Champion Court Lined Up for Cheltenham Run
Trainer Martin Keighley is hoping stable star Champion Court can get back to winning ways in the £50,000 Grade Two Macmillan Cancer Support Silver Trophy Limited Handicap Chase (3.55pm, 21 entries) over two miles and five furlongs, the highlight on a seven-race card at Cheltenham on the first day of The April Meeting, Wednesday, April 17.
The eight-year-old has won two of 11 starts over fences but has not been successful since annexing the Grade Two Cheltenham Pony Day Raceclub Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in 2012.
He has run some very good races in defeat including when chasing home Sir Des Champs in the Grade Two Jewson Novices’ Chase at The Festival in 2012 and the highlight this season was a fourth-placed finish in a demanding renewal of the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
After an odds-on defeat in a graduation chase at Kempton Park in February, Champion Court was fifth to Cue Card in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at The Festival on March 14.
Keighley, who trains locally at Condicote, said: “Champion Court is likely to run at Cheltenham next week. We have freshened him up since The Festival and he is in good form. We will school him today, work him Saturday and providing that goes well and the ground is suitable, he will run.
“I was disappointed with the way he didn’t keep galloping on up the hill at Cheltenham. He didn’t look like he would be out of the first three jumping the last but it was still a good run and the form looks rock solid.
“We have freshened him up since and that’s how we need him. Hopefully, he can show his best form. I think dropping back into a handicap instead of running in Grade Ones off levels might help him as well.”
Trainer Keiran Burke revealed the ever popular Hunt Ball is on course to line up after posting his first win of the season in a valuable handicap chase at Taunton on April 4, while champion trainer Paul Nicholls has four possible runners headed by course scorers Ghizao and Edgardo Sol.
Tom George could run Big Fella Thanks, who unseated his rider at the Canal Turn in the John Smith’s Grand National, while Alan King could be represented by course and distance winner Bless The Wings.
Other notable entries include the Venetia Williams-trainer Carrickboy, a 50/1 shock winner of the Bryne Group Plate at The Festival, and the Nicky Henderson’s Petit Robin, who came fifth in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at the same meeting.
The Macmillan Cancer Support Silver Trophy Chase, a limited handicap over two miles and five furlongs, has a prestigious roll of honour, with the scorers including 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Norton’s Coin (1989, 1991), 1990 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Barnbrook Again (1990), 1991 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Katabatic (1992), 1989 Champion Hurdle victor Beech Road (1993), 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Strong Promise (1997) and 2008 Ryanair Chase scorer Our Vic (2006).
Racing gets underway at 2.10pm with the £16,000 Citipost Novices’ Hurdle (29 entries) over an extended two and a half miles and the entries include exciting novices Puffin Billy, Mr Mole and Utopie Des Bordes.
That is the followed by the longest race on the card, the £10,000 Rundle And Co Handicap Chase (2.45pm, 31 entries) over an extended three and a half miles, and the £20,000 Auriga Network Handicap Hurdle (3.20pm, 36 entries) over an extended two and a half miles.
The £10,000 Messier-Bugatti Dowty Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (4.30pm, 56 entries) is followed by the £20,000 Weatherite Novices’ Chase (5.05pm) over three miles, one and half furlongs. The 11 entries include Grade Two scorers Goulanes and Houblon Des Obeaux, as well as the highly-regarded Buddy Bolero and Nicky Henderson’s Hadrian’s Approach.
The action is concluded by the £10,000 sportinglife.com Pony Racing Authority Graduates Handicap Hurdle (5.35pm, 27 entries) over two miles and a furlong which has interesting conditions. The jockeys must have ridden in PRA-approved pony races in Britain and be conditionals or amateurs.
Brightwells host one of the most important jumping bloodstock sales of the year in the Centaur after racing.
An eight-race card on day two of The April Meeting, Thursday, April 18, includes the £25,000 Listed EBF/TBA Mares’ Novices’ Chase Finale (2.35pm), which has been transferred to Cheltenham following the abandonment of Newbury on March 23.
Fillies and mares will also have the chance to gain some black type in the £20,000 Listed TBA Mares’ Novices Hurdle (2pm) and the £20,000 Listed OLBG.com Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (3.10pm).
The going at Cheltenham is currently:
GOOD TO SOFT
There was 10 millimetres of rain last night (Thursday). The forecast is for milder and unsettled conditions, with some rain.
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