HARRIS RELIES ON IN-FORM TRIO AT CHELTENHAM ON FRIDAY
*MAGIC SKY “VERY WELL” AHEAD OF BOYLESPORTS.COM GOLD CUP*
Meeting - The Boylesports International, Dates - Friday, December 14 & Saturday, December 15
Admission Prices - Friday, Club/Tattersalls £20, Best Mate £8; Saturday, Club £30, Tattersalls £22, Best Mate £12
Gates Open - 10am all days
First race - 12.10pm Friday, 12.20pm Saturday
In-form trainer Milton Harris is looking forward to a potentially lucrative opening to the fantastic two-day Boylesports International tomorrow, December 14 when he unleashes a promising trio from his Oxfordshire base.
The Banbury trainer runs the improving Herecomestanley in the day’s showcase event, the £100,000 Listed Boylesports.com Cashback Handicap Chase (1.20pm) over an extended three miles and one furlong, and is hopeful of a big effort from the hat-trick seeking eight-year-old.
Harris, who boasts a 27% strike-rate with his runners over the past two weeks, revealed today: “The horse is in very good form. He’s full of confidence and the ground will be no problem as he will go on anything.”
That confidence was boosted at Leicester on December 2 when Herecomestanley defied the welter burden of 12st 2lb as he cruised to a 10-length triumph over Autumn Red in the Leicestershire Handicap Chase, over just short of three miles.
The trainer continued: “The Boylesports.com Cashback Handicap Chase is a big step up for him in terms of class but he has climbed up the handicap so much now that we are happy for him to run in better races, so we thought we would have a go at a big pot and see if the horse is up to it.
“He seems in tremendous form and the handicapper says he should be running in this type of race - there is a lot of money on offer. We are going into the race in tip-top form whereas one or two of the others might not be and we are optimistic of showing well.”
Herecomestanley is one of 16 declared runners for the Boylesports.com Cashback Handicap Chase, for which the classy Philip Hobbs-trained Monkerhostin is set to shoulder joint top-weight of 11st 12lb.
Hobbs has also declared Parsons Legacy who was last seen finishing third in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in April, while Grade Three Racing Post Chase hero Simon is an intended runner for trainer John Spearing.
Francois Doumen is due to saddle the other joint top-weight L’Ami, who took third in the Grade Three Servo Computer Services Trophy at The Open, as well as Kelami, winner of the William Hill Trophy at the 2005 Festival.
Grade One winner Kingscliff represents the Robert Alner yard and attempts to repeat his 2003 success in this race, while champion trainer Paul Nicholls has Ofarel D’Airey and Cornish Sett, who finished one place in front of L’Ami at The Open in November.
The £23,000 BGC Cross Country Steeplechase, run over an extended three miles and seven furlongs, has attracted a maximum field of 16, with one notable absentee being the recently retired champion of that sphere, Spot Thedifference.
Harris is confident that the seven-year-old Craven has the ability to win the exciting contest and is hopeful that he will handle the unique demands of Cheltenham’s Cross Country course, having jumped well for a long way over the Grand National fences before coming to grief in the Grand Sefton at Aintree in October.
Harris said: “Craven has loads of ability and is probably the right type of horse for the BGC Cross Country Steeplechase inasmuch as he can hunt round at the back and creep into the race, as opposed to try and make the running.
“I think he will stay the trip because of the way he races. He’ll come into the race late, which will help the jockey a little a bit. It is a race that usually suits one coming from off the pace.
“He was travelling well over the Grand National fences until halfway when he fell, so I think the course will not pose a problem. The horse has more than enough ability to win this race, it is whether he puts his best foot forward.”
Enda Bolger, trainer of the fantastic Spot Thedifference, will saddle three runners, Heads Onthe Ground who won the BGC Cross Country Steeplechase at The Festival in March, Freneys Well, runner-up to Spot Thedifference in the La Touche Cup at Punchestown and Garde Champetre, formerly with trainer Jonjo O’Neill.
Ferdy Murphy will run the 2005 victor Ivoire De Beaulieu, while Grand National winning trainer Gordon Elliott has Rocking Ship.
Harris believes that his best chance of a winner at the Boylesports International on Friday could be Alfadora who is towards the head of the betting for the opening £15,000 Boylemobile.com Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
The seven-year-old has won three of his four starts this season and drew 11 lengths clear of the field when scoring over an extended three miles at Sandown on December 7.
Harris reported: “Alfadora has a really good chance in the first race on Friday and I imagine will likely go off favourite. He seems well and I will be disappointed if he doesn’t go very close.”
Saturday’s fantastic seven-race card features the £150,000 Grade Three Boylesports.com Gold Cup (2.40pm) over two miles and five furlongs, and Harris reports that his big-race hope Magic Sky is in good from ahead of the test.
The trainer revealed: “Magic Sky worked very well on Tuesday and while it will be difficult for him to win the race, we go there with a chance. The horses are all fit and well and I’m looking forward to Cheltenham.”
Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing Simon Claisse said: “At the moment the ground is GOOD on the Chase & Hurdle Course and the Cross Country Course.
“The frost covers are here and are being used to cover those areas of the track that have been raced on already this season, such as the crossing places, as we are moving on to the New Course for this meeting.
“The covers will be deployed on all the racing lines after racing on Friday in order to protect the ground ahead of Saturday’s racing.
“Based on the current forecasts, I’m confident that racing will go ahead on both days. I say that with a note of caution because Huntingdon was forecast zero Celsius and got minus four and a half Celsius.”
Claisse is looking forward to two days of top-class racing at the Boylesports International and is pleased with the quality of runners declared for Friday’s seven-race card.
“The fields for Friday look very good and I’m particularly delighted with the Listed Boylesports.com Cashback Handicap Chase, as that looks like being a fantastic renewal.
“We are very pleased that the BGC Cross Country Steeplechase has its maximum quota, although it is disappointing for connections of the four horses that were eliminated."
CHELTENHAM RACECOURSE OF THE YEAR AGAIN
Cheltenham Racecourse has been voted Racecourse of the Year for a fourth consecutive time in 2007 by members of the Racegoers Club.
Edward Gillespie, managing director of Cheltenham Racecourse, commented: “This is a wonderfully rewarding accolade and reflects on the way our team deliver such an extraordinary racing experience.
“2007 is proving to be a quite exceptional year for Jump racing and we look forward to exceeding our customers' expectations through the current season and beyond.”
Cheltenham has now been the Racegoers Club Racecourse of the Year 12 times in the last 15 years. The home of Jump racing hosts the most anticipated meeting of the season every March.
The Festival, staged over four days, is the culmination of the season and has 25 contests of the highest quality, including Jump racing’s premier event, the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Racegoers Club is made up of nearly 6,000 racing enthusiasts and the top award represents a vote of confidence from Cheltenham’s core customers.
Cheltenham races next tomorrow (Friday, December 14) and Saturday, December 15, when the Boylesports International takes place.
The meeting includes the prestigious £150,000 Boylesports.com Gold Cup and the £200,000 Boylesports.com International, which is one of the premier trials for the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at The Festival in March.