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Thursday, January 31, 2013

EXCITING ENTRIES UNVEILED FOR CHAMPIONSHIP NOVICE HURDLES AT THE FESTIVAL

           

The entries are revealed today (Thursday, January 31) for the four championship novices’ hurdles run at The Festival from Tuesday, March 12, to Friday, March 15.

            A total of 94 entries have been received, including 30 from Ireland and two from France, for The Festival curtain raiser, the Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles. Jezki, trained in Ireland by Jessica Harrington and now owned by J P McManus, heads the possible contenders after two impressive Grade One victories at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown in December. He is 7/2 favourite with sponsor William Hill. Un Atout (7/1) is one of seven entries for Irish champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins, while the home challenge features River Maigue, Dodging Bullets, Melodic Rendezvous and Puffin Billy.

            The last two named horses are also among the 119 entries for the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, run over an extended two and a half miles on Wednesday, March 13. Jonjo O’Neill’s potential representatives include Taquin Du Seuil, who won the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury, while Nigel Twiston-Davies has entered The New One. Among the 35 Irish-trained entries is Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle victor Pont Alexandre and facile Grade Two Slaney Novice Hurdle scorer Rule The World, from the stable of Mouse Morris.

            Festival Trials Day winner At Fishers Cross headlines 107 entries for the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles on Friday, March 15. He could clash again with course and distance winner Coneygree, while David Pipe’s nine entries include Grands Crus’ full-brother Gevrey Chambertin, who is three from three over hurdles. Ireland’s challenge is once again led by a formidable team from the stable of Willie Mullins, which includes Pont Alexandre, dual hurdle winner Ballycasey and last season’s Wetherbys Champion Bumper hero Champagne Fever.

            Anonis, trained by Willie’s former sister-in-law, Margaret (Mags) Mullins, has been entered for all three races but his trainer is yet to decide his Festival target. The lightly-raced seven-year-old fell when still travelling well in a Grade Two at Leopardstown on Sunday won by Pont Alexandre, but had previously looked a horse of considerable potential with comfortable successes at Leopardstown over Christmas and in a Listed bumper at Cheltenham in November.

Mags Mullins revealed: “I’m not sure which race will be his target yet – I will leave that to Barry (Connell, owner) – but he is just a little bit sore at the moment and we will just have to see how he is over the next few days.

            “He looked as if he might have given the winner a race on Sunday and it was disappointing to fall as it does take its toll. I don’t know if I will be able to get another run into him into him before Cheltenham as it’s getting a bit close now.

            “He is definitely good enough to go to Cheltenham – I think he is very good – and if I have him right, we will definitely be going to The Festival.

            “Barry was talking about the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle or the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but he looked good when he won his bumper at Cheltenham over two miles. I thought he would win that race at Cheltenham because he beat that good horse of Tony Martin’s in a schooling bumper two weeks before so I was very confident - I didn’t go over to Cheltenham for a holiday!

            “The form of his maiden hurdle win at Leopardstown is working out very well – four or five winners have come out of it – and it would have been lovely to get a clear round on Sunday as the fall has left me in no man’s land.”

            The Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle, run over an extended two miles for four-year-olds on Friday, March 15, has attracted a total of 58 entries. Nicky Henderson has annexed five JCB Triumph Hurdles and his five entries include Festival Trials Day victor Rolling Star, while champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls’ six entries feature dual course winner Far West and Irish Saint. The 15 Irish contenders are headed by Our Conor, trained by Dessie Hughes, and Diakali, who is one of seven engaged for Willie Mullins.

 

L’ELDORADO HANDED WETHERBY ASSIGNMENT ON SATURDAY

 

L’Eldorado is on course to run in the £18,500 Play totescoop6 At totepool.com Handicap Chase (3.55, 21 entries) over an extended two and a half miles, one of the highlights on an excellent seven-race card at Wetherby, this Saturday, totepool Irish Day, February 2.

 

The eight-year-old was last seen winning a handicap chase at Towcester on December 4, and will be running at Wetherby for the third time this season, having performed respectably in handicap chases at the West Yorkshire track in October and November.

 

Chris Bealby, who trains in Lincolnshire, said: “L’Eldorado is going to run at Wetherby on Saturday, all being well. He is in good form at the moment and worked nicely yesterday.

 

“The weather has prevented us from running him since early December but when you have a horse with the rating he has, there are not many races for them. He does need time between his races so the little break won’t have done him any harm.

 

“It was nice to win that race at Towcester as he had been knocking on the door in some good races. He has gone up seven pounds for that but I think he should still be competitive on Saturday.”

 

Other notable entries for Play totescoop6 At totepool.com Handicap Chase include Donald McCain’s course scorer Dunowen Point and Carrickboy, who won a competitive handicap chase at Chepstow on January 5.

 

The highlight at Wetherby on totepool Irish Day is the £30,500 Grade Two totepool.com Towton Novices’ Chase (3.20pm) over three miles and a furlong. The 14 entries include Grade Two Rising Stars Novices’ Chase scorer Houblon Des Obeaux for in-form handler Venetia Williams, and a Donald McCain-trained trio featuring Cheltenham scorer Super Duty and Real Milan, who is unbeaten in two chase starts.

 

The totepool.com Towton Novices’ Chase has an impressive roll of honour, featuring names such as Wayward Prince, Weird Al, Ollie Magern, Royal Emperor, Escartefigue and Mr Mulligan, who subsequently won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

Some of the leading hunter chasers will also be on show in the prestigious Wilmot-Smith Memorial Cup (1.35pm, 21 entries), one of the first significant hunter chases of the season.

 

Gates open at 10.30am with the action getting underway at 1.00pm.

 

The Irish-themed marquee in the Paddock Enclosure is open to all racegoers and features the Ceilidh House Band and dancers. Advanced bookings for the 'Irish Experience' can be made right up to the meeting. For £22 this includes Paddock Enclosure admission, voucher for the full-colour racecard, a pint of Guinness, a beef & Guinness meal and a discounted tote betting voucher.

 

GOING

 

The going at Wetherby is currently: Soft (Heavy in places)

 

Clerk of the Course Jonjo Sanderson said: "The course is now perfectly raceable, although it will be very testing and slightly tacky given the drying winds we have experienced. 

 

“We have had just over half an inch of rain since Monday, along with some gale force winds, but the track has taken the conditions well and the areas where we had standing water have all but cleared up. We have two areas of minimal surface water, which are not going to give any cause for concern.

 

"The latest forecast indicates an outside chance of an odd shower of rain for Friday, with much reduced wind speeds.  Saturday is expected to be dry and sunny, and a degree or two cooler.”


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