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Saturday, November 19, 2005



Aintree will hold a precautionary inspection at 8am tomorrow to determine whether racing on the second day of the North West Masters can go ahead.

Andrew Tulloch, Clerk of the Course at Aintree, said: “This purely a precautionary inspection in case temperatures overnight fall lower than the expected minus 3 degrees Celsius. There is also the possibility of fog.

“We could have raced today and have every expectation of doing so tomorrow.”


Trainer Robert Alner and owner Arnie Sendell have had to be patient with Kingscliff after lots of niggly injuries but their belief that their charge was top-class was finally vindicated as he won the Betfair Chase, under a fine ride from Robert Walford, by one and a quarter lengths to Beef Or Salmon.

The handler said: “I knew that he was a good horse and this is the first time that we have had a clear run at it with him as he had had niggly problems and muscle problems.

“He’s older and more mature now and he’s eight, going on nine, which is the perfect age really.

“Obviously last year the total focus was on the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and we didn’t go for the Aon Chase at Newbury in February and didn’t get to the Gold Cup which was a disapointment.

“This year we are working on a race by race basis and we’ll not focus on the Gold Cup - if we get to Cheltenham in March we’ll then go for that race.”

Alner was very complimentary about the Ł1 million bonus that Betfair is offering if one horse can win this event as well as the King George VI Chase, this year at Sandown on Boxing Day, and the Gold Cup.

“Obviously, it was a question of finding the right race for Kingscliff and the added incentive is great for the sport and gives an interest to the whole thing,” he enthused.

“Obviously, we are in the running and we are the only ones that can win it!

“The plan was to always be up there as he stays and he jumped fantastic and that won the race really.

“We wanted to kick on turning in and Kicking King came and didn’t get past him.”

Asked if his charge could confirm the form with Kicking King at Cheltenham in March, the trainer replied: “Let’s both get to March when the horses will answer all of the questions!

“As for the King George, Sandown will definitely suit him better than Kempton [he was runner-up to Kicking King in the same event last year] as he stays every yard of the three miles and he jumps and that track takes a bit of jumping.

“After all the problems that this horse has had, this is a sweet moment!”

Alner had earlier congratulated his jockey with the words: “Well done, you’ll never ride a better race - that was brilliant.”

Robert Walford said: “It was a pleasure to ride him and it was fantastic. He jumped and galloped them into the ground and he stays and jumps.

“He travelled much better than at Wetherby [when runner-up to Ollie Magern].

“I thought to myself that he stays and bugger it - let’s kick on!”

The winner received a 12/1 quote for the Betfair Million (from 80/1) with Paddy Power and was trimmed to 5/1 (from 10/1) with the same firm for the Gold Cup.

Ladbrokes were more impressed going 4/1 for Cheltenham (from 10/1).

Coral make the eight-year-old a 7/1 chance for the Betfair Million and 7/2 for the Gold Cup (from 9/1). The Barking-based firm also make him a 5/2 shot for the King George VI Chase.



Paul Carberry, the rider of the second Beef Or Salmon in the Betfair Chase, said: “He ran a cracker. He probably could have done with a run underneath his belt.

“He stayed on really well and jumped very accurately and very good. I thought I had every chance the whole way up the straight. I knew he would find a bit.

“He just jumped the last a small bit slow but picked up again afterwards. I was very happy with his run.”



Tom Taaffe, trainer of the third Kicking King - the 4/5 favourite - in the Betfair Chase, said initially after the race: “Horses are not machines - that is the end of the Betfair Million for us but there is the King George and the Gold Cup and if we end up winning those we will be delighted.

“I think we have to go home and see how he is in a week’s time. I say that because he did not pick up the way he can pick up. Something may come to light in a week’s time.

“It won’t be the first time that a horse has gone out with something to do and not done it and it won’t be the last time.

“Kicking King has jumped pretty well and he has come back in one piece which is the first and foremost thing in my mind.

“The fact that he has been beaten is disappointing but that is horses and racing which is why everyone turns up to go racing every day - you never know what might happen.

“My own personal view is that he is a bit flatter in himself that than I thought he was. I will have to wait a few days to try and put my finger on it properly.”

It was subsequently discovered that Kicking’s King’s left hind shoe had come off during the race, leaving the horse sore.

Taaffe added: “You don’t need to be Einstein to work out that this affected him.”


1. KINGSCLIFF (IRE) (Arnold Sendell) Robert Alner 8-11-08 Robert Walford 8/1
2. BEEF OR SALMON (IRE) (Joe Craig) Michael Hourigan IRE 9-11-08 Paul Carberry 8/1
3. KICKING KING (IRE) (Conor Clarkson) Tom Taaffe IRE 7-11-08 Barry Geraghty 4/5 Fav
4. KEEN LEADER (IRE) (Adair Catherwood) Jonjo O'Neill 9-11-08 Noel Fehily 14/1
5. ROYAL AUCLAIR (FR) (Clive Smith) Paul Nicholls t8-11-08 Christian Williams 40/1
6. TAKE THE STAND (IRE) (David Robbins, Frank Ridge) Peter Bowen 9-11-08 Tony Dobbin 25/1
7. OLLIE MAGERN (Roger Nicholls) Nigel Twiston-Davies 7-11-08 Carl Llewellyn 4/1
distances 1.25, 9, 10, 0.5, hd, dist
Tote W £9.90 pl £3.20, £2.20 Exacta £45.80
NR no 2) CELESTIAL GOLD vet’s certificate


8 b g Toulon - Pixies Glen (Furry Glen)
8-11-08 Form: 11/112/24-21 Owner: Arnold Sendell
Trainer: Robert Alner Breeder: Ian Gault Jockey: Robert Walford

Kingscliff started life in point-to-points under the care of Mrs Sally Alner and was unbeaten in two starts, before being transferred to the National Hunt yard of husband Robert Alner. He won on his hunter chase debut at Wincanton in February, 2003, easily defeating Family Business by 30 lengths. On his second start in the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, he came home ahead of 23 opponents to land the prize by two and a half lengths, putting up another imposing performance. The 2003/04 season saw Kingscliff make an extraordinary winning debut in handicap company at Ascot in November, where despite suffering a broken left reign after jumping the third fence, he destroyed a seven-runner field to win by 17 lengths. Another comfortable victory followed on his next start in December, when he defeated six opponents at Cheltenham over an extended three miles and one furlong trip. Widely expected to maintain his unbeaten record in the Peter Marsh Chase in January next time, Kingscliff could only finish second to Arctic Jack, beaten around 13 lengths, although he was later found to have muscular problems. That delayed his next start until December 2004, when he ran a fantastic comeback race to be second to Kicking King in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, staying on with purpose and only going down by two and a half lengths. The performance at Kempton led many to see Kingscliff as a live Cheltenham Gold Cup contender, but after working poorly at home in his preparations for the big race, he was taken out of the contest. He recovered to run at the Punchestown Festival that April, but proved most disappointing in the Guinness Gold Cup, beaten out of sight by Kicking King. The new season saw Kingscliff right back to form, finishing a close second to Ollie Magern in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on October 29, staying on well to be beaten a length and a quarter. He today produced his best-ever performance to win the inaugural £150,000 Betfair Chase.
Race Record: Starts: 9; 1st: 5; 2nd: 3; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £227,881

Robert Alner
Born on November 21, 1943, Robert Alner was a leading amateur rider with 212 point-to-point wins and 53 under Rules, of which the best was the National Hunt Chase on Domason and, having held a permit since 1978, he took out a full licence in 1993. His most important win to date came when the 25/1 chance Cool Dawn won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1998 and the trainer has won other races at the Cheltenham Festival with Flyers Nap, Honey Mount and Kingscliff. Other horses with whom he has done well include Hops And Pops, Dextra Dove, Sir Rembrandt and Super Tactics, and this year he has a team of around 50 horses in training at the hamlet of Droop in Dorset.

Robert Walford
Yorkshire born and bred, Walford, 25, began riding with the Middleton pony club before graduating to the point-to-point circuit, taking his first ride between the flags in 1998. His mother Gillian was a winning point-to-point rider, as was his father Tim who also trains a string of pointers and hunter chasers. He joined Dorset trainer Robert Alner as an amateur in September, 1999 and partnered the trainer’s Honey Mount to success in the 2000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, his first ride at the course. Walford turned professional in December, 2001 and rode out his claim in May, 2005. His profile received a boost when Alner announced in October that the rider will partner Kingscliff throughout the coming season. His biggest success came today on Kingscliff in the Betfair Chase.


Haydock Park saw its biggest crowd for jump racing for 20 years today when 12,032 people attended the first day of the new North West Masters weekend.

Adam Waterworth, Managing Director of Haydock Park Racecourse, said: “I think the day has gone brilliantly - there was a tremendous atmosphere throughout.

“The first Betfair Chase was a thrilling contest and the other racing has been excellent - all in all a wonderful day.

“The crowd of over 12,000 is the biggest we have had for a jumping day at Haydock for 20 years.”


Kirkland Tellwright, Haydock’s Clerk of the Course, was delighted with the way that the day had gone.

He said: “I would like to acknowledge Stuart Canvas of Warrington and John Mallinson, the drainage contractor, for all the help they gave us with this meeting.

“It was a great team effort, especially from the groundstaff.

“I am thrilled with the crowd and that all of the connections of horses stood their ground and competed - especially in the intermediate hurdle which was a cracking little race.”



This was an interesting opener in which Flat jockeys took on their jump counterparts over obstacles for the first time since Chepstow in 1994 - riders from the two codes regularly face eachother on the level.

Flat jockey Kevin Darley, who finished like a train on Malcolm Jefferson’s Calatagan to finish the seven-length runner-up to top-weight Flying Enterprise, said: “Hats off to the jump boys - that was a great experience!

“Going down the back, one came on the outside of me and set my mount alive - he can be free.

“He dived at one or two of the hurdles and he scared me!

“Once I popped the last, he was flying and it was a great buzz!”

Noel Fehily, rider of winner Flying Enterprise, said: “I am delighted that the ground is riding as testing as it is,” with his later ride on Keen Leader in the Betfair Chase in mind.

“Keen Leader has a good record here and hopefully he will run well.”

Winning trainer Venetia Williams said: “I wasn’t really concerned if I had a Flat rider or not on him as he is a neat, accurate jumper.

“He ran well at Cheltenham first time out and just got tired there - he stayed on very well today.

“Sam [Thomas] was a bit disappointed not to ride him today and he has had a fruitless journey to Windsor [where the racing has been abandoned today].

“This horse could go chasing but the beginners’ chases are very competitive at the moment and it might be a good idea to wait a little bit.”

The jump riders beat the Flat jockeys by 44 points to 28.


Flat jockey Dean McKeown, who finished fifth on St Pirran in the opening Drink J. W. Lees Bitter Jump V Flat Jockeys Hurdle, said: “It was great thrill to be taking on the Flat boys - great fun.

“I was lucky I got a decent ride - St Pirran has been around Cheltenham in chases. He jumped really well.

“The only one I got wrong, not him, was the second last. I thought I still had a chance and instead of sitting on him I asked him and he took off from outside the wings but he got back down in one piece and then blew up.”

Jamie Spencer, the champion Flat jockey, suffered a second-hurdle fall on Almier. He said afterwards: “I’m grand - it was a soft fall.

“He jumped the first fine and I cannot understand how I came off at the second!”

Another Flat rider, Kevin Darley, who finished second on Calatagan, commented: “I thought I was doing well until he stood off at one down the back which scared me a little bit! But it was good fun.”



Wanango was given a patient ride by Billy Lee in the novices’ hurdle, collaring long-time leader Echo Point with about 100 yards to go and going on to prevail by seven lengths.

Fozzie Stack, son and assistant to winning Irish trainer Tommy Stack, said: “We will try and keep him fresh and look for a better race in the spring at Cheltenham or Aintree.

“That was a good performance carrying that weight but he was going to have to win this to go for better races later on.

“He has got loads of pace and he can’t get to the front too soon as he is a hold-up horse. In his maiden hurdle which he won at Naas last time, they went very slow which didn’t help and he didn’t jump great and only won by a length - it was a better performance than that though.

“We will probably avoid Leopardstown at Christmas and there is a race at Punchestown which might suit in about a month - we’ll see how he comes out of this.

“We only have four or five jumpers - the rest are all Flat horses.

“My father is in great form and he’s at home today.”

Coral introduced the winner at 40/1 for the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, while Paddy Power and bet365 were more impressed going 20/1 and 25/1 respectively.


Billy Lee, an Irish-based Flat jockey with 51 winners to his credit, celebrated his third victory over hurdles when Wanango, trained by Tommy Stack in Ireland, took the Gordon Plant Memorial Newton Novices’ Hurdle.

He said: “Wanango is a really decent horse and will improve - he is still a bit novicey with his jumping.

“I want to stick to riding on the Flat as long as I can - I am slightly heavy and will see how it goes next year.”



St Matthew put in a battling effort in the Ł70,000 betfairpoker.com Handicap Hurdle, holding on gamely in the closing stages of the 2m 7.5f event to hold off a determined challenge from My Way De Solzen by a neck.

Winning trainer Sue Smith said: “That was superb - he’s very versatile as he won over two and a half miles over fences at Wetherby last time when he got there on the line.

“We had this race or next Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup to go for and we decided to come here.

“I don’t know about the Hennessy now - the confirmation date is on Monday. He doesn’t seem to take his races too badly and only does what he has to - we will wait and see.

“He ran a super race against Telemoss at Wetherby last year and then he obviously went chasing. He has run some great races around Haydock and his owner [Keith Nicholson] was tempted to come here and I agreed.

“Padgh [Whelan, winning rider] rode him positively which most people know is the way that we like them ridden. Turning in I thought that he might have it as even though he had to be given a couple of slaps, the ground suited and he stays.

“Padgh rode a few early on for us a few years back and then Dominic [Elsworth] came along - actually Dominic’s been with us all along. Padgh has ridden a few bits and pieces on and off for us and we have always liked him as a rider.”



Winning trainer Richard Guest said of Admiral, who got the better of a tremendous tussle with 5/4 favourite Faasel by a short-head, at odds of 100/30: “I think this horse could be a legend if we look after him.”


Handicap good thing, Bannow Strand (4/7 Fav), proved no match for 15/2 chance Island Faith in the closing stages of the Edward Hanmer Memorial Handicap Chase, losing the lead at the final obstacle and eventually going down by seven lengths.

Winning rider Tony Dobbin was impressed with his charge. He said: “He had a little flat spot between the last two and I thought that we were going to get beat.

“He’s very genuine and very fit and is very good fresh. He jumps well and loves the soft ground. He’s a nice horse and is a good ride.”
Winning trainer Howard Johnson was not at Haydock but winning owner Kevin Lee said: “That was an excellent performance which shocked us a bit - we thought he was fairly ready but Bannow Strand seemed well handicapped.

“This horse is strong and a good horse fresh. Howard likes him a lot.
“At Perth on his last start he made a bad mistake but he won well first time out at Warwick last year.

“We are absolutely delighted.”



Trevor Hemmings, who this year realised his lifetime ambition by winning the John Smith’s Grand National with Hedgehunter, launched a couple more future chasers in the concluding bumper with Albertas Run getting the better of Marshalls Run by a length.

Winning trainer Jonjo O’Neill said: “That was a grand effort and I am delighted - it didn’t matter which one won [showing his loyalty to the owner as the runner-up is trained by Alan King].

“He has always pleased us and he works okay at home although nothing flashy. He battled well for a horse first time out and if he had finished in the first half dozen, I would have been happy.

“I suppose the bumper at Chepstow over Christmas might be a possibility but he might go hurdling. He jumps well and is a grand lepper.”

Asked if we might be looking at one or two future winners of the John Smith’s Grand National. Michael Meagher, racing manager to the winning owner, said: “That’s the question - the second horse is a great, big scopey chaser in the making, while the winner is a bit sharper and only a four-year-old.

“We’re just pleased that they showed so much potential - they were bought the same day at the Tattersalls Derby Sale last June at Fairyhouse.”


Kirkland Tellwright, Haydock’s Clerk of the Course, reports the current going as: Good to soft, soft in places.

He said: “We have had a frost of -2○ celsius overnight but we now have a dry, cold, bright day and it should remain like this for the rest of the day.

“The hoarfrost is coming off the grass now.

“We had a lot of frostsheets - 50 in total - on the fences overnight and we cleared out Stuart Canvas of Warrington, one of our contractors who has risen to the occasion magnificently.

“Yesterday we were stuck with hoarfrost which we wanted to get off before we put the covers on so we had a helicopter fly over them to shake it off. Another contractor, John Mallinson, also deserves a mention as he was most obliging.”


4th Race Betfair Chase
No 2 Celestial Gold (vet’s certificate)


3rd Race Paul Carberry replaces Richard Young on No 11 True Lover

Young took a tumble on Euro Two in the novices’ chase at Exeter yesterday and was stood down for six days.


2nd Race The rider of No 4 Clearly Oscar, down in the racecard as J.P. O’Farrell, is actually an amateur rider and should be listed as Mr J.P. O’Farrell.


The most exciting new weekend of jump racing ever created in Britain, the North West Masters, starts today at Haydock Park and concludes at Aintree tomorrow.

The thrilling feature today is the new £150,000 Betfair Chase, the initial leg of the Betfair Million - the first-ever £1-million jumping bonus which also involves winning the Stan James King George VI Chase at Sandown on December 26 and the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 17.

Haydock also stages the most valuable three-mile handicap hurdle run in Britain, the £70,000 betfairpoker.com Handicap Hurdle, on the same seven-race card.

Aintree tomorrow, Sunday, November 20, has another fabulous set of races, headed by the £100,000 totesport Becher Chase and the £60,000 totepool Grand Sefton Chase, both of which take place over the world famous Grand National fences and are being staged on the same day for the first time.

Thanks to support of the tote, both have gone up significantly in value, with the totesport Becher Chase, run over three miles and three furlongs, rising by £25,000 and the two mile, six furlong totepool Grand Sefton Chase getting a £10,000 boost.

The weekend boasts a tremendous prize money total of £537,500, making the exciting meeting one of the most valuable two days in the British jumping calendar.

Adam Waterworth, Managing Director of Haydock Park Racecourse, commented: "Haydock Park is the North's leading dual purpose course and has a real jump racing heritage.

"We are enhancing that further by introducing this brand new Grade One chase, the Betfair Chase, which not only has tremendous prize money but is the first leg of the sensational Betfair Million bonus.

"The aim was to attract the best chasers to Haydock Park and we are very pleased by the responses of trainer and owners, with an exceptional field due to line up at 2.20pm.

“Betfair’s backing has been crucial in creating the new race and the Betfair Million is a great incentive.

"This is the first time that Haydock Park and Aintree Racecourses have linked up and the result is the North West Masters which is also being generously supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the Mersey Partnership, Sefton Council and St Helens Council.

"A special programme of off-course activity - including a free pop concert by The Bootleg Beatles and Texas in St Helens town centre tonight - has been organised in conjunction with the local authorities."

Charles Barnett, Managing Director of Aintree Racecourse, added: "Racing at Aintree is always a unique and exciting experience and the North West Masters will be no exception.

“Aintree, world famous because of the John Smith's Grand National meeting, has tremendous racing over the Grand National fences on the second day of the North West Masters, thanks to the tote's backing.

"Tomorrow will be the only day in our calendar - outside the Grand National Meeting in April - to witness races over the Grand National course and we have tremendous fields for both races.

"With Haydock Park and Aintree both putting on spectacular racing, the North West Masters is a magnet for racing fans and newcomers to the sport.

"We welcome everyone and look forward to building on the inaugural North West Masters in the years to come."

The two courses involved in the North West Masters, Haydock Park and Aintree, are owned by Racecourse Holdings Trust, the Jockey Club's racecourse group.

Andrew Coppel, Chief Executive of RHT, said: “The North West Masters is a very exciting initiative which will raise the profile of jump racing. The RHT Review in 2004 called for a better balanced jump racing programme, with major events being staged away from the spring festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree.

"The North West Masters absolutely fits these criteria in the shape of a progressive and enterprising initiative by Haydock Park and Aintree. It looks set to establish itself immediately as a key weekend in the jumping calendar."


Mr M Wall was suspended for 13 days after taking the wrong course in the intermediate hurdle on Brendan Duke’s Openide.

He received 10 days for taking the wrong course and a further three days for failing to pull up after taking the wrong course.

Openide was disqualified.

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