Tag Archives: gelding

Rigadin De Beauchene lands Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick

Rigadin De Beauchene lands Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick

PUBLISHED:

16:02 GMT, 12 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:51 GMT, 12 January 2013

Rigadin De Beauchene (5-1) put the icing on the cake of what has been a bountiful start to the month for trainer Venetia Williams when getting up in the shadow of the post to deny Godsmejudge and the gallant Pete The Feat in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick.

The eight-year-old put his jumping issues behind him under a determined Robbie Dunne to pull the race out of the fire after he was seemingly booked for third at the second-last fence.

New star: Nigel Twiston-Davies has a leading candidate for Cheltenham

New star: Nigel Twiston-Davies has a leading candidate for Cheltenham

Dunne intentionally steered a wide
course on Rigadin De Beauchene in the straight, a ploy that paid off as
the combination reeled in the battling leaders with 50 yards to travel
to win by half a length.

Williams said: 'Robbie swept wide
into the straight and managed to get the horse to meet the last fence on
a good stride which I think was very important.

'His owner Andrew Wiles hopes he may
emulate his half-brother Miko De Beauchene and win the Welsh National
next season. I think Andrew might have reservations about him going for
the Grand National itself though. He's had issues with his jumping.'

Williams said she was encouraged
about a good run from her gelding after the horse that beat him in the
mud at Lingfield went on to land the Sussex National.

Dunne said: 'We were going a good
gallop when he made a mistake down the back and he also got in tight to a
couple. But overall he jumped much better today, having had a
confidence-booster at Lingfield.'

Noel Fehily was proud of the gallant Pete The Feat whose unbeaten run of five this season was finally broken back in third.

He said: 'It was another very good run. He's jumped from fence to fence and galloped to the line.'

Nigel Twiston-Davies can be forgiven if he starts getting excited about The New One (1-2 favourite) who routed the opposition in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.

So far the only defeat he has
suffered in his career came in the Festival Bumper where he was sixth
but nothing in this Grade Two could live with him.

His jockey Sam Twiston-Davies said: 'The sky is the limit.'

Nigel Twiston-Davies said: 'He seems
to have so much speed and staying power and it's a shame we haven't
really learned anything, as some of the others didn't go in the ground
and he wasn't tested.

'He won but we still don't know
enough about him and that encourages me to look at the programme book
and find another two-and-a-half-miler for him in order to give him some
more experience.'

Sarah Such, joint-owner of the winner,
was out of breath after cheering The New One home and exclaimed:
'Amazing. I can't breath he is absolutely wonderful, a really special
horse.'

Team Twiston-Davies also took the concluding bumper with Pure Science (5-1), a nine-length winner.

Rocky Creek boosted his claims for the RSA Chase and was cut to 12-1 from 20s for that Cheltenham Festival contest after flooring Highland Lodge in the Betfred Mobile Lotto Novices' Chase.

Paddy Power were impressed with the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old after he readily brushed aside Highland Lodge in the home straight of the three-mile contest to leave that rival exhausted on the run-in.

The pair had taken each other on at the last three of the fences down the back stretch with Rocky Creek nudging into the lead under a confident Daryl Jacob before the second last.

At this point the 7-4 chance jumped to the front where Tour Des Champs fell and brought down the weakening Forgotten Gold. Rocky Creek then forged steadily clear of Highland Lodge, who stopped to a walk on the flat and was caught by 16-1 shot Fill The Power for second.

Jacob believes the winner could be a factor in the RSA given the right underfoot conditions.

He said: 'I had the favourite covered and just wanted him to give me a lead into the straight before pressing on.

'He's a horse for the future and will be a truly super chaser in time. He's a possible Cheltenham horse for sure providing the ground there isn't too quick.'

Ely Brown booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival when avenging his 2012 defeat in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier.

Second to Thehillofuisneach here 12 months ago, Charlie Longsdon's charge travelled well and readily outstayed Holywell and Hada Men by a length and a quarter and four under Noel Fehily.

According to his trainer, Ely Brown needed to win today in order to guarantee a run in the Final at Cheltenham in March.

Longsdon said: 'I said to Noel he had to win again if he was going to get to Cheltenham and after this he certainly deserves to take his chance.

'If he goes up 5lb it will be his ticket booked. He was second here last year and when I looked down today's field I thought it was quite a lot tougher.

'He had a hard race at Aintree. We gave him plenty of time to recover from that and he was pinging after his last outing at Haydock.'

Rody (11-2) earned glowing praise from his pilot Paddy Brennan who described the Tom George-trained gelding as 'as good a jumper as you could possibly wish to see' following his resounding success in the Betfred 'The Bonus King' Handicap Chase.

Giving weight to all seven of his rivals in the two-mile contest, Rody made it three wins from his last four starts as he continually made ground on Eastlake at his fences.

Brennan sent him on rounding the home bend and the combination pulled eight lengths clear, with Kapga De Cerisy a neck back in third. The winner is owned by Tony Dalton and Jennifer Laing who both work for Saatchi and Saatchi.

Laing said: 'He's a happy horse who really likes being at the racecourse. He wasn't as good over hurdles because he used to brush through them, but he gives the fences more respect.'

Brennan added: 'It's his jumping that wins him his races, I've been very impressed with him.'

Flaming Charmer caused a minor shock in the opener, posting a 14-1 triumph for owners Chasing Gold, trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Brendan Powell.

The five-year-old proved too strong for Thunder Sheikh to deny Timmy Murphy a winner on his first ride back from injury in the Betfred Goals Galore Novices' Handicap Hurdle.

On ground described as soft by the winning jockey, Flaming Charmer outstayed his foes and Powell said: 'He's a nice horse for the future and I think he'll stay further.'

Tom Chadney, spokeman for Chasing Gold, said: 'The reason I bought him was because his dam is Kates Charm who won the Cleeve Hurdle and was a very good mare for Robert Alner.

'We have nine horses spread around the country with seven trainers. It enables our members to watch the horses run wherever they are based.'

Imperial Commander injury rules Cheltenham 2010 Gold Cup winner out of Betfair Chase at Haydock

Imperial Commander's comeback bid in Betfair Chase derailed by fresh injury blow

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UPDATED:

14:38 GMT, 20 November 2012

The comeback of 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander has been derailed by a fresh injury.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding has sustained a small fracture in a splint bone in a hind leg.

It means Imperial Commander misses Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock, which had been due to be his first run since the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup having been sidelined with a tendon injury.

Twiston-Davies is hoping that he can get Imperial Commander back on track early next year, but with the son of Flemensfirth turning 12-years-old on New Year’s day time is running out for the gelding.

Out of the running: 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander will miss the Betfair Chase at Haydock

Out of the running: 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander will miss the Betfair Chase at Haydock

Twiston-Davies said: ‘He's suffered a small fracture of a splint bone in a hind leg unfortunately. It's nothing dramatic but it means he won't be in full work for around six weeks.

‘We can still do swimming with him and things like that. It's disappointing but these things happen.

‘We'll see how we get on but the obvious race for him when he comes back is the race at Cheltenham in January (Argento Chase).’

Imperial Commander had been as short as 9-2 for Saturday’s race, a chase he won in 2010 having been beaten a nose by Kauto Star 12 months earlier.

The sponsors now make Nicky Henderson’s Long Run 11-8 favourite with the Paul Nicholls-trained Charlie Hall Chase winner Silviniaco Conti 9-4 and last season’ s Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster a 7-1 chance.

Green Moon claims stunning victory in Melbourne Cup

Euro challengers fail to fire as Green Moon claims stunning victory in Melbourne Cup

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UPDATED:

07:22 GMT, 6 November 2012

A distinct lack of pace was blamed for
the largely disappointing European showing in the Emirates Melbourne
Cup, which was won by Green Moon.

The Marco Botti-trained Jakkalberry
fared best of the foreign raiders in third, but several big overseas
challengers failed to fire in the coveted Flemington handicap over two
miles.

First up: Jockey Brett Prebble (right) rides Green Moon to victory in the Melbourne Cup

First up: Jockey Brett Prebble (right) rides Green Moon to victory in the Melbourne Cup

Delight: Jockey Brett Prebble

Delight: Jockey Brett Prebble

Green Moon, conversely, mastered every fraction to give jockey Brett Prebble and trainer Robert Hickmott their first Melbourne Cup.

Formerly trained in Berkshire by Harry Dunlop, the five-year-old gelding flashed past the long-time leader Glencadam Gold a furlong and a half from home and was not for catching.

Fiorente, another ex-British runner, stayed on for second, a length adrift of the winner. Hong Kong-based Prebble said: 'He was never going to get beat.

'It's the pinnacle of racing in Australia.

'I've had some great highs here, but you don't get any higher than reaching the pinnacle.

'If he sustained the journey, nothing was going to go with him.

'It's very emotional and it's going to last for a long time.'

Royal approval: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, presents the Melbourne Cup trophy to winning owner Nick Williams

Royal approval: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, presents the Melbourne Cup trophy to winning owner Nick Williams

Joy: Jockey Prebble, centre, celebrates with trainer Robert Hickmott, left, and owner Nick Williams

Joy: Jockey Prebble, centre, celebrates with trainer Robert Hickmott, left, and owner Nick Williams

Glencadam Gold enjoyed an uncontested lead from the outset, but initiated an admittedly humdrum gallop off which major European players like last year's respective first and second, Dunaden and Red Cadeaux, struggled to adapt.

The Luca Cumani-trained Mount Athos was perhaps the biggest casualty, however, as he flew from the rear to finish fifth under Ryan Moore.

Botti was nonetheless proud of Jakkalberry, but was left to reflect on what could have been.

He said: 'He ran a very good race, but he probably could have done with the pace being a bit quicker.

'He stayed on very well. It's been a fantastic adventure and I knew I'd left a bit of improvement in the horse.

'I had him at his best today.

'He's got an invitation for the Japan Cup and we can also think about Hong Kong, but we'll see how he comes out of this first.

'There's also Dubai and we'll think about coming back next year.'

Spectacle: The Melbourne Cup

Spectacle: The Melbourne Cup

Celebrity status: Mischa Barton and Ashley Madekwe hold the Melbourne Cup trophy

Celebrity status: Mischa Barton and Ashley Madekwe hold the Melbourne Cup trophy

Ed Dunlop also felt 2011 runner-up Red Cadeaux, who stayed on for eighth, was hamstrung by a weakly-run encounter.

He said: 'About 15 jockeys will tell you that there was no pace.

'He had to drop in anyway, but he just couldn't make up the ground.'

David Redvers, racing manager for Dunaden's owners, Pearl Bloodstock, believes the six-year-old could have been feeling the effects of a tough race in the Caulfield Cup last month as he came home in 14th place.

He said: 'He won so well in the Caulfield Cup that it might have taken the edge off him.

'He's probably got too much weight in handicaps and he'll stick to Group races from now on.'

Cumani echoed the thoughts of Dunlop and Botti when assessing Mount Athos' display.

He said: 'The race was totally inconclusive because of the lack of pace.

'He was further back than we would have liked.

'Ryan started to move him forwards but he got bumped.

'He was the fastest finisher in the race.'

Royal party: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at Flemington Racecourse

Royal party: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at Flemington Racecourse

Mount Athos' owner, Dr Marwan Koukash, said: 'I'm a bit disappointed but he ran a big race.

'He would have liked a better pace but he finished like a train.

'Hopefully we can freshen him up and come back next year.'

Cumani also saddled the 10th-placed My Quest For Peace.

He said: 'The other horse is not a sprinter and didn't pick up as we would have liked.'

Irish challenger Galileo's Choice featured prominently under Pat Smullen but weakened into 20th place.

Trainer Dermot Weld said: “'He got a lovely ride from Pat and was in a lovely position turning in.

'It's just unfortunate he couldn't let himself down on that ground.

'We had thunder and lightning but, unfortunately, no rain.

'If we'd had a drop of rain he could have been in the first three.'

Other European disappointments were the 2010 winner Americain and Godolphin's Cavalryman, who finished a respective 11th and 12th.

Cavalryman's racing manager Simon Crisford said: 'He's a hold-up horse and he was never going to be suited by a race with a lack of pace.'

Green Moon is owned by Lloyd Williams and his family, who were securing a fourth Melbourne Cup crown.

Nick Williams, son of the victorious owner, said: 'It's terrific.

'I'm so proud for all of our team at the farm.

'It's another Melbourne Cup win for 'Team Williams'.

'We've put a lot of money in and a hell of a lot of effort so to get this result is terrific.

'I'm so excited and so happy for all our people.'

Lee Westwood watches Golden Hoof win on his phone

Ryder Cup hero Westwood watches Golden Hoof win on debut at Kempton

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UPDATED:

19:47 GMT, 5 November 2012

Golfer Lee Westwood watched his Golden Hoof make a winning debut over hurdles at Kempton via his phone.

His manager Chubby Chandler, who part-owns the four-old-gelding trained by Nicky Henderson, said: ‘Lee’s out in Shanghai at the moment and was watching on his phone.

Debut win: Andrew Tinkler rides Golden Hoof to victory at Kempton

Debut win: Andrew Tinkler rides Golden Hoof to victory at Kempton

‘He (Golden Hoof) is a big baby. Nicky didn’t give us that much encouragement but everything turned out well. It’s terrific fun and we just enjoy the day out.’

Golden Hoof, sent off at 7-2, cruised through much of the race under jockey Andrew Tinkler before scooting clear to beat Rysbrack four and half lengths.

The big disappointment of the race was smart Flat performer Ransom Note who jumped sloppily throughout and eventually finished a well beaten seventh.

Peter Charles sells Olympic-winning horse to daughter of rock legend Bruce Springsteen

Charles sells Olympic-winning horse to daughter of rock star Springsteen

PUBLISHED:

13:28 GMT, 19 September 2012

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UPDATED:

13:28 GMT, 19 September 2012

Olympic gold medallist Peter Charles'
London 2012 horse Murka's Vindicat W has been sold to the daughter of
rock star Bruce Springsteen.

Jessica Springsteen, an American
international showjumper, will now ride the 10-year-old gelding that
secured team gold for Great Britain at Greenwich Park six weeks ago.

Just champion: Britain's Peter Charles riding Murka's Vindicat W celebrates winning gold

Just champion: Britain's Peter Charles riding Murka's Vindicat W celebrates winning gold

Britain went into a jump-off with Holland for the Olympic title and it was Hampshire-based Charles' clear round that clinched top spot.

It meant the British quartet of Charles, Nick Skelton, Ben Maher and Scott Brash gave Britain its first Olympic team showjumping gold medal since 1952.

'Vinnie is one of the best horses I have ever ridden, so the decision to move him on has not come lightly,' Charles said on his Facebook page.

'He produced an outstanding performance to secure team gold for Britain for the first time in 60 years, and I will never forget how that felt and how unbelievably proud he made me and my team feel.

'In order to invest in a new string of young horses in preparation for Rio 2016, we have had to make the decision to allow him to move to another rider.

'He will now be ridden by his new owner Jessica Springsteen for the USA.

'I wish Jessica the best of luck with him and I am sure he will make her proud, too.'

British equestrian is braced for a period of rebuilding and consolidation following a memorable Olympics that saw home-based riders top the medal table.

In addition to the showjumpers, Britain's dressage trio of Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer won team gold, while Dujardin also took the individual title and Bechtolsheimer was third.

And Britain's eventing quintet of William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Zara Phillips, Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson won silver behind pre-Olympic favourites Germany.

It is expected that Dujardin's Greenwich ride Valegro and Hester's Uthopia will be sold, while Skelton's Olympic back-up horse Carlo 273 has gone to Spanish showjumper Sergio Alvarez Moya.

London 2012 Olympics: Zara Phillips says Games dream still alive

Phillips insists Olympic dream is still alive after superb performance at Bramham

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UPDATED:

22:18 GMT, 9 June 2012

Zara Phillips’ dream of being picked for the London Olympics with her horse, High Kingdom, was still alive after a battling performance by the Queen’s grand-daughter at the Bramham Horse Trials.

Phillips tamed the fearsome showjumping fences to sail into third place in the last championship before Britain’s eventing team is finalised on Monday.

Phillips, 31, has been written off by almost everyone, even her husband, rugby star Mike Tindall, warning against optimism. But on Saturday her beaming smile sent its own message: Count me out at your peril.

Hope: Zara Phillips believes she can make it to the Games

Hope: Zara Phillips believes she can make it to the Games

HORSE DEATHS

The Bramham Horse Trials were marred by the death of two horses on the cross-country course which Zara Phillips will tackle on Sunday.

Jagganath, ridden by Mike Jackson, had completed the notoriously tricky course without incurring any penalties, but the 10-year-old bay gelding collapsed at the finish and on-course vets were unable to save him. Less than three hourse later Lead The Way, ridden by Clea Phillipps, died.

The 14-year-old bay gelding collapsed as he jumped the first element of the 17th fence and vets were again rendered helpless.
Organisers say both horses suffered suspected heart attacks and there will be no changes to the course.

With William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Piggy French and Nicola Wilson virtually guaranteed selection, Phillips is battling other leading riders for the one remaining place in Britain’s five-strong team.

And after following up an impressive dressage on Friday with a faultless round of jumping, Phillips, who missed out on the Olympics in Athens and Beijing, is in the thick of the fight. World No 1 Fox-Pitt leads here on Neuf Des Coeurs, with New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson second and Phillips a close third.

‘The Olympics are on home turf so everybody wants to be there and I’m no different,’ she said ahead of today’s cross-country, her final opportunity to impress selectors. ‘Obviously, everyone is fighting to get on the team. It’s probably tougher for the selectors than anyone else because the competition is so strong.’

Ian Stark, one of three British team selectors, admitted that Phillips is in contention for the Games.

‘Zara’s been one we’ve been watching,’
he said. ‘Today hasn’t done her chances any harm, that’s for sure. Her
horse is getting stronger and stronger. We’ll have a meeting tomorrow
night when we’ll decide on the team. I don’t know whether it will be
announced on Monday but it will be decided.’

Competition: Phillips' rivals are strong

Competition: Phillips' rivals are strong

After driving rain threatened to cancel Bramham, the sun made a brief appearance in the West Yorkshire countryside, a rare occurrence in a rain-hit Olympic qualification campaign which saw the cancellation of trials at Badminton and Chatsworth.

Entries to Bramham were twice the usual number, with both British and international riders trying to impress. Phillips had been relying on Badminton to prove the strength of her partnership with High Kingdom, a relatively new pairing.

Tough: Phillips admitted a tumultuous campaign was difficult to handle

Tough: Phillips admitted a tumultuous campaign was difficult to handle

She admits the tumultuous campaign has been ‘very difficult’ to handle. ‘We have had so many cancellations that none of us has had that many runs,’ she said. ‘This is a place where we are all, luckily, able to run even though the rain did threaten to spoil things again.

‘Conditions are definitely not ideal, but it’s a credit to the organisers at Bramham that we have been able to keep going.

‘There’s more pressure now because [selection] hinges on one event. You like to get things done earlier. I spent a lot of my time before Badminton trying to get my horse to full fitness and to peak at the right time so it has been difficult figuring out where you’re going to run and the work you still have to do.’

Earlier, Phillips chatted on her mobile phone as she tentatively guided High Kingdom down a treacherous, muddy slope towards the warm-up arena for, arguably, the most important round of show jumping in her career. Her husband filmed Phillips’s dressage, but chose not to watch her showjumping. He missed a steely and eye-catching round over a very tricky course.

Good work: Phillips is pleased with High Kingdom

Good work: Phillips is pleased with High Kingdom

‘I’m really happy with High Kingdom. He jumped fantastically,’ said Phillips. ‘I was trying not to wrestle him to the ground. I couldn’t have asked for any more from him.

‘The crucial thing is that he is improving all the time. He’s still inexperienced at the top level but every time I take him out he gets better and better.’

Tina Cook and Lucy Wiegersma — both at Bramham — and Francis Whitington, who has never been on a senior team but went well at Houghton last weekend, are Phillips’s main rivals for the final Olympic place.

Phillips is confident of going well in today’s cross country, although she will have to contend not only with her Olympic rivals but with memories of a head-first fall here in 2007. ‘I’m going to walk the course and see what the ground is like,’ she said. Her Olympic place may depend on it.

Bi Buck"s wins Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree to set jumps record

Big Buck's breaks jumps record with Liverpool Hurdle triumph at Aintree

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UPDATED:

14:02 GMT, 12 April 2012

Big Buck's created history in the BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree by winning his 17th successive race, breaking the modern-day jumps total of Sir Ken.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old maintained his unbeaten record over hurdles in England, winning this Grade One event for the fourth time.

Having also won the last four renewals of the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Andy Stewart-owned gelding rewarded punters who took the 2-9 on offer about the favourite.

Record breaker: Big Bucks and Ruby Walsh jump the last hurdle to win the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree

Record breaker: Big Bucks and Ruby Walsh jump the last hurdle to win the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree

Ruby Walsh settled the superstar in third position and he travelled well through the early stages. When Restless Harry fell early on the second circuit and brought down Won In The Dark, followed by the fall of Smad Place, his task was made easier, should he have needed it.

Crack Away Jack travelled well to challenge but failed like so many before him and eventually trailed in well beaten in second.

And they're off: Runners make their way past the stands during the Liverpool Hurdle

And they're off: Runners make their way past the stands during the Liverpool Hurdle

Stewart said: 'He seemed to be idling a little in front. Alan King's horse (Smad Place) was right behind us until unfortunately he came to grief. I was glad to see them all get up.

'We take every race as it comes and we are totally flattered by the reception he has been given by everyone here. He hasn't had an off-day since unseating in the Hennessy a few years ago.

Star attraction: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher (left) were at Aintree on Thursday

Star attraction: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher (left) were at Aintree on Thursday

In the stands: Coleen Rooney (second right) was also spotted watching on Thursday

In the stands: Coleen Rooney (second right) was also spotted watching on Thursday

'Undoubtedly (this win means the most), this is absolutely marvellous.

'Each win is very precious, but obviously to do 17 and go into the record books is very precious to us.

No catching him now: Ruby Walsh rides Big Bucks towards the finish line for his 17th successive jumps win

No catching him now: Ruby Walsh rides Big Bucks towards the finish line for his 17th successive jumps win

'It's been very flattering. People have been coming up for my autograph – he's more newsworthy than I am, but it's a privilege.

'Next year he'll go for the same programme and the Cleeve Hurdle as well.'

Cheltenham Festival 2012: Peter Scudamore"s festival view

Peter Scudamore Festival view: Horses look spectacular over jumps but it can be a risk

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UPDATED:

01:23 GMT, 14 March 2012

Leaps of faith

Some horses look spectacular jumping but the cost of such flamboyance is risk. Nicky Henderson’s Arkle Chase winner Sprinter Sacre appears an exception. His leaps are breathtaking but also carried out with precision. No wonder jockey Barry Geraghty called him 'The Special One'.

Special one: Sprinter Sacre looks spectacular when jumping

Special one: Sprinter Sacre looks spectacular when jumping

Nice one, son

Aintree devotee Ginger McCain didn’t have a lot of time for Cheltenham but he was prouder of his son’s achievements than he would ever admit. He will have looked down from on high with a smile after Donald’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victory with Cinders And Ashes, a horse Ginger bought. His legacy lives on.

Having a ball

Step aside Henderson, McCain and Paul Nicholls, the training performance of the season should go to rookie Keiran Burke who has improved Hunt Ball, winner of the Pulteney Land Investements Chase under jockey Nick Scholfield, a whacking 5st. The 2013 Gold Cup is not an unreasonable target.

What a performance: Keiran Burke (right) celebrates after Hunt Ball wins Pulteney Land Investments Novices Handicap Steeple Chase

What a performance: Keiran Burke (right) celebrates after Hunt Ball wins Pulteney Land Investments Novices Handicap Steeple Chase

Harry to marry

Harry Fry, the 25-year-old assistant handed credit by his boss Paul Nicholls for training Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby, has more reason to celebrate as girlfriend Ciara O’Connor looks after the gelding. But will he heed the advice of Nicholls, who said: ‘He’ll have to ask her to marry him now.’

The first Noel

When Ruby Walsh was injured last season, it was to Noel Fehily Paul Nicholls originally turned to hand the ride on Kauto Star. But not for the first time, Fehily’s own injury jinx then struck and he missed the 2011 Festival. It was great to see this most talented and understated rider rewarded in the Champion Hurdle.

Fingal Bay to miss Cheltenham

Fingal Bay to miss Cheltenham as Hobbs confirms muscle injury scuppers Neptune hopes

Ante-post punters have been dealt a blow with the confirmation that unbeaten novice hurdler Fingal Bay will miss the Cheltenham Festival.

Doubts surrounding the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding surfaced last week when it was revealed that he had suffered a muscle injury.

However, Hobbs has now officially confirmed that Fingal Bay will miss the most prestigious meeting of the jumps season which starts on March 13.

Ruled out: Cheltenham comes just too soon for Fingal Bay (left)

Ruled out: Cheltenham comes just too soon for Fingal Bay (left)

He was expected to run in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.

Hobbs said: 'Unfortunately time has beaten us and Fingal Bay won't make Cheltenham. Thankfully, it is not a serious problem which is the silver lining as we'll have him for Aintree and Punchestown. He just needs another week which we haven't got.'

Punters have already suffered with Nicky Henderson's Grandouet out of the Champion Hurdle and Dessie Hughes-trained Minsk missing the Triumph Hurdle.

Kauto Star fears allayed by Paul Nicholls

Kauto Star's Cheltenham bid not to be sneezed at as Nicholls allays fears

Paul Nicholls has dismissed fears that his stable’s Cheltenham Festival prospects are in danger of being blown off course by illness.

The champion jumps trainer sparked speculation that all was not well in his Somerset yard when cancelling his traditional pre-Festival Press day on Wednesday.

But Nicholls last night said none of his big names, headed by dual Gold Cup winner Kauto Star, have been touched by a manageable respiratory infection that has hit some of his string.

No worries: Kauto Star is among the favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

No worries: Kauto Star is among the favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

INFECTION CAN SPREAD

When people talk about ‘coughing’ in a stable they usually mean respiratory infection. It can be viral or bacterial and passed around the horses in close proximity like influenza can sweep through an office.

Sometimes the infection only lasts a few days and does not have a major impact. But more virulent infections can hit a horse for six and it can take weeks or months to recover from.

Racehorses can be particularly affected if stressed in their training or raced while carrying the infection. It is the production of mucus which causes the horse to cough.

Among the worst affected is Zarkandar, under the weather since his comeback win in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Friday.

But Nicholls said he still expected the gelding to make the Champion Hurdle, for which he is 6-1 second favourite, on the opening day of the Festival on March 13

The trainer said: ‘It is not a big disaster. Kauto Star and Big Buck’s are not affected, nor are any of the big boys and if they were I’d let everyone know.

‘We had a rubbish weekend but what really got me sweating was Zarkandar, who had a snotty nose the day after he won at Newbury. Then, over the weekend, there were a few more.

‘We have identified the problem affecting about 10 out of 120 horses. I cancelled the Press day because I didn’t want 100 people walking around the yard when we want to sort this out.

‘Zarkandar must be some horse to win on Friday considering he was not right. He has been put on a six-day course of antibiotics but it is nothing serious, like a head cold. He went out this morning and would have had a quiet week anyway.’

Corals reacted to the news of the cancelled Press day by easing the odds on Nicholls retaining his champion trainer’s title to 2-5 while cutting big rival Nicky Henderson to 6-4.

Under the weather: Zarkandar (second left) is suffering through illness

Under the weather: Zarkandar (second left) is suffering through illness

None of the 16 runners from the Nicholls’ stable won on Saturday while Henderson had a good weekend with winners including Binocular and Riverside Theatre. However, he still trails Nicholls by around 350,000.

Nicholls has three runners at Taunton today — Dualla Lord, Edgardo Sol and Foggy’s Wall — and has six possibles for the big meeting at Kempton on Saturday, including Michel Le Bon and Royal Charm in the feature Racing Plus Chase, for which Philip Hobbs-trained Planet of Sound is 5-1 favourite.

Meanwhile, the BHA board will debate proposals from new chief executive Paul Bittar aimed at identifying workable changes to the contentious new whip rules that can be implemented before the Festival.