fences in November. Jair du Cochet, who unshipped his rider when still going well in the Ascot race which Keen Leader last time, flies the flag for France, and Barrow Drive will be carrying Irish hopes.

A maximum 30 runners in the Coral Cup Hurdle will make it a really rough and tumble affair, and Korelo will be bidding to gain the £60,000 bonus put up by Imperial Cup sponsors Sunderlands if he can add this prize to his gains at Sandown on Saturday. There will be plenty ready to make it hard for him, including top weight Quazar, one of last year’s best juveniles, Emotional Moment, who was well fancied for last month’s Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury only to miss the cut, Covent Garden, who has been on a great roll this season and is unbeaten in five starts, and Xenophon, like Emotional Moment trained in Ireland, and winner of the valuable Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown last time.

The four miles of the National Hunt Chase make for a real test of stamina and it is almost invariably a venture into the unknown for most of the runners as far as the distance is concerned. But one who has already shows that he gets the marathon trip is Stormez, who won over such a distance at Uttoxeter in June. Others to consider could be Paxford Jack, already successful at Cheltenham this season, Dionn Righ, who has won his last two starts, and Hedgehunter, one of the Irish contingent for the race and a winner over three and a half miles last time.

David’s Lad, a big fancy for the Martell Grand National in which he fell four out when going well last season, was recently disqualified from running for 42 days by officials in Ireland but a stay of execution of that ban granted in the Irish High Court means that he can take his chance in the Mildmay of Flete Chase. Other to consider in a wide open race are the back to form Goguenard, Europa, a good winner at Doncaster earlier this month, and top weight Lady Cricket, who had a number of this field behind her when she won here in January.

The closing Weatherbys Champion Bumper has a maximum field of 25 and as ever the Irish challenge is extremely strong. McGruders Cross, Storm Boxer, Royal Alphabet and Davenport Democrat (all of whom are trained by members of the Mullins family) are among their raiders, with the home team being headed by Bourbon Manhattan and Back To Ben Alder.


The 2003 National Hunt Festival is proving popular as far as early arrivals of horses is concerned.

Cheltenham’s Managing Director, Edward Gillespie, revealed that 110 Irish horses were in the stables overnight compared with 100 at previous Festivals.

Clerk of the Course, Simon Claisse, said today: “There are a lot of horses in the stables - we’re already having to move out some of the horses that are here for Wednesday to alternative accommodation because we’ve got 256 horses on site.”


Race Five 4.40pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

No. 3 Montifault (vet’s certificate)


The £250,000 Queen Mother Champion Chase is set to be a sparkling affair with 11 top-class horses declared to run in tomorrow’s two-mile championship event.

They are headed by last year’s winner Flagship Uberalles. The Philip Hobbs-trained nine-year-old was pulled up on his last start behind 2002 Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Best Mate, in the Pertemps King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Since that run he has been purchased by legendary Irish racehorse owner J P McManus.

The Irish challenge is triple-handed in the form of Florida Pearl, Moscow Flyer and Native Upmanship.

Florida Pearl has been one of the most consistent chasers in Ireland in recent years and the 2001 Pertemps King George VI Chase hero is dropping back in trip to two miles for the first time since winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 1997.

Moscow Flyer was a top-class novice over fences last season, winning three Grade One events including the Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase at the National Hunt Festival. The Moscow Society gelding has won his most recent two starts at Leopardstown and Punchestown.

Native Upmanship’s last five successes have all been over two and a half miles and, while this race may not be over his best distance, he is a worthy challenger. Last year he finished the runner-up to Flagship Uberalles.

The Henrietta Knight-trained Edredon Bleu is another former winner of this heat, having taken the 2000 renewal under champion jockey Tony McCoy. Despite being 11 now, he is clearly still relishing his racing, winning three of his four starts this season including a two mile five furlong event at Wincanton on his last outing. He was fourth last year.

Champion trainer Martin Pipe is represented by both Seebald and Tiutchev. The former has finished the runner-up on all his three starts this term, including most recently a length behind Young Devereaux in a handicap chase at Kempton on January 18.

Tiutchev, fifth last year, won the 2000 renewal of the Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase for former trainer Nicky Henderson. He gained his first success for Pipe last time in the Grade One Ritz Club Ascot Chase at Ascot in February.

Paul Nicholls is another Somerset-based trainer with two entries. His two protagonists, Kadarann and Cenkos, finished first and second respectively in a Grade Two chase at Newbury on February 8. Cenkos was third in 2002.

The line-up is completed by the Brian Ellison-trained Latalomne and Geos, who is trained by Nicky Henderson.

Ellison believes that Latalomne, who was still full of running when falling at the second last in 2002, will definitely win if the rain keeps away, while Geos has been placed on all four of his outings this term including a victory at Wetherby on Boxing Day.


Class A, Grade One, £100,000 guaranteed. 2m 1/2f. For 4yo+. Weights 4yo 11st, 5yo+ 11st 8lb. Allowances: fillies & mares 5lb. Penalty Values: 1st: £58,000; 2nd: £22,000; 3rd: £11,000; 4th: £5,000; 5th: £2,500; 6th: £1,500

1) BACK IN FRONT (D Cox) Edward O'Grady IRE 6-11-08 Norman Williamson 3/1F
2 KICKING KING (Conor Clarkson) Tom Taaffe IRE 5-11-08 Barry Geraghty 13/2
3 CHAUVINIST (Bunny & Nick Roberts) Nicky Henderson 8-11-08 Mick Fitzgerald 20/1
4) KELTIC BARD (M Rowland, M Collins & P Cox) Charlie Mann 6-11-08 Noel Fehily
5) THISTHATANDTOTHER (Graham Roach) Paul Nicholls 7-11-08 Ruby Walsh
6) LIMERICK BOY (Favourites Racing) Venetia Williams 5-11-08 Tony Dobbin
7) JABOUNE (Mrs R J Skan) A King 6-11-08 Richard Johnson
8) INCA TRAIL (Philip Myerscough) Henrietta Knight 7-11-08 Jim Culloty
9 MUTAKARRIM (Dr Michael Smurfit) Dermot Weld IRE b6-11-08 Timmy Murphy
10) ROSAKER (High Street Ceathar Syndicate) Noel Meade IRE 6-11-08 Paul Carberry
11) LIRFOX (David Johnson) Martin Pipe 6-11-03 Tony McCoy
12) TRAMANTANO (Raymond Mould) Nigel Twiston-Davies t4-11-00 Carl Llewellyn
13) DANGEROUSLY GOOD (Norman Jones) Richard Guest v1 5-11-08 Richard Guest
14) JOUEUR D'ESTRUVAL (Violet O’Leary) Willie Mullins IRE 6-11-08 Charlie Swan
15) DETONATEUR (Mr & Mrs John Poynton) Ian Williams 5-11-08 David Dennis
16) SUPREME DEVELOPER (Mrs A N Durkan) Tony Mullins IRE 6-11-08 Conor O'Dwyer
17) NORTH POINT (Heart Of The South Racing) Roger Curtis 5-11-08 Jamie Goldsten
18) PRINCE DIMITRI (Lucayan Stud) Martin Pipe 4-11-00 Tom Scudamore
SU) ARCH STANTON (J J Brennan) Willie Mullins IRE 5-11-08 David Casey

19 ran
Distances: 10, 4, 3, nk, 2 1/2, 1 3/4, 1 1/4, nk, 2 1/2, 1/2, 1 1/4, 6, 4, 11, 5, dist, 22
Breeder: Noreen Hayes Breeding: br g Bob Back (USA) - Storm Front (IRE) (Strong Gale)
Tote Win: £3.70 Places: £2.00; £2.00; £6.30 Exacta: £15.00

Winning trainer: EDWARD O’GRADY Based: Killeens, Ballynonty, Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland Riding Career: 10 wins under Rules and Point-to-Points Date of First Trainer’s Licence: 1972 Cheltenham Festival Successes (17): National Hunt Chase (1974 Mr Midland; 1983 Bit Of A Skite; 1996 Loving Around); Walwyn Muir (1976 Prolan); Cathcart (1977 Rusty Tears); Gerrard Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1978 Golden Cygnet, 2003 Back In Front); Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle (1978 Flame Gun; 1980 Mountrivers); Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle (1980 Drumlargan; 1982 Mister Donovan); County (1981 Staplestown); JCB Triumph Hurdle (1984 Northern Game); Coral Cup (1994 Time For A Run); Bumper (1994 Mucklemeg, 2002 Pizarro); Arkle Chase (1996 Ventana Canyon)

Winning Jockey: Norman Williamson Date of Birth: 16/01/69, County Cork. Apprenticeship: Amateur rider with Dermot Weld, seven months with PP Hogan. First winner: March 1987, Clonmel (Jack’N Jill) Cheltenham Festival Winners: (11) CHAMPION HURDLE (1995 Alderbrook), GOLD CUP (1995 Master Oats), ROYAL & SUNALLIANCE HURDLE (1995 Putty Road, 2000 Monsignor), MILDMAY OF FLETE (1995 Kadi, 1998 Super Coin), TRIUMPH HURDLE (1997 Commanche Court), WILLIAM HILL NATIONAL HUNT HCAP CHASE (1999 Betty’s Boy), PERTEMPS FINAL HCAP HURDLE (1999 Generosa), GRAND ANNUAL CHALLENGE CUP H’CAP CHASE (2000 Samakaan), GERRARD WEALTH MANAGEMENT SUPREME NOVICES’ hURDLE (2002 Back In Front) Other Big Race Wins: THOMAS PINK GOLD CUP (1990 Multum In Parvo), WELSH NATIONAL (1994 Master Oats), MIDLANDS GRAND NATIONAL (Lucky Lane 1995), MITSUBISHI SHOGUN ASCOT CHASE (Strong Promise 1997, Teeton Mill 1998), KINGWELL HURDLE (1995 Alderbrook), PERTEMPS KING GEORGE VI CHASE (1998 Teeton Mill), HENNESSY COGNAC GOLD CUP (1998 Teeton Mill), PETER MARSH CHASE (1999 General Wolfe), MITSUBISHI SHOGUN TINGLE CREEK CHASE (1998 Direct Route), BETTERWARE CUP HANDICAP CHASE (1998 Torduff Express), MARCHPOLE CLEEVE HURDLE (1999, 2000, 2001 Lady Rebecca), HALDON GOLD CUP H’CAP CHASE (2000 Bellator), ‘MONKSFIELD’ NOVICE HURDLE (2000 Get It Done), LADBROKE HURDLE (1997 Master Tribe, 2001 Marble Arch, 2002 Chauvinist), SANDEMAN MAGHULL NOVICES’ CHASE (Morceli 1995), MARTELL RED RUM CHASE (Down The Fell 1997), MUMM MELLING CHASE (Direct Route 1999 and 2000), MUMM MILDMAY NOVICES’ CHASE (2000 High Game) Winners in the past 13 seasons (1988/89-2001/02): 1,20,33,33,41,104, 130,24,85, 77, 117, 122, 76, 82 Wins this season: 18(In UK). Based in Ireland since the start of 2002/03 season.



The Irish and favourite-backers got off to a magnificent start in the 2003 National Hunt Festival as the Edward O’Grady-trained Back In Front justified 3-1 favouritism to beat Kicking King by 10 lengths, with a further four lengths back to Chauvinist.

O’Grady said: “I knew Back In Front was good but I hadn’t expected him to decimate the field like that. I was confident that if he ran to his best that he’d be difficult to beat but I wasn’t sure that I had him there.

“I was very worried because I wasn’t able to prepare him as I wanted to because of a few blips. It’s never easy to train them.”

The six-year-old Bob Back gelding immediately received a quote of 8/1 for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle in 2004 from Ladbrokes.

Irish bookmaker Cashmans laid a 10,000 euro bet about Back In Front at 16/1 for next year and they now go 12/1.

“I’ll be disappointed if he’s not in Race Three next year,” continued O’Grady. “His jumping ability is what really makes him different and I’d be hopeful that he would beat Rhinestone Cowboy [who runs in today’s Smurfit Champion Hurdle].”

Last year Back In Front was third in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Festival.

O’Grady recalled: “This fellow was not 100% last year and I couldn’t believe that he ran so well in what must have been one of the most competitive bumpers. He came to me as a four-year-old and I’m very lucky to have him. Today was my day!”

When jockey Norman Williamson was complimented on the ride that he gave Back In Front, the trainer explained: “That’s why he rides for me. Funnily enough it wasn’t as easy as it looked as Norman said to me that he had to niggle him at the top of the hill - then he came alive.

“I’ll enter him in the novice and the champion hurdles at Punchestown now. He’s a hurdler through and through.”




Norman Williamson celebrated his 11th National Hunt Festival when riding Back In Front to a convincing victory in the opening Gerrard Wealth Management Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The jockey said: “I was a bit worried at the top of the hill but once I got near Tony (McCoy on Lirfox) in front he picked up.

“I know the pressures of just getting the horses here and yourself here for results like that. It has really worked and you have to enjoy every minute of it.

“I knew he was very good but Edward (O’Grady - the trainer) keeps saying he will be better than Rhinestone Cowboy and he jumps very quick.

“Hopefully, next year he will be champion class. Onwards and upwards, I was hoping for a winner and now I am going to get greedy and go for two.

“It is a great to get one winner and let’s hope we can continue in that form.“



Tom Taaffe was very pleased with the display by runner-up Kicking King, even though he was beaten ten lengths by the victorious Back In Front. “We talked about the race last week with the winner’s team and we agreed that we would be first and second, though we said we did not mind in which order.

“I was delighted with the way in which he ran. He is a real natural athlete and still only five years old. Hopefully he will keep going and we can carry on talking about him for the next six years.

“I don’t mind if he runs again or not this year. I don’t want to do anything stupid with him, but if he tells me in three weeks time or so that he wants a run then we shall certainly look at the idea.

“He is a fine, big chasing horse and that will be the plan for him in due course.”
Nicky Henderson also has chasing on his mind for Chauvinist, who ran the race of his life to be third at 20-1. “He has run really well and I just wish it had been softer. Mick was pushing his ears off at the top of the hill but he has run on really well.

“I would think that would be it for him for the season, unless it came up very soft for the two and a half mile novice at Liverpool, which isn’t very likely.

He has had a pretty hard race there and I doubt if he will run again.”

Charlie Mann is another trainer to be thinking of fences for the fourth Keltic Bard. “We came here confident that he would run a big race and I am sure he will be an Arkle horse for next season.”

Richard Johnson said of the ground after riding in the opening race: “It’s very dead out there and tiring to ride on. I’d call it good to soft.”

Ruby Walsh added “It’s yielding” while Carl Llewellyn described the course as “good-to-soft ground.”


Class A, Grade One, £140,000 guaranteed. 2m. For 5yo+. Weights 5yo 11st 3lb, 6yo+ 11st 8lb. Allowances: mares 5lb. Penalty Values: 1st: £81,200; 2nd: £30,800; 3rd: £15,400; 4th: £7,000; 5th: £3,500; 6th: £2,100

1) AZERTYUIOP (John Hales) Paul Nicholls 6-11-08 Ruby Walsh 5/4F
2) IMPEK (Jim Lewis) Henrietta Knight 7-11-08 Jim Culloty 6/1
3) ISIO (Sir Peter & Lady Gibbings) Nicky Henderson 7-11-08 Mick Fitzgerald 10/1
4) FARMER JACK (Peter Partridge) Seamus Mullins 7-11-08 Andrew Thornton
5) HAND INN HAND (Patrick Burling Deevelopments Ltd) Henry Daly 7-11-08 Richard Johnson
6) STAGE AFFAIR (Dr Michael Smurfit) Dermot Weld IRE b1 9-11-08 Barry Geraghty
7) RICARDO (Pat Whelan) Brian Nolan IRE 9-11-08 Garrett Cotter
F2) ADAMANT APPROACH (Greenstar Syndicate) Willie Mullins IRE 9-11-08 Paul Carberry
F3) LE ROI MIGUEL (Judy Stewart) Paul Nicholls 5-11-03 Tony McCoy

9 ran
Distances: 11, 1, 3, 5, 15, 18
Breeder: Pierre de Maleissye Breeding: b g Baby Turk - Temara (FR) (Rex Magna (FR))
Tote Win: £2.10 Places: £1.40; £1.70; £2.20 Exacta: £7.10

Winning trainer: PAUL NICHOLLS Date of birth: 17/05/62 Date of first trainer’s licence: 01/11/91 Previous Occupation: professional jockey 1980-89. Rode 130 winners including Hennessy Gold Cup (1986 & 87), Irish Gold Cup (1988), Welsh Grand National (1987) Wins (1992/3-2001/02): 20,29,28,53,56,82,110,71, 83, 136 Horses in training (1997-2002): 52, 60, 66, 65, 78, 105 Cheltenham Festival Wins: (4) Irish Independent Arkle Novices’ Chase (1999 Flagship Uberalles, 2003 Azertyuiop), Queen Mother Champion Chase (1999 Call Equiname), Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup (1999 See More Business) Other big race wins: Persian War Novices’ Hurdle (2000 Valley Henry), Desert Orchid H’cap Chase (2000 Fadalko), Mitsubishi Shogun Ascot Chase (2000 Rockforce), Mitsubishi Shogun Game Spirit Chase (2000 Flagship Uberalles), Aon Chase (2000 See More Business, 2001 Shotgun Willy), Samsung Electronics Scottish Champion Hcap Hurdle (1999 Fadalko), Hoechst Roussel Vet Panacur ebf Mares’ NH Final (1999 Flagship Therese), Michael Page Group Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (1999 Flagship Uberalles), Independent Newspaper Novices’ Chase (1995 Captain Khedive, 1999 Fadalko, 2002 Azertyuiop) William Hill Haldon Gold Cup Chase (1998 Lake Kariba and 1999 Flagship Uberalles), Charlie Hall Chase (1999 and 2000 See More Business), Extraman Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (1998 Dines), Betterware Cup Handicap Chase (1998 Torduff Express), Mermaid Quay Rising Stars Novices’ Chase (1998 Irbee), King George VI Chase (1997 See More Business), Rehearsal Chase (1996 Belmont King, 1997 and 1998 See More Business), Scottish Grand National (1997 Belmont King), Pillar Chase (1998, 2001 See More Business), Feltham Novices’ Chase (1993 See More Indians), Jim Ford Chase (1994 See More Indians, 1999 Double Thriller, 2002 See More Business), attheraces Gold Cup (2001 Ad Hoc), Calling Wild (1998 Chivas Regal Amateur Novices’ Chase), Martell Maghull Novices’ Chase (1999 Flagship Uberalles, 2002 Armaturk), Martell Cup Chase (2000 See More Business), Martell Melling Chase (2001 Fadalko), Martell Foxhunters (2002 Torduff Express) Wins This Season: 119

Winning Jockey: Ruby Walsh Born: May 14, 1979 Cheltenham Festival Wins (3): Weatherbys Champion Bumper (1998 Alexander Banquet), Mildmay Of Flete (2002 Blowing Wind), Irish Independent Arkle (2003 Azertyuiop) Other Big Race Wins: HEINEKEN GOLD CUP (1999 Imperial Call), INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER NOVICES’ CHASE (2002 Azertyuiop), MARTELL GRAND NATIONAL (2000 Papillon) (His first National ride); MARTELL MELLING CHASE (2001 Fadalko) Number of Wins in Britain (1998/99-2001/02): 1; 1; 5; 13 Wins This Season: 55 Other Details: Son of Ted Walsh, former leading Irish amateur rider who is now a trainer and broadcaster in Ireland. Rides regularly for Paul Nicholls.



Following the resounding success of Back In Front in the opener, another favourite won like a good thing good when 5-4 Azertyuiop romped home in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy by 11 lengths from Impek.

“He is a really very, very good horse and a real professional who has done everything right,” enthused his trainer Paul Nicholls after the favourite had given his owner John Hales a second big Cheltenham triumph in five years following that of One Man in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

“Everything has gone according to plan with him,” Nicholls added. “John has been marvellously patient with him and let me run him wherever I have wanted. So we went to Wincanton, then came here, and after that found another little race at Market Rasen before coming here.

“Maybe it wasn’t ideal when he was left in front so early when (his stablemate) Le Roi Miguel fell, but as Ruby said afterwards he had made it all at Market Rasen and I wasn’t really worried.

“But then you have your heart in your mouth when you are in a big race like this and under a lot of pressure until they pass the line. But it is great to have a winner like this so early in the meeting so now I can really enjoy the rest of it.

“Two miles is his trip and he does not want to go further and will not. He has got the gears and the speed and now we shall start planning for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next year.

“I don’t know about running again this season at Liverpool or Punchestown. We haven’t really thought beyond today, and after what happened to One Man at Liverpool John isn’t really that keen on going there again.

“When Ruby and I were talking about Azertyuiop last week he said that he would choose to ride him in the Queen Mother Chase this year if he was in it, but the Arkle was always the plan for this season and we can think about the Queen Mother Chase next year.”

Bookmakers were doing that, as well, with Cashmans putting Azertyuiop in at 8-1 and Paddy Power even more impressed and offering no more than 6-1.

Jockeys in the race confirmed the impression from the opener about the going. Mick
Fitzgerald described it as “on the slow side of good,” and Andrew Thornton called it “dead.”


Trainer Henrietta Knight, who famously goes into hiding to avoid watching Best Mate in action, missed seeing Impek finish 11-lengths second to Azertyuiop in The Irish Independent Arkle Chase - but this time she had not planned to miss the race.

“I didn’t see the race - but not intentionally this time, I was stuck at the start and travelled back in a Land Rover,” said Knight. “But it was the best he has behaved at the start, he seems to have grown up a bit.

“He ran very well but just got in a bit tight at the fence where I was watching him and I think he then lost some momentum. But the winner looked very good.We’ll see how he is before coming up with any plans.”

Nicky Henderson, trainer of third-placed Isio, said: “He’s still only a baby.”

Seamus Mullins, trainer of fourth-placed Farmer Jack, said: “It was a great run. We were unlucky at the third last where he just pecked on landing and that definitely cost us third place if not second. But we were beaten by much the best two-mile novice chaser around.

“We’ll be back here for the Thursday, maybe not next year but probably the year after as I think he has the makings of a Gold Cup horse.

“I just loved the way he went up that hill when Andrew (Thornton) galvanised him.”

The Paul Carberry-ridden Adamant Approach fell at the second obstacle. Tracey Gilmour, Willie Mullins’ travelling head lass, said: “Adamant Approach seems fine and Paul Carberry seemed to walk away fine.”

Tony McCoy took a tumble at the third fence on the Paul Nicholls-trained Le Roi Miguel. Donna Blake, Nicholls’s secretary, commented: “Le Roi Miguel is absolutely fine. Tony is fine also.”


Class A, Grade One, £300,000 guaranteed. 2m 1/2f. For 4yo+. Weights 4yo 11st 6lb, 5yo+ 12st. Allowances: fillies & mares 5lb. Penalty Values: 1st: £174,000; 2nd: £66,000; 3rd: £33,000; 4th: £15,000; 5th: £7,500; 6th: £4,500

1 ROOSTER BOOSTER (Terry Warner) Philip Hobbs 9-12-00 Richard Johnson 9/2
2) WESTENDER (Matt Archer & Jean Broadhurst) Martin Pipe b7-12-00 Rodi Greene 33/1
3) RHINESTONE COWBOY (Sue Magnier) Jonjo O'Neill 7-12-00 Norman Williamson 5/2F
4) SELF DEFENSE (Fraser Miller Racing) Emma Lavelle 6-12-00 Barry Keniry 100/1
5) INTERSKY FALCON (Interskyracing.com & Jackie O’Neill) Jonjo O'Neill b6-12-00 Liam Cooper
6) IN CONTRAST (Peter Emery & A Staple) Philip Hobbs 7-12-00 Barry Geraghty
7) LANDING LIGHT (Mr & Mrs John Poynton) Nicky Henderson b8-12-00 Mick Fitzgerald
8) HOLY ORDERS (A McLuckie) Willie Mullins IRE b6-12-00 Shay Barry
9) SANTENAY (The Hon Mrs Townshend) Paul Nicholls 5-12-00 Ruby Walsh
10) LIKE-A-BUTTERFLY (J P McManus) Christy Roche IRE 9-11-09 Charlie Swan
11) SCOTTISH MEMORIES (Mary Halligan) Noel Meade IRE 7-12-00 Paul Carberry
12) MARBLE ARCH (M Wilson, R Sweet, Mary Wilson) Hughie Morrison 7-12-00 Timmy Murphy
13) FLAME CREEK (Martin Wesson Partners) Noel Chance 7-12-00 Seamus Durack
14) SCOLARDY (David Flynn) Willie Mullins IRE 5-12-00 David Casey
F6) IBERUS (David Johnson) Martin Pipe v1 5-12-00 Tom Scudamore
F6) COPELAND (Professor David & Heather Silk) Martin Pipe v8-12-00 Tony McCoy
Ref To Race) HORS LA LOI III (Paul Green) James Fanshawe t8-12-00 Tony Dobbin

17 ran
Distances: 11, 3, 3/4, 2 1/2, 4, 2, 2, 5, hd, 4, 1, 16, 3 1/2
Breeder: Mrs E Mitchell Breeding: gr g Riverwise (USA) - Came Cottage (Nearly A Hand)
Tote Win: £5.20 Places: £2.10; £7.50; £2.10 Exacta: £329.70

Winning trainer: PHILIP HOBBS Based: Sandhill, Bilbrook, Minehead, Somerset Date of Birth: 26/7/55 Riding Career: Professional NH 1975-86, rode 160 winners Date of first trainer’s licence: August 1, 1985 Wins this season: Cheltenham Festival wins: (6) Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (1990 Moody Man, 2002 Rooster Booster), Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup Handicap (1996 Kibreet), Coral Cup H’cap Hurdle (2000 What’s Up Boys), Queen Mother Champion Chase (2002 Flagship Uberalles), Smurfit Champion Hurdle (2003 Rooster Booster) Wins (1990/91-2001/02): 33; 51; 37; 64; 86; 77; 64; 71; 84; 120; 82; 119 Horses in training (1990-2002): 44; 53; 60; 52; 47; 65; 72; 80; 81; 81; 82; 99; 108 Other major wins: Thomas Pink Gold Cup Chase (1989 Joint Sovereignty), William Hill Handicap Hurdle (1998 Polar Prospect), Wensleydale Hurdle (Navarre Samson 1998), Racing Post Chase (1999 Dr Leunt, 2002 Gunther McBride), Edinburgh Woollen Mill Champion Novices’ Chase (1999 Bouchasson), Hennessy Gold Cup (2001 What’s Up Boys), Tote Becher Chase (1997 Samlee), Rehabilitation Of Racehorses H’cap Hurdle (2002 Rooster Booster), Martell Topham Chase (1997 Bells Life, 2001 Gower-Slave), Martell Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (1996 Pleasure Shared),, Barton & Guestier Hcap Hurdle (1999 Papo Kharisma), Martell Top Novices’ Hurdle (2000 Phardante Flyer, 2001 Ilico II, 2002 In Contrast), Martell Fox Hunters’ Chase (2000 Bells Life), Martell XO 4yo Hurdle (2000 Lord Brex), Martell Mildmay Novices’ Chase (2001 What’s Up Boys) Wins this season: 109

Winning Jockey: Richard Johnson Date of birth: 21/07/77 Wins (1993/94-2000/2001): 1; 12; 53; 102; 120; 133; 143; 161; 132 Cheltenham Festival wins: (6) BONUSPRINT STAYERS’ HURDLE (1999 Anzum), MILDMAY OF FLETE CHALLENGE CUP H’CAP CHASE (2000 Dark Stranger), TOTE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP (2000 Looks Like Trouble), QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (2002 Flagship Uberalles), COUNTY HURDLE (2002 Rooster Booster), SMURFIT CHAMPION HURDLE (2003 Rooster Booster) Other big race wins: JAMES NICHOLSON WINE MERCHANT CHAMPION CHASE (2000 Looks Like Trouble), WELSH NATIONAL (1999 Edmond), RACING POST TROPHY (2000 Gloria Victis, 2001 Young Spartacus, 2002 Gunter McBride), TOTE SILVER CUP (2002 Behrajan), BARTON & GUESTIER TOP NOVICES’ HURDLE (1997 Midnight Legend, 2000 Phardante Flyer), Belle Epoque Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (1997 Forest Ivory), Martell Cup Chase (1998 Escartefigue), Heidsieck Monopole Mildmay Novices’ Chase (1999 Spendid, 2001 What’s Up Boys), Glenlivet Anniversary 4yo Novices’ Hurdle (2000 Lord Brex), John Hughes Trophy Chase (2001 Gower-Slave) Wins This Season: 128



The nine-year-old Rooster Booster ran away with the Smurfit Champion Hurdle to land the spoils by 11 lengths from Westender, giving his connections of owner Terry Warner, trainer Philip Hobbs and jockey Richard Johnson a first success in the great race.

“I suppose that when he won the Bula Hurdle it had to be the plan to come here,” said Hobbs. “The statistics were terrible for Bula winners in this race but statistics are there to be broken.

“I was very surprised by how easily he won but we all hoped he had a leading chance.

“I suppose things slightly fell apart today because Rhinestone Cowboy didn’t seem to run his race but hopefully we’ll be favourite for next year and I think Sea Pigeon won the race as a ten-year-old.

“I’ve never had a runner in the Champion Hurdle before but today I had two - In Contrast was sixth.

“I appreciate these things for a long time afterwards rather than on the day of the race. I always think the main thing is to have plenty of winners, but the big races are the icing on the cake.”

Richard Johnson added: “I was hoping that the race would be run ideally for him with so many runners and it was. There was not so much daylight as in the Bula and his jumping was very good.

“Intersky Falcon was the one I was worried about but I also didn’t want to hit the front too soon.

“He’s obviously a very good horse and as good as anything else around at the moment.”

Locally-based Terry Warner, celebrating his 202nd winner, said: “This is the best moment of my racing life, I’ve had four winners at the Festival but this is much the biggest.

“To be honest I thought Richard got to the front too soon but he went up there so easily. Intersky Falcon had been running on Flat tracks but the hill at Cheltenham really sorts them out.

“I backed him very early on for today at 25/1 after he won his first race at Kempton with Norman Williamson on board. He’s always run very well at Cheltenham over the last three years.

“I’m so pleased this is a National Hunt-bred and British-bred horse as I’m a great supporter of breeding in Britain. We’ll have a big party tonight.”



Champion trainer Martin Pipe expressed himself delighted with Westender after he had finished the 11-length runner-up to Rooster Booster in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, belying his odds of 33-1.

The Somerset-based trainer said: “That was a brilliant run by Westender - fantstic. He ran on through the field and he’s run the race of his life. Rodi [Greene, jockey] gave him a great ride and it’s good to see a local horse win the race.

“It was a terriffic effort from Westender, especially on this ground, as it was only his second race [of the season] and he’s been held up.

Pipe’s other two runners, Copeland and Iberus, both fell three hurdles from home.

“Copeland was going well and who knows how he would have done. It was a great finish, I’m really delighted and we’ll go home and celebrate.

“The winner was all the rage for this race early on and then all the hype pushed him out in the betting.”

Champion jockey Tony McCoy, who took a tumble on Copeland, has given up the rest of his rides for the afternoon, having taken two falls and feeling dehydrated.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Rhinestone Cowboy, who went off the 5-2 favourite, was a further three lengths adrift in third.

The trainer commented: “Rooster Booster was a great winner, all credit to him, and my fellow has run well. I’m thrilled to bits with him, and while he made a couple of novicey mistakes, don’t forget he’s a nice horse.”

O’Neill’s other runner, Intersky Falcon, finished in fifth position.

Former professional footballer, Terry McDermott, representing owners Interskyracing.Com & Jackie O’Neill, said: “Jonjo said the ground was dead and didn’t suit him.”

This view was re-iterated by Intersky Falcon’s jockey, Liam Cooper, who commented: “He’s run well but the ground was a bit tacky for him.”

Emma Lavelle, who has 32 horses in her yard, was also pleased with her charge, Self Defense, who finished fourth.

“He’s my first runner at Cheltenham. You dream about it, but it’s just whether those dreams become reality. The winner beat us half a length at Sandown and he was 5/1 while my fellow was 100/1.

“Someone had got something wrong and he shouldn’t have been that price.”



“I cannot believe that he won so easily,” said Terry Warner of Rooster Booster after his nine-year-old grey had romped home.

“I backed him to win £10,000 at 25-1 after he had won at Kempton and it really is the highspot of my racing life. I came into ownership 30 years ago when I had a horse called Relic’s Son with two partners. He was trained by Owen O’Neill and won eight races for us, the first of them at Newton Abbot on Easter Monday when he was ridden by Bill Shoemark.

“I saw this horse run third at Chepstow when Richard Mitchell owned and trained him and Sophie rode him. I said to a friend I was with that I would like to buy a grey horse and he told me that Rooster Booster was for sale.

“So I found Richard Mitchell and asked how much he wanted for him. He told me £60,000 so I bid him £50,000. He told me it was £60,000 or no deal so I thought ‘what’s ten grand’ and said I would pay what he wa nted subject to the vet.The vet went down early the next week and told me that I could not possibly buy him as he was wild and he could not get near him in the box to scope him. I said that clearly the horse had a bit of spirit so I would buy him and I did.

“Norman Williamson did a lot for the horse when he won on him at Kempton and beat Mr Cool. He told me that the win would give him a lot of confidence and it was after that when I backed him for the Champion.

“He loves Cheltenham, he won the County Hurdle here last year and though everything was against him for today -- he was an upgraded handicapper, he was nine years old and he was very much National Hunt bred -- almost all the recent winners have been flat bred -- I was still very hopeful.

“He has never run over fences because he did not enjoy schooling over them and at one stage I lost two horses in a week and decided that he would never go chasing. He won’t now, either.

“I have had a lot of horses over the years and it has cost quite a lot, but I have been a very lucky owner and got a very good return for what I have invested. This certainly beats running the chain of sports shops which I did until I sold out a few years ago.”



Rooster Booster’s trainer Philip Hobbs said that although the grey went for a long time without winning until he was successful in last season’s County Hurdle he was actually improving all the time.

“He kept running well and going up in the weights, so the handicapper had him about right, even though he went up about a stone and a half over two years without actually winning a race.This season we had slight hopes after he won at Kempton, then more so after he won the handicap here in November and then after the Bula we really did start to hope. But I am still amazed that he won so easily.

“Richard Johnson says that the vital thing about him is that he has to settle, and today he got a really good gallop and settled well. He was always going well and going to the last it really did look as if he had to win unless that last hurdle got in the way. My binoculars did start to shake a bit then.

“Everything has gone absolutely fine with his preparation, and though we did have a bit of a quiet time in February that is often the case with us as a number of our horses have a bit of a break at about that time. The last two weeks have gone well for us again and there will be plenty more runners between now and the end of the season.

“Terry has had horses with me since the second year that I was training and we have hardly had a cross word. We did have a bit of a discussion about running him here in November as I was keen on a little race at Wincanton and he wanted to run here in the limited handicap -- which Rooster Booster won!

“I don’t really know why he has improved so much this season, though it has helped him doing all his work on our polytrack gallop. He has never been the best of movers but he has been much happier since he started working on that surface. He can get a bit jarred up and Mary Bromiley has been down to see him every day in the last week to make sure that he is as loose and supple as he can be. He is very strong at home and one time when I rode him last season he really ran away with me. We went far too fast for far too long and I was very stiff and sore for about a week afterwards.

“I don’t know about running him again this season -- we haven’t really looked beyond today, but there is Liverpool and a big race at Punchestown so now we shall start to think about them. I know horses do not often win the Champion Hurdle at the age of ten, but Sea Pigeon did so maybe we can be the next Sea Pigeon.”


A former handicapper became a rare nine-year-old winner of the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, pulling clear to win in convincing style. The combination of dead ground and a sharp gallop produced some very tired finishers – even the placed horses were merely plugging on at the finish, although this event was run in a time two seconds quicker than the opening novices’ hurdle.

ROOSTER BOOSTER has improved in dramatic fashion this season, and his 11-length victory was his fifth of the season and his second at the Cheltenham Festival. He won the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle at the meeting last year and his career record of six victories includes four at the course. Experts were touting this as a good-quality Champion Hurdle before the off and Rooster Booster beat his rivals with ease. He was pulling double at the top of the hill, took up the running between the last two and produced a race-clinching leap at the last.

Owner Terry Warner has said the gelding’s improvement is down to a new all-weather gallop at Philip Hobbs’ yard. Whether that is the key factor or not, the horse is a worthy favourite to repeat the win next year.

On 8lb better terms the winner comfortably confirmed recent Sandown running with Self Defense, the maiden who ran really well to take fourth here, just under four lengths behind runner-up Westender and only three-quarters of a length behind third-placed Rhinestone Cowboy.

Westender is another horse who loves Cheltenham. He had a slow start, and had looked a little reluctant during a lengthy delay while the starting tape was repaired, but was close enough to beat the winner at the last. He could not quicken but is another tribute to Martin Pipe’s training skills – this was only the horse’s second start this season. Similar remarks apply to his stablemate, Copeland, who was in second when falling at the second-last.

He had been niggled along for some time, but considering the placed horses were not flying at the finish it is likely Copeland would have been placed.

Rhinestone Cowboy blundered at the second and was under heavy pressure at half-way, before getting into contention. He was one-paced in the home straight, but some will say that he and Self Defense should have tackled the novices’ race.

Intersky Falcon set a good gallop down the far side, but found little when the race became serious. His best form is on a flatter track.

Blinkered Landing Light was bustled up throughout the race and finished seventh, two places worse than last year, but ahead of Marble Arch, who was second in this event 12 months ago. He let the form of last year’s race down, while the winner on that occasion, Hors La Loi III, refused to race.

The race proved too much for Santenay, a chaser for the future, while Flame Creek was very disappointing, and ran very flat according to his connections. He cannot be written off on this one poor effort.


Class A, Grade Three, £80,000 guaranteed. For 5yo+. 3m 1/2f. Minimum weight 10st. Penalties: after February 22, a winner of a Class C chase 3lb; of a Class A or B chase 6lb (no penalty to be incurred by horses originally handicapped at or above 11st 10lb and no penalty to increase a horses’s weight above 11st 10lb (any horse rated above 155 shall initially be treated as having that rating and highest weight allotted shall be 11st 10lb, subsequently the excess over 155 in any rating shall be added to the weight alloted). Penaly Values: 1st: £46,400; 2nd: £17,600; 3rd: £8,800; 4th: £4,000; 5th: £2,000; 6th: £1,200

1) YOULNEVERWALKALONE (J P McManus) Christy Roche IRE 9-10-11 Barry Geraghty 7/1
2) HAUT CERCY (The Wiggin Partnership) Henry Daly 8-10-00 Richard Johnson 10/1
3) AD HOC (Sir Robert Ogden) Paul Nicholls 9-11-00 Ruby Walsh 5/1JF
4) MAXIMIZE (Lady Vestey) Henrietta Knight 9-10-01 Timmy Murphy 20/1
5) DJEDDAH (Haras d’Ecouves) Francois Doumen FR b12-10-02 (2lb ow) Thierry Doumen
6) HISTORG (Jim McCarthy) Ferdy Murphy 8-10-00 Davy Russell
7) BRAMBLEHILL DUKE (South Wales Shower Supplies T/A Faucets) Venetia Williams 11-10-00 Paul Flynn
8 SOUTHERN STAR (Trevor Hemmings) Henrietta Knight 8-10-06 Dominic Elsworth (3)
9) ROYAL AUCLAIR (Clive Smith) Martin Pipe 6-11-07 Rodi Greene
10) THE BUNNY BOILER (The Usual Suspects Syndicate) Noel Meade IRE 9-10-11 Paul Carberry
11) JOSS NAYLOR (Darren Mercer) Jonjo O'Neill 8-10-09 Liam Cooper 5/1JF
12) SATCHMO (R A H Perkins) Edward O'Grady IRE 11-10-01 Norman Williamson
13 FOLY PLEASANT (Jim Lewis & Friends) Henrietta Knight t9-11-13 Jim Culloty
14) FATEHALKHAIR (R Wagner) Brian Ellison 11-10-00 (3lb ow) Vinny Keane
F5) FOXCHAPEL KING (Sir Anthony O’Reilly) Mouse Morris IRE 10-12-02 David Casey
F7) IZNOGOUD (Country Stores-Avalon Surfacing) Martin Pipe v7-10-12 Tom Scudamore
PU) CARBURY CROSS (Anne Duchess Of Westminster) Jonjo O'Neill 9-10-10 Seamus Durack
PU) GO BALLISTIC (Sheila Lockhart) Richard Phillips 14-10-09 Warren Marston

18 ran
Distances: 3/4, 9, 1 1/4, 4, 1/2, 3, 1, 8, 9, 1 1/4, 18, 17, 6
Breeder: Buckley Osborne Partnership Breeding: b g Montelimar (USA) - In My Time (Levmoss)
Tote Win: £6.50 Places: £1.70; £2.40; £1.60; £4.40 Exacta: £102.80

Winning Trainer: CHRISTY ROCHE Based: Curragh View House, Kildare, County Kildare, Ireland Previous Occupation: Professional Flat jockey. Won 1984 Epsom Derby on Secreto. Cheltenham Festival Winners: (3) Coral Cup Hcap Hurdle (1999 Khayrawani), Gerrard Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2002 Like-A-Butterfly), William Hill National Hunt Chase (2003 Youlneverwalkalone) Other Big Race Wins: Barton and Guestier Top Novices’ Hurdle (1999 Joe Mac), Martell Noblige Hcap Hurdle (1999 Khayrawani)

Winning Jockey: Barry Geraghty Born: September 16, 1979 Background: one of six children from a “horse-mad” family in Drumree. His father Tucker was a useful amateur rider and trains a few horses in addition to his riding school and livery yard while his brothers Ross and Norman are both jockeys. The former won the 2002 Irish Grand National on The Bunny Boiler, while Norman is an amateur who doubles as a farrier. Barry has a background in pony racing, riding his last winner in that arena in September, 1996, before becoming apprenticed to Noel Meade that month and having his first ride the following month. He still rides mainly for Meade, but is also frequently used by Willie Mullins, Frances Crowley and Jessica Harrington. Based: Drumree, County Meath, Ireland First Winner: Stagalier (EBF Mares’ Maiden Hurdle, Down Royal, January 29, 1997) Achievements: Champion jockey in Ireland in 1999/2000 Cheltenham Festival Wins: (2) Irish Independent Arkle Chase (2002 Moscow Flyer), William Hill National Hunt Chase (2003 Youlneverwalkalone) Big Race Wins: MIDLANDS GRAND NATIONAL (1998 Miss Orchestra), ROYAL BOND NOVICES’ HURDLE (1999 Moscow Flyer), MARTELL SEFTON NOVICES’ HURDLE (2000 Sackville); EVENING HERALD CHAMPION NOVICES’ HURDLE (2000 Moscow Flyer); STEEL PLATE & SECTIONS NOVICES’ CHASE (2002 Super Fellow), INTERVET TROPHY (2002 Stormez), THOMAS PINK GOLD CUP (2002 Cyfor Malta)



Youlneverwalkalone has always been highly-regarded by trainer Christy Roche, and today the nine-year-old justified this confidence by winning the William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase by three-quarters of a length from Haut Cercy.

“Youlneverwalkalone has always been my favourite - he’s proved me right today. A lot of my work has been done today,” he enthused.

This was Youlneverwalkalone’s third success over three miles this season in the famous green and orange hoops of owner J P McManus.

“The step up in trip has been a big factor,” continued Roche. “He stays forever and his strong suit is his stamina.

“I’ve always been trying him to be a good horse and he had Best Mate [last year’s Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup winner] just in front of him when he was third in the Supreme three years ago.

Asked if he was pleased with the brave performance his charge had put in to deny a determined effort from the runner-up, the handler replied: “I’m delighted that you mention the word “brave” with this horse.

“Barry [Geraghty, winning rider] was brilliant on him. I said if he does something wrong, arrive late not early.

“I was [confident that he could find something off the bridle] but a lot of people around me weren’t too confident!”

Roche is now keen for his charge to run in the Martell Cognac Grand National at Aintree next month, a contest for which he has received a 16/1 (from 33/1) quote with the Tote, a 20/1 (from 33/1) quote with Paddy Power, a 25/1 (from 40/1) quote with Ladbrokes and a 20/1 (from 33/1) quote with William Hill.

Roche added: “I was hoping for the National for this horse all along - Liverpool here we come if I can convince the boss [J P McManus].”



“I know you are meant to be gracious in defeat, but damn,” said trainer Henry Daly after Haut Cercy went down by three quarters of a length to Youlneverwalkalone in the William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase.

“But he has run a blinder and jumped well.”

Ad Hoc ran a good trial for the Martell Grand National when finishing third. Barry Simpson, racing manager to owner Sir Robert Ogden, said: “He clouted one of the fences hard and think he would have finished even closer otherwise - he had a good rhythm of jumping otherwise.

“Although we came here to win, Paul (Nicholls) has left a bit of condition on him and three weeks from now is the plan - it has been the objective all season.”



Class B, £50,000 guaranteed. For 5yo+ rated 0-140. 3m 1/2f. Minimum weight 10st. Penalties: after February 22, a winner of a Class A to C chase 4lb (no penalty to increase a horse’s weight above 11st 12lb). Penaly Values: 1st: £29,000; 2nd: £11,000; 3rd: £5,500; 4th: £2,500; 5th: £1,250; 6th: £750

1) ROYAL PREDICA (Peter Deal, J Dale & Allan Stennett) Martin Pipe t9-11-06 Mr Saul McHugh 33/1
2) IBIS ROCHELAIS (Andrew Wates) Albert Ennis 7-10-05 Mr Larry McGrath (3) 4/1F
3) RATHBAWN PRINCE (Tom Culhane) Dessie Hughes IRE 11-11-08 Mr R Loughran (3) 40/1
4) MONTREAL (David Johnson) Martin Pipe 6-10-12 Mr Jamie Moore (3) 12/1
5) KATARINO (Robert Waley-Cohen) Nicky Henderson 8-11-05 Mr Sam Waley-Cohen (7)
6) CARRYONHARRY (Drs David Silk, J Castro, M Gillard, P Walker) Martin Pipe v9-11-02 Mr Gordon Elliot
7) SAMUEL WILDERSPIN (Steve Smith) Richard Lee t11-11-04 Mr Gino Carenza
8) IFNI DU LUC (Mary-Anne Parker, Sir Eric Paker, P White) Nicky Henderson 7-10-12 Mr Andrew Tinkler
9) TOM COSTALOT (Gerard Nock) Susan Nock 8-10-11 Mr Julian Pritchard
10) SPINOFSKI (David Stoddart) Paul Webber 8-10-01 Mr Matthew Baldock (5)
11) BE MY MANAGER (The Earl Cadogan) Henrietta Knight 8-10-08 Mr Stuart Morris (3)
12) WHEREAREYOUNOW (Raymond Mould) Nigel Twiston-Davies 6-10-02 Mr Tom Greenway (7)
13) LANMIRE TOWER (Rowfield Racing) Steve Gollings b9-10-10 Mr A FitzGerald
14) LORD JACK (Trevor Hemmings) Nicky Richards t7-10-11 Mr Richard Harding (5)
15) SILVER STEEL (J P McManus) Christy Roche IRE 8-10-13 Mr Alan Crowe
16) DORANS GOLD (Mel Fordham, S Fisher, M Harper, H Johnson) Paul Nicholls 9-11-01 Mr Christian Williams
17) ROYALE DE VASSY (Len Jakeman, J Davies, R Downes & J Lewis) Venetia Williams 9-11-00 Mr Alan O'Keeffe
18) SKIPPERS CLEUCH (Ashleybank Investments Limited) Len Lungo 9-11-00 Mr Brian Hamilton
F3) MOOR LANE (Bob Michaelson) Andrew Balding 11-10-13 Mr P J Colville (3)
PU) NORTHERN SOUND (James Treacy) Paul Roche IRE 10-10-11 Mr D Roche (5)
PU) RITH DUBH (J P McManus) Jonjo O'Neill b11-10-13 Mr J T McNamara
PU) BURLU (Fabien Ouaki) Martin Pipe b9-11-01 Mr H Naggar (3)
UR5) MR BAXTER BASICS (P Ryan) Venetia Williams 12-10-07 Mr Sam Thomas (7)

23 ran Non-Runner: Montifault (Vet’s Certificate)
Distances: 10, 3/4, 1/2, 2 1/2, 1/2, 3/4, 6, 2 1/2, 5, 2 1/2, 13, 1 1/4, 10, 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 1/2, dist
Breeder: Mr & Mrs Gilbert Gallot Breeding: ch g Tip Moss (FR) - Girl Vamp (FR) (Kaldoun (FR))
Tote Win: £44.80 Places: £8.60; £1.60; £8.80; £3.00 Exacta: £398.40

Winning trainer: MARTIN CHARLES PIPE Date of birth: 29/5/45 Date of first licence: 1977 Previous occupation: Amateur rider, shop manager for father, bookmaker David Pipe. Cheltenham Festival wins: (29) JCB Triumph Hurdle (1981 Baron Blakeney, 1995 Kissair), Bonusprint Stayers' Hurdle (1994 Balasani, 1996 Cyborgo), Champion Hurdle (1997 Make A Stand, 1993 Granville Again), Coral Eurobet Cup (2002 Ilnamar, 1997 Big Strand, 1993 Olympian), Royal & SunAlliance Chase (1991 Rolling Ball, 1992 Miinnehoma), Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase (1991 Omerta, 2003 Royal Predica), Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle (1989 Sayfar's Lad, 1990 Regal Ambition), Gerrard Supreme Hurdle (1989 Sondrio, 1999 Hors La Loi III), Cathcart (1991 Chatam, 1996 Challenger Du Luc, 1998 Cyfor Malta, 2002 Royal Auclair), Irish Independent Arkle (1997 Or Royal, 1998 Champleve), Mildmay of Flete (1997 Terao, 1999 Majadou, 2000 Dark Stranger, 2002 Blowing Wind), Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle (1998 Blowing Wind), Pertemps Final (1998 Unsinkable Boxer) Other major wins: Welsh National (1993 Riverside Boy, 1992 Run For Free, 1991 Carvill's Hill, 1988 & 1989 Bonanza Boy), Scottish Grand National (1993 Run For Free), Thomas Pink Gold Cup (1987 Beau Ranger, 1996 Challenger Du Luc, 1998 Cyfor Malta, 2000 Lady Cricket, 2001 Shooting Light, 2002 Cyfor Malta), Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup (1991 Chatam, 1988 Strands Of Gold), Whitbread Gold Cup (1995 Cache Fleur), Tote Gold Trophy (1997 Make A Stand), Tripleprint Gold Cup (1993 Fragrant Dawn, 1998 Northern Starlight), Long Walk Hurdle (1992 Vagog, 2002 Deano’s Beeno), Martell Top Novices’ Hurdle (1991 Granville Again, 1996 Tragic Hero, 1998 Fataliste), Martell Maghull Novices’ Chase (1992 Cyphrate), Martell Cup Chase (1991 Aquilifer), Martell Noblige H’cap Hurdle (1990 Sayparee, 1991 Trefelyn Cone, 1997 Cadougold), Martell Mildway Novices’ Chase (1995 Banjo, 1997 Cyborgo), Martell Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (1993 Lemon’s Mill, 1994 Cyborgo, 1996 Silver Shred, 2002 Classified), Martell Topham Chase (1998 Cyfor Malta, 2000 Northern Starlight), Martell Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (1998 Unsinkable Boxer), Martell Aintree Hurdle (1998 Pridwell, 2002 Ilnamar), Martell XO 4-Y-O Hurdle (1999 Hors La Loi III), Martell Novices’ Hcap Chase (1999 Royal Predica), Martell Handicap Hurdle (2001 Carlovent) Wins (1974/75-2001/02): 1, 5, 5, 2, 6, 12, 14, 20 23, 32, 51, 79, 106, 129, 208, 224, 230, 224, 194, 126, 137, 176, 212, 208, 187, 243, 168, 235 Number of horses in training (1984-2002): 28, 38, 65, 60, 62, 108, 107, 131, 120, 81, 122, 66, 91, 94, 106, 136, 146, 103, 140 Wins This Season: 171

Winning Jockey: McHugh, Saul Seamus Cheltenham Festival Winners (1): Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase (2003 Royal Predica) - also his first win under rules. Previously ridden 35 point-to-point winners in Ireland.



Martin Pipe and Saul McHugh had their first winners of the meeting when the 33-1 shot Royal Predica stormed up the hill to take the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase. Pipe, of course, is no stranger to Festival success, but for McHugh it was not only his first winner at the great meeting, but his very first winner under rules.

“I have been with Mr Pipe this season after Tony Martin recommended me to him. I have also worked for George Stewart in Ireland and have ridden about 35 point to point winners there,” said the 22-year-old Ulsterman.

“It is a great feeling to have ridden a winner at this meeting but it can look easy when you have the right horse under you. This game is not so good if you are not in the right place.”

“Saul came to me this season and has been working in the yard. I have given him a few rides and he rides this horse at home and gets on well with him,” said Pipe. “Royal Predica has had his problems this season and if horses are not right, which he hasn’t been, then you can’t run them.”

Owner Peter Deal, who shares the winner with John Dale and Alan Stennett, said that he had given the horse no chance until the morning of racing when he read a newspaper article extolling his claims.

“He was bitten by a snake in the summer when he was out with Lucinda Sweeting in Cornwall for his summer holidays and it obviously took him a long time to recover.

“He has run a lot of good races over the years and deserves to win a big race like this. He is in the National again, he was eighth in it last year, but I am very doubtful if he will make the cut and get into it this time.

Albert Ennis, trainer of Ibis Rochelais, said: “He has run a great race although the winner beat us well, but my horse was sticking his neck out. A bit more cut in the ground might have helped.

“He is still a seven-year-old and in another year he might be a very nice horse. He jumped right a bit today, so I might look for something on a right handed track and he likes spaces between his runs.”

Ian Balding, father of trainer Andrew, reported that Moor Lane and his rider are both fine after their early departure. Venetia Williams said that Sam Thomas and Mr Baxter Basics were none the worse for their fall.


Class A, Listed Race, £60,000 guaranteed. For 5yo+ which either started in a qualifier since the start of the current season or any horses which were eliminated from a qualifier, having declared to run at the overnight stage. 3m 1 1/2f. Minimum weight 10st. Penalties: after February 22, a winner of a Class D hurdle 3lb; of a Class A to C hurdle 6lb. No penalty to increase a horse’s weight above 11st 12lb. Penaly Values: 1st: £34,800; 2nd: £13,200; 3rd: £6,600; 4th: £3,000; 5th: £1,500; 6th: £900

1) INCHING CLOSER (Nicola Spence) Jonjo O'Neill 6-11-02 Barry Geraghty 6/1F
2) ROYAL EMPEROR (Widdop Wanderers) Sue Smith 7-11-06 Dominic Elsworth (3) 14/1
3) TRIBAL VENTURE (Network Training III) Ferdy Murphy 5-10-06 Davy Russell 33/1
4) RAVENSWOOD (David Johnson) Martin Pipe t6-11-03 Tom Scudamore 7/1
5) GUARD DUTY (Nei; Edwards & Malcolm Jones) Martin Pipe t6-10-08 Gerry Supple
6) CREON (J P McManus) Jonjo O'Neill 8-10-08 Charlie Swan
7) DUBAI SEVEN STARS (Alison Farrant) Martin Pipe 5-10-07 Paul Carberry
8) CARLOVENT (Chris, Basil & Rosie Batterham) Martin Pipe v1 8-11-03 Norman Williamson
9) ROSTROPOVICH (M A Kilduff) Mouse Morris IRE t6-11-03 David Casey
10) BALLYSICYOS (Pam Deal) Martin Pipe 8-11-03 Timmy Murphy
11) PROPER SQUIRE (The Icy Fire Partnership) Charlie Mann b6-10-08 Noel Fehily
12) KERRIGAND (Sarah Ling) Martin Pipe v1 5-10-09 Rodi Greene
13) SURPRISING (Martin St Quinton) Philip Hobbs b8-10-08 Mick Fitzgerald
14 BALLYLUSKY (Black Sheep Racing) Jonjo O'Neill 6-10-06 Liam Cooper
15) THE CULDEE (C E Falls) Francis Flood IRE 7-10-05 Fran Flood
16) SPRINGFIELD SCALLY (Mrs M A Hall) Steve Gollings 10-11-06 Seamus Durack
17) FARINEL (J P McManus) Arthur Moore IRE 7-10-08 Conor O'Dwyer
18) NO DISCOUNT (Seamus Ross/Edward Cawley/Thomas Bailey) Ted Walsh IRE 9-10-07 Ruby Walsh
19) TUCACAS (Belina Harvey) Martin Pipe 6-11-09 Mr Gordon Elliot (3)
20) MISS FARA (Christine Painting) Martin Pipe 8-10-02 Mr Jamie Moore (7)
21) MIRJAN (Barbara Lungo) Len Lungo 7-10-10 Tony Dobbin
22) CHOPNEYEV (Claire Smith) Richard Phillips 5-11-07 Richard Johnson
F13) RUM POINTER (K C B Mackenzie) Bob Buckler 7-10-06 Robert Thornton
PU) MOSS HARVEY (J R Salter) Malcolm Jefferson 8-11-08 Graham Lee

24 ran
Distances: sh, 12, 1 3/4, 2, 2, 3 1/2, 3/4, 3/4, 2 1/2, nk, nk, 1 1/2, hd, 11, 4, 4, 6, 8, 28, 1 1/4, 20
Breeder: M B Small Breeding: b g Inchinor - Maiyaasah (Kris)
Tote Win: £5.80 Places: £1.90; £2.90; £18.40; £2.50 Exacta: £52.10

Winning trainer: JONJO O’NEILL Born: April 13, 1952 Based: Jackdaws Castle, Gloucestershire Career: former National Hunt jockey Cheltenham Festival wins: (5) Pertemps Final (1991 Danny Connors, 2003 Inching Closer); National Hunt Chase (1995 Front Line, 2002 Rith Dubh); Vincent O’Brien County H’cap Hurdle (2000 Master Tern) Aintree Festival wins: Martell V.S. Hcap Chase (2000 Radiation, 2002 Carbury Cross), Martell Handicap Hurdle (2002 Sudden Shock); Martell XO Anniversary 4YO Hurdle (2002 Quazar), Cordon Bleu Handicap Hurdle (2002 Intersky Falcon) Horses in Training (1996-2002): 53; 59; 59; 78; 78, 75, 98 Number of Winners (1995/96-2001/02): 18; 17; 32; 38; 44; 58; 113 Other Big Race Wins: Tripleprint Gold Cup (1999 Legal Right), Tote Silver Cup (2000 Legal Right), Tote Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle (2002 Native Emperor), Kingwell Hurdle (2003 Rhinestone Cowboy), Challow Hurdle (2002 Coolnagorna), Reynoldstwon Chase (2003 Keen Leader), Welsh National (2002 Mini Sensation) Wins this season: 100

Winning Jockey: Barry Geraghty Born: September 16, 1979 Background: one of six children from a “horse-mad” family in Drumree. His father Tucker was a useful amateur rider and trains a few horses in addition to his riding school and livery yard while his brothers Ross and Norman are both jockeys. The former won the 2002 Irish Grand National on The Bunny Boiler, while Norman is an amateur who doubles as a farrier. Barry has a background in pony racing, riding his last winner in that arena in September, 1996, before becoming apprenticed to Noel Meade that month and having his first ride the following month. He still rides mainly for Meade, but is also frequently used by Willie Mullins, Frances Crowley and Jessica Harrington. Based: Drumree, County Meath, Ireland First Winner: Stagalier (EBF Mares’ Maiden Hurdle, Down Royal, January 29, 1997) Achievements: Champion jockey in Ireland in 1999/2000 Cheltenham Festival Wins: (3) Irish Independent Arkle Chase (2002 Moscow Flyer), William Hill National Hunt Chase (2003 Youlneverwalkalone), Pertemps Final (2003 Inching Closer) Big Race Wins: MIDLANDS GRAND NATIONAL (1998 Miss Orchestra), ROYAL BOND NOVICES’ HURDLE (1999 Moscow Flyer), MARTELL SEFTON NOVICES’ HURDLE (2000 Sackville); EVENING HERALD CHAMPION NOVICES’ HURDLE (2000 Moscow Flyer); STEEL PLATE & SECTIONS NOVICES’ CHASE (2002 Super Fellow), INTERVET TROPHY (2002 Stormez), THOMAS PINK GOLD CUP (2002 Cyfor Malta) Second win of the 2003 National Hunt Festival for Barry Geraghty - leading rider at the end of Tuesday



Barry Geraghty got Inching Closer home on the line in a nail-biting finish to the Pertemps Final to deny Royal Emperor to give Jonjo O’Neill his 100th winner of the season.

“He’s aptly named alright,” said O’Neill. “I was watching from the owners’ and trainers’ and wasn’t sure if he’s got up.

“He’s game and genuine and did everything right today. After he came to me, he won at Haydock then we thought we’d wait for today.

“I don’t know what we’ll do now - today was the plan.”

The victory brought up a 55/1 double for Barry Geraghty, who is the leading jockey at the end of day one at the National Hunt Festival.



Trainer Sue Smith and jockey Dominic Elsworth were both just denied their first National Hunt Festival success when Royal Emperor was beaten a short-head by Inching Closer in a rousing finish to the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle.

Harvey Smith, husband of trainer Sue Smith, said: “Inching Closer has run a blinder and it was the weight that did him in the end - he was giving the winner 7lb [actually 4lb after Dominic Elsworth’s 3lb claim is taken into consideration]. He has gone up 42lb in the last six months.

“We’ll get another race or two into him at Ayr or Liverpool as long as the ground stays soft. They’ve done a wonderful job with the ground here.

“He’ll go chasing next season and he’ll be top-class. All my horses school over chasing fences and hopefully he’ll be back next year.”

The Ferdy Murphy-trained Tribal Venture also put in a creditable effort, belying odds of 33/1 to finish 12 lengths further back in third.

The Dom Alco gelding’s trainer commented: “I’m upset there’s been no rain as this fellow wants soft ground.

“He’s a really good little horse who was second in a Grade Two race at Doncaster and he’s tough and stays.

“He might now go to Ayr or Punchestown but it has to be over a trip - there’s a three-mile handicap hurdle at Punchestown.

“I hope that chasing will bring out the best in him - he’s schooled over fences and he jumps brilliantly. He jumped good today for a novice.”


The going for the second day of the Festival tomorrow remains


“I am leaving it like that overnight, but we shall have a chance to have a look about midday tomorrow and see if it has changed at all,” said clerk of the course Simon Claisse.

“The forecast is for the weather to remain dry, and if that is the case I can see it being good all round by Thursday,” Claisse added. “The times have borne out that description, it has been good jumping ground and the trainers seem to have been happy.

“It has been a great day’s racing with no serious injuries to horses or riders.”


The first of the three Guinness awards for the most significant achievement on each day of the Festival has been won by Philip Hobbs for his training of the Smurfit Champion Hurdle winner Rooster Booster.


Jockey 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Barry Geraghty 2 1 - -
Richard Johnson 1 1 - -
Ruby Walsh 1 - 1 -
Norman Williamson 1 - 1 -
Mr Saul McHugh 1 - - -
Jim Culloty - 1 - -
Dominic Elsworth - 1 - -
Rodi Greene - 1 - -
Mr Larry McGrath - 1 - -
Mick Fitzgerald - - 2 -
Mr R Loughran - - 1 -
Davy Russell - - 1 -
Noel Fehily - - - 1
Barry Keniry - - - 1
Mr Jamie Moore - - - 1
Timmy Murphy - - - 1
Tom Scudamore - - - 1
Andrew Thornton - - - 1


Trainer 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Martin Pipe 1 1 - 2
Paul Nicholls 1 - 1 -
Jonjo O’Neill 1 - 1 -
Philip Hobbs 1 - - -
Edward O’Grady IRE 1 - - -
Christy Roche IRE 1 - - -
Henrietta Knight - 1 - 1
Henry Daly - 1 - -
Albert Ennis - 1 - -
Sue Smith - 1 - -
Tom Taaffe IRE - 1 - -
Nicky Henderson - - 2 -
Dessie Hughes IRE - - 1 -
Ferdy Murphy - - 1 -
Emma Lavelle - - - 1
Charlie Mann - - - 1
Seamus Mullins - - - 1


“I feel good and I will be OK for tomorrow. I shall not have to pass the doctor to be allowed to ride,” said Tony McCoy as he left the weighing room half an hour after the last race.

McCoy had falls from Le Roi Miguel in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy and Copeland in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle and gave up his two remaining rides during the afternoon.


There was a sell-out crowd of 50,838 racegoers at Cheltenham today and the racecourse’s managing director, Edward Gillespie, was delighted with the day.

“I thought it was a terrific start to the Festival,” said Gillespie. “It was wonderful racing with a hugely enthusiastic crowd, many of whom must have won some money to come and enjoy tomorrow.”


Today’s Tote on-course cash turnover was £2,218,991, compared to £2,687,240 on the same day 12 months ago. The figure was down because the Tote went down for a period during the afternoon.

For old articles (from 1st March 2000) go to the Newslink Archive

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