IRISH DOMINANCE OF CHAMPION HURDLE LOOKS SET TO CONTINUE - Quinn Could Be Double-Handed
Irish raiders have won seven of the last nine Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdles and that outstanding record could continue in the 2008 race on Tuesday, March 11, with exactly half of the 38 entries trained in Ireland.
Among the record 19 contenders from across the Irish Sea are the 2007 winner Sublimity, Hardy Eustace, who scored in 2005 and 2004, as well as Noel Meade's talented quartet Aitmatov, Harchibald, Jazz Messenger and Nicanor.
The 2007 Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Ebaziyan looks set to represent trainer Willie Mullins, three-time Grade One winner Al Eile is also engaged as is Henry de Bromhead's stable star Sizing Europe, winner of the Grade Three Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in November.
Irish-trained horses are responsible for the three Timeform top-rated contenders in Harchibald 164§, Sublimity 162+ and Al Eile 160.
The home defence in the £360,000 event includes Greatwood Hurdle runner-up Osana and Katchit, who finished first and second in the Grade Two Boylesports.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, last year's Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle third Afsoun, Stan James Christmas Hurdle winner Straw Bear and John Quinn's smart dual-purpose pair Blythe Knight and Kings Quay.
Blythe Knight, a Group Three winner on the Flat, won a Grade Two novices' hurdle at Aintree in April and could be joined in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle by Kings Quay, winner of the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in November.
"The plan is to run Blythe Knight in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at The Festival," said Quinn. "He's had a nice holiday and he's fine. He ran no race at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth, but that was probably because he had a lot of racing last year. He has had a full month off resting, out by day and in by night. He's back in now and he might possibly run in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on February 16 prior to going to Cheltenham.
"Kings Quay could be a possible outsider for the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle. We could take the handicap route with him and run him in the totesport Trophy at Newbury if the ground the ground dries out, but the owners said put him in the Champion and we'll see. He didn't get home over two and a half miles at Ascot in November."
The top novices Khyber Kim and Striking Article have been entered respectively by Nicky Henderson and Howard Johnson while the high-class mares Amaretto Rose, Lounaos and Chomba Womba have all been given the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle.
1. The Champion Hurdle was inaugurated in 1927, with a value to the winner of £365. The race was abandoned in 1931 due to persistent frost, in 1943 and 1944 because of the Second World War, and in 2001 because of foot and mouth disease.
2. There have only been two sponsors of this great race since its inception. This statistic conceals a dramatic turn of events in 1990, when a major banking group, whose intended sponsorship was to raise the added value of the race by 66 per cent to £120,000, withdrew before its first running. The Smurfit Group stepped in at that point and has remained a loyal sponsor ever since. In 2008, the race will have total prize money of £360,000. Kappa was added to the title in 2006 to reflect the company's new corporate identity.
3. The largest field has been 24 (1964 and 1991) and the smallest three (1932). The first five runnings of the race saw a total of only 24 runners between them.
4. The Champion Hurdle is a contest for multiple winners. Peter Easterby won the race most often as a trainer, with five victories from three horses, Saucy Kit (1967), Night Nurse (1976 and 1977) and Sea Pigeon (1980 and 1981). Vic Smyth and Fred Winter both had four wins, and a further five trainers have captured the hurdling crown on three occasions.
5. Among jockeys, Tim Molony won the race most often with four victories, on Hatton's Grace (1951) and Sir Ken (1952, 1953 & 1954). Fred Winter, Jimmy Uttley, Steve Smith Eccles and most recently Charlie Swan were each successful three times.
6. The most successful owner is still Dorothy Paget, who won the race four times thanks to Insurance (1932, 1933), Solford (1940) and Distel (1946).
7. Istabraq, successful in the three Champion Hurdles from 1998 to 2000, was retired after failing to become the first horse to win the race four times in 2002. The four other three-time winners are Hatton's Grace (1949-51), Sir Ken (1952-54), Persian War (1968-70) and See You Then (1985-87).
8. The race has been won seven times by entires, but only twice by mares - Dawn Run (1984) and Flakey Dove (1994).
9. Four greys have won, the most recent being Rooster Booster in 2003. The others were Kribensis in 1990, Victor Norman in 1936, and Our Hope in 1938. Only one roan horse has won the Champion Hurdle, Anzio in 1962.
10. Istabraq's success in 2000 in a time of 3 minutes 48.1 seconds beat the previous Champion Hurdle record time, set by Make A Stand in 1997, of 3 minutes 48.4 seconds.
11. Dessie Hughes, who trained Hardy Eustace to win in 2004 and 2005, is only the fourth person to have both ridden and trained a Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle winner, having partnered Monksfield in 1979. The others to have achieved this double were Fred Winter, Fred Rimell and Gerry Wilson.
THE SMURFIT KAPPA CHAMPION HURDLE ENTRIES
Class 1, Grade One, £360,000 Total Prize Fund. Cheltenham, 3.15pm, Tuesday, March 11. For four-year-olds and upwards which are allotted a rating of 130 or more by the senior BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and taking account of races run up to and including March 4 - horses which are not qualified for a rating in GB, IRE or FR may also be entered (such horses may be eligible providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse's racecourse performances up to and including March 4 would merit a minimum rating of 130 - the decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final), two miles & half a furlong. Weights: 4yo: 11st 2lb; 5yo+: 11st 10lb; fillies & mares allowed 7lb. Entries closed January 15, entries revealed January 16 (38 entries). Forfeit stage February 12, £18,000 supplementary entry stage March 5, six-day confirmation stage March 5, final declaration 10.00am, March 9. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, January 14.
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
13F61/U- ACCORDION ETOILE (IRE) 9 Banjo Syndicate Paul Nolan IRE
233- 254 AFSOUN (FR) 6 Trevor Hemmings Nicky Henderson
214- 111 AITMATOV (GER) 7 John O'Meara Noel Meade IRE
541- 321 AL EILE (IRE) 8 Michael Ryan John Queally IRE
10/1113- AMARETTO ROSE 7 Shade Oak Stud Nicky Henderson
4/- 21 BLUE BAJAN (IRE) 6 Dr John Hollowood Andy Turnell
5/23311/- BLUE SHARK (FR) 6 Trevor Hemmings Nicky Henderson
1321- 6 BLYTHE KNIGHT (IRE) 8 Maxilead Limited John Quinn
D411- 50 BOBS PRIDE (IRE) 6 Robert Blacoe Dermot Weld IRE
2U3F- 14 CATCH ME (GER) 6 J P O'Shea Edward O'Grady IRE
4213- 11 CHOMBA WOMBA (IRE) 7 Mr & Mrs Richard Kelvin Hughes Nicky Henderson
121- 446 CLOPF (IRE) 7 Bernard Anthony Heffernan Edward O'Grady IRE
2P0450- CONTRABAND 10 Fergus Wilson Paul Murphy
P355- 11 CYBERGENIC (FR) 10 Fergus Wilson Richard Chotard FR
11201U- DE VALIRA (IRE) 6 D Mac A'Bhaird Michael O'Brien IRE
0- 45341 EBAZIYAN (IRE) 7 Peter Garvey Willie Mullins IRE
111225 FARMER BROWN (IRE) 7 Plantation Stud Pat Hughes IRE
2/455- 12 HARCHIBALD (FR) 9 Des Sharkey Noel Meade IRE
143- 122 HARDY EUSTACE (IRE) 11 Laurence Byrne Dessie Hughes IRE
150- 113 JAZZ MESSENGER (FR) 8 R S T Syndicate Noel Meade IRE
110462- KALDERON (GER) 8 Miss M A Masterson Tom Hogan IRE
111- 132 KATCHIT (IRE) 5 D S J P Syndicate Alan King
22F562 KAWAGINO (IRE) 8 K J Pike Seamus Mullins
1 KHYBER KIM 6 Caroline Mould Nicky Henderson
261- 116 KINGS QUAY 6 Marie Taylor John Quinn
11404- 1 LOUNAOS (FR) 5 Martine Griffin Eoin Griffin IRE
0P- 14F0 MAJADAL (FR) 10 Fergus Wilson Richard Chotard FR
F22111/- NICANOR (FR) 7 Des Sharkey Noel Meade IRE
211/422- NOBLE REQUEST (FR) 7 Karola Vann Philip Hobbs
4102- 21 OSANA (FR) 6 Thomas Barr David Pipe
135135 PIGEON ISLAND 5 Raymond Mould Nigel Twiston- Davies
11421- 4 PUNJABI 5 Raymond Tooth Nicky Henderson
213163 SALFORD CITY (IRE) 7 Fergus Galvin Gordon Elliott IRE
443001- SILENT OSCAR (IRE) 9 P Convery Harry Rogers IRE
1351- F1 SIZING EUROPE (IRE) 6 Alan Potts Henry de Bromhead IRE
421P- 61 STRAW BEAR (USA) 7 J P McManus Nick Gifford
111 STRIKING ARTICLE (IRE) 6 Andrea & Graham Wylie Howard Johnson
444/11- 4 SUBLIMITY (FR) 8 Bill Hennessy John Carr IRE
38 entries, 19 Irish- trained, 2 French- trained
Timeform top- rated: Harchibald 164§ , Sublimity 162+, Al Eile 160, Jazz Messenger 159, Straw Bear 159, Hardy Eustace 158, Osana 158, Afsoun 157, Sizing Europe 156p, Katchit 155, Silent Oscar 155, Aitmatov 154, Ebaziyan 153, Farmer Brown 152, Noble Request 152, Blythe Knight 147, Amaretto Rose 141+
Key: p - the horse is likely to improve, + - the horse may be better than rated, § - the 'Timeform squiggle'; the horse is unreliable (for temperamental or other reasons)
BREAKDOWN OF ENTRIES BY TRAINER WITH PAST SUCCESSES IN THE SMURFIT KAPPA CHAMPION HURDLE
Nicky Henderson (1985, 1986 & 1987 See You Then)
Noel Meade IRE
Richard Chotard FR
Edward O'Grady IRE
John Carr IRE (2007 Sublimity)
Henry de Bromhead IRE
Gordon Elliott IRE
Eoin Griffin IRE
Philip Hobbs (2003 Rooster Booster)
Tom Hogan IRE
Dessie Hughes IRE (2004 & 2005 Hardy Eustace)
Pat Hughes IRE
Seamus Mullins IRE
Willie Mullins IRE
Paul Nolan IRE
Michael O'Brien IRE
John Queally IRE
Harry Rogers IRE
Dermot Weld IRE
Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle - Analysis
The 2008 Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle has attracted 38 entries - 10 more than in 2007 - with a record 19 hailing from Ireland for the £360,000 event, run on the opening day of The Festival, Tuesday, March 11.
Last year's victor Sublimity is engaged once again, along with the 2004 and 2005 hero Hardy Eustace, who also finished third in 2006 and fourth last year. Afsoun (third in 2007) is also entered along with Kawagino (sixth in 2007).
Trained in Ireland by John Carr, Sublimity has only raced once since his three-length triumph over Brave Inca last year, when finishing fourth on his seasonal debut behind Osana in the Boylesports.com International at Cheltenham on December 15.
The Irish challenge also includes Al Eile, winner of the Grade One December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown last month when he was a length too good for Hardy Eustace with Jazz Messenger third, Ebaziyan fourth, Farmer Brown fifth and Clopf sixth.
The revitalised Harchibald, runner-up in 2005, is one four entries for Ireland's champion trainer Noel Meade along with Aitmatov, successful in the Grade One Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, the 2006 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle victor Nicanor, not seen out since winning at Punchestown in April, 2006, and Jazz Messenger.
Other leading Irish contenders include Silent Oscar, winner of the Grade One Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, 2007, and Sizing Europe, who looked to be a progressive performer when landing the Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on November 18, proving four lengths too strong for Osana. The mare Lounaos, trained by Eoin Griffin, started favourite for the 2007 JCB Triumph Hurdle but only finished 10th. However, she looked back on track with a comfortable victory at Limerick on December 26.
The trainer with the largest number of entries is Nicky Henderson, who sent out the great See You Then to success in 1985, 1986 and 1987. In addition to Afsoun, the Seven Barrows sextet includes Amaretto Rose, third in the 2007 Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Blue Shark, who was last seen on a racecourse when winning the Grade One Finale Hurdle at Chepstow in December, 2005, Chomba Womba, a winner of both her starts so far this season, Khyber Kim, a Listed class performer on the Flat who put up an impressive display on his hurdling debut at Newbury last month and Punjabi, successful in Grade One company at Punchestown in April.
One of the best novices of last season was Katchit, who gained his biggest success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival. The Alan King-trained five-year-old was successful on his seasonal reappearance at Aintree before coming third behind Harchibald and Al Eile in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. Last time out he returned to Cheltenham, going down by eight lengths when second to Osana in the Boylesports.com International.
Straw Bear came close to Festival glory when runner-up in the 2006 Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle but broke a blood vessel when disappointing in last season's Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle. The Nick Gifford-trained gelding looked right back to his best last time out when scoring a brave head victory over Harchibald in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Two entries with useful Flat form are Blythe Knight and Blue Bajan. Blythe Knight was a Group Three winner at Epsom on Derby Day, having already proved his ability as a hurdler by taking the Grade Two John Smith's Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree last season. Blue Bajan, Group-placed on the Flat, was a smooth winner at Leicester last month although his trainer Andy Turnell has stressed he is more likely to go down the novice route this season.
There are two entries from France, Cybergenic and Majadal. Both are trained by Richard Chotard for Kent-based owner Fergus Wilson but look short of the class required to win the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle.
2007 SMURFIT KAPPA CHAMPION HURDLE RESULT IN DETAIL
2m 1/2f Old Course, £360,000 guaranteed For 4yo+ which are allotted a rating of 130 or more by the Senior BHB Jump handicapper following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run upto and including March 6; horses which are not qualified for a rating in Great Britain, Ireland or France may also be entered; such horses may be eligible providing the handicapper is satisfied that the horse's racecourse performances up to and including March 6, would merit a minimum rating of 130; the decision of the Senior BHB Handicapper shall be final. Weights 4yo 11st 2lb; 5yo+ 11st 10lb Allowances FILLIES AND MARES 7LB Entries 28 pay £405 First Forfeit 20 pay £810 Confirmed 16 pay £405 Penalty Value 1st £205,272; 2nd £77,004; 3rd £38,556; 4th £19,224; 5th £9,648; 6th £4,824
1 SUBLIMITY (FR) (Bill Hennessy) John Carr 7-11-10t Philip Carberry 16/1
2 BRAVE INCA (IRE) (Novices Syndicate) Colm Murphy IRE 9-11-10 Ruby Walsh 11/2
3 AFSOUN (FR) (Trevor Hemmings) Nicky Henderson 5-11-10 Mick Fitzgerald 28/1
4 HARDY EUSTACE (IRE) (Lar Byrne) Dessie Hughes IRE 10-11-10v Conor O'Dwyer 3/1
5 KAWAGINO (IRE) (K J Pike) Seamus Mullins 7-11-10 Wayne Kavanagh 100/1
6 DETROIT CITY (USA) (Terry Warner) Philip Hobbs 5-11-10b Richard Johnson 6/4 Fav
7 ASIAN MAZE (IRE) (Sheila Moore) Tom Mullins IRE 8-11-03 Robert Power 20/1
8 MARBLE GARDEN (USA) (Fergus Wilson) Richard Chotard FR 6-11-10tb James Davies 250/1
F 3 OUT IKTITAF (IRE) (Mrs P Sloan) Noel Meade IRE 6-11-10t Barry Geraghty 14/1
PU BEF 3 OUT STRAW BEAR (USA) (J P McManus) Nicky Gifford 6-11-10 Tony McCoy 7/1
Non-runner: 1 Acambo (vet's certificate)
Distances: 3, nk, nk, 15, hd, .75, dist
Breeder: Stratford Place & Watership Down Stud
Breeding: b g Selkirk (USA) - Fig Tree Drive (USA)
Totes: Win: £16.20; Places: £2.90; £2.10; £4.80; Exacta: £165.20
Winning Trainer: John Carr Based: Maynooth, Co. Kildare Background: Former dairy farmer from Kildare. Scored his first Cheltenham Festival success when Sublimity landed the 2007 Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle. Cheltenham Festival Winners (1): Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle (2007 Sublimity) Winners in Britain (2003/04-2005/06): 3; 2; 5 Winners in Britain this season: 2
Winning Jockey: Philip Carberry Date of Birth: November 1, 1980 Background: Brother of Paul and Nina Carberry. Spent summer holidays working for Aidan O'Brien and Dermot Weld. First Winner: Native Status, Bellewstown, 01/07/1998 Cheltenham Festival Winners(1): Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle (2007 Sublimity) Aintree Festival Wins: Cordon Bleu H'cap Hurdle (2000 Sharpaten) Other Big Race Wins: Irish Grand National (2006 Point Barrow), Kerry National (1999 Lanturn), Prix la Haye Jousselin (2006 Princesse d'Anjou), Grande Steeple Chase de Paris (2006 Princesse d'Anjou) Other Details: Has ridden in Australia as part of annual Irish Jump Jockeys Tour.
PETER JONES CBE TO JOIN GOODWOOD BOARD
Peter Jones CBE, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Tote after more than 10 years in charge, will join the board of directors of Goodwood Racecourse in March.
Jones commented on his appointment: "I’ve had an association with Goodwood for more than 40 years, first as a racegoer and then in a professional racing capacity. It is one of the world’s truly great racecourses.
"I’m delighted to be asked to join the board and very much hope I will be able to make a positive contribution."
Lord March, chairman of Goodwood Racecourse, said: "Peter Jones is a racing enthusiast with tremendous experience of the sport and we are delighted that he has agreed to come on to the board."
Jones succeeded Lord Wyatt as chairman of the Tote in August, 1997, and the Tote underwent several major changes, including re-branding, complete relocation of its headquarters to Wigan and the introduction of the totescoop6 bet which gives customers the chance each week to win a potentially life changing sum of money on horseracing.
Other bets introduced included the toteexacta and totetrifecta, which was unveiled at on Stewards’ Cup day at Glorious Goodwood in August, 1998.
Jones also played a key role in agreeing the Tote’s sponsorship of Channel 4 Racing which guaranteed continued regular terrestrial coverage of the sport.
Under his chairmanship, the Tote also added the totesport Mile, one of Europe’s richest mile handicaps, and the Group Two totesport.com Celebration Mile, both at Goodwood, to its impressive sponsorship portfolio.
Jones was president of the Racehorse Owners’ Association between 1990 and 1993 and a founder member of the British Horseracing Board in 1992. He served on the Horserace Betting Levy Board between 1993-1995 and 1997-2007.
Jones made his name in advertising and was with Boase Massimi Pollitt plc from 1983 to 89. He then became chief executive of Omnicom UK plc from 1989 to 1994 and remained on the board of that company until 1997.
He has been chairman of Dorset Police Authority (1997-2003) and recently became a governor of the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was a student in the 1960s.
Jones was honoured with a CBE for services to the racing industry in the recent Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.
Goodwood is recognised as perhaps the most beautiful racecourse in the world. Set high on the Sussex Downs, Goodwood hosts 22 days of Flat racing from May to October, attracting the very best from the world of horseracing.
Goodwood is not only a breathtaking backdrop for some of the very finest racing, but it is also one of the world’s greatest venues for entertaining.
There are few moments in sport to equal the thrill of a top-class field making that final dash to the winning post.
The combination of sublime surroundings and sporting excellence makes Goodwood the perfect place. The mood is relaxed, with a style all its own.