KINGSCLIFF ALL SET TO TAKE ON KEMPTON CONQUEROR KICKING KING
Kingscliff, who has not raced since being a fast-finishing second to Kicking King in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26, was today confirmed a definite starter to take on the same rival in the feature EUR225,000 Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup next Wednesday (April 27) at Punchestown's Irish National Hunt Festival.
Kicking King went on to complete a rare double in last month's totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, from which Kingscliff was withdrawn by trainer Robert Alner at the last minute following a disappointing final gallop.
"Kicking King is the best horse results wise and we have every respect for him but we're looking forward to next week," said Alner.
"We felt perhaps in the King George that if the race had been at Cheltenham and a bit longer we would have had a chance. Kempton's a very flat, fast track and our horse was running on at the end although having said that Kicking King made a horrendous blunder at the last."
The King George VI Chase was Kingscliff's only start of the season and a visit to Punchestown has always been the plan.
"We'll hopefully give Kicking King a good run for his money and our horse has had no racing this season," added Alner. "The owner has always had an ambition to have a horse good enough to take over to Punchestown and I think he has now so we'll give it a go. We'll have a bit of craic whatever."
Trainer Tom Taaffe reported that Kicking King, who has won three times previously at Punchestown, is on target for the Guinness Gold Cup. "Next week is very much the plan. I couldn't be happier with the horse and am looking forward to the race," said Taaffe today.
Meanwhile trainer Willie Mullins has not ruled out a return to fences in the contest for
Rule Supreme, who landed the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February before his last two outings when third in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham and most recently being brought down at Aintree.
The nine-year-old would otherwise go for the Grade 1 Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers' Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday, April 28, and Mullins said today: "We won't make a decision until very near the day as to which race he goes for. He'll be confirmed in both races when we see the way they are shaping up. The ground would be another big factor in our decision as well."
First Gold, who landed the Guinness Gold Cup in 2003, is expected to represent French trainer Francois Doumen in the race.
There is record prize money of EUR2,127,000 at this year's Irish National Hunt Festival which takes place from Tuesday to Friday next week, April 26 to 29.
ASCOT RACECOURSE APPOINTS STICKELS AS CLERK OF THE COURSE
Ascot Racecourse is pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Stickels, 35, as Clerk of the Course. Chris, whose current position is Arena Leisure Regional Clerk of the Course, will join Ascot in June.
A fully accredited clerk since 2000, Chris has officiated at over 400 race days at Lingfield, Folkestone and Windsor and is currently clerk at Lingfield and Folkestone, with responsibility for all race planning issues there. He is also operations manager at the latter venue.
"Chris's appointment is an important milestone as we look towards reopening the redeveloped Ascot Racecourse next year," said Douglas Erskine-Crum, Chief Executive at Ascot.
"Going forward, there are effectively three departments at Ascot: Operations, under director Ronnie Wilkie, Commercial and Finance, under director Janet Walker, and Racing, directly under myself.
"Chris will join the Racing Department alongside and aligned with Nick Smith, our Head of Public Relations.
"Chris will be responsible for turf husbandry, liaison with owners and trainers and for all other duties associated with the Clerk of the Course's role in the lead up to and during racedays. Nick, in addition to his wider communications role, will be responsible for recruiting overseas runners and promoting Ascot's racing internationally, including the development of the Global Sprint Challenge, the World Series and other international alliances with which we are involved.
Speaking of his appointment, Chris said: "I'm delighted to be joining Europe's premier racecourse at such an exciting time and looking forward to overseeing the first Royal Meeting to take place following the redevelopment. For a Clerk of the Course, this is clearly one of the best jobs in racing anywhere in the world and also amongst the most challenging as the eyes of the world are never far away. The commitment to improving the racing surface at Ascot, including the underpass complex which will allow the straight mile to run uninterrupted, is impressive to say the least, and I look forward to assuming responsibility for the course, showing it to trainers later in the year, and preparing it for racing."
MAIN NEWS FROM NEWMARKET ON THE DAY OF ITS ANNUAL PRESS CONFERENCE
NEWMARKET'S RECORD-BREAKING YEAR
Newmarket is set for a record season in 2005, with more racedays and top class races than ever before thanks to the transferral of five racedays from Ascot and Kempton Park. With its own 37 fixtures, it will stage a total of 42 racedays this year including 36 Group Races of which no less than 11 are Group One events - the most ever staged at a British racecourse in one season.
Record total prize money of £7.89 million will be on offer across the 42 racedays, which include the Ascot Festival on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September and three fixtures from Kempton Park - Wednesday 25th May (evening) on the Rowley Mile and Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd September on the July Course.
With sponsorship revenue looking likely to exceed last year's record total of £1.61m (without taking the transferred racedays into account) and with revenues from the conference, exhibition and banqueting business on the Rowley Mile showing spectacular growth (from £220,000 in 2003 to over £400,000 in 2004), the racecourse is entering its record year with a great sense of confidence.
"2005 is going to be a very special year for us, with more racing than ever before for our racegoers to enjoy on our two racecourses," commented Newmarket's Managing Director, Lisa Hancock. "With the exceptional race programme that we can offer this year, I hope that it will encourage people to come to Newmarket from far and wide, starting with the UltimatePoker.com Guineas Festival in 11 days' time."
GUINEAS TICKETS SELLING STRONGLY
Advance sales for the UltimatePoker.com Guineas Festival on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, Newmarket's biggest race meeting of the year featuring the first two Classics of the British season, are running at record levels.
Day Members' badges and tickets for the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure are available at a 10% discount if booked on-line by Thursday 28th April. Visit www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk Tickets will also be on sale on the day.
All accompanied children under 16 years of age admitted free of charge to all Enclosures.
For telephone bookings and more information, call: 01638 675 500.
NEWMARKET CHANGES MARKETING EMPHASIS
Newmarket is changing its approach to marketing by highlighting the separate identities of its two racecourses and using their individual attributes to help promote all its racedays.
The Rowley Mile, "Course of Champions", is the historic home of racing. Like Lord's is to cricket or Twickenham is to rugby union, the Rowley Mile is all about flat racing at its purest and best. With its modern, imposing grandstand and impressive views across the Heath, it is for those who want to sample the ultimate flat racing experience, just as King Charles II would have intended it when he instituted Britain's first ever horserace under written rules there in 1664.
The July Course, on the other hand, is more about a summer's afternoon or evening out with family or friends in beautiful, atmospheric surroundings with thatched roofs and tree-lined lawns. The racing is still of good quality - indeed it is top class at the July Meeting - but whereas on the Rowley Mile the racing is the be-all-and-end-all of the day, on most July Course days it is often more of a backdrop to a relaxing and entertaining day out.
Lisa Hancock, Newmarket's Managing Director, commented:
"In the past we have marketed our racedays under the generic Newmarket banner, but we realised that we were failing to convey just how different and unique our two very special racecourses are.
"Just as everyone who is interested in cricket wants to see a match at Lord's or anyone who loves rugby dreams of seeing a game at Twickenham, so we want everyone who enjoys flat racing to come to the Rowley Mile, a venue which is steeped in racing heritage and history. Its race programme during the spring and autumn is second to none.
"On the incredibly picturesque and atmospheric July Course where we race in the summer, the entertainment is more varied. Our long-established Newmarket Nights, with their rock and pop concerts after racing, sit alongside the incomparable July Meeting and a string of quality Saturday afternoon cards which are always so popular with families."
INNOVATIONS AT BOTH COURSES
New banners have been erected down the driveway to the Rowley Mile, depicting the 1000 and 2000 Guineas winners of the new century and highlighting the names of many of the great horses that have triumphed on the "Course of Champions".
Inside the racecourse, a series of 12 information boards have been erected around the parade ring and on the rear Millennium Stand balconies, providing interesting information on such varied topics as racehorse nutrition, Lester Piggott, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas and Newmarket's early history.
On the July Course, the key innovation is Classic FM Raceday on the second day of the July Meeting, Wednesday 6th July, when the internationally renowned Katherine Jenkins and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bill Hayward will give an hour-long concert after racing.
Whilst not new, Ladies' Day which opens the July Meeting on Tuesday 5th July is likely to have a heightened atmosphere this year thanks to what looks certain to be a bumper crowd. With Royal Ascot taking place at York, advance bookings for Newmarket's stylish event are showing astonishing growth
Lisa Hancock, Newmarket's Managing Director, commented:
"On the Rowley Mile, the aim is to emphasise wherever possible the remarkable heritage of this historic racecourse, while on the July Course we wanted to offer musical entertainment of a different kind to our long-established rock and pop concerts that are an intrinsic part of our "Newmarket Nights" season. Classic FM Raceday should appeal to race fans and classical music lovers alike and add a new dimension to the July Meeting.
"Ladies' Day, meanwhile, looks set to come into its own this year and we are very hopeful that those who are coming to us because Ascot is closed will realise that our event is a must for their diaries in future years too."