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Monday, November 29, 2004

13 FOR TOMMY WHITTLE CHASE Ferdy Murphy aiming 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Truckers Tavern at £60,000 race

A fascinating Tommy Whittle Chase is in prospect with 13 high-class contenders entered at today's five-day entry stage for the Grade Two £60,000 event taking place at Haydock Park on Saturday, December 4.

Last year's winner Keen Leader from the Jonjo O'Neill stable is a possible once again along with Truckers Tavern, the runner-up 12 months ago who was also second to Best Mate in the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Truckers Tavern made his seasonal reappearance this season over hurdles at Ayr on November 7, finishing fourth behind The French Furze over an inadequate two and a half miles.Trainer Ferdy Murphy stated today that the nine-year-old is likely to have his next outing at Haydock Park on Saturday.

"Truckers Tavern will go for the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday," said Murphy. "He's progressed well since his seasonal reappearance at Ayr and we're really pleased with him.

"We were tempted to give him another run over hurdles at Chepstow, but we feel that as he has progressed so well since Ayr, a run over fences would be more beneficial to him."

Murphy went on to reveal that he feels Haydock Park plays to Truckers Tavern's strengths: "He likes Haydock - he was second in this race last year and won the Peter Marsh Chase the season before. The track is ideal for him.

"We could really do with some rain for him - get the drums beating at Haydock! Hopefully Tony Dobbin will be available to ride him, as that will be a big help."

Keen Leader was beaten into third place behind Horus and Chives in Haydock Park's first major chase of the season, the Edward Hanmer Handicap Chase on November 14 and the trio could all reoppose on Saturday. Sue Smith, trainer of Chives, could also run Royal Emperor, one of the leading novices last season.

Two interesting contenders on the comeback trail are the Howard Johnson-trained Ballybough Rasher, not seen out since causing a 40/1 upset in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last season and the 2003 Royal & SunAlliance Chase victor One Knight, from the Philip Hobbs stable and last seen out when falling in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November, 2003.

There are two entries from Ireland, headed by Edward O'Grady's Pizarro, victorious in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2002 and not seen out since being brought down when going well in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the same course in March. The other Irish challenger is Cloudy Bays, trained by Charles Byrnes, who has been in great form this season, finishing third behind Beef Or Salmon in a Grade One contest at Down Royal on his penultimate start and second in the Grade Two Clonmel Oil Chase on his latest appearance on November 18.

Also entered are the 2004 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Sir Rembrandt, Nigel Twiston-Davies' promising novice Baron Windrush, the tough and consistent Take The Stand and Ballybrophy.

This year's Tommy Whittle Chase forms part of the British Horseracing Board's exciting new Order of Merit Series, which awards points to the best chasers and hurdlers throughout the season with a total of £300,000 in prize money up for grabs.

The ground at Haydock Park is currently GOOD TO SOFT on the hurdles course and GOOD TO SOFT, SOFT IN PLACES on the chase course.

Clerk of the Course Kirkland Tellwright explained: "We are due for a substantially cold and dry week. I would think that the ground will be broadly the same at the weekend as it is now."


First run in 1982, the Tommy Whittle Chase is named in honour of the late Tommy Whittle, a director of Haydock Park for 30 years, 13 of which were spent as Chairman. He died in 1981 and his son Bill is the current Chairman at the course.

Despite its relatively short history, the three-mile contest, run on a weight-for-age basis, has developed into a major target for the best staying chasers. This year it is one of the races involved in the British Horseracing Board's exciting new Order of Merit series.

Little Owl, winner of the 1981 Cheltenham Gold Cup, was the first victor in 1982. Only two runners went to post for that inaugural race, with the runner-up Bregawn going on to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following March, being the first home of trainer Michael Dickinson's "famous five" at Prestbury Park.

Dickinson did not have to wait long before he won the Tommy Whittle Chase, sending out Prince Rowan to victory in 1983, with Little Owl this time five lengths back in second.

Gaye Chance, a full-brother to the 1983 Champion Hurdle winner Gaye Brief, was the 1984 victor for Mercy Rimell, while Earls Brig triumphed for Scottish trainer William Hamilton in 1985.

The 1985 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Forgive'N Forget was the decisive winner in 1986, defeating Cybrandian by ten lengths.

The 1987 race was unfortunately abandoned due to frost while The Thinker, another former winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, was successful in 1988. Arthur Stephenson's charge scored comfortably by 12 lengths from Kissane. Later that season, he ran a fine race to finish third under top weight in the Grand National at Aintree.

The Thinker returned to defend his Tommy Whittle crown in 1989, but had to make do with second place this time, finding the 20/1 shot Baies a short-head too strong in a thrilling finish. Charlie Brooks, trainer of Baies, scored a second successive Tommy Whittle victory when he sent out the 1988 Champion Hurdle victor Celtic Shot to score in 1990.

Twin Oaks was the winner in 1992, finishing 12 lengths clear of Pat's Jester to record what would be his last victory at Haydock Park. The gallant gelding recorded no less than nine successes at the course over the years.

While the Tommy Whittle Chase had generally been dominated by horses trained in the north, there were victories for horses from the south in the next two years, with the David Nicholson-trained Gambling Royal landing the spoils in 1993 and the Martin Pipe-trained Chatam scoring a year later.

Three popular grey horses dominated the next three renewals. It was the great One Man, trained by Gordon Richards, who started the run in 1996, putting up a most impressive performance to defeat Monsieur Le Cure by 11 lengths.

A year later his stable companion The Grey Monk was victorious, defeating Grand National winner Rough Quest by six lengths. He was another horse to appreciate Haydock Park's fences, recording four victories in total at the course.

The Grey Monk's victory was the third for his trainer, who also handled Twin Oaks. Richards, who died in 1998, still holds the distinction of being the most successful trainer in the Tommy Whittle Chase.

Suny Bay completed the greys' treble in 1998 when coming home three and a half lengths ahead of Earth Summit, who had got the better of him six months earlier in the Grand National.

Trained by Charlie Brooks, Suny Bay had previously won three times at Haydock, taking two renewals of the Edward Hanmer Chase as well as the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup.

Bobby Grant recorded the first of his two Tommy Whittle Chase victories in 1999 by defeating fellow Haydock specialist, The Last Fling. The following season, he proved three lengths superior to Kings Road, who had won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on his previous start. Bobby Grant is the only dual winner of the Tommy Whittle Chase.

Jonjo O'Neill's talented but fragile performer Legal Right got the better of Kingsmark in 2001 by half a length in a great finish while Sackville recorded the first victory for Ireland in 2002, having a length and a half to spare over the gallant Bobby Grant, with Kingsmark in third.

Last year saw a second victory for trainer Jonjo O'Neill who sent out Keen Leader to be the impressive 17-length winner under Barry Geraghty from Truckers Tavern.


Grade Two
£60,000 Total Prize Fund
2.10pm Haydock Park, Saturday, December 4
Three Miles


2003 KEEN LEADER 7-11-05 Adair Catherwood Jonjo O'Neill Barry Geraghty 5/4F 7
2002 SACKVILLE 9-11-08 Seamus O'Farrell Frances Crowley IRE Timmy Murphy 3/1 4
2001 LEGAL RIGHT 8-11-02 Russell McAllister Jonjo O'Neill Tony McCoy 5/4F 7
2000 BOBBY GRANT 9-11-08 John Thompson Peter Beaumont Russ Garrity 7/1 6
1999 BOBBY GRANT 8-11-03 John Thompson Peter Beaumont Robbie Supple 5/1 6
1998 SUNY BAY 9-10-12 Uplands Bloodstock Simon Sherwood Graham Bradley 4/11F 5
1997 THE GREY MONK 9-11-02 Alistair Duff Gordon Richards Peter Niven 8/13F 4
1996 Abandoned - frost
1995 ONE MAN 7-11-02 John Hales Gordon Richards Mark Dwyer 1/3F 5
1994 CHATAM 10-11-02 Adrian Nolan Martin Pipe Richard Dunwoody 11/4 3
1993 GAMBLING ROYAL 10-10-12 Roach Foods Limited David Nicholson Adrian Maguire 7/2 4
1992 TWIN OAKS 12-11-02 John Moreton Gordon Richards Richard Dunwoody 5/4F 5
1991 Abandoned - frost
1990 CELTIC SHOT 6-11-02 David Horton Charlie Brooks Graham McCourt 1/2F 6
1989 BAIES 7-10-12 Mrs Basil Samuel Charlie Brooks Peter Scudamore 20/1 9
1988 THE THINKER 10-11-02 T P M McDonagh Ltd Arthur Stephenson Alan Merrigan 4/6F 3
1987 Abandoned - frost
1986 FORGIVE'N FORGET 9-11-02 T Kilroe & Sons Ltd Jimmy FitzGerald Mark Dwyer 1/3F 3
1985 EARLS BRIG 10-10-12 William Hamilton William Hamilton Phil Tuck 3/1 4
1984 GAYE CHANCE 9-10-12 Mary Curtis Mercy Rimell Sam Morshead 7/4F 6
1983 PRINCE ROWAN 7-10-12 John Poynton Michael Dickinson Mr Dermot Browne 12/1 7
1982 LITTLE OWL 8-11-02 Robin Wilson Peter Easterby Mr Jim Wilson 9/4 2





12.05pm The Muriel Williams Memorial Conditional Jockeys' abt 2m £5,000-added
Handicap Hurdle

12.35pm The Quattro Rubber Products Newton Novices' Hurdle abt 2m £30,000-added
(Listed Race)

* 1.10pm The Gordon Plant Memorial Trophy Handicap Chase abt 2m £25,000-added

* 1.40pm The totesport Handicap Hurdle 2m abt 4f £50,000-total prize fund

* 2.10pm THE TOMMY WHITTLE CHASE (GRADE 2) abt 3m £60,000-total prize fund

2.45pm The Paddy Savage 70th Birthday Novices' Chase abt 2m £15,000-added

3.20pm The Red Square Vodka Fixed Brush' National Hunt' 2m abt 4f £8,000-added
Novices' Hurdle

* BBC Televised Races

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