PRIVATE BE “IN GOOD FORM” AHEAD OF THE GRADE THREE betchronicle.com TROPHY
*HOLD EM READY TO PROVE HE’S A CHELTENHAM ACE*
Meeting - Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 26
Advance Admission Prices - Club/Tattersalls £18, Best Mate £8
Gates Open - 10.30am
First race - 1pm
Private Be will be seeking compensation for an unlucky defeat earlier in the season, in the £55,000 Grade Three betchronicle.com Trophy Chase (2.05pm) over two miles, five furlongs at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 26.
The Philip Hobbs-trained eight-year-old was going well on the heels of the leaders in the Pyments Quantity Surveyors Handicap Chase over an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham in October, when he was brought down two fences from home.
Private Be subsequently disappointed when 11th behind L’Antartique in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open on November 17, but Hobbs believes he is in good form ahead of Saturday’s test.
The Somerset trainer revealed today: “Private Be will run in the betchronicle.com Trophy Chase on Saturday. He’s fine and it’s very much the plan to go there.
“We were a bit disappointed with him in the Paddy Power Gold Cup but he’s in good form again now. He ran well at Cheltenham first time this season and we’re hoping he will run well again.”
Hobbs is considering his options for the hat-trick seeking novice County Zen, who may head to Cheltenham for the £30,000 Grade Two Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle (1.00pm), the opening race on Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 26.
The trainer reported: “I’m not sure at this stage about County Zen’s participation. I want to see how the horse is and then we’ll decide whether he goes to Cheltenham or the totesport Trophy at Newbury.”
Pembrokeshire trainer Keith Goldsworthy is in no doubt about running plans for his stable star as he looks forward to unleashing his exciting prospect Hold Em at Cheltenham in the Grade Two Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle over an extended two and a half miles.
The Welsh handler revealed this morning: “Hold Em definitely goes for the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle on Saturday and that is our total focus. Timmy (Murphy) rides him again - that has been confirmed.”
Hold Em, a leading bumper performer earlier in the campaign, made an impressive start to his hurdling career over two and a half miles at Hereford on January 10, as he strolled to a three-length victory. The six-year-old suffered his only defeat in five outings under Rules when a short-head runner-up to Uffa Fox in the Grade Two Barclays Championship Open National Hunt Flat Race at Ascot in December.
Goldsworthy reported: “He does more at home than he did when winning at Hereford. That was very easy and it was nice to see. I wouldn’t say that the ground was ideal for him either as it was a bit heavy but ability always prevails.
“The handicapper has put him in at 130 and, using horses we have at home as a benchmark, I think he’s probably better than that. With a handicap mark like that, he might as well go for something tidy. He’s a nice horse and he won his three bumpers on the bridle. He only just got beaten in his fourth giving away seven pounds and that was probably a tactical defeat as much as anything. A horse came high and wide and just got us on the line.”
Goldsworthy, who trains at Grumbly Bush Farm in picturesque South Pembrokeshire, believes there is more to come from his charge and is eyeing a tilt at The Festival itself with a horse who he believes has plenty of improvement in him.
He said: “Hold Em is an improving horse and he’s done nothing but get better since he’s been here. He’s a young horse with only one run over hurdles so why wouldn’t he improve? He’s starting his life at 130 so he could be anything.
“If all goes well, we’ll be looking at The Festival and either the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle or the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles. It will depend on ground conditions.”
Last year’s winner of the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in January, Wichita Lineman, went on to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles at The Festival but Goldsworthy is not looking to try the longer trip with Hold Em just yet.
The trainer continued: “He struggled over three miles point-to-pointing but I think that was as much to do with his immaturity. Maybe he doesn’t quite see out the three but he’s comfortable at two and half and two miles, five furlongs.
“It was a bit heavy at Hereford last time. I wouldn’t say it inconvenienced him too much but he’s quite a bold jumper and likes to stand off his hurdles. Obviously, the better ground helps a horse do that. I don’t think there are any ground issues on Saturday as it will be soft ground or better. We might as well see if he can handle the hill and that will tell us what to do at The Festival.”
Hold Em is one of 26 entries for the Grade Two contest, which produced two Festival winners last term. As well as the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Wichita Lineman, third-placed Massini’s Maguire went on to take the Grade One Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle for trainer Philip Hobbs.
The excellent field on Saturday could include the Nicky Henderson-trained Aigle D’Or, a smart Flat performer in France, who impressively landed the odds on his hurdles debut at Lingfield on January 4.
The Hobbs-trained County Zen has won his last two, latterly defeating Evelith Echo at Sandown in December, while Howard Johnson could run the unbeaten Marleybow and smart Irish Bumper performer Logan’s Run.
Gauvain, representing trainer Charlie Mann, was third to Souffleur in the Grade One Ballymore Properties Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury in December, while the Victor Dartnall-trained Lodge Lane is two from two over hurdles and defeated the classy Carruthers at Exeter on January 1.
Other possible contenders include the Paul Nicholls-trained Chepstow winner What A Friend, the Paul Webber trio of One Gulp, Luxurix and Edgeover, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Pigeon Island and Razor Royale, as well as the Irish raider Made In Taipan from the Tom Mullins yard.
The Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle is one of four Grade Two contests on a fantastic seven-race card, which features the £100,000 Grade Two Letheby & Christopher Chase (2.40pm), a premier trial for the totesport Gold Cup.
Festival Trials Day is the last chance to go racing at Cheltenham prior to The Festival, which runs from Tuesday, March 11 to Friday, March 14.
BAGAN HEADING TO SKY BET CHASE
Trainer Charlie Mann today confirmed that Bagan is on course for Saturday’s £75,000 Listed Sky Bet Chase (3.00pm), run over three miles at Doncaster, for which the sponsors make him the 10/1 second favourite behind Opera Mundi (5/1). Bagan opened at 12/1 but has been clipped into 10/1 following support in the ante-post market.
A useful performer on the Flat for Henry Cecil and a three-time winner over hurdles, the nine-year-old made the best possible start to his chasing career when getting off the mark on his debut in a beginners chase at Uttoxeter in May. He subsequently won two more chases, most recently when coming home a comfortable four-length winner of the First Great Western Novices’ Handicap Chase at Newbury in December.
The Upper Lambourn handler commented: “Bagan definitely runs in the Sky Bet Chase on Saturday. He’s in very good form. I’m very pleased with him and he’s got a good weight (10st 7lb). I think he’ll be tough to beat.
“He’s come out of his last run super. The Sky Bet Chase was always the long-term target and we’ve been keeping him for this race. I couldn’t be more pleased with the horse and I don’t have any worries. He’s won on soft ground last time so he should handle the ground fine.”
Regarding the news that half a share of Bagan is for sale, Mann added: “He’d be worth having half a share in and he might just get the money back on Saturday.”
Other horses for money in the ante-post market with Sky Bet include the Alan King-trained Yardbird, an impressive winner at Kempton over Christmas who is into 12/1 (from 14/1) while outsider Our Armageddon, trained by Richard Guest, is now 25/1 (from 33/1).
A total of 48 entries were received for the Sky Bet Chase at the five-day stage, headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Opera Mundi, the 5/1 market leader with Sky Bet.
Other horses on course for Saturday’s contest include the Nicky Richards-trained Harmony Brig, successful in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle earlier this season, while French handler Francois Doumen is set to be represented by L’Ami and Kelami.
LATEST SKY BET PRICES
Opera Mundi 5/1, Bagan 10/1, An Accordian 12/1, Yardbird 12/1, Alderburn 14/1, New Little Bric 14/1, Rambling Minster 14/1, Standin Obligation 14/1, Ungaro 14/1, Brooklyn Brownie 16/1, Dream Alliance 16/1, Model Son 16/1, Maljimar 18/1, Butler's Cabin 20/1, Caipiroska 20/1, Dusky Warbler 20/1, Harmony Brig 20/1, Idle Talk 20/1, Jaunty Times 20/1, Juveigneur 20/1, L'Ami 20/1, Limited Edition 20/1, Aztec Warrior 20/1, Bob Hall 20/1, Kelami 22/1, Kerry Lads 22/1, Ma Yahab 22/1, Ardaghey 22/1, Burntoakboy 25/1, Captain Corelli 25/1, Henry's Pride 25/1, Lidjo De Rouge 25/1, Our Armageddon 25/1, Royal Rosa 25/1, Thistlecraft 25/1, Aleron 28/1, Herecomestanley 28/1, Mister McGoldrick 28/1, Hard Act To Follow 33/1, Alright Now M'Lad 33/1, Himalayan Trail 33/1, The Reverend 33/1, Brooklyn Breeze 33/1, Lampion Du Bost 40/1, Undeniable 40/1, Korelo 66/1, Red Scally, 66/1, Arumun 100/1
50 FOR RED SQUARE VODKA GOLD CUP - McCAIN CONSIDERING OPTIONS FOR CLOUDY LANE
The 2008 renewal of the £125,000 Grade Three Red Square Vodka Gold Cup Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday, February 16, has attracted 50 entries, two more than in 2007 and a joint-record with 2006.
The great Red Rum, winner of the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1977, ran at Haydock prior to each of his five starts at Aintree and Donald McCain Jnr, son of Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain, has three horses engaged this year - Cloudy Lane, Idle Talk, who are both owned by Trevor Hemmings, as well as Bannister Lane.
Cloudy Lane triumphed at the 2007 Cheltenham Festival in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase and was successful on his latest outing in the Sodexho Prestige Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock Park on December 22 - his fourth victory at the track. Idle Talk, runner-up in the 2006 Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham unseated his rider last time out in the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow while Bannister Lane finished third over the Grand National fences in the totepool Grand Sefton Chase at Aintree in November.
McCain Jnr revealed today: “I was delighted with Cloudy Lane’s run in the Sodexho Prestige Tommy Whittle Chase, especially on the soft going. He’s a better horse on decent ground and he didn’t like the heavy underfoot conditions in last year’s Red Square Vodka Gold Cup.
“He’s entered in this year’s race, and it is a possibility if the ground at Haydock improves considerably. He needs another run somewhere before going to Aintree.
“Idle Talk is another possible runner. Mr Hemmings likes having runners at Haydock and the extended three and a half miles would suit him. He was travelling very sweetly in the Welsh National at Chepstow before unseating. We’ve had Yogi Breisner up and he was very happy with him and it looks like it’s just a concentration issue.
“He’s got ability, having finished second in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham in 2006, and the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup would be his type of race.
“Bannister Lane is rated 120, so it could be difficult for him to get in. He loves soft ground and has been running very well in staying chases under top-weight. There is a decent race in this horse and, if he can sneak in off a light weight, he’s the sort who could run very well.”
Along with last year’s runner-up L’Aventure, champion trainer Paul Nicholls is represented in the entries with Opera Mundi, a game winner under top-weight of the Betting As It Should Be Handicap Chase at Haydock Park on November 24. Completing his four-strong entry is Officier De Reserve and Coral Welsh National fifth Geeveem.
Five of the eight finishers in last month’s Welsh National have been entered for this three mile, four and a half furlong contest, including the gutsy winner Miko De Beauchene from Robert Alner’s yard.
David Pipe is the trainer with the most entries, with six to choose from at this stage. They include Welsh National third Over The Creek and Madison Du Berlais, runner-up to stable companion Vodka Bleu in the valuable Silver Cup at Ascot last month, while Sodexho Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase second Comply Or Die is also entered in the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup, which is part of the Order Of Merit series.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, who won the race in 2001 with Frantic Tan, has three entries, including the smart Fundamentalist, Irish Raptor and Coral Welsh National fourth Naunton Brook.
The John Spearing-trained Simon, last season’s Sky Bet Chase and Racing Post Chase winner, is also entered. He’s currently the joint second favourite for the Grand National in April along with Howard Johnson’s Bewleys Berry, who could also head to Haydock Park on February 16.
County Durham-based Don Forster has entered 2006 winner Ossmoses, though the 11-year-old has been off the track since March. Model Son, 15 lengths behind Ossmoses two years ago, could reoppose.
There is a strong potential challenge of nine entered from Ireland, including the last two winners of tomorrow’s Thyestes Chase, namely Willie Mullins’ Homer Wells and the Tony Martin-trained Dun Doire. The latter trainer also has Paddy Power Chase winner and Thyestes Chase favourite Newbay Prop engaged.
Also bidding to give Ireland a first win in the race since Pat Fahy saddled Nuaffe to success in 1995, could be Pat Hughes’ 2006 Irish Grand National winner Point Barrow and Arthur Moore’s classy Pierse Leopardstown Handicap Chase runner-up King Johns Castle.
Other notable entries include Oliver Sherwood’s Eric’s Charm and 2007 John Smith’s Grand National fourth Philson Run, who was second to D’Argent in the totesport Classic Chase at Warwick last time out.
Francois Doumen supplies the two French entries in Kelami, who finished third behind Forest Gunner in the 2005 renewal, and Nitrat, a Listed winner in his native country.
LEVY BOARD APPOINTS NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE
The Levy Board announces the appointment of Douglas Erskine-Crum as Chief Executive of the Horserace Betting Levy Board with effect from mid-February 2008. Douglas was Chief Executive of Ascot Racecourse from 1994 to 2007 which, under his management, transformed its profitability, race programme and reputation as one of the leading racecourses in the world. Since leaving Ascot he has been involved with various international development projects. Prior to his Ascot appointment he was in the Army.
Douglas's appointment arises following the sad death of Sir Tristram Ricketts late last year. Since then the Levy Board has undertaken a formal search for his replacement.
Commenting today Chairman Robert Hughes said: “From an outstanding shortlist of candidates, I am pleased to say that we have chosen someone whom we are confident will admirably fulfil all our expectations in leading the Board's staff and facing the challenges of the future. Through his time at Ascot, where he transformed the fortunes of the racecourse, Douglas has an intimate knowledge of racing and managing change. On behalf of the Board, I welcome him to the post and look forward to working with him.”
Douglas Erskine-Crum said: “Tristram was a close personal friend for whom I had a great deal of respect. I am very much looking forward to this exciting new challenge of working with the Board and its constituent parts to find successful solutions for the future of British Racing.”