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Tuesday, March 3, 2009


The final piece of the jigsaw ahead of The Festival 2009 falls into place today with the unveiling of the 43 entries for the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase. The contest, run over the Gold Cup trip of an extended three and a quarter miles, takes place on the final day of The Festival, Friday, March 13. It has closed a week later than originally advertised, in order to give entrants extra time to qualify. This was due to the large number of point-to-points and hunter chases abandoned in January/February.

Three former winners are among this year’s entry – the 2003 scorer Kingscliff, Sleeping Night, successful in 2005 and Amicelli, who prevailed last year for trainer Cherry Coward.

A leading fancy for this year’s renewal is the prolific point-to-point scorer Cappa Bleu from the yard of Sheila Crow while there are nine entries from Ireland, including leading hopes Carronmhills, a winner at Thurles in January. Juveigneur, successful in the 2005 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at The Festival when trained by Nicky Henderson, has been impressive in Irish point-to-points this season for his current handler Eugene O’Sullivan. Chief Oscar is another leading hope from Ireland, having won his latest two starts in hunter chases at Down Royal.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, seeking his third success in the contest, could be represented by the evergreen veteran Royal Auclair who has scored on his latest two outings in hunter chase company and Ofarel D’Airy, who has also been successful on his two most recent starts in hunter chases.

Other interesting contenders including the Venetia William-trained Limerick Boy, who has scored cosily on his last two starts and Murphy’s Cardinal from the Noel Chance stable, who won impressively at Haydock last time out.

The maximum permitted field size for the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup is 24.

COMPARISON OF ENTRIES 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
Christie’s Foxhunter Chase 43 43 43 46 44 39 41 35 36 34 35 28

For further information, please contact Andy Clifton, Cheltenham Racecourse’s Communications Manager,
on 01242 513 014, 07876 330090 (mobile) or by e mail at andy.clifton@jockeyclubracecourses.com


Class 2, Total Prize Fund £40,000. 4.00pm, Friday, March 13, 2009, three miles and two and a half furlongs. For five-year-olds & upwards which since December 1, 2006, & before March 2, 2009, have been placed first or second on two occasions in a hunters’ steeple chase in Great Britain or Ireland or have won two Open steeple chases at Point-to-Point Meetings (i.e. Gentlemens, Ladies or Mixed Open Races) in Great Britain or Ireland or have won one Open steeple chase at a Point-to-Point Meeting in Great Britain or Ireland and have been placed first or second in a hunters’ steeple chase. Weights: 5-y-o 11st 12lb; 6-y-o & up 12st; mares allowed 7lb. Entries closed March 3, entries revealed March 4, six-day confirmations March 7, final declaration 10.00am Thursday, March 12. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, March 2, 2009. Does not include point-to-point form.

Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
U/2/1- A BOY NAMED SIOUX (IRE) 11 Emma Reed Tim Reed
1F ALWAYS RIGHT (IRE) 7 John Wade John Wade
1F00/P1- AMICELLI (GER) 10 Lord Daresbury Cherry Coward
11533-1 ANSHAN SPIRIT (IRE) 11 Roger Green Roger Green
12/1/3/-21 BABY RUN (FR) 9 Nigel Twiston-Davies Nigel Twiston-Davies
321-161 BACK NINE (IRE) 12 Jane Western Jane Western
13/223-2 BACKSTAGE (FR) 7 Capranny Stablestaff Syndicate Gordon Elliott IRE
22/1-123 BORDER FUSION 10 Crawford, Edkins, Shaw Gary Hanmer
1/10///F-3 BUCKBY LANE 13 Ann Starkey Jane Starkey
CAPPA BLEU (IRE) 7 Mr & Mrs William Rucker Sheila Crow
12 CARRONHILLS (IRE) 7 John McCarthy John Costello IRE
54F-011 CHIEF OSCAR (IRE) 8 R W Donaldson Brian Hamilton IRE
0022/25- CHILLING PLACE (IRE) 10 Mike Tuckey Mike Tuckey
FP/1F15- CHRISTY BEAMISH (IRE) 12 M Mann Sue Taylor
4600/P-2 DANCER LIFE (POL) 10 Terry Reffell Tim Vaughan
010U/P-3 DERAWAR (IRE) 10 Simon Jones Simon Jones
3/000P0- DUBLIN HUNTER (IRE) 13 T D Howley Jnr Gordon Elliott IRE
F/4- GAELSBOB 12 Emma Baker Emma Baker
4-2D2P0 GALLIK DAWN 11 Perry Adams Alan Hollingsworth
32-F254 HOLLY WALK 8 James Cole James Cole
405SP-0 JAMADIEL (IRE) 8 R V Shaw Shay Slevin IRE
P0/66P4- JUVEIGNEUR (FR) 12 Trevor Hemmings Eugene O'Sullivan IRE
4602/5P- KINGSCLIFF (IRE) 12 Arnie Sendell Marie McGuinness
P/60-U11 LIMERICK BOY (GER) 11 Favourites Racing III Venetia Williams
0/6/1PP/P- LONG NIGHT 10 The It'll Be A Long Night Partnership Marie McGuinness
P2P-PP2 LORD OF ILLUSION (IRE) 12 Sue Popham Sue Popham
02-2146 LYDON HOUSE 10 Michael Lydon Gordon Elliott IRE
001-2P4 MARBLEHEAD (IRE) 7 J C Collett Ferghal O'Brien
651/4PP- MEL IN BLUE (FR) 11 N Sutton Kim Smyly
FP4PF-6 MODEL SON (IRE) 11 Mrs C Magill William Magill IRE
145P///2-1 MURPHY'S CARDINAL (IRE) 13 Eimear Chance Noel Chance
00-2111 OFAREL D'AIRY (FR) 7 The Hon Mrs Townshend Paul Nicholls
1 PROUD ANDEES (IRE) 10 Sarah Thomas Gary Hanmer
U21-11B ROBBERS GLEN (IRE) 9 Val Jackson Val Jackson
352-P11 ROYAL AUCLAIR (FR) 12 Clive Smith Paul Nicholls
P/20-122 ROYAL BLOOD (IRE) 8 Golden Syndicate Philip Dempsey IRE
6/1B-2P2 SLEEPING NIGHT (FR) 13 Adam Waugh Simon Waugh
3///215F-4 SOUTHWESTERN (IRE) 10 The Exmoor Partners Camilla Scott
1P STRONG WELD 12 Serena Gowling Nicky Sheppard
1-12040 TAKE THE STAND (IRE) 13 David Robbins Frank Ridge Peter Bowen
TRUE FRIDAY 9 Mrs M Arthers Malcolm Arthers
U/35P20- TURTHEN (FR) 8 Charles Fox Charles Fox
0/121-31 YOU DO THE MATH (IRE) 9 Charles Horton Charlie Longsdon

43 entries
9 Irish-trained


Irish raiders look set to again dominate this year’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper (March 11), accounting for all the leading horses in the market, and the Grade 1 event could give star amateur Brian O’Connell a dream first ride in Britain.

The Philip Fenton-trained Dunguib leapt to the front of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper betting following an impressive 13-length victory in a Grade 2 contest at Navan in December and is set to be partnered at Cheltenham by O’Connell.

The 22-year-old is an integral part of Fenton’s County Tipperary yard and has enjoyed a fruitful campaign in Ireland, lying third in the amateurs’ table with 13 victories, behind Patrick Mullins and Nina Carberry.
“I’ve been pre-booked to ride Dunguib in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and hopefully we can both get there in one piece,” said O’Connell. “His debut second at last year’s Punchestown Festival was a good education and the winner of that race, On Raglan Road, was subsequently bought by Graham Wylie.

“Dunguib strengthened up well over the summer and annihilated the field on his reappearance (Punchestown, November 15) - jumped out, made the running and never saw another horse. The Grade 2 at Navan was a very hot contest and he beat Luska Lad, who had previously won three bumpers and the form of his victories had stacked up well. It was always the plan to put him away after that victory. We gave him a little break to freshen up a bit and he’s back now and seems to be A1 for the big day.

“His wins have come in testing conditions but he’s a Presenting gelding and most of them seem to prefer good ground. His first appearance at Punchestown was on good to yielding going and we were actually a little bit apprehensive about running him because I thought that he wanted faster ground.
“It’s amazing to keep the ride on him. Bumpers are confined to amateurs in Ireland but they are open to professionals in Britain so Philip and the owners would have been under no obligation to let me ride him at Cheltenham. To be able to go to the Festival with a real live chance of winner is a dream come true.

“This will be my first time riding in England and there’s no bigger place to make your debut. I was actually due to ride a horse for Philip at Cheltenham last year but unfortunately the horse was balloted out. I had already booked the flights and everything so I was really gutted - I’m just hopeful that I can get there this time around.”
O’Connell is also hopeful that he can take the ride on Royal Blood in the highlight of the hunter chase season, the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase (March 13). The Philip Dempsey-trained eight-year-old completed his Cheltenham preparation when second behind the exciting An Siorrac in a hunter chase at Fairyhouse on February 21.

“Royal Blood has been consistent in hunter chases in Ireland this season and has been runner-up on his last two starts and was successful at Limerick at the start of the season. He ran into a very good horse of Enda Bolger’s last time and doesn’t know how to run a bad race so I am sure that he won’t be disgraced.

Like so many of his contemporaries, O’Connell has risen through the ranks of Irish racing, starting off riding out in his school holidays and graduating from the point-to-point scene. His father, Val, was a talented jockey himself and is currently the Turf Club’s senior course inspector, and Brian grew up surrounded by horses.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved in racing. When I was at school, I spent summers with Jim Bolger and Aidan O’Brien and as soon as I had finished my studies, I started with Philip Fenton as his amateur,” he added.

“I was lucky enough to have my first point-to-point winner when I was aged 16 on Euro’swell, who was owned my aunt. I was also fortunate to ride a mare, Yervill’s Dream, who had previously won five point-to-points the season before and she gave me great experience.
“My first winner over hurdles came on one of Philip’s horses, Shoot The Breeze, at Down Royal in May, 2005, and I followed up with another victory at Tralee the following month. My biggest victory was on Vic Venturi, who took the Grade 3 Dorans Pride Novice Hurdle at Limerick’s Christmas meeting in December, 2005. He was my first winner for Philip when he won a point-to-point at Tinahely earlier that year.
“I was only a 7lb claimer when I won at Limerick and the victory certainly gave me a higher profile. People started referring to me as ‘Philip Fenton’s amateur’ and trainers that had used Philip when he rode started using me as well.

“Philip has been a fantastic supporter of me right from the start. I actually got to know him when I rode out for Edward O’Grady on Saturdays as a teenager and he was just finishing as a jockey when I was starting out. He started training a season or so before I started riding full-time and he’s gone from strength to strength with every season.
“I ride out for Philip six times a week and racing takes up all of my time. The amateur situation is a bit different in Ireland compared to England because there’s much more racing for amateurs over here so you can ride full-time over here without being professional.

“Turning professional has been on the cards for the past few years now. I talked with Philip about it early on last season and it’s definitely something that I would like to do. If I had a good Cheltenham or Punchestown, then it’s something I would hopefully do at the end of this campaign.”


County Dublin-based Oliver McKiernan will have double cause to celebrate if Follow The Plan can win the Irish Independent Arkle Chase on the Cheltenham Festival’s opening day (March 10) – he both trains the six-year-old and owns him, via his Cavan Developments Bloodstock.

McKiernan, a builder who took out a permit to train in 1998, has already excelled in one sporting sphere having played Gaelic football for Cavan in the mid 1970s but it is currently Follow The Plan who is dominating his thoughts.

The ex Irish pointer was third in the Irish Arkle on heavy ground at Leopardstown having previously got the better of Tatenen in a thrilling finish to the Grade 1 Durkan New Homes Novices Chase at the same course on December 26.

“Follow The Plan worked at Leopardstown on Monday morning and he’s seems in good order at the moment. He will do another couple of bits of work at home but that’s the last serious piece of exercise prior to Cheltenham,” said McKiernan.

“We thought the ground was slightly against him in the Irish Arkle but he still ran his race. He gave weight to Tatenen in the Durkan New Homes Novices Chase and it was a really good battle to the line – it could have gone either way and it was just our day. His level of form suggests that he goes to Cheltenham with a decent chance.”
McKiernan could also be represented by recent Galmoy Hurdle runner-up Whatuthink, who has previously contested the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, and the veteran cross-country specialist Star Performance, who is set for a seventh appearance at Prestbury Park.
“Whatuthink will hopefully run in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and we will be very happy to run into a place, while we could also have a couple of runners in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, headed by Star Performance. He’s been second to Spot Thedifference twice around there and this will probably be his last chance to run there. If the ground comes right, then we would love run him.”
All of McKiernan’s Cheltenham hopefuls graduated from the Irish point-to-point scene and the Rathcoole-based trainer sees racing between the flags as an ideal introduction for his string.

“I’ve got about 12 horses at the moment and I also have a few mares to breed from. Most of my horses start off in point-to-points and it’s a great learning curve for the youngsters because it’s more of an education for them. The grounding they receive stands them in good stead throughout their career and you can take your time with them.”
McKiernan is also delighted his former assistant, rookie trainer Alan Fleming, looks set to have a real chance of Cheltenham glory with Starluck, who currently sits near the head of the market for the JCB Triumph Hurdle (March 13). The salaried trainer for owner Andrew Wates was on board for McKiernan’s first success under Rules at Fairyhouse in April, 2001.

“It’s great that Alan’s going to Cheltenham with such a great chance of winning a race,” added McKiernan. “He’s done superbly since he’s gone to the UK and it would be brilliant if Starluck ran well. He was a key part of my yard for a few years and it’s great that he seems to be going so well.”

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