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Monday, October 30, 2006


Trainer David Pipe is considering top-class chasers Our Vic and Celestial Gold for the £200,000 Grade One Betfair Chase (1.50pm) at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 18, the first day of the North West Masters.

Our Vic thrilled the new master of Pond House when demolishing a high-class field in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase over three miles and a furlong at Wetherby on October 28, as he strolled home seven lengths clear of his nearest pursuer, Neptune Collonges.

Last season's Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase winner is owned by David Johnson, whose colours are also carried by the highly-rated Celestial Gold, who was an impressive winner of the Grade Two Betfair Bowl over three miles and a furlong at Aintree in April.

Pipe revealed today: "The Betfair Chase is definitely an option for Our Vic. I was pleased with him at Wetherby and he has come out of the race well. I saw him this morning and he looks great. It's also an option for Celestial Gold. He's summered well and looks fantastic.

"I need to sit down and have a chat with David Johnson and then we can decide exactly what we're going to do and which horse goes where."

Pipe who is in his first season training after taking over from his record-breaking father, Martin Pipe, will secure the biggest prize of his embryonic career should either horse triumph in the £200,000 Betfair Chase, which is the first leg of the ground-breaking Betfair Million challenge.

Pipe said: "We've got to win at Haydock first before we look at the £1 million bonus, so if we win the Betfair Chase next month then we'll rethink any plans."

The Betfair Million offers a generous £1 million bonus to any horse that wins three of the season's most prestigious Grade One three-mile chases - the Betfair Chase followed by either the Stan James King George VI Chase at Kempton or the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period and then adds the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

The inaugural running of the Betfair Chase in 2005 was a top-class affair and went to the Robert Alner-trained Kingscliff, who defeated multiple Grade One winner Beef Or Salmon by a length and a quarter, with fellow Irish raider and 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Kicking King in third.

Kingscliff is on course to defend his crown in the Grade One Betfair Chase following a respectable fourth to Our Vic on his seasonal debut in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on October 28.

The Betfair Chase is the feature event of a high-quality six-race card at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 18 - day one of the two-day North West Masters, which continues at Aintree on Sunday, November 19.

The North West Masters, inaugurated in 2005, is an innovative concept that sees the North West's two major racetracks - Haydock Park and Aintree - join forces to stage a weekend of fantastic racing.

Saturday's card at Haydock commences at 1.20pm with the £35,000 Listed Pontin's Holidays Newtown Novices' Hurdle, and runs through to 3.55pm, with the first three races live on the BBC.

The day carries fantastic total prize money of £415,000 and also features the £100,000 Betfair Handicap Hurdle (2.20pm) over two miles, seven and a half furlongs.

My Way De Solzen, subsequently successful in the Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and second in the John Smith's Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree's Grand National meeting, finished runner-up behind St Matthew in the Betfair Handicap Hurdle last year.

Day two of the North West Masters at Aintree the following day features the three and a quarter-mile £100,000 totesport.com Becher Chase (2.35pm) and the £60,000 totepool Grand Sefton Handicap (1.30pm) over two miles, five and a half furlongs, which are both staged over the Grand National course.

The totesport.com Becher Chase, one of the highlights of the jump season, is established as a stepping stone to the world's most famous chase, the John Smith's Grand National, staged at Aintree in April next year.

The Ned Mitchell-trained Garvivonnian became the first Irish-based winner of the race last year when 19 lined up to tackle the 22 fences. Partnered by Garrett Cotter, the chaser defeated Le Duc by three-quarters of a length in a thrilling finish and returned to Aintree in April for the John Smith's Grand National. He was well fancied at 11/1 before being pulled up after a mistake at The Chair.

The totepool Grand Sefton Chase is now in its fourth year and was won last season by the John Spearing-trained 11-year-old Hakim, who held Fiori by two and a half lengths before going on to finish runner-up to Liberthine in the John Smith's Topham Trophy at the Grand National meeting in April.

The North West Masters last year saw the totesport.com Becher Chase and the totepool Grand Sefton Chase staged on the same card for the first time and offers the only chance to see horses over the Grand National fences outside of the John Smith's Grand National meeting.


The 2005 North West Masters attracted nearly 20,000 visitors into the region with research showing that over £1.7million was spent by racegoers attending the meeting. Saturday's racing at Haydock Park saw over 12,000 people packed into its stands - the biggest jumping attendance for over 20 years - with Aintree attracting over 7,000 visitors, despite only passing a midday inspection.

Martin King, Director of Tourism at The Mersey Partnership, said: "The North West Masters event last year proved a resounding success and I'm confident that this year's will prove to be even bigger and better. I see the Masters as becoming another major fixture in Merseyside's incredible calendar of festivals and events."

Tickets are available for both Haydock and Aintree - call 01942 402 624 (Haydock) and 0151 522 2929 (Aintree). Accommodation booking is available on 0845 601 1125.

After the racing at Haydock on the Saturday, the first day will be celebrated with a FREE star studded music event, featuring a performance by X-Factor star Andy Abraham, in Victoria Square, St. Helens town centre which will coincide with the town's spectacular Christmas lights switch-on.

Bus services link the racecourse directly to St. Helens town centre courtesy of Mersey Travel. Further information is also available by going to www.visitliverpool.com/northwestmasters

For old articles (from 1st March 2000) go to the Newslink Archive

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