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Wednesday, February 15, 2012





The Festival 2012 is now under a month away and the countdown intensifies today with the publication of the acceptors for the five non-novice championship contests following the February 14 scratchings deadline.


In the £500,000 Grade One Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, the 2011 scorer Long Run and Kauto Star, the winner in 2007 and 2009, feature among 26 horses going forward. Interestingly, on weight-adjusted Timeform ratings Long Run (193) is rated one pound superior to Kauto Star (192), despite Paul Nicholls’ veteran getting the better of his younger rival on two occasions already this season in the Betfair Chase and the William Hill King George VI Chase. The pair appear to have the race between them, with the next best horse according to Timeform being Betfair Chase third Weird Al on 182. The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16 at Cheltenham.


The defending champion in the £320,000 Grade One sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase, which has 14 remaining entries, is Sizing Europe. According to Timeform, the Irish raider is also in pole position to successfully defend his crown with a rating of 183, four pounds clear of Somersby (179), successful in the Grade One Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot last month. The 2010 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Big Zeb is on 176, while last year’s Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase runner-up Finian’s Rainbow is rated 177. The sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase is the highlight of Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14.


Albertas Run boasts a fabulous record at The Festival, having taken the RSA Chase in 2008 as well as the last two renewals of the Grade One Ryanair Chase and he is one of 29 acceptors for the two mile, five furlong contest. The 11-year-old’s weight-adjusted Timeform rating of 175, would suggest he has work to do to overcome Riverside Theatre (182), Somersby (179), last year’s Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase victor Captain Chris (177) and Medermit (176), who all have the Ryanair Chase as an option. The £260,000 Grade One Ryanair Chase takes place on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15.


The 20 remaining contenders for the £370,000 Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle are headed by the 2011 victor Hurricane Fly, who is rated 185 by Timeform. His closest current pursuer on weight-adjusted Timeform ratings is last year’s runner-up Peddlers Cross (183), although his trainer Donald McCain has made clear that the seven-year-old has the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase as his preferred target at The Festival. The 2010 Stan James Champion Hurdle victor Binocular is currently rated third best with Timeform on 178.


Big Buck’s created history in 2011 when becoming the first horse to win three consecutive renewals of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the amazing nine-year-old is one of 23 acceptors for the £260,000 Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle, which takes place on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15. With a current weight-adjusted Timeform rating of 187+, he is rated five pounds clear of Oscar Whisky (182), who finished third in last year’s Stan James Champion Hurdle but has only been left in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle this time around.




Cheltenham Racecourse announced today that OLBG.com, the online sports betting community, and Pulteney Land Investments have become new sponsors on the opening day of The Festival, Tuesday, March 13, 2012.


OLBG.com is backing the Grade Two OLBG Mares Hurdle (for the David Nicholson Trophy), over two and a half miles, which was added to The Festival schedule in 2008. The initial running of the OLBG Mares Hurdle (for the David Nicholson Trophy) was won by Whiteoak, giving trainer Donald McCain his first Festival victory, but since then the race has become the property of the brilliant mare Quevega, trained by Willie Mullins in Ireland, who was successful in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and is a short-priced favourite to land a remarkable fourth consecutive victory in 2012.


OLBG.com is a sports betting community where knowledgeable punters discuss, analyse and make predictions on a wide variety of sporting and non-sporting events, from horseracing and football matches to X Factor eliminations and new football club managers. In addition to the OLBG.com Mares Hurdle (for the David Nicholson Trophy) at The Festival, OLBG will also be backing a mares’ race at Cheltenham’s April meeting.


The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Moffat, said: “We are thrilled to be a sponsor at the biggest and best meeting of the year. OLBG will continue to honour David Nicholson’s memory and outstanding contribution to Jump racing and, through our sponsorship, we hope to work with Jockey Club Racecourses, Cheltenham Racecourse, the Thoroughbred Breeders Association and others to help improve the opportunities for mares in this wonderful sport.”


The other new sponsor, Pulteney Land Investments, is a rapidly expanding strategic land investment business based in Bath. The company is backing the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase over an extended two and a half miles, which was one of the new races added to The Festival in 2005, when the meeting was extended to four days. The Listed contest is arguably the most competitive of its type all season and was won in 2011 by Divers, who was the second winner of the race trained by Ferdy Murphy.


Jason Way, Director of Pulteney Land Investments, commented: “We are really excited to be supporting this hugely competitive race on the opening day at The Festival. This is a great way for us to provide exposure for our corporate brand and also to entertain key clients at one of the most iconic sporting events of the year.”


Cheltenham’s Director of Sponsorship, Peter McNeile, added: “We are delighted to welcome two new Festival sponsors, a fact that reinforces the attraction of this meeting, not just to racing professionals, racegoers and punters, but to the business community too.


“We are very grateful to both OLBG.com and Pulteney Land Investments, which are both progressive young companies that we look forward to working with well into the future.”




Weights for the £100,000 William Hill Lincoln, the first major race of the Flat turf season which will be run over the straight mile at Doncaster on Saturday, March 31, are revealed today.


Trainer David O’Meara, who has made a very impressive start to his training career, could saddle Penitent (9st 8lb) and Smarty Socks (9st 2lb), who won two valuable handicaps at Doncaster and Ascot last season. The pair are both currently rated 16/1 chances with William Hill.


Penitent, successful in the William Hill Lincoln in 2010 when trained by William Haggas, was subsequently victorious in Listed company at Sandown and O’Meara is hopeful the six-year-old can bounce back to his best.


The Great Habton-based handler said: “Penitent was bought at the Newmarket sales at the end of October (for 40,000 guineas). He came to me and has had a break, but has been back in a work for about six weeks now.


“I don’t know if he could win off his current mark (108), but he was rated 114 at one point, so we’ll soon find out plenty about him in the William Hill Lincoln which will probably be his first run for us.


“Soft ground appears to be crucial to him, but I’m not sure if he will have a prep run as he didn’t have one the year he won it, so he has shown he can go there and do it first time out.”


Of Smarty Socks, the trainer commented: “Smarty Socks has run over a mile plenty of times and he won over that distance at Southwell, but seven furlongs might just be his optimum trip.


“He seems to get better as the year goes on and he does like firm ground, but he ran well in the William Hill Spring Mile last year when he finished sixth.


“He’s on a mark now where he can start competing in Listed and conditions races as well as handicaps. He does tend to need a good strong gallop and he comes good off a fast pace, so we’ll keep him busy this year as he does enjoy his racing.”


Eton Forever, who is 10/1 favourite with race sponsor William Hill, has been allotted 9st 3lb, which guarantees him a place in the maximum field of 22. The Roger Varian-trained five-year-old took last season’s William Hill Spring Mile.


The 2011 2000 Guineas fifth Fury could shoulder 8st 12lb as William Haggas chases his fourth Lincoln, while Cocozza, who could make his debut for Marco Botti since joining the Newmarket trainer from John Oxx, has been allotted 8st 13lb.


Primaeval (8st 6lb) could bid to give James Fanshawe his first Lincoln, while Edinburgh Knight (9st 4lb) will be having only his third start over a mile after winning a Listed race at Kempton on his final start last season.


Last season’s William Hill Lincoln winner Sweet Lightning would carry top weight of 9st 10lb should he take his chance on March 31.


The two-day William Hill Lincoln Meeting takes place at Doncaster on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1.


For further information and to book tickets please go to www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk


Latest William Hill odds: 10/1 Eton Forever, 11/1 Fury, Primaeval, 12/1 Man Of Action, Start Right, 14/1 Edinburgh Knight, Robemaker, 16/1 Askaud, Cocozza, Dubawi Sound, Font Of Wisdom, Glor Na Mara, Hawkeyethenoo, Mull Of Killough, Penitent, Smarty Socks, Sweet Lightning, Take It To The Max, Voodoo Prince, 20/1 Barren Brook, Black Spirit, Bonnie Brae, Brae Hill, Chiswick Bey, Clockmaster, Don't Call Me, King Of Jazz, Kyllachy Star, Leviathan, Pintura, Prime Exhibit, Stevie Thunder, Tullius, 25/1 Amitola, Arabian Star, Axiom, Call To Reason, Captain Bertie, Captain Ramius, Cockney Class, Cool Macavity, Crown Counsel, Field of Dream, First Post, Kingscroft, Kiwi Bay, Lowther, Mia’s Boy, Mont Ras, Perfect Cracker, Redvers, Reve du Nuit, Shavansky, Snow Bay, The Tichbone, Weapon of Choice, 33/1 Arabian Spirit, Ashva, Borug, Dubai Dynamo,  Dunn’o, Hung Parliament, Kay Gee Be, Kinyras, Light From Mars, Lockantanks, Miami Gator, Mullins Way, Nice Style, Norse Blues, Oriental Scot,  Pat’s Legacy, Prince of Burma, Rakaan, Shamdarley, Swiftly Done, Tevez, The Rectifier, 40/1 Fantasy Gladiator, I’m Super Too, Magic Cat, Mawaakef, Nazreef, Sam Sharp, Silvery Moon, Tartan Trip, Zacynthus, 50/1 Georgebernhardshaw, Merchant of Medici, Silenceofthewind, Ted’s Brother, 66/1 Dozy, Joe, Legal Legacy, My Kingdom, Silverware, West End Lad, Quite Sparky.  (EW ¼ 1,2,3,4)

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