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Friday, March 11, 2011





St Patrick’s Day at The Festival, Thursday, March 17, features a Grade One double-header with the £260,000 Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3.20pm) and the Ryanair Chase (2.40pm), which now has prize money of £271,700 following the supplementary entry of Voy Por Ustedes who was added to the line-up at a cost of £13,000 today.


Voy Por Ustedes is already a dual winner at The Festival, having landed The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase in 2006 and the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2007. Previously trained by Alan King, Voy Por Ustedes is set to make his debut for new trainer Nicky Henderson in the Ryanair Chase, in which he finished fifth last year and second in 2009.


A total of 16 horses are engaged in the Ryanair Chase, which takes place over two miles and five furlongs on the New Course, with other leading contenders including Albertas Run, the victorious horse in 2010, course specialist Poquelin who was last seen out when taking the Vote AP Gold Cup over the course and distance in December, Kalahari King, runner-up in The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase in 2009 and Somersby, who beat all bar the mighty Master Minded at Ascot in January but has the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday as a more likely option.


Seven Irish-trained contenders remain including Tranquil Sea, successful in the 2009 Paddy Power Gold, Golden Silver, a Grade One winner at the 2010 Punchestown Festival and Captain Cee Bee, who took the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2008 for trainer Eddie Harty.


Harty said today: “We left Captain Cee Bee in the Ryanair Chase as a precautionary measure and we are aiming him at the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase. He has never raced over two miles and five furlongs but I wanted to give him both options just as a failsafe.


“He is in good form at the moment and I am very happy with him. The ground was very heavy when he ran in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase and it was the first time that he was coming up against the top two-milers. We had also been held up by the weather, so nothing was really ideal that day and it’s best to excuse him that run.


“If he improves as he normally does between winter and spring, then he is going to be competitive and that is all you can ask for at The Festival.”


Big Buck’s will face a maximum of 13 opponents as he becomes only the second horse to try and win the Ladbrokes World Hurdle three times and the first to do so in consecutive years. The Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old is undefeated in his last 10 outings since reverting to hurdles at the start of 2009.


However, a serious contender to Big Buck’s has emerged in Grand Crus, trained by David Pipe. The six-year-old is undefeated in three starts this season, most recently sauntering to a facile 10-length triumph in the Grade Two Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 29, when he had Restless Harry back in third.


Nicky Henderson is likely to be represented by the 2009 JCB Triumph Hurdle scorer Zaynar, while the five remaining Irish-trained contenders include Fiveforthree, successful in the 2008 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Berties Dream, the veteran Powerstation, who has finished third for the previous two years and the progressive Mourad, winner of two Grade Two hurdles in Ireland.


St Patrick’s Day gets underway with the inaugural running of the £90,000 Grade Two Jewson Novices’ Chase (1.30pm) over two and a half miles. Among the 20 confirmations are the Philip Hobbs-trained duo of Captain Chris, a Grade Two scorer at Kempton last month and Wishfull Thinking, who defeated seasoned opposition to take the Grade Three Murphy Group Handicap Chase on Festival Trials Day. The sole representative from champion trainer Paul Nicholls is Robinson Collonges, who was in the process of running a big race when a bad mistake cost him any chance in the Vote AP Gold Cup. There are seven possible representatives from Ireland including Realt Dubh, who had Noble Prince and Mr Cracker behind him when taking the Grade One Irish Arkle Chase at Leopardstown on January 23.


Completing the St Patrick’s Day card are three ultra-competitive handicaps in the £70,000 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (2.05pm, 69 confirmations), the £75,000 Byrne Group Plate (4.00pm, 39 confirmations) and the £50,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (4.40pm, 62 confirmations).


The St Patrick’s Day Derby, a charity race over a mile and five furlongs in aid of Cancer Research UK, takes place at 5.15pm. Leading Flat trainer Henry Cecil, who has trained four Derby winners, will be the guest of honour.



The going at Cheltenham is currently:


Old Course (in use on Tuesday and Wednesday): Good to Soft, good in places (watered)


Course Country Course (in use on Tuesday) and New Course (in use on Thursday and Friday): Good, Good to Soft in places


Simon Claisse, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing, said today: “The Old Course is being watered again today, with a total of four millimetres of water being applied over the two days.


“The outlook for the weekend is for some light rain with between four and five millimetres forecast.”




Cartmel handler Jimmy Moffatt is looking forward to seeing his stable star Chief Dan George return to the scenes of his two greatest triumphs as the 11-year-old warms up for this year’s John Smith’s Grand National with another appearance at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.


Chief Dan George recorded a convincing victory over subsequent totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander in the Grade One Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree in April, 2007, and posted a game head success in the Grade Three Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.


On his latest start, he stayed on to take third behind fellow John Smith’s Grand National contenders Skippers Brig and Ballabriggs in an extended two and three-quarter mile chase at Kelso on March 5.


Moffatt revealed: “Chief Dan George goes to Cheltenham for another crack at the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase next Tuesday. I was delighted with his run at Kelso because there was no gallop early on - they crawled for two miles and it turned into a six-furlong race over fences.


“He was comprehensively outpaced but ran on all the way to the line and was only eight lengths behind Ballabriggs, plus he was giving weight to both him and Skippers Brig.


“It’s been a hard winter and that was the first time this season that he got ground that was near to his favoured good going and he’s come out of the race really well, so I was very pleased with him.


“He is a spring horse and he always runs well at Cheltenham. It’s very hard to post back-to-back wins in handicaps at The Festival but, at the same time, he returns there in great form and I would definitely expect him to be in the first five or six.


“The John Smith’s Grand National is definitely the aim after next week. Due to the weather, we have had a lack of racing earlier on this season and the result is that we have a fresh horse who has been effectively trained for Aintree since we missed out on the race last year.


“He is a very clever jumper, who is very quick on his feet and he has a very sharp mind, and we are hoping that we can have a bit of luck over the National fences.”


Chief Dan George is currently a 33/1 chance with totesport, official betting partner of the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National meeting, for this year’s John Smith’s Grand National, which carries record prize money of £950,000 and takes place on Saturday, April 9.


The Cheltenham Festival is set to yield plenty of clues for Aintree. Don’t Push It, who gave Tony (A P) McCoy a first victory in the world’s greatest steeplechase at the 15th attempt last year, is once again set to have his final preparation ahead of Aintree in the Listed Pertemps Final, on Thursday, March 17, having been pulled up in the handicap hurdle 12 months ago.


Chief Dan George could re-oppose Skippers Brig in the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase and the pair may be joined in the extended three-mile contest by fellow Aintree contenders Tatenen and King Fontaine.


Midnight Chase could be aimed at Aintree depending on how he gets on in the Grade One totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup a week today and he could be joined in chasing’s Blue Riband by What A Friend and Tidal Bay, while more John Smith’s Grand National hopefuls - Dream Alliance, Gullible Gordon, One Cool Cookie and Quilobet - feature among the six-day confirmations for Tuesday’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase.


Away from Cheltenham, the Chris Bealby-trained Surface To Air is set to make his first appearance since landing the Listed Summer National in June, 2008, when he lines up in a handicap hurdle at Market Rasen on Sunday.


The second scratchings deadline for the John Smith’s Grand National is at noon on Tuesday, March 22.


John Smith’s Grand National official betting partner totesport’s latest betting:

12 Backstage, The Midnight Club, 14 Ballabriggs, Big Fella Thanks, Silver By Nature, 16 Arbor Supreme, Niche Market, Oscar Time, Quinz, 20 Don’t Push It, Merigo, Synchronised, West End Rocker, 25 Becauseicouldntsee, Bluesea Cracker, Hello Bud, Majestic Concorde, Midnight Chase, Notre Pere, Skippers Brig, State Of Play, Vic Venturi, 33 Ballytrim, Calgary Bay, Character Building, Chief Dan George, Giles Cross, I’moncloudnine, In Compliance, One Cool Cookie, Our Monty, What A Friend, 40 Ballyfitz, Dooneys Gate, Gullible Gordon, Killyglen, Northern Alliance, Surface To Air, The Tother One, Tidal Bay, Tricky Trickster, 50 Belon Gale, Can’t Buy Time, Comply Or Die, Deep Purple, Frankie Figg, Galant Nuit, Golden Kite, Junior, King Fontaine, Nedzers Return, Or Noir de Somoza, Ornais, Quolibet, Saddlers Storm, Tatenen, 66 Always Waining, Ambobo, Grand Slam Hero, Le Beau Bai, Pomme Tiepy, Roll Along, Royal Rosa, Sagalyrique, Scotsirish, The Sawyer, The Sliotar, Toby Jug, Treacle, 100 Askthemaster, Dev, Dream Alliance, Duers, Faasel, Piraya, Putney Bridge, Santas Son, Starzaan, That’s Rhythm

Each-way ¼ 1-2-3-4




The 2011 John Smith's Grand National Meeting runs from Thursday, April 7, to Saturday, April 9, and features top-class racing on each day. Tickets and hospitality packages are still available. Visit www.aintree.co.uk for further information or call 0844 579 3001.


Seats are still available on Thursday from £24 in West Tip and £50 in one of Aintree’s newest stands, the Lord Sefton. General Tattersalls admission is still available from £21 and hospitality packages can be purchased from £158. Also on Thursday, Liverpool group The Farm will perform for 60 minutes following racing.

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