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Honeyball Trio on Course for Cheltenham Listed Contests

Trainer Anthony Honeyball will be doubly represented by Maries Des Anges and Jackies Solitaire in the £25,000 Listed EBF/Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Chase Finale (2.35pm, 10 entries) at Cheltenham on the second day of The April Meeting, Thursday, April 18.

The two mile, five furlong handicap has been transferred to Cheltenham following the abandonment of Newbury on March 23.

Marie Des Anges (10st 4lb) gained her third win of the season over fences when staying on gamely to land a novices’ handicap chase at Newbury on March 2, while Jackies Solitaire (11st 7lb) disappointed when pulled up in a valuable novices’ handicap chase at Ascot on April 7, having been an impressive 35-length victor at Warwick on March 10.

Honeyball said: “Marie Des Anges is bursting for a run. She was ready to run originally at Newbury four weeks ago and we could have run her in between but I thought we should try and protect her mark as it looked from an early stage that they were going to try and get this race on again.

“She is in good order though and the owners are keen to get some black type for her, which will be really good to have.

“She has been really fortunate because she has only gone up five pounds for three wins over fences, so we are not complaining about that.

“She is not that big but she is very athletic and has a real good eye for the job. Although she has a bit of height, she is a spindly French-bred mare and she has to use every bit of scope she’s got to jump.

“The owners were a bit concerned about going over fences but she schooled really well in the indoor school one day and she has proved us right this season.

“This is her little Gold Cup and if she runs to the form of her Newbury win, she will be bang there.

“Jackies Solitaire will definitely run providing the next couple of days go all right. You just have to put a line through that Ascot run. She had won very easily at Warwick and I thought she had a little squeak at Ascot but she was struggling from about the second fence and the ground was probably a bit too quick for her.

“It knocked her confidence a little bit as well but she loves her jumping and hopefully she will be able to get into a nice rhythm back in a slower run race.”

Violin Davis, a Grade Two scorer over hurdles last season for Paul Nicholls, tops the weights (11st 10lb) after winning four of her five starts over fences for new handler Harry Fry. Other possible starters include Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase third Fentara and Jamie Snowden’s Ixora.

Eleven Fifty Nine
© Racehorse Photos

Eleven Fifty Nine
Honeyball is also planning to saddle high-class bumper performer Eleven Fifty Nine in the £20,000 Listed OLBG Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (3.10pm, 34 entries).

The seven-year-old recorded a cosy length and a half success in the Listed John Smith’s Mares’ Bumper at Aintree’s Grand National meeting last season and registered her first win over hurdles on her most recent start at Doncaster on January 9.

She had previously chased home Alan King’s Call Me A Star on her hurdling debut at Uttoxeter in November before a respectable fourth-placed finish behind the classy She Ranks Me in a Listed event at Newbury in December.

Honeyball continued: “Eleven Fifty Nine is in both Listed Hurdles at Cheltenham (also in TBA Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) but she will go for the OLBG Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over an extended two miles and five furlongs.

“Although she won at Doncaster, at first I was quite disappointed but looking back she jumped quite nicely and got the job done.

“We were then looking to crack on and get another run into her about four weeks later and then put her away for this race, but she has had loads of niggly problems. Initially, she was a bit snotty and then she banged a leg so the fact the race has been rearranged has worked out for the best because she is going to get her ground.

“She was beaten half a length by At Fishers Cross in a Ffos Las bumper in soft/heavy ground so she can perform to a high level on that surface but we have always thought she preferred better ground.

“On her bumper form you would say she is quite nicely handicapped on 125 and, with the way things have worked out, her rating is based on performances over two miles.  She is never a two miler and we think she is more of a three miler so it’s looks like a cunning plot in some ways, but it isn’t and that’s just how things have ended up.”

Other notable contenders for the race over two miles, five and a half furlongs include impressive Ludlow winner Mickie from the stable of Henry Daly, Lucy Wadham’s classy Baby Shine and the Sheena West-trained Hi Note.

The third Listed contest on a fantastic eight-race card at Cheltenham on Thursday, April 18, is the £20,000 Listed Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (2.00pm) over two miles and a furlong. The 16 entries are headlined by Nicky Henderson’s Ma Filleule, a Grade Two winner at Warwick in February.

There are eight races on Thursday, with the final one, the Nicholson Holman Novices’ Handicap Chase, due off at 6.00pm.

The April Meeting gets underway with a seven-race card on Wednesday, April 17, headlined by the £50,000 Grade Two Macmillan Cancer Support Silver Trophy Chase (3.55pm, 21 entries) over two miles and five furlongs.


The going at Cheltenham is currently:

Good to Soft

There was four millimetres of rain over the weekend.

The forecast is for the conditions to remain mild with showers.

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