THE FESTIVAL 2006
RACENEWS RACECOURSE SERVICE
CHELTENHAM, MONDAY, MARCH 13
GROUND THIS AFTERNOON
The ground changed this afternoon to:
GOOD - Chase & Hurdles Courses from good, good to soft in places
GOOD, GOOD TO SOFT IN PLACES - Cross Country Course from good to soft, good in places
Simon Claisse, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course, reported this afternoon: “I have changed the ground on the chase and hurdle courses to good this afternoon after a dry day. It was only good to soft for about half a furlong going down the hill this morning.
“We could have five to seven millimetres of rain just before and during racing on Tuesday. There is rain forecast overnight - with two to three millimetres expected and in the morning - another three to four millimetres - before clearing in the afternoon.
“With generally colder temperatures forecast for this week, I would not anticipate the ground drying out to anything faster than good.
“We have experienced the coldest and driest winter for the past 10 years in 2006.
“Fortunately, we have had 20 millimetres of rain over the last three weeks so it has come at the right time.”
Edward O’Grady, Ireland’s most successful current trainer at The Festival with 17 wins, walked the course this morning and commented: “The track is looking the best I have seen it for years.
“I would say that the fact there was no January meeting has been a big factor.
“The ground is predominantly good with it being slightly on the dead side in places.
“It should suit most horses. Only if horses want extremely fast going or extremely soft going would they be inconvenienced.”
Henrietta Knight, trainer of the three-time totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Best Mate and this year’s leading Irish Independent Arkle Trophy hope Racing Demon, also walked the course this morning and is happy with the state of the ground.
She said: “I’d be happy with the ground at the moment - it should suit any type of horse.
“I would say it’s riding on the easy of good but is certainly not soft - it is likely to be just on the easy side of good tomorrow.
“With this wind, it could dry out later in the week and I’m not sure how it will ride come Friday.”
2.00pm, Tuesday, March 14
Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
20 Zaiyad (FR) - was left in due to administrative error
WALSH REVEALS MAIN HOPES
Ruby Walsh today revealed the four horses he believes are most likely to provide him with Festival success this year.
The Irishman said: “Denman, Kauto Star, Equus Maximus and Mister Hight are my best chances this week, and hopefully at least one of them can win. I’m really looking forward to everything kicking off tomorrow.”
Walsh, who has ridden eight Festival winners in his career, is hoping that Kauto Star can give him a second victory in the Queen Mother Chase, while Denman is a hot favourite for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle, Mister Hight is well-supported for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, and the Willie Mullins-trained Equus Maximus goes for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Speaking after walking the course, Walsh gave his verdict on the Cheltenham going.
He reported: “I’d say the ground is just barely on the slow side of good. If the rain stays away then it should be good ground for the week.”
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE BOASTS JOINT LARGEST FIELD EVER
A total of 13 runners have been declared for Wednesday’s showpiece Queen Mother Champion Chase, which is set to feature its joint largest field ever. There were also 13 runners in 1999 when the race was won by Call Equiname.
The 12-year-old Moscow Flyer, successful last year and in 2003, bids to emulate Badsworth Boy (1984-86) and become only the second three-time winner in the race’s history. Skymas in 1977 is the only other 12-year-old to have captured the two-mile contest.
At the other end of the age spectrum, only Inkslinger in 1973 has won as a six-year-old so likely favourite Kauto Star also has history against him.
Paul Nicholls’ charge has not run since winning the William Hill Tingle Creek Trophy Chase at Sandown on December 3. The runner-up that day, Ashley Brook, has not been declared for Wednesday’s race due to a knee injury but third-placed Oneway will reoppose.
Moscow Flyer is one of no less than six Irish-trained runners with others including the Mouse Morris-trained Fota Island, winner of the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at last year’s Festival and four-length victor of the Grade 2 Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on January 22.
Central House, whose rider Roger Loughran mistook the winning post when third in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas, has since made amends with a victory in the Grade 2 Byrne Group plc Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on February 5.
The novice Accordion Etoile finished third in that contest with Watson Lake in fourth while Newmill comes to Cheltenham on the back of a four-length win in the Grade 2 Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles on January 19.
There has never been a French-trained winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase but Kario De Sormain, a first Festival runner for France’s 11-time champion trainer Jean-Paul Gallorini, bids to set that record straight. The mare, who will be ridden by Thierry Majorcryk, scored over hurdles on heavy ground at Fontainebleau on February 22.
Fundamentalist has already tasted success at The Festival, having landed the 2004 Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle.
Dempsey, carrying top weight of 11st 12lb, finished two-lengths second to Tysou in the Victor Chandler Handicap Chase at Sandown on February 4, Mister McGoldrick captured the Skybet.com Castleford Chase at Wetherby on December 27 while River City had an unconventional preparation with his latest start coming in an all-weather maiden at Wolverhampton on March 3.