Letheby & Christopher Chase the Ideal Trial for State Of
Vale of Glamorgan trainer Evan Williams is aiming his totesport Gold Cup hope State Of Play at the £100,000 Grade Two Letheby & Christopher Chase (2.40pm) on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham on Saturday, January 26.
The prestigious race, run over an extended three miles and a furlong,
is a traditional stepping-stone to the totesport
Gold Cup and has attracted
13 top-class entries.
The Welsh handler revealed this morning: “State Of Play is entered
in the Letheby & Christopher Chase and we are planning to run him.
He has come out of the Lexus Chase really well and I am happy with him.
“We looked around at our options and the choice was either carrying a big weight in a handicap or going to Cheltenham and seeing if we can get some of that good prize money that is on offer.”
State Of Play, the 2006 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup winner, ran a creditable race in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Punchestown on December 28, when fifth to Denman. The eight-year-old was in contention until outpaced in the closing stages of the slowly run three-mile contest.
Williams’ charge had previously finished a game runner-up to Ollie
Magern in the Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November,
conceding six pounds to the winner. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained
Ollie Magern is likely to reoppose in the Letheby & Christopher Chase.
Williams reported: “The great thing about State Of Play is that
he always gives 100 per cent, but I think to be seen at his best he needs
a very strongly run race and he didn’t get that in Ireland last
“If you look at the Charlie Hall Chase, it was a fiercely run
race and he ran incredibly well. The Hennessy too is always run at a
ferocious pace and I think it does help him as it finds the cracks in
other horses. He is such a genuine horse that he always does his best
work at the end.
“He is so adaptable in terms of the going. He will run on good to firm and he can go on quite soft ground”
State Of Play was sixth in the 2007 totesport Gold Cup, beaten just
under 12 lengths by the brilliant Kauto Star, and Williams is hoping
for another good effort in jumping’s blue riband.
He said: “State Of Play ran an exceptionally good race at Cheltenham
in the Gold Cup last year. The more we look at it, when you consider
how good the horses who finished in front of him are, he wasn’t
beaten far and it was an exemplary effort.
“The more you analyse it and look at how the race developed it
is brilliant to see how good a race he ran. We will see how we get on
in the Letheby & Christopher Chase and then perhaps go straight for
the totesport Gold Cup again.
“Paul (Moloney) and Christian (Williams) ride the horses so all being well Paul will ride State Of Play on Saturday.”
The fantastic entry for the Letheby & Christopher Chase also includes
last year’s victor and totesport Gold Cup runner-up Exotic Dancer
from the Jonjo O’Neill yard, the Paul Nicholls-trained Grade One
Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup winner Neptune Collonges and Grade Three
Racing Post Chase winner Simon, from the John Spearing yard.
Trainer David Pipe has engaged King George VI Chase runner-up and Cheltenham
specialist Our Vic as well as the top-class but lightly-raced Celestial
Gold, winner of the 2004 Paddy Power Gold Cup, and the smart Madison
The remaining entries are Billyvoddan, Knowhere, Faasel and the Francois
Doumen-trained pair of Kelami and L’Ami.
The Letheby & Christopher Chase is an excellent pointer to the totesport
Gold Cup with past winners including See More Business. The Paul Nicholls-trained
star landed the spoils in 1998 and was third to Cyfor Malta in 1999,
the year of his totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph. He scored a second
victory in the race in 2001.
The Noel Chance-trained Looks Like Trouble in 2000 and the Kim Bailey-trained
Master Oats in 1995 both triumphed in the Letheby & Christopher Chase
en route to totesport Gold Cup glory the same year.
Festival Trials Day is the final chance to see racing at Cheltenham
prior to The Festival. The fantastic seven-race card features no less
than four Grade Two contests as well as the hugely competitive £55,000
Grade Three Betchronicle.com Trophy Chase (2.05pm) over two miles, five
furlongs, which has attracted 24 classy entries.
The 2007 Festival Trials Day produced plenty of clues to subsequent Festival glory with no less than five horses (Inglis Drever, Katchit, Massini’s Maguire, Wichita Lineman and Idole First) who competed that day going on to triumph at the main event.
Blazing Bailey won last year’s renewal of the £60,000 Grade
Two Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle (3.50pm). The Alan King-trained gelding
held subsequent Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever
in the three-mile contest and both horses are among a tremendous 18-strong
J P McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry today confirmed that Ladbrokes
World Hurdle hopeful Wichita Lineman is on target for a crack at the
Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding won the Ballymore Properties
Novices’ Hurdle on this card 12 months ago before going on to land
the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March.
This season, the seven-year-old finished fourth to Hardy Eustace on
his seasonal debut at Ascot in November before coming the eight-length
second at Prestbury Park to Blazing Bailey in the Steel Plate & Sections
Hurdle on New Year’s Day.
Berry revealed today: “The plan is to go to Cheltenham on Saturday and Wichita Lineman in good form ahead of the race.
“Jonjo is very pleased with him at home. He came out of his run
on New Year’s Day well and the probable soft ground shouldn’t
“We’ll get Saturday out of the way first, but I’m sure that he’ll go straight to The Festival for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.”
Others among the entries for Saturday’s race include Irish pair
Kazal and Sonnyanjoe, plus Chief Dan George and Lough Derg, successful
on his last two outings at Ascot in Grade One and Grade Two company.
Francois Doumen has entered Millenium Royal, while Emma Lavelle has this
race as an option for Labelthou, successful in a Grade Two contest at
Ascot on Saturday.
The £30,000 Grade Two Wragge & Co Finesse Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle
(3.15pm) is a fantastic pointer to the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at
The Festival and the Alan King-trained Katchit won both races in 2007.
The two mile, one furlong race has attracted 16 entries including the
King-trained Franchoek who is set to seek revenge on the Gordon Elliott-trained
Harper Valley, the latter having proved a length an a half too good in
the Boylesports.com Best Odds Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on December
The £30,000 Grade Two Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle (1.00pm) was won last year by Wichita Lineman who subsequently triumphed in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival. The third that day, Massini’s Maguire, won the Grade One Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle at the 2007 Festival.
This year’s contest has attracted 26 entries including the Nicky
Henderson-trained Aigle D’Or, a classy Flat performer in France
who easily won his sole start over hurdles at Lingfield on January 4.
The day also features the £25,000 Timeform Novices’ Handicap
Chase (1.30pm) over two miles, five furlongs and the £25,000 Brightwells
Cheltenham Bloodstock Auctions Handicap Hurdle (4.25pm) over two miles
and a furlong.
LATEST GOING AT CHELTENHAM
Cheltenham Racecourse Clerk of the Course, Simon Claisse, revealed this
morning: “The going on the chase and hurdles courses is currently
soft, with a Turftrax going stick reading of 6.6. The outlook is settled
with 10-15mm of rain expected up to Friday. The forecast suggests that
Friday and Saturday will be dry days.
“I’m delighted with the strength of the entries and we have
a great race in prospect with the Letheby & Christopher Chase.
“Both the Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle and the Wragge & Co Finesse Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle have attracted excellent entries and will be thrilling contests. All in all it will be a great day’s racing.”
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