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Friday, March 6, 2009



BLISS HEADS 16 ACCEPTORS FOR LADBROKES WORLD HURDLE - 12 GO FORWARD FOR RYANAIR CHASE




Kasbah Bliss, who only found the mighty Inglis Drever a length too good in last year’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle, heads the 16 acceptors at the six-day confirmation stage for this year’s renewal of the £260,000 contest (3.20pm), the feature race on day three of The Festival, Thursday, March 12, 2009.


Trained by Francois Doumen in France, Kasbah Bliss was a hugely impressive winner on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock last month but is sure to face some stiff opposition from the likes of Big Buck’s, victorious in the Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January and Punchestowns, who finished runner-up to Big Buck’s on Festival Trials Day having previously won the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December. Others in the mix include Blazing Bailey, who has been fourth and third in the last two renewals of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, Fair Along, who was third in the Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle and one of the toughest horses in training, Lough Derg. One of the most interesting horses among today’s acceptors is Mighty Man, off the track for almost two years but only beaten three quarters of a length by Inglis Drever in the 2007 Ladbrokes World Hurdle.


Thursday also features the £220,000 Ryanair Chase (2.40pm), which has attracted a dozen confirmations. Last year’s winner Our Vic is a possible starter once again along with this season’s Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander and the 2008 The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy victor Tidal Bay, who could either contest the Ryanair Chase or the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase 24 hours earlier. Voy Por Ustedes won The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy in 2006 and the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2007 and could bid for a third victory at The Festival while another possible starter is the 2006 Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase scorer Newmill, one of four Irish-trained contenders.


Action gets underway on Thursday with the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase (1.30pm), for which there are 54 acceptors (maximum field 20) while there is competitive handicap action later in the afternoon with the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (2.05pm, 53 acceptors, 24 runners maximum), the Freddie Williams Festival Plate Handicap Chase (4.00pm, 46 acceptors, 24 runners maximum) and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase for amateur riders (4.40pm, 69 acceptors, 24 runners maximum).


GROUND

The going at Cheltenham is currently:

Old Course (used on Tuesday & Wednesday) - Good to Soft
New Course (used on Thursday & Friday) - Good to Soft, Soft in places
Cross Country Course (Tuesday only) - Soft, Heavy in places

TICKETSTickets will be available for purchase on the gate on the first three days of The Festival - Tuesday, March 10
Wednesday, March 11
Thursday, March 12

Badges for both the Club and Tattersalls enclosures are still available for Friday, March 13. However, these will not be available for purchase on the day and should be booked in advance via www.cheltenham.co.uk or by calling 08445 793 003.




NINA CARBERRY LANDS THE 2009 OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION AWARD




Cheltenham Racecourse announced today that Nina Carberry is the winner of the 2009 Award for ‘The Outstanding Contribution made by a Lady to Jump Racing’.


Born on July 21, 1984, Nina Carberry has continued her family’s fine tradition of riding at the highest level. Her father Tommy won numerous big races as a jockey including two Cheltenham Gold Cups and a Grand National on L’Escargot and is now a successful trainer, saddling Bobbyjo to victory in the 1999 Grand National. Her brothers Paul and Philip are also very successful Jump jockeys.


Nina has partnered three winners at The Festival. Her first victory came aboard Dabiroun in the 2005 Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle while she has won the latest two renewals of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase, partnering Heads Onthe Ground in 2007 and Garde Champetre in 2008.


Nina Carberry, commenting on the award, said “I’m thrilled to win this award, especially as it comes at The Festival, which is the pinnacle of our sport. To be chosen ahead of the other nominees is a real honour.”

Andy Clifton, Cheltenham’s Communications Manager, said: “Nina is a thoroughly deserving winner of this award, which is now in its third year. She is talented, personable, hard working and a great ambassador both for Jump racing and for Ladies in sport. Nina also has a great record of success at The Festival itself, which is an added bonus.”

The panel of judges for this year’s award consisted of Clare Balding, Ann Saunders and Gee Bradburne.


This year’s final shortlist was completed by trainers Sally Alner, Henrietta Knight and Venetia Williams, former trainer Jenny Pitman and Carrie Humble, Founder and Director of the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre.


Nina will be presented with her award before racing on Ladies Day, Thursday, March 12, in the Winner’s Enclosure at Cheltenham Racecourse.




PLENTY OF JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL CLUES AT CHELTENHAM AND NAAS




All eyes turn towards the Cheltenham Festival next week for four days of superb action from Tuesday, March 10, to Friday, March 13, and many trainers will be hoping that a good performance from their horses at the home of Jump racing will further enhance their claims for the £900,000 John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 4.


Malton-based handler John Quinn is looking forward to seeing Character Building take his chance in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase on the third day of The Festival on Thursday, March 12.


The nine-year-old grey was second to Butler’s Cabin in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2007 and went on to finish third behind Denman in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury that December.


Prior to a disappointing effort behind Rambling Minster on heavy ground in the Blue Square Gold Cup at Haydock on February 14, Character Building had posted some good efforts over both hurdles and fences this season, winning over the smaller obstacles at Towcester in November and making the frame in competitive handicap chases at Cheltenham in December and January.


Quinn commented: “The John Smith’s Grand National is still the plan for Character Building and we will hopefully run him at Cheltenham first and then go straight to Aintree afterwards.


“He’s come out of his Haydock race in good order and I think there were several reasons as to why he didn’t run his race, with the biggest factor being the going. He doesn’t really handle heavy ground and he is a much better horse on a faster surface.


“We are hoping for a better run on the faster ground forecast at Cheltenham next week. He has already run well around the course twice this season and I think he goes into the race with a decent chance.”

Character Building is currently rated a 25/1 chance for the John Smith’s Grand National by Aintree’s official betting partner, totesport.


Many other John Smith’s Grand National hopefuls will also be in action at The Festival, including current top-weight Exotic Dancer, who is being aimed at the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, March 13. The Jonjo O’Neill-trained nine-year-old was fifth in chasing’s Blue Riband 12 months ago but has progressed this season to win at the highest level in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December, when he defeated fellow Cheltenham and Aintree contender War Of Attrition, the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, by 20 lengths.


Other horses with entries in both the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and the John Smith’s Grand National include recent Kempton Grade Two winner Madison Du Berlais, current Order Of Merit leader Snoopy Loopy, and Snowy Morning, whose trainer Willie Mullins saddled Hedgehunter to finish second in both races in 2006.


The William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase on the first day of the Festival, Tuesday, March 10, may see last year’s John Smith’s Grand National hero Comply Or Die make his final start prior to defending his crown at Aintree. The extended three-mile contest could also feature fellow Aintree hopefuls My Will, the 2007 Scottish National victor Hot Weld and Simon.


Silver Birch was second in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (Tuesday, March 10) at Cheltenham prior to his victory in the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National and the Enda Bolger-trained pair of L’Ami and Garde Champetre may this year bid to follow in the footsteps of Gordon Elliott’s talented chaser.

The 2007 Irish Grand National winner Butler’s Cabin, who fell at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit when travelling well at Aintree last year, holds Cheltenham entries in both the Pertemps Final (Thursday, March 12) and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

The nine-year-old, from the yard of Jonjo O’Neill, is currently the 12/1 joint-favourite with totesport for Aintree glory. Stablemate Can’t Buy Time also has a choice of possible engagements in the National Hunt Chase (Wednesday, March 11) and the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase (Thursday, March 12).


Several leading John Smith’s Grand National contenders are also out to improve their Aintree aspirations at Naas on Sunday including King Johns Castle, who will be making his first appearance since finishing second to Comply Or Die in the race last year. The Arthur Moore-trained 10-year-old will be running in a handicap hurdle over two miles and three furlongs.


The day’s feature race at the Irish course is the Leinster National Handicap Chase, which is set to feature Preists Leap, who took the Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park in January, as well at Southern Vic, who was fourth behind John Smith’s Grand National ante-post joint-favourite and Listed totesport.com Becher Handicap Chase winner Black Apalachi (12/1 with totesport) in the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February.

The Tom Mullins-trained Chelsea Harbour will also use the three-mile contest as preparation for the John Smith’s Grand National, for which he is currently a 25/1 chance with totesport. The nine-year-old gelding was ninth in last year’s Aintree contest and has produced some pleasing displays throughout the current campaign, winning over fences and hurdles and coming home four lengths behind Priests Leap when second in the Thyestes Handicap Chase.


On his latest appearance, Chelsea Harbour was third behind current totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup second favourite Neptune Collonges and Notre Pere in the Grade One Irish Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 15.


County Kilkenny-based Mullins reported: “Chelsea Harbour is all set for the Leinster National and he’s in great nick at the moment. He’s got a slight pull at the weights over Preists Leap compared to the Thyestes Chase and I would be hopeful that we would be able to turn the tables.


“I didn’t think he ran up to his form in the Irish Hennessy and I was a bit disappointed with the run because he just dropped out on the back straight. He’s been running in soft and heavy conditions all season and, although he loves that sort of ground, he can also run a decent race on quicker going.


“He’s been given 11st in the John Smith’s Grand National which means he is rated 8lb higher in Britain than in Ireland and I think he was hit hardest of all the Irish horses. But he’s in good form and we are definitely aiming him at Aintree once more.


“We would have run a lot better in the John Smith’s Grand National last year if we had done things a bit differently. He was out the back for the whole time on his final start prior to Aintree, so he didn’t have much of a race and we gave him too long a break between runs.

“We hope that we can have a better preparation this time round and he will be ridden with a bit more restraint in the race itself. Davy Russell will possibly ride one of the Gigginstown Stud runners, War Of Attrition or Hear The Echo, but I think that he would be leaning towards my fellow if he had the choice.”

The second scratchings deadline for the John Smith’s Grand National is at noon on Tuesday, March 17, details of which will be announced at Aintree’s Northern Media event the following day. A maximum field of 40 can line up for the world’s most famous steeplechase on Saturday, April 4.



MATALAN SADDLE UP TO SUPPORT WORLD'S GREATEST STEEPLECHASE




Aintree Racecourse today announced that UK retail chain, Matalan, has signed a one-year deal to become an official partner to the John Smith’s Grand National meeting.


The iconic race meeting, whose title sponsor is popular ale giant, John Smith’s, takes place at the famous Liverpool course from Thursday, April 2, to Saturday, April 4, and will see Matalan fill the final sponsorship berth, joining the tote and Citroën as official meeting partners.


Matalan owns over 200 stores and employs over 14,000 throughout the UK, with its Head Office based just 10 miles from the racecourse in Skelmersdale, Lancashire.


As an official partner, Matalan takes naming rights to two races at the meeting, which will both be televised by the official broadcaster, the BBC. The Matalan name will be linked to the 2.35pm Matalan Anniversary 4YO Novices' Hurdle on Thursday April, 2 and the 2.35pm Matalan.co.uk Mildmay Novices’ Chase on Friday April, 3.


As well as these race sponsorships, Matalan will have branding presence on-course, in addition to working with the racecourse on pre-promotional opportunities in the build-up to the meeting.

Matalan will also become Aintree’s fashion partner for the racecourse’s style competition, Style 2009, staged on Thursday and Friday of the meeting in which Aintree's most stylish racegoer will win a £35,000 lifestyle prize.

The winner of the contest will receive star treatment when taking part in a photo shoot at a top London Studio, where they will be styled by professional hair and make-up artists and directed by international Fashion Designer, Jeff Banks. The photos from the same shoot will appear in Matalan’s autumn fashion campaign.


The winner will also take home a Citroën C-Crosser HDi exclusive, worth over £25,000, and an Almond Resorts premium all-inclusive luxury 10-day holiday for two to a Caribbean destination.

Commenting on the partnership, Julian Thick, Aintree’s Managing Director, said: “We are very excited about working with Matalan, who prove a great fit as a partner for the meeting. It is exciting to be working with a company which has such a large national presence but also is a large employer in the North West.”

Matalan Chief Executive, Alistair McGeorge, commented: “We are thrilled to be working with Aintree as an official partner for the John Smith’s Grand National meeting and as fashion partner for Style 2009. As a local event, the Grand National provides us with an exciting opportunity to present our fantastic new ranges to racegoers, along with communicating the Matalan brand on a national level.”




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