A total of 10 entries have been received for the highlight of Bank Holiday Tuesday, December 27, at Wetherby - the £50,000 skybet.com Castleford Chase (2.00pm).
The two mile, Grade Two contest is race 24 in the BHB's Order of Merit and its impressive roll of honour includes horses of the calibre of Tingle Creek, Badsworth Boy, Pearlyman, Waterloo Boy and Viking Flagship.
This year's renewal is once again high on quality. Nigel Twiston-Davies has Fundamentalist primed to make his keenly anticipated comeback at the West Yorkshire track. The seven-year-old has not been seen on a racecourse since unseating Carl Llewellyn in the Unicoin Homes Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham last January.
The Gloucestershire handler reported: "Fundamentalist goes for the skybet.com Castleford Chase and he's fine. Carl Llewellyn rides him and I'm very happy with how he has progressed."
Fundamentalist defeated Inglis Drever to take the 2004 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and Twiston-Davies is aiming his highly-rated charge at Festival glory once again.
He continued: "All being well he'll go for the Victor Chandler at the end of January and then the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham."
Howard Johnson has the well-regarded El Vaquero and star chaser Grey Abbey entered in the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase but the former is set to take on Fundamentalist in the skybet.com Castleford Chase.
The County Durham trainer said: "If it doesn't freeze, then El Vaquero would go for the skybet.com Castleford Chase and Grey Abbey would go for the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase. They're both well in themselves."
Johnson believes that El Vaquero can build on his third to Lacdoudal over three miles and half a furlong at Sandown at the beginning of the month. That effort came on soft ground, which the trainer believes does not suit Graham Wylie's seven-year-old.
He continued: "El Vaquero is better on good ground and we all think he might be better right-handed but we're going to try him left-handed again, because with Kempton and Ascot closed, his options are limited.
"I was happy with his last run - he's a grand horse. We'll see how he goes on Tuesday and then decide where to go next."
Johnson hopes to saddle top-weight Grey Abbey - last season's leading staying chaser - in the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day. The 11-year-old failed to fire on his sole start this season when pulled-up at the course in October's bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.
Johnson commented: "Grey Abbey has come back to himself now although he has to give them all a lot of weight - but he's good enough."
Johnson intends to give Grey Abbey - a course and distance winner in the 2004 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase - two more starts after Wetherby before retiring the veteran, who numbers the 2004 Scottish Grand National and last season's Betfair Bowl at Aintree among his big-race haul.
He continued: "The plan has always been the Letheby & Christopher Chase at Cheltenham, which he won last year. I only put him in this race because he's so well - so I thought I'd go for this first. He'll probably only have one run after the Cheltenham race and then he'll definitely be retired after Aintree in April. He'll go for the Betfair Bowl or we may have one tilt at the Grand National and then he'll be parked up and retired."
The eight remaining entries include four from the Paul Nicholls yard - Albuhera, successful in the Grade Two Fulke Walwyn Novices' Chase at Newbury on his latest appearance, last year's skybet.com Castleford Chase third Armaturk, recent Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup runner-up Le Passing and Sporazene.
Mark Rimell is set to be represented by his stable star Oneway, a five-time winner last season and an encouraging third on his seasonal reappearance in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, with the other possibles being last year's winner Mister McGoldrick from the local Bingley yard of Sue Smith, Richard Lee's Almaydan and Sir Storm from the George Moore stable.
Sky Bet Prices:
7/1 Mister McGoldrick
8/1 El Vaquero
10/1 Le Passing
100/1 Sir Storm
Each-way 1/5 the odds - 1, 2, 3
The ground at Wetherby remains: GOOD TO SOFT.
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!).
30 ENTRIES FOR VICTOR CHANDLER CHASE - Paul Nolan aiming Cloone River at £110,000 contest
The £110,000 Grade Two Victor Chandler Chase, to be run at Cheltenham on Saturday, January 28, has attracted 30 entries, it is announced today, Thursday, December 22.
This very prestigious two mile and half a furlong handicap chase usually takes places at Ascot but is being run at Cheltenham for the second and final time in 2006 while the Royal racecourse completes it redevelopment.
Trainer Paul Nicholls, successful with subsequent Queen Mother Champion Chase victor Call Equiname in 1999 and with Young Devereux four years later, dominates the entries with six to choose from. The Ditcheat handler's half-dozen are Albuhera, Armaturk, the novice Cerium, recent Grade One Tingle Creek Chase victor Kauto Star, Le Seychellois and Le Volfoni, an easy winner on his last two starts in novice company.
Lambourn handler Nicky Henderson is also seeking his third win in the Victor Chandler Chase and has three entered this time around headed by Isio, successful in the 2004 renewal but only seen out twice subsequently, recent impressive Windsor scorer Saintsaire and Tysou, successful on his latest appearance when scoring by two lengths in the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on December 10.
There are three Irish entries and one from France in the shape of Thierry Doumen's Foreman. Two of the three Irish entries are trained by Paul Nolan, who is looking forward to getting 2004 Galway Hurdle winner Cloone River back on a racecourse, with the Victor Chandler Chase as the likely target.
Cloone River has not been seen out since falling in the Galway Hurdle on July 28 when attempting to follow-up his previous year's win, and would be making only his third start over fences in the extended two mile event.
Nolan said: "The horse looks very well and appears to be in great form. We are getting a lot of work into him at the moment and if everything goes to plan he will go for the Victor Chandler Chase, before either going back to Cheltenham in March or Punchestown in April.
"Although he's only had two races over fences, he won them both comfortably. He is a versatile sort, having won on good to firm and heavy ground, although he goes best on better ground."
Nolan also has Say Again, another horse who is returning from a layoff, engaged in the Cheltenham race. He took the 2004 Grade One Swordlestown Cup at Punchestown, a race in which Kicking King was brought-down two fences from home when still in with every chance, but has not raced since finishing fifth of six runners behind Hardy Eustace in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on February 12 this year.
The County Wexford handler continued: "Say Again is another possible for the Victor Chandler Chase and is in great shape at present, although he'll need to do a bit more work yet, as he's been off the track for about a year.
"He's a bigger stamp of a horse than Cloone River, but he's moving well and is a very high class animal on his day.
"There is a slight opening in the two-mile chase division at present, with Well Chief and Azertyuiop both out of action, although Moscow Flyer is still the one to beat and Kauto Star has looked very good.
"Saying that, if I can keep both my horses sound, I'm sure they'll give some of the big guns a run for their money."
A very interesting entry is the Nigel Twiston-Davies' Fundamentalist, a leading performer as a novice last season and set to make his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby over Christmas. Other prominent contenders include the Mark Rimell-trained Oneway, an encouraging third on his comeback behind Kauto Star in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and Tribal Dispute from the Tim Easterby yard, triumphant with Turgeonev in 2002, who ran a good race to chase home Tysou in the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Neal Wilkins, PR Manager for Victor Chandler, said: "Once again we are delighted with the quanitity and quality of entries for the Victor Chandler Chase which has firmly established itself as one of the most important races in the lead up to the Cheltenahm Festival."
For further information, please contact Cheltenham Racecourse on 01242 513014 or Neal Wilkins, PR Manager for Victor Chandler, on 07860 443101
THE VICTOR CHANDLER HANDICAP CHASE
Class 1, Grade Two, Total Prize Fund £110,000. Cheltenham, Saturday, January 28, 2006. For 5yo+, two miles and half a furlong. Lowest weight 10st 4lb; Highest weight 11st 10lb. Penalties: after December 31, 2005, a winner of a class 1 to 3 chase 4lb (no penalty to increase a horse's weight above 11st 10lb). Entries closed December 21, entries released December 22 (30 entries), forfeit stage January 10, five-day confirmation stage Janaury 23, final declaration stage 10.00am, January 27. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Tuesday, December 20.
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
42-1313 ALBUHERA (IRE) 8 David & F A Jackson Paul Nicholls
3036-15 ARMATURK (FR) 9 Trevor Hemmings Paul Nicholls
UF23-10 BAMBI DE L'ORME (FR) 7 Mr & Mrs John Poynton Ian Williams
02-2353 BLEU SUPERBE (FR) 11 Peter Deal, Tony Hirschfeld & J Tyndall Venetia Williams
140-113 CERIUM (FR) 5 Bary Fulton, Tony Hayward, S Fisher, Liam Brady Paul Nicholls
5/2240-0 CLAYMORE (IRE) 10 Brian Stewart-Brown Oliver Sherwood
6/2/111-F CLOONE RIVER (IRE) 10 Mrs K Gillane Paul Nolan IRE
F-1411P DANGEROUSDANMAGRU (IRE) 10 Mr N F Glynn Alan Jones
P21U13- DEMPSEY (IRE) 8 Tracy Brown Mark Pitman
221216 FLYING SPIRIT (IRE) 7 Richard Green (Fine Paintings) Gary Moore
4140/22- FOREMAN (GER) 8 J P McManus Thierry Doumen FR
21/112U- FUNDAMENTALIST (IRE) 8 Gripen Nigel Twiston-Davies
2F1-404 GROUND BALL (IRE) 9 J P McManus Charlie Swan IRE
13/5112/- ISIO (FR) 10 Sir Peter & Lady Gibbings Nicky Henderson
41U2-0P KADOUNT (FR) 8 Elite Racing Club Alan King
3/112-21 KAUTO STAR (FR) 6 Clive Smith Paul Nicholls
0323-51 KELREV (FR) 8 Len Jakeman, Flintham, King & Roberts Venetia Williams
11FP-3F LE SEYCHELLOIS (FR) 6 Clive Smith Paul Nicholls
643211 LE VOLFONI (FR) 5 Million in Mind Partnership Paul Nicholls
F21PFP- LIMERICK BOY (GER) 8 Favourites Racing III Venetia Williams
1F110-6 LOCKSMITH 6 David Johnson Martin Pipe
046-325 MADE IN JAPAN (JPN) 6 Terry Evans Philip Hobbs
24F-654 MISTER MCGOLDRICK 9 Richard Longley Sue Smith
11114-3 ONEWAY (IRE) 9 Mark Rimell Mark Rimell
03/1P-21 SAINTSAIRE (FR) 7 Anthony Speelman Nick Henderson
133/1F5- SAY AGAIN (IRE) 10 Sean Duggan Paul Nolan IRE
552461- TIKRAM 9 Mike Charlton And Rodger Sargent Gary Moore
10F-621 TOWN CRIER (IRE) 11 Trevor Hemmings Sue Smith
112B02 TRIBAL DISPUTE 9 Jennifer Pallister Tim Easterby
0234-41 TYSOU (FR) 9 Billy Brown Nicky Henderson
Victor Chandler Chase Prices
5/2 Kauto Star
8 Cloone River
16 Town Crier
16 Ground Ball
16 Made In Japan
20 Bambi De L'Orme
20 Le Volfoni
20 Mister Mcgoldrick
25 Flying Spirit
25 Le Seychellois
25 Bleu Superbe
25 Limerick Boy
25 Say Again
33 Tribal Dispute
Each Way 1/4 odds 1-2-3-4 All Quoted
VICTOR CHANDLER CHASE, 2m 1/2f (Previously run at Ascot)
Year Horse Owner Trainer Age/Wt Jockey SP
1989 Desert Orchid Richard Burridge David Elsworth 10-12-00 Simon Sherwood 6/4F
1990 Meikleour Mrs A C Leggat Jimmy FitzGerald 11-10-10 Derek Byrne 10/1
1991 Blitzkreig J P McManus Edward O'Grady IRE 8-10-04 Tommy Carmody 11/4
1992 Waterloo Boy M R Deeley David Nicholson 9-11-10 Richard Dunwoody 6/4F 1993 Sybillin Marquesa De Moratalla Jimmy FitzGerlad 7-10-10 Mark Dwyer 9/2
1994 Viking Flagship Graham Roach David Nicholson 7-10-10 Richard Dunwoody 3/1
1995 Martha's Son Paddy Hartigan Tim Forster 8-10-09 Rodney Farrant 3/1
1996 Big Matt T Benfield & W Brown Nicky Henderson 8-10-04 Mick Fitzgerald 8/1
1997 Ask Tom Brian Stewart-Brown Tom Tate 8-10-10 Russ Garrity 9/4F 1998 Jeffell Thomas Bailey Arthur Moore IRE 8-10-11 Conor O'Dwyer 13/2
1999 Call Equiname Mick Coburn, Paul Barber, Colin Lewis Paul Nicholls 9-11-03 Robert Thornton 15/2
2000 Nordance Prince Pinks Gym & Leisure Wear Ltd Venetia Williams 9-10-00 Tony McCoy 13/8F
2001 Function Dream Scart Stud Mary Reveley 9-10-11 Anthony Ross (3) 2/1F
2002 Turgeonev David Sills Tim Easterby 7-10-04 Richard McGrath 9/2
2003 Young Devereaux Paul Barber, Mick Coburn, Colin Lewis Paul Nicholls 10-10-04 Ruby Walsh 9/2
2004 Isio Sir Peter & Lady Gibbings Nicky Henderson 8-10-05 Mick Fitzgerald 4/1
2005 Well Chief David Johnson Martin Pipe 6-11-10 Timmy Murphy 5/1
i) Run at Warwick in 1994 ii) Run at Kempton in 1997 & 1999 iii) Run as Tote Exacta Chase at Kempton in 2003 iv) Run at Cheltenham in 2005
BREAKDOWN OF ENTRIES BY TRAINER WITH PAST SUCCESSES IN THE VICTOR CHANDLER CHASE
Paul Nicholls (1999 Call Equiname, 2003 Young Devereux)
Nicky Henderson (1996 Big Matt, 2004 Isio)
Venetia Williams (2000 Nordance Prince)
Paul Nolan IRE
Thierry Doumen FR
Tim Easterby (2002 Turgeonev)
Martin Pipe (2005 Well Chief)
Charlie Swan IRE
DEATH OF MICHAEL OSBORNE
Michael Osborne, a former senior steward of the Irish Turf Club and one of the leading figures in international racing in recent decades, has died after a short illness at the age of 71.
A former managing director of the Irish National Stud, he was the man chosen by Sheikh Mohammed first to build up the sheikh's stud farm operations in Ireland and then to establish international racing in Dubai. It was Osborne who, as chief executive of the Emirates Racing Association, supervised the construction of the first Nad Al Sheba grandstand and managed the successful launch of the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup.
A native of Naas, Co Kildare, Osborne also played a pivotal role in many of the major developments in Irish racing over the past twenty years. A former director of the Irish Horseracing Authority and Horseracing Ireland as well as a past chairman of Punchestown Racecourse, at the time of his death he was chairman of the Curragh Racecourse and Training Grounds.
One of the most respected advocates of the value of international racing, he offered advice on the development of racing and equestrian industries in a host of countries, including Singapore, China, Korea, Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Portugal and Sweden. Earlier this year, he took on the chairmanship of the World Racing Championships and had been working on proposals to revamp the World Racing Series.
A qualified vet who worked in private veterinary practice for 12 years before joining the National Stud in 1970, Osborne was a past president of the Irish Veterinary Association and was a great supporter of the Association's Benevolent Fund.
He had the distinction of being the first Irishman to be made an honorary member of the Jockey Club. Earlier this year, he was conferred with an honorary science doctorate by the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, while he was also a Freeman of Naas.
Outside his many official roles, Osborne helped countless young people to build careers in the racing and bloodstock industries, offering advice and support to generations of new recruits. A keen rugby player in his youth and a great enthusiast for virtually all sports, he was one of a group of people who worked to revive the fortunes of the Kildare GAA team.
He was fiercely proud of his Kildare roots and was instrumental in arranging to have Kildare twinned with Lexington, Kentucky, where he had worked as the manager of North Ridge Farm after leaving the National Stud and before going to work for Sheikh Mohammed.
Paying tribute today, Sheikh Mohammed said: "Michael was a wonderful man. My thoughts and sympathy are with his family. We had some marvellous times together and I will always remember the great work that he did. He was a hugely influential figure in world racing. It was Michael who established the Dubai World Cup as a great international race.
"Michael always had enormous enthusiasm - for horses, for Ireland and for Dubai. Nearly twenty years ago, he was the one who bought Kildangan Stud for me. He really loved the farm and it is fitting that he is going to be laid to rest in the graveyard at Kildangan."
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horseracing Ireland said: "Michael Osborne was Ireland's foremost international racing figure of recent times. Over four decades he occupied every significant role in the Irish racing and breeding industries and set new standards of excellence in every position he filled. His outstanding quality was his ability to relate to and work with people of all ages and backgrounds. His unique talents and enthusiasm saw him succeed wherever he operated and throughout the racing and breeding world his legacy will endure for a very long time.
"He carried out all of his roles and responsibilities with characteristic integrity, good humour and modesty. Michael brought great distinction to Irish racing. Literally hundreds of people at senior levels of the racing and breeding industries worldwide owe their positions to Michael Osborne and the start that he gave them.
"Whilst his career records a lifetime of achievement, his loss will be most keenly felt by his family who have been a tower of strength through his recent illness. To his wife Ann, sons John and Joe, daughters Meta, Liz and Jennifer and his extended family - deepest sympathies."
John Williams, former general manager at Spendthrift Farm who became a close friend of Michael Osborne and his family during their time in the US, said: "Michael was a lovely man - he meant so much to me and to so many people in the US and elsewhere. He touched so many, many people. The things he did just spread exponentially.
"I called him once when I needed help and he sent some people across to me who were just fantastic. In doing that, not only did he help me but he helped all of those people too and they went on to be very, very successful in the horse business. That's the sort of man he was. He did amazing things for people."
The funeral service for Michael Osborne will take place this evening (Thursday) with the remains arriving at St Brigid's Church in Kildare at 7.30pm to be followed by Requiem Mass at 11am tomorrow (Friday).