Wednesday, March 2, 2011
FINAL FESTIVAL ENTRIES REVEALED
Entries for all 27 races at The 2011 Festival at Cheltenham have now been released following today’s publication of those engaged in the £70,000 Grade Two David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle (Tuesday, March 15 - Centenary Day), the £55,000 Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Wednesday, March 16 - Ladies Day) and £35,000 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase (Friday, March 18 - Gold Cup Day).
The 26 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle entries are headed by Quevega, a decisive winner in the past two renewals. The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old looks set to be a short-priced favourite to complete a hat-trick in the race, having ended last season with an impressive success in the Grade One Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle at Punchestown in April. Mullins may also be represented by the progressive Morning Supreme, a runaway Cork beginners’ chase winner in January, while Ireland’s seven-strong entry also includes Prunella Dobbs’ stable star Our Girl Salley, winner of Listed hurdles on her last two starts.
The home challenge is set to include progressive Sparky May, who gave Pat Rodford one of his biggest wins when beating last season’s David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle runner-up Carole’s Legacy in Grade Two company at Ascot in January.
As well as making the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle his own for the last two years, Willie Mullins also boasts a superb record in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, having saddled six of the 14 Irish-trained winners since the race was introduced in 1992. A battalion of seven entries from the Irish champion trainer features Killarney winner Allure Of Illusion, runaway Navan scorer Lord Gale, and Twigline, a French bumper winner who has yet to start for Mullins. The 18 Irish-trained entries also include Raise The Beat, who has triumphed on his two previous outings for Co Wexford handler Colm Murphy.
Warren Greatrex looks to have an excellent chance of breaking his Festival duck with Knight Pass, who followed up a comprehensive victory at Sandown in November with another impressive success at Southwell in January, while other leading British contenders include the Nicky Henderson-trained Ericht and Cheltenian, from the stable of Philip Hobbs.
Keys, successful in a Listed Cheltenham bumper on New Year’s Day, is set to bid to give Derby-winning trainer Roger Charlton a first victory at The Festival as a trainer - the Beckhampton handler tasted Cheltenham glory as an amateur rider when partnering Pride Of Kentucky to win the 1969 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.
The Christie’s Foxhunter Chase has attracted a record 53-strong entry headed by Baby Run, who was partnered to glory last year by Sam Twiston-Davies, then 17 and an amateur rider, and is set to be ridden this time by his younger brother, 16-year-old Willie. The Enda Bolger-trained On The Fringe, one of 11 Irish-trained entries, beat Rudi Trucker in a Leopardstown hunter chase on February 12, while others engaged include impressive Folkestone scorer Dantes Storm, representing the 1985 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase-winning jockey Alan Hill, the hat-trick seeking Just Amazing, from the stable of Paul Nicholls, and Scottish Grand National runner-up Gone To Lunch, winner of the Coronation Cup point-to-point at Larkhill on February 19.