MACAIRE CROSS-COUNTRY ACE PRIMED FOR SPORTING INDEX CHASE
LATEST CHELTENHAM GOING REPORT
French champion trainer Guillaume Macaire is launching an assault on the £35,000 Sporting Index Chase with crack cross-country chaser Plum'tee, at Cheltenham on Countryside Day tomorrow, Friday, November 10, 2006.
Macaire is hoping to land the three mile, seven-furlong cross-country chase with the 11-year-old half-bred, who he holds in high esteem and who was only recently brought out of retirement.
The gelding boasts an impressive record in cross-country races in his native France. From 17 starts in the specialist discipline he has tasted defeat only once in 13 completed rounds.
The Frenchman revealed today: "Plum'tee had very bad legs and with good legs he would have had a totally different career because he's a good horse. Looking back through his form, you will see that he is a very consistent horse and has won nearly all his races - except when he was unlucky or brought down.
"He was in the field for three years and was considered retired, but one day his owner came to me and said we should try again with him. He won first time out and has won each of his races since very easily."
After winning at Compiegne in October 2003, Plum'tee was not seen on a racecourse again until August 2006 when easily winning a cross-country chase at Pompadour. He followed up at Craon later that month and was a decisive victor over three miles, one furlong on good ground at Nancy on October 15.
Macaire reported: "He is in very good form and I want to try him at Cheltenham because in France the ground is too quick, and I want safe ground for him to save his legs.
"The Sporting Index Chase is a good opportunity for a French horse who is a specialist in this type of race. Plum'tee maybe has a little advantage against the domestic horses who are perhaps not as specialised. It's a good moment to try this with him and if it's satisfactory then we will come back for the Sporting Index Handicap Chase over the same course next month.
"It is difficult to judge the real level of the other contenders, but if I look at Ferdy Murphy's Ivoire de Beaulieu, who is an ex-French cross-country horse and won the Sporting Index Handicap Chase last year, then I suppose my horse is a similar level or maybe a little bit above. It's difficult to say exactly."
Plum'tee has never raced beyond three miles, one furlong but Macaire is hopeful the gelding's style of running will be suited to the marathon trip.
He said: "It is the first time that he will run over this long a trip but he is not a tense horse and he has a long, fluent action. The important thing is to save energy over the obstacles.
"It is necessary to have a safe ride without traffic problems and mistakes, but he's a good jumper and is able to adapt in his races. He is fresh and, while he's 11-years-old, the engine is new and there are not a lot of miles on the clock. It's a new challenge for him and he will try his best."
The Sporting Index Chase has 14 declared runners including Cheltenham cross-country chase specialist Spot Thedifference, trained by Enda Bolger, who is bidding for a hat-trick of victories in the race, having also taken the prize in 2004. He is seeking a fifth success over the course and distance.
Bolger is also represented by Buailtes And Fadas, winner of the 2003 La Touche Cup at Punchestown and third in the Sporting Index Chase over the course and distance at The Festival.
The Philip Rothwell-trained Native Jack, successful in the Sporting Index Chase at The Festival, is bidding for another course and distance success, as is the Ferdy Murphy-trained Ivoire de Beaulieu.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Royal Auclair, fourth in the 2005 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and runner-up to Hedgehunter in that season's John Smith's Grand National is having his first taste of the Cheltenham cross-country chase course.
Countryside Day kicks off the three-day Open Meeting with a high-quality six-race card that begins at 1.20pm with the £17,500 paddypower.com Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase. This contest has attracted a 10-strong field including Festival winner Hot Weld, successful in the Letheby & Christopher National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup last season.
Race two is a fantastic renewal of the Grade Two £35,000 Anglo Irish Private Banking Novices' Hurdle (1.55pm).
The Paul Nolan-trained Guinness Galway Hurdle winner Cuain Na Grai is one of four Irish raiders among the nine declared runners.
Tom Hogan is set to run Grade Three Kevin McManus Bookmaker Joe Mac Hurdle winner Kalderon, while the Shane Donohoe trained Mill House Girl, runner-up that day, is also declared, alongside the Tom Taaffe-trained War General.
The home defence is headed by the Michael Chapman-trained Orpen Wide, Moon Over Miami from the Charlie Mann yard and the well-regarded Paul Nicholls charge, Ofarel d'Airy.
A good quality field goes to post at 2.30pm for the £30,000 Beards Jewellers Cup Handicap Chase (2.30pm) over two miles, which has attracted a nine-strong field including the 2004 winner Armaturk.
Other contenders include the Mark Rimell-trained Oneway, as well as Tysou from the Nicky Henderson yard, the Alan King-trained Nyrche, the Charles Egerton-trained Rubberdubber, and the David Pipe duo, Locksmith and Medison.
Countryside Day also features the £15,000 Royal Bank Of Canada Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (3.40pm) and concludes at 4.10pm with the £20,000 Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase.
The Open Meeting takes place over the three days of Friday, November 10, to Sunday, November 12, with the feature event being the prestigious £110,000 Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday, November 11.
Cheltenham Racecourse had two millimetres of rain overnight and the going remains GOOD on the chase and hurdle course, with a going stick reading of 7.5. The going also remains GOOD on the cross-country course with a going stick reading of 8.5. Cheltenham is experiencing a dry day today with some drizzle expected on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is
forecast to be dry.
Tickets will be available on the door for all three days of The Open.
Friday/Sunday admission prices are Club/Tattersalls: £20 (16-24s: £15); Best Mate £8.
Parking is free on Friday and Sunday, with a £5 charge in operation on Saturday.
Saturday's admission prices are Club: £30 (16-24s £22); Tattersalls: £20: Best Mate £10.
Gates open at 10.00am.
KAUTO STAR FOR BETFAIR CHASE
Kauto Star, from champion jump trainer Paul Nicholls' Somerset yard, is being aimed at the Grade One £200,000 Betfair Chase (1.50pm) at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 18, the first leg of the Betfair Million.
Nicholls paraded the exciting chaser this morning and said: "Kauto Star was obviously very impressive at Aintree the other day over two and a half miles, the first time that we have run him over a trip.
"I always felt that running him over a trip would give us more options. He is bred to stay and his last run as a juvenile was also over two and a half miles.
"The first race he won for us was a two and a quarter mile novice chase at Newbury and then he was made favourite for the Arkle but I was always nervous of going back to two miles.
"Last season, he won the Tingle Creek on very soft ground and it was quite possible that the Champion Chase, where they go flat out over the first four fences, did not suit him
"He jumped beautifully at Aintree and I asked Ruby where we should be going, Cheltenham Gold Cup or Champion Chase, and he said we might have to go down the Gold Cup route, with the King George on the way.
"The Betfair Chase is the ideal race for us to run him in. It is a level weights race, it is three miles, he likes going left-handed and the track is not stiff if the ground is decent. It will be a good test for him. If he gets three miles there, we will be heading to the Gold Cup.
"I think he will stay three miles with no bother at all but we are keeping our options open.
"It suited him taking his time at Aintree, he jumped better and got into a rhythm. I would say it is very unlikely that he will run in the Champion Chase unless the ground is very testing.
"The Betfair Million is a great bonus to go for but, at the end of the day, the horse comes first. If we won next week, of course we would be thinking about it. If he ran well in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, I expect we would head off to the King George.
"Kauto Star is a very laid-back horse. He has only had four or five runs over the last two years which in a lot of ways hasn't done him any harm."
The three-mile Betfair Chase, first run in 2005 when won by the Robert Alner-trained Kingscliff, is the highlight of day one of the two-day North West Masters which also includes in the £100,000 Betfair Handicap Hurdle (2.20pm).
The most exciting weekend of jump racing in Britain, the North West Masters, takes place for the second year in 2006 with the two-day meeting on Saturday, November 18 and 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.
The thrilling Betfair Chase boasts a £50,000 increase in value for 2006. And the Grade One race is now, along with the Stan James King George VI Chase, the fourth most valuable chase of the season behind the John Smith's Grand National, totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
The Betfair Chase is the initial leg of the Betfair Million, jump racing's £1-million bonus, which involves winning the Betfair Chase followed by either the Stan James King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26 or the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, plus the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 16, 2007. In a change to last year, connections now have the option of running in the Stan James King George VI Chase or the Lexus Chase as the middle leg of the Betfair Million.
The ground at the moment at Haydock is good, good to soft in places. Nicholls could run others on the first day of the North West Masters, including Kicks For Free in the Pontins Holidays Newton Novices' Hurdle, Forest Green in the J W Lees Handicap Hurdle and Thisthatandtother in the £100,000 Betfair Handicap Hurdle.
Aintree the next day, Sunday, November 19, has another fabulous set of races, headed by the £100,000 totesport.com Becher Chase and the £60,000 totepool Grand Sefton Chase, both of which take place over the world famous Grand National fences.
The totesport.com Becher Chase, one of the highlights of the jump season, is an established stepping stone to the world's most famous chase, the John Smith's Grand National, staged at Aintree in April.
Last season's renewal of the totesport.com Becher Chase went to Garvivonnian who became the first Irish-trained winner of the race. Ned Mitchell's charge defeated 18 opponents as he held the late challenge of Le Duc to prevail by three quarters of a length in a thrilling finish.
Nicholls plans to run last year's second Le Duc and maybe one or two other in the totesport.com Becher Chase.
The trainer said: "He had a run over hurdles the other day but Aintree seems to spark him up."
The weekend in 2006 boasts a tremendous prize money total of £600,000, making the North West Masters two of the most valuable days in the British jumping calendar.
Kirkland Tellwright, Clerk of the Course Haydock Park Racecourse, commented: "The inaugural running of the Betfair Chase certainly lived up to its billing and attracted many of the leading chasers from Britain and Ireland.
"With a £50,000 increase in prize money, the Betfair Chase is now one of the richest chases of the entire season and we look forward to another fascinating contest.
"Haydock Park would like to extend its thanks to Betfair once again for initiating the most exciting development in jump racing of recent years and we sincerely hope that their generosity and foresight will be rewarded.
"Last year's North West Masters was a major event for the local area and we again thank the support provided by the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the Mersey Partnership, Sefton Council, and St Helens Council."
Charles Barnett, Aintree's Managing Director, said: "We are looking forward to welcoming racegoers to the North West. The quality of racing is first class and the event gives people the chance to experience two of the UK's premier racecourses in one weekend.
"Racegoers planning to visit the two-day meeting have been purchasing tickets and we are expecting thousands of visitors to attend the North West Masters in November.
"Running both the totesport.com Becher Chase and the totesport Grand Sefton Chase on the same day last year proved to be a great success.
"Racegoers were rewarded with two thrilling finishes over the Grand National fences and this was the perfect sequel to the Betfair Chase at Haydock the previous day."
Tickets can be purchased from either racecourse on the following numbers:
01942 402 624 (Haydock)
0151 522 2929 (Aintree)
Online booking is also available at www.aintree.co.uk and www.haydock-park.co.uk Accommodation booking is available on 0845 601 1125
REGION HOPING FOR FURTHER SUCCESS
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."
After the racing at Haydock on the Saturday, the first day will be celebrated with a FREE star studded music event in conjunction with Wish FM, 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 the following Internet site - www.visitliverpool.com/northwestmasters
Note to editors:
The North West Masters is delivered by Aintree and Haydock Park Racecourses, sponsored by The Mersey Partnership, St. Helens Council and Sefton Council with support from Merseytravel, Liverpool Culture Company and European Regional Development Fund.
The Mersey Partnership (TMP) is a unique alliance representing over 420 businesses across the Liverpool City Region. These include household names like Littlewoods and Royal & SunAlliance. Its members represent manufacturing and trading companies, six local authorities, government agencies, universities, media organisations and professional agencies who are all working together for the future economic growth of Merseyside. Its mission is to build a dynamic team to champion the Merseyside advantage campaigning for the Liverpool City Region as a great place, to live, work, invest and visit generating greater returns for all. It has three areas of activity: Economic Development - co-ordinating Merseyside's economic development activity through the Action Plan for the City Region 2002 - 2005; Investment - bringing new business into Merseyside and encouraging growth in existing businesses; Tourism - promoting Merseyside's tourism assets to increase visitor numbers and grow the economic benefit to the Liverpool City Region. TMP is supported by the European Regional Development Fund under the Objective One programme for Merseyside.
Sefton is to the north of Liverpool and as well as being home to the world-famous Grand National steeplechase it has 22 miles of coastline and one of the last red squirrel colonies in England. The classic seaside resort of Southport is at its heart featuring exclusive shopping on Lord Street and the oldest surviving iron pier in the country. The North West Masters will further enhance the region's reputation for holding prestigious sporting events. Sefton's Aintree Racecourse is the ideal venue to partner Haydock for this important new event in the racing calendar. www.visitsouthport.com
St.Helens has become a destination of choice thanks to its first rate sporting offer, world class heritage, award winning venues, glorious countryside, and vibrant nightlife. A highly accessible location at the heart of the region's motorway network and midway between Liverpool and Manchester, also makes St.Helens the perfect base for exploring the rest of the North West. The North West Masters is part of a year-round programme of unique, regionally significant events hosted in St.Helens, that includes Truckfest North West, the Eclectica Music Festival, and one of the largest Continental Markets in the UK. www.visitsthelens.com
KAUTO STAR (FR)
6 b g Village Star (FR) - Kauto Relka (FR) (Port Etienne (FR))
Owner: Clive Smith Breeder: Mme H Aubert
Kauto Star, a Grade Three winner over hurdles at Auteuil in France, has developed into a top-class chaser.
He made his British debut at Newbury in December, 2004, in an extended two and a quarter mile novice chase, and produced a fine performance, gaining an emphatic nine-length victory over Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle winner Foreman.
Things did not go to plan next time in a three-runner race at Exeter in January, 2005, when he fell two out with the race at his mercy. After being remounted, he just failed to reel in the winner, but it came to light afterwards that the horse had injured his near-hind leg, and he was forced to miss the rest of the season.
Kauto Star reappeared in November, 2005, when he turned in an excellent comeback effort to chase home Monkerhostin in the Grade Two William Hill Gold Cup Chase at Exeter.
He improved on that run when landing the Grade One Tingle Creek Trophy Chase at Sandown over two miles the following month, staying on in fine style to score by a length and a half from Ashley Brook.
The Grade One Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March was Kauto Star's next port of call but, after tracking the leaders in the early stages, he took off too early at the third fence and hit the deck.
He did not run again last season, but made his return at Aintree on October 22, over two and a half miles, in the Grade Two Old Roan Chase.
Kauto Star was the most impressive winner, romping home by 21 lengths from his stable companion Armaturk when conceding 9lb to the runner-up.
Paul Nicholls, the son of a policeman, was born in Alveston, Bristol, on April 17, 1962, and has been training at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset, since taking out a licence on November 1, 1991.
He started out as a jump jockey and twice rode the winner of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury, in 1986 and 1987. He partnered 130 winners between 1980 and 1989, and nominates the best horses he rode as Broadheath, Playschool and Seagram.
Between 1989 and 1991, he was assistant trainer to Devon-based David Barons, for whom he had ridden plenty of winners. The stable sent out Seagram to win the 1991 Grand National at Aintree while he was based there.
Having strongly challenged Martin Pipe for the jump trainers' championship in recent years, most notably when pushing his great rival right to the last day of the 2004/05 campaign, he claimed his first title last season, having sent out 148 winners and gained over £2.4 million in prize money.
Paul Nicholls pulled off the amazing feat of saddling seven winners and three seconds from his 10 runners on Saturday, November 7, 1998, and made history when he became the first trainer to saddle six winners on the same card, at Wincanton, his local track, on Saturday, January 21, 2006.
Another highpoint in his training career came at the 1999 Cheltenham Festival, as he captured the major chase on each of the three days - Flagship Uberalles scored in the Irish Independent Arkle Chase on the Tuesday, Call Equiname won the Queen Mother Champion Chase the following day and, best of all, See More Business took the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup on the Thursday.
Nicholls has trained 13 Cheltenham Festival winners in total, and was the most successful trainer at The Festival in both 1999 and 2004. His 148 winners last season included three Festival successes - Noland in the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Star De Mohaison in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, and Desert Quest in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle.
He also captured two races at the 2006 John Smith's Grand National Meeting at Aintree, when successful with Star De Mohaison in the £80,000 John Smith's Mildmay Novices' Chase and Natal in the £55,000 CitroŽn C4 Mersey Novices' Hurdle.
His 1,000th British winner came when Noble Action won at Folkestone on November 15, 2004.
Paul Nicholls has sent out 29 winners so far this season (up to Wednesday, November 8), including Desert Quest in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot, and Kauto Star in the Grade Two Old Roan Chase at Aintree.