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Monday, March 14, 2011

THE FESTIVAL 2011 - CHELTENHAM

RACENEWS RACECOURSE SERVICE

MONDAY, MARCH 14

 

CHANGED GOING AT CHELTENHAM THIS AFTERNOON

 

 

OLD COURSE (used on TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY) Good to soft, good in places (no change)

 

The Old Course was watered (4 millimetres) on Thursday & Friday (March 10 & 11) and was watered selectively again today (3 millimetres).

 

 

CROSS COUNTRY COURSE (used on TUESDAY): Good to firm, Good in places (previously Good, good to firm in places)

 

 

NEW COURSE (used on THURSDAY & FRIDAY) Good to Soft, Good in places (previously Good to soft)

 

The New Course was watered over the weekend (total 13 millimetres).

 

 

There was 3 millimetres of rain yesterday (Sunday) morning but it has been dry today with sunshine and blue sky.

 

The forecast is for drizzle tonight, then it is due to be dry until Friday when some rain is expected.

 

Simon Claisse, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing, will look again at the ground tomorrow morning and issue revised going descriptions if conditions have changed.

 

 

BINOCULAR OUT BUT A STELLAR 11 LINE UP FOR STAN JAMES CHAMPION HURDLE

 

The final line up for the £370,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle was shaken up dramatically with the 11th hour defection of defending champion Binocular, but the 2011 renewal still promises to be one of the highest-class of recent seasons.

 

Currently heading the market at 3/1 with Stan James is Menorah. Trained by Philip Hobbs, the six-year-old is unbeaten in three starts at Cheltenham, including at The Festival in 2010 when he battled to a head success in the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. His most recent start came at Cheltenham on December 11, when he was the comprehensive winner of the Grade Two StanJames.com International.

 

Closely following Menorah in the market at 7/2 with Stan James is Hurricane Fly. A Listed winner on the Flat in France in his youth, the seven-year-old has won nine of his 11 starts over hurdles for Willie Mullins, seven of which have come at Grade One level. A facile winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle last time out on January 23, this will be Hurricane Fly’s first visit to Cheltenham with setbacks having forced him to miss The Festival for the past two seasons. Hurricane Fly will be joined by his stable companion Thousand Stars (25/1), successful at The Festival last season in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.

 

Peddlers Cross (4/1 third favourite with Stan James) is the only unbeaten horse going into the race, having won all of his seven starts under rules, including the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival. His trainer Donald McCain is also represented by Overturn (50/1) who enjoyed his biggest success in the Galway Hurdle last summer.

 

Writing on his blog, McCain commented: “Overturn and Peddlers Cross both run in the Champion Hurdle. Tactics for both horses will be being juggled up until just before the race in the Paddock (afraid no big inside knowledge here!) - things can change dramatically as we saw yesterday with Binocular not being declared, and so it is important for plans to remain fluid. Both horses are in good form and I have complete faith in them to run well for their owner, Tim Leslie. It would be absolutely incredible if Peddlers still has an unbeaten record come 4.00pm, Tuesday 15th March 2011.”

 

Alan King saddles Mille Chief (14/1), successful in the Grade Two Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on February 19 and the Barbury Castle handler is hopeful that the ground at Cheltenham this week will suit the five-year-old.

 

King told his website: “On the figures, Mille Chief needs to find about 10lb, and, while only time will tell whether he can improve that much, I am convinced that he will show himself a much better horse on better ground.

 

“It was very deep ground when he won his two races this season, but he is such a good-actioned horse with so many gears and has always worked like something special at home, and, while even without Binocular it looks a hot renewal, we have not lost faith in our fellow and we’ll see how he goes.”

 

With Binocular missing the race, Oscar Whisky (8/1) is now the sole representative of trainer Nicky Henderson. Owned by Ffos Las founder Dai Walters, the six-year-old has been successful on six of his seven starts with his only defeat coming when fourth in the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle behind Menorah at last year’s Festival. If he were to prevail it would make Henderson the winning-most trainer in the history of the Stan James Champion Hurdle with six victories (he is currently tied on five victories with Peter Easterby).

 

Other leading contenders include Dunguib (9/1), winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival in 2009 and third to Menorah last season. He has had just one outing so far this season, when comfortably taking a Grade Two event at Gowran Park last month. Khyber Kim (12/1) beat all bar Binocular in 2010 but needs to bounce back from a disappointing reappearance when he was a well-beaten fourth in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park.

 

Completing the line-up are Clerk’s Choice (66/1), a winner over the course and distance in October for permit holder Michael Banks and rank outsider Bygones Of Brid (250/1), a Grade Two winner in 2010 but well beaten behind Peddlers Cross at Kelso last time.

 

Latest prices from Stan James: Menorah 3/1, Hurricane Fly 7/2, Peddlers Cross 4/1, Oscar Whisky 8/1, Dunguib 9/1, Khyber Kim 12/1, Mille Chief 14/1, Thousand Stars  25/1, Overturn 50/1, Clerk's Choice 66/1, Bygones Of Brid 250/1

 

 

MASTER MINDED AND BIG ZEB AMONG 11 DECLARED FOR sportingbet.com QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE

 

All of the 11 horses confirmed at the six-day stage for the £320,000 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase have been declared to run at today’s final 48-hour stage. The Grade One, two-mile championship event is the feature race of Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 16.

 

Master Minded was the breathtaking 19-length victor in 2008 and followed up with another comfortable seven-length win in 2009. A disappointing fourth when 4/5 favourite last year, the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old appears to be back on top form this year following a breathing operation with three wins under his belt and is 3/1 joint-favourite with sponsor sportingbet.com. The champion trainer will also be represented by Woolcombe Folly (9/1), a progressive performer who was last seen out when making light of a big weight to take the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on December 11.

 

The other 3/1 joint-favourite is Big Zeb, who took the spoils last year by six lengths from Forpadydeplasterer. Successful on his first two starts this season, he appeared to be unsuited by a lack of pace when forced to make his own running in the Grade Two Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on January 30, when he went down by half a length to Golden Silver (10/1).

 

Somersby (7/1) got to within a short-head of Master Minded in a Grade One contest at Ascot on January 22 and went close to glory at The Festival in 2010 when the three-quarter length runner-up to Sizing Europe (8/1) in The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase. Sizing Europe has yet to win in three starts this year but a return to two miles and drying ground should prove suitable for him on Wednesday.

 

Another previous Festival winner in the line-up is Captain Cee Bee (10/1), who took the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2008 but was unplaced behind Sizing Europe in The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase when he was reported to have burst a blood vessel. He was subsequently successful in a Grade One contest at Punchestown in April and was last out when fourth to Big Zeb in the Grade One Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on December 29.

 

Nicky Henderson was responsible for the 1992 victor Remittance Man and is double-handed this time around. French Opera (20/1) boasts an excellent record at Cheltenham with two victories last season and recently confirmed his well-being by taking the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on February 18, while Mad Max (28/1), who was leading when making a bad blunder at the second last in The Irish Independent Arkle Chase last season, has recently undergone a tubing operation after failing to see out his races.

 

Completing the line-up are the David Pipe-trained I’m So Lucky (80/1), successful in Grade Two company at Sandown last season but well behind Master Minded on his last two starts and Cornas (100/1), who took a Sandown handicap in January before finishing last of seven behind French Opera at Newbury last month.

 

Latest prices from sportingbet.com: Big Zeb 3/1, Master Minded 3/1,  Somersby 7/1, Sizing Europe 8/1, Woolcombe Folly 9/1, Captain Cee Bee 10/1, Golden Silver 10/1, French Opera 20/1, Mad Max 28/1, I'm So Lucky 80/1, Cornas 100/1

 

 

THE GOING AT CHELTENHAM, MONDAY MORNING

 

OLD COURSE (used on TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY) Good to soft, good in places. GoingStick reading: 7.7 at 6am today.

 

The Old Course was watered (4 millimetres) on Thursday & Friday (March 10 & 11), and will be watered selectively again today (3 millimetres).

 

 

CROSS COUNTRY COURSE (used on TUESDAY): Good, good to firm in places. GoingStick reading: 8.8 at 6am today.

 

 

NEW COURSE (used on THURSDAY & FRIDAY) Good to soft. GoingStick reading: 7.2 at 6am today.

 

The New Course was watered over the weekend (total 13 millimetres).

 

There was 3 millimetres of rain yesterday (Sunday) morning.

 

This week is forecast to be dry.

 

Simon Claisse, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing, will look again at the ground this afternoon and issue revised going descriptions if conditions have changed.

 


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