Trainer Peter Bowen reported today that the 2005 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Take The Stand is on course for a tilt at the £50,000 skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase, the feature event at Wetherby on Boxing Day, Monday, December 26.
The nine-year-old gelding was last seen running sixth behind Kingscliff in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock last month, but had previously posted a smart performance when a close third behind Ollie Magern and that rival over the course and distance in Wetherby's autumn feature, the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase on October 29.
Bowen has his charge in fine fettle ahead of the prestigious Grade Three contest in which he is set to carry 10st 12lb, with potential top weight Grey Abbey - trained by Howard Johnson - set to concede a stone.
Bowen commented: "The horse is in good form and he'll definitely go for the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase. It would be great if Grey Abbey runs as he has to give us a lot of weight and if he comes out we'll be top-weight.
"I think Take The Stand's effort in the Betfair Chase was a good run, and, back in a handicap off that sort of weight, he should go well. He and Grey Abbey would be the class horses in the race."
Bowen had hoped to use the services of Tony Dobbin for his stable star this season but with that rider set to partner Kingscliff at Sandown the same day, he is looking for a replacement.
The Haverfordwest handler said: "We've lost Tony Dobbin now. There's a possibility that Christian Williams will go to Wetherby, so if he does, then he could ride him.
"We'll probably go to the Letheby & Christopher Chase at Cheltenham with him after Wetherby and then on to The Festival."
The skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase, race 20 in the BHB Order of Merit, has attracted a high-class 30-strong entry including last year's winner Trucker's Tavern, recently confirmed as a likely starter by trainer Sue Smith.
The ground at Wetherby remains: GOOD TO SOFT.
James Sanderson, Chief Executive at Wetherby, reported today: "We had some light showers earlier today and the going is still good to soft.
"Looking ahead, the forecast remains much the same and, at this stage, the weather should hopefully be kind to us."
Wetherby's two-day Sky Bet Christmas Meeting commences on Boxing Day, Monday, December 26 and continues Bank Holiday Tuesday, December 27, with high-class racing programmed for both days. This will be the fourth year that Harrogate-based Sky Bet has generously supported these two days, which boast prize money of £174,000 for 2005. For the fifth time in the last six years, the West Yorkshire course was recently voted the 'Best Small Racecourse in the North' by The Racegoers Club.
Gates will be open at 10.00am and racegoers are advised to arrive in good time for what are always two of the busiest days of the year at Wetherby. As an extra incentive to arrive promptly, free mulled wine and mince pies will be available from 10.00am onwards in the Paddock Enclosure (while stocks last!).
VICTORY IN RACING DATA CASE - ATR WINS LANDMARK JUDGMENT AFTER HIGH COURT FINDS BHB ADOPTED POLICY OF EXCESSIVE AND DISCRIMINATORY PRICING
At The Races ("ATR"), the UK and Ireland's most watched dedicated racing channel, is delighted to announce that the Judge, Mr Justice Etherton, has found in its favour in its claim against the BHB over the issue of pre-race data. This is the first time a court in the UK has ever found that a business practice is in abuse of a dominant market position, a landmark in competition law. The Judge also found that the BHB adopted a policy of excessive and discriminatory pricing, again in breach of competition law.
ATR was also awarded costs with £700,000 to be paid on an accelerated basis within the next 21 days.
The claim related to the supply to ATR of "pre-race data", information on runners and riders that is necessary to enable bookmakers to take bets on horse races. ATR pays the Press Association ("PA") for the supply of a pre-race data feed for ATR's service to overseas bookmakers, with the BHB having a separate agreement to supply the data to PA. The BHB demanded that ATR enter into an additional licence with the BHB to pay for database rights in the data.
After the European Court of Justice ruled in November 2004 that the BHB had no database rights in the data, ATR asked the BHB to clarify the basis on which it sought payment. In response, the BHB said that unless ATR agreed to pay licence fees to the BHB, it would instruct PA to terminate its supply of pre-race data to ATR.
ATR then brought the current proceedings, claiming that the threat by the BHB to prevent PA from supplying pre-race data to ATR constituted an abuse of a dominant position under EU and UK competition laws.
High Court Judgment
In the hearing, ATR argued:
· that the relevant market for the purposes of the proceedings was the supply of pre-race data - the BHB argued for a much broader market;
· that the BHB was dominant in the market, indeed an effective monopolist - the BHB asserted that it had no dominant position;
· that the BHB's conduct was an illegal refusal to supply ATR; that pre-race data is an "essential facility" controlled by the BHB; that the licence fees proposed by the BHB were excessive and unfair; and that the BHB was discriminating against ATR. BHB tried to justify the charges on the basis that ATR should pay the BHB for investments made by the BHB and others in British horseracing, irrespective of whether those investments benefited ATR or overseas bookmakers
On all of these points the court found in ATR's favour.
Matthew Imi, Chief Executive, At The Races said: "We have been totally vindicated by this resounding judgment. The BHB has been found to have abused its position and pursued a discriminatory and excessive pricing policy. Its actions have resulted in an unnecessary and considerable waste of its resources both financial and in management time. ATR contributes significant sums to British horse racing through its media rights payments to its racecourse partners and we have made massive strides in increasing the exposure of British racing, both at home and internationally. ATR has had a fantastic year and we now look forward to 2006 with even more optimism."