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Thursday, October 12, 2006


A superb octet is set to go to post for the £350,000 Group One Emirates Airline Champion Stakes (3.30pm), the highlight of Champions' Day at Newmarket on Saturday, October 14.

Five of the eight declared runners have already scored at Group One level in what is all set to be one of the races of the decade on the NatWest Rowley Mile.

Hurricane Run, the 2005 horse of the year who won this year's King George and was possibly unlucky on his latest outing when fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is one of two French-trained runners along with the top-class mare Pride, who finished second to David Junior in the 2005 Emirates Airline Champion Stakes and was a fast-finishing second to Rail Link in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe just under a fortnight ago.

Heading the home-trained challenge is the Marcus Tregoning-trained Sir Percy. Victorious in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes on Champions' Day last year, Sir Percy chased home George Washington in the Stan James 2000 Guineas at Newmarket before his dramatic short-head success in the Vodafone Derby in June.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Notnowcato, successful in the Group One Juddmonte International at York in August, and French Oaks heroine Confidential Lady from the Sir Mark Prescott stable are the other two Group One winners in the contest.

Maraahel, third in the 2005 Emirates Airline Champion Stakes and a short-head second to Notnowcato at York last time, Rob Roy and Olympian Odyssey complete the field.


The £250,000 Group One Darley Dewhurst Stakes (4.10pm) sees 15 of the best two-year-olds in Europe go to post. This is the second-largest field since 1945, just one less than the 16 starters who lined up in 2002.

With the likes of unbeaten Irish challenger Teofilo, ante-post favourite for the Stan James 2000 Guineas next May and rated by his trainer Jim Bolger as a possible Triple Crown contender next season, Aidan O'Brien's Holy Roman Emperor, second behind Teofilo at the Curragh before winning the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagerdere at Longchamp, Peter Chapple-Hyam's undefeated Hamoody and dual Group Two winner Strategic Prince all engaged, it is certain to be the best juvenile race of this season and potentially the strongest for several years.


Champions' Day boasts a superb seven-race programme with just over £1 million in prize money including six Group Races on what is overall the highest class day's racing in the British flat racing calendar.

The day gets underway with the £90,000 Group Two VC Bet Challenge Stakes (2.10pm) over seven furlongs where 16 horses go to post.

Next up is the big handicap of the day, the £150,000 totesport Cesarewitch (2.50pm) over two miles and two furlongs which has 32 starters and looks as competitive as ever.

The Group Two £70,000 "In The Pink" Rockfel Stakes (sponsored by Owen Brown) (4.45pm), over seven furlongs for two-year-olds fillies has thrown up a host of future Group One winners in recent years and 12 months ago was won by this season's Stan James 1000 Guineas heroine Speciosa. This year 14 fillies go to post headed by the Group One winning stablemate of Teofilo, Finsceal Beo.

There are seven starters in the £50,000 Group Three David Wilson Homes Jockey Club Cup (5.20pm) over two miles and Champions' Day comes to a close with the £50,000 Group Three Unicorn Asset Management Darley Stakes (5.55pm) over nine furlongs, in which there are a dozen runners.


The going remains Good-to-Soft, with Newmarket having missed nearly all yesterday's rain. With a dry forecast for the next three days, the going on Saturday is likely to be Good, though probably just on the easy side.

"It's incredible that we missed the rain yesterday," said Michael Prosser, Newmarket's Clerk of the Course.

He continued: "From all the weather reports, it looked as though we were guaranteed to get a downpour, but apart from 0.6mm of drizzle in the morning, it passed us by on either side.

"The ground we will be using today and tomorrow is the same that we used for the Cambridgeshire Meeting. On Saturday, we will use a fresh strip of ground on the stands' side which is 20 metres wide and has not been raced on since September 19 - it has been saved specifically for Champions' Day and is in great condition.

"I'm hoping that the meterologists have got the forecast right as we are in for some extremely good weather for this time of year with temperatures of 19c and dry sunny spells for both today and tomorrow. There's an outside chance of some light drizzle on Saturday morning, but otherwise it should be sunny and warm once again.

"Hurricane Run vs Pride vs Sir Percy in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes will set the pulse racing, while the Darley Dewhurst that follows looks like the strongest two-year-old line up that I can remember for a good many years.

"With five other top class races on the card, I hope that racing fans from all over the country will get in their cars and head to Newmarket. Tickets are still available, the weather forecast is good and you might not find a better day's flat racing for a very long time."


Racegoers in the Members Enclosure and the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure will be able to watch the lunchtime Premiership clash between Wigan and Manchester United on the big screen on the Hyperion Lawn. Kick-off is at 12.45pm.


The Evan Williams-trained Warpath is primed for an assault on the £20,000 Jewson Handicap Hurdle Final over an extended two miles on day two of Cheltenham's first meeting of the season which takes place on Tuesday, October 24 and Wednesday, October 25.

The Welsh trainer revealed today: "The plan is to let Warpath take his chance in the Jewson Handicap Hurdle Final - touch wood. That's where we'd like to head with him."

The five-year-old gelding has won both his starts for Williams since arriving from Ireland in the summer and landed the Jewson Novices' Hurdle (Series Qualifier) at Fontwell on August 24, before making all to score by a length and a quarter from Smoke Trail in a two mile, one furlong handicap hurdle at Exeter on October 4.

Evans reported: "I'm glad that we managed to get another race into him after he won his Jewson qualifier. He's a big young horse and the experience will have done him good last time because he had to knuckle down, put his head down and race a little bit.

"A nice bit of rain right now would help the job considerably and a stiff track like Cheltenham should be right up his street."

Williams has made a great start to the 2006/2007 Jump season, sending out 33 winners so far. Eight-year-old Demi Beau, winner of a Cheltenham handicap hurdle in 2003 and a Ludlow handicap chase last season, is also likely to run at Cheltenham shortly.

"Demi Beau is another horse I might send to one of the first two Cheltenham meetings. He ran reasonably well in the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase over two miles, five furlongs at The Festival in March and he could be the type of horse for one of those two-mile chases."

Another Williams-trained horse that may be heading to Cheltenham is Enlightenment, who won a two-mile maiden hurdle by nine lengths at Worcester on October 5. That was the six-year-old's first start since arriving from Dessie Hughes' yard in the summer.

Williams said: "Enlightenment won well for us at Worcester last week and could now run at The Open, or perhaps even the first Cheltenham meeting."

Cheltenham Racecourse, the home of Jump racing, opens its doors to another season of fantastic sport with day one of the October Meeting dedicated as Martin Pipe Day in honour of the recently retired 15-times champion Jump trainer.

The two-day curtain-raiser invariably whets the appetite for the three-day Open, which commences on Friday, November 10, and features the £110,000 Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday, November 11.

Both days of the October Meeting offer excellent six-race cards with the day one highlight being the £17,500 The 4182 Winners In 32 Years Winning Post Handicap Chase over two miles, four and a half furlongs. The race is often a pointer to the Paddy Power Gold Cup, with The Outback Way (1999) and Shooting Light (2001) capturing both contests in recent seasons.

Naunton handler Nigel Twiston-Davies always has plenty of runners at his local course and is a trainer to note at Cheltenham's opening fixture, where he saddled Ollie Magern to victory two years running in the 2003 The Hit Parade Started It All Waterlaw Novices' Hurdle and the 2004 Ian Williams' Owners Novices' Chase.

Twiston-Davies commented: "It's very early to make any definite plans but I would hope to have runners at the first meeting and at The Open. I'm very hopeful of another good season at Cheltenham."

The Gloucestershire handler has enjoyed 19 winners already this campaign, with the Raymond Mould-owned Knowhere contributing a pair of extended two and a half mile novice chases at Bangor (October 7) and Perth (September 21).

Knowhere could be in action at Cheltenham this autumn alongside Battle Cry, the impressive winner of a Worcester bumper on October 5, and Mahogany Blaze, who captured a Chepstow handicap hurdle over two miles and half a furlong two days later.

Twiston-Davies revealed: "Mahogany Blaze won nicely at Chepstow and may run at Cheltenham's first meeting. Knowhere could run at The Open, as could Battle Cry, who pleased us with his Worcester win and may head for the Open Bumper (Sunday, November 12)."

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