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Monday, December 29, 2003


Top French trainer Guillaume Macaire is set to give his exciting novice Golden Flight a first attempt over British fences in the £20,000 Ian Williams' Owners Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on Thursday, January 1.

The five-year-old, owned by Yorkshire-based John Cotton, had fair hurdling form but has come into his own over fences, winning all three of his starts this autumn at France's top jumping course, Auteuil.

Macaire is hoping that if his charge comes through this test satisfactorily, he can be aimed at the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham's National Hunt Festival on March 17.

"Golden Flight is unbeaten over fences at Auteuil and won an interesting Grade 3 there last time," said Macaire. "He has exactly the same profile as Eudipe, who I sold to Martin Pipe a few years ago, having won the same two races.

"I want to test if he is able to follow the novice route in England and if he's good enough then he will go for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase. But English chases are completely different from those in France and for this first time he must adapt himself to the new job. He has been schooled over English fences and was okay."

Golden Flight could be joined in the race by stablemate Massac, a winner at Auteuil in October before coming second at the Paris course a month later.

"Massac won pulling a cart at Auteuil in October and then was second when beaten by the ground, like many Garde Royales he doesn't like heavy going and it was really horrible that day. I must do a couple of checks on him but there are not many other places (than Cheltenham) for him to go," added Macaire.

The Frenchman could be doubly represented in the £15,000 Steel Plate Trial Juvenile Novices' Hurdle on the same card via Val Du Don, a recent winner in the French provinces, and Meryl, who also boasts solid form across the Channel.

"Val Du Don was third at Auteuil and then not disgraced when also third at Huntingdon, despite making a bad mistake at the third last when the race was just starting," added Macaire.

"Since then he has won at Bordeaux while Meryl was most recently second to a Doumen horse and although he doesn't really have a turn of foot, he is a real stayer. I must do a test with him to see if he can run but he is in England now."

There is top-class racing in prospect on both New Year's Day and Wednesday, December 31, when trainer Alan King will be bidding to land the £20,000-added Unicoin New Homes Spa Hurdle, in which he was successful 12 months ago with Stromness, for a second successive time.

Crystal D'Ainay, who created a very favourable impression when successful in the Jet UK "Relkeel" Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 16, looks set to be the trainer's representative on Wednesday.

"Crystal d'Ainay is a likely starter in the Unicoin Homes Spa Hurdle," confirmed King. "He's come out of his last race at Cheltenham well and is in very good form at the moment. Ideally, we would like a drop of rain - hopefully we might get it."

This will be the four-year-old's first try at three miles and the trainer added: "We will find out on Wednesday whether he gets three miles but he's given us every indication that he should get the trip although obviously you can never be certain when a horse is stepping up in distance."

But although Crystal d'Ainay received quotes of 20/1 for the Bonusprint Stayers' Hurdle at the National Hunt Festival, King is keen to take one race at a time. "Lets see what happens on Wednesday before we start thinking about the Stayers' Hurdle," added the trainer.

Cheltenham will be racing on the New Course for the two-day New Year meeting and this will be first time that this course has been used since the April Meeting last season.

Cheltenham's Clerk of the Course, Simon, Claisse revealed today: "The ground is currently good and good to firm in just a few places.

"The forecast is to be predominantly dry from now until Wednesday night when we expect some significant rainfall, so things may well change by Thursday. There are some overnight frosts forecast for tonight and Tuesday."

The New Year's Eve and New Year's Day meetings could play a big part in the Cheltenham Frequent Runner Scheme. Each Cheltenham race from October up to and including January 24 has a star rating from one to five, indicating the number of points a trainer has for having a runner.

The top six trainers receive an expenses-paid table for ten on a day at the National Hunt Festival, a table for ten with champagne at The Daffodil restaurant in Cheltenham and products from Blue Chip nutritional suppliers.

In addition the leading trainer will take delivery of a new two-horse box with a free lease for 12 months from this year's National Hunt Festival.

Martin Pipe currently has a commanding lead with 122 points, followed by Paul Nicholls on 83 and Philip Hobbs on 82. Nigel Twiston-Davies has 66 points, Jonjo O'Neill has 46, two ahead of Nicky Henderson while Tom George and Venetia Williams could get into the top six, with both currently on 40.

Admission prices for both December 31 and January 1 are £18 for the combined Club and Tattersalls Enclosure (£15 if purchased in advance) with 16-24 year-olds gain admission for £10.

Racing begins on New Year's Eve at 12.50pm when there are six races while there are seven contests on New Years' Day when the action gets underway at 12.20pm.

A whole host of big names are engaged over the two days with a total of £272,500 in prize money on offer.

For old articles (from 1st March 2000) go to the Newslink Archive

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