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Thursday, March 10, 2011





Master Minded is one of 11 remaining entries in the £320,000 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.20pm), highlight of Ladies Day at The Festival, Wednesday, March 16, following today’s six-day confirmation stage.


The Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old was the stunning 19-length winner of the two-mile championship in 2008 and followed up with a seven-length victory in 2009. He was only fourth in 2010, but appears back on top form this season with victories in Grade One contests at Cheltenham and Ascot. If successful on Wednesday, the 11/4 joint favourite with sportingbet.com would become only the second three-time winner of the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase following Badsworth Boy (1983, 1984 and 1985).


Big Zeb, the other 11/4 joint favourite with sportingbet.com, was victorious in 2010, powering to a six-length victory. Trained by Colm Murphy, the 10-year-old is one of four remaining Irish-trained entries alongside Golden Silver, a Grade One winner at Punchestown last season who got the better of Big Zeb in a Grade Two at the same course in January, the 2008 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle scorer Captain Cee Bee and Sizing Europe, who was an impressive winner of The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase at The Festival in 2010.


Henry de Bromhead, trainer of Sizing Europe, commented today: “I hope that the return to two miles around Cheltenham will suit Sizing Europe. He started the season racing over further but he probably just had too much time to think about the fences and we think that he is a better horse when he is jumping at speed.


“You would imagine that if he reproduced the level of form that he showed at The Festival last year, then he would have a serious chance next week. He is in great form and we are happy with him at the moment.”


Nicky Henderson could be double-handed with French Opera, victorious in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last month and Mad Max, while Henrietta Knight has left in Somersby, who got within a short-head of Master Minded at Ascot in January.


Paul Nicholls could also be represented by the progressive Woolcombe Folly, twice successful at Cheltenham, while the confirmations also include Cornas and I’m So Lucky.


Latest prices from sportingbet.com: 11/4 Big Zeb, 11/4 Master Minded, 7/1 Somersby, 8/1 Woolcombe Folly, 10/1 Captain Cee Bee, 10/1 Sizing Europe, 11/1 Golden Silver, 20/1 French Opera, 28/1 Mad Max, 80/1 I'm So Lucky, 100/1 Cornas


Ladies Day begins with the longest race of The Festival, the four-mile £75,000 National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (1.30pm), for which there are 27 confirmations while 26 horses have been confirmed for the £100,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (2.05pm), including the top two in the ante-post betting, Oscars Well and So Young, who are among the eight Irish-trained entries going forward.


Time For Rupert looks likely to start one of the shortest-priced favourites at The Festival and the Paul Webber-trained seven-year-old, who chased home Big Buck’s in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle last season and has won both his starts over fences at Cheltenham this season, is one of 16 remaining entries in the £130,000 RSA Chase (2.40pm).


The £70,000 Coral Cup (4.00pm) is always one of the most competitive handicaps of the week and a maximum field of 28 looks set to go to post with 77 confirmations at the six-day stage, while the £60,000 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.40pm) has 24 horses going forward.


Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex has his best chance of a first success at The Festival with Knight Pass, the favourite for the £55,000 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (5.15pm) for which he is one of 40 confirmations. Willie Mullins has made the Weatherbys Champion Bumper his own with no less than six victories and he still has three to choose from including Allure Of Illusion, who is owned by his wife Jackie and was successful on his only previous start at Killarney in August.




The going at Cheltenham on ALL COURSES (Old, New & Cross Country) is currently:




Predominantly dry conditions are predicted up until The Festival, with the chance of some light rain over the weekend.


The Old Course, in use on Tuesday and Wednesday, is currently undergoing irrigation with four millimetres of water being applied.

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