Cheltenham Festival 2009 

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Buoyant Novice Chase Entries

Bumper entries are revealed today for The Festival’s three novice chases – the Grade One pair of the RSA Chase and The Irish Independent Arkle Chase – and the four-mile National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, which will be run for the 139th time this year.

Free World

Free World

There are 52 engaged in The Irish Independent Arkle Chase, run over two miles on The Festival’s first day, Tuesday, March 10, and this year’s renewal currently looks wide open. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has five engaged in a race he has won with Flagship Uberalles (1999) and Azertyuiop (2003) with his principal hopes looking to rest with Tatenen, a 24-length winner of The Independent Newspaper Novice Chase at Cheltenham in November, dual chasing winner I’msingintheblues and Free World.

Alan King – successful with My Way De Solzen in 2007 and Voy Por Ustedes 12 months earlier – has four chances to add to his impressive record via Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase winner Araldur, Oh Crick, Sir Harry Ormesher and Turkish Surprise.

There are 17 Irish-trained entries, including the Tom Cooper-trained Forpadydeplasterer and the Willie Mullins-trained Jayo, while leading French handler Marcel Rolland is set to bid for a Festival winner with his first runner at Cheltenham with the colossal Original, winner of the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton on December 27.

“We are hoping to run Original in The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase,” said Rolland. “We were expecting him to run well at Kempton but didn’t really reckon that he would win. He’s better going left-handed so we are hoping that he can improve going round Cheltenham.

“Obviously, he’s won a Grade Two and now we are going to be taking on some of the top novice chasers around at The Festival. We had thought about Cheltenham prior to his victory at Kempton Park and I wanted to get him used to British fences beforehand.

“He will go straight to Cheltenham now and he will follow the same programme as he did prior to Kempton, when he came over 10 days before the race and stayed with Jean-Rene Auvray in Lambourn.

“He’s a very tall horse but jumping seems to come naturally to him. James Davies will definitely take the ride again having ridden him so well at Kempton Park. We actually asked some other jockeys to ride him at Kempton Park but they all declined – perhaps they were too scared of the horse!”

Panjo Bere and Calgary Bay, who finished first and second in the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Saturday, and the Philip Hobbs-trained Planet Of Sound, an impressive winner at Newbury last week, are other notable entries.

There are 72 entered in the RSA Chase, run on Wednesday, March 11, with What A Friend, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, the current favourite. His trainer Paul Nicholls has won two of the last three runnings (including with Denman in 2007) and he is also represented by Breedsbreeze and Kicks For Free.

Jeremy Scott’s stable star Gone To Lunch and Carruthers, owned and bred by Lord Oaksey and trained by his son-in-law Mark Bradstock, are others with solid form.

“Carruthers ran as we hoped he would do last time at Fakenham,” said Bradstock. “It wasn’t a particularly strong race but it was nice that he won in such style. What A Friend is certainly a good horse and a deserving favourite for the RSA Chase but we have improved since Uttoxeter. Carruthers pulled a muscle in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year and the ground appeared to be too tacky for him. The going when he won at Fakenham, when it rode on the easy side of good, is probably ideal. Carruthers has always struck us a chaser but you start over hurdles and work your way up.”

The 26 entries based in Ireland include five trained by Willie Mullins, who won the race in 1998 with Florida Pearl and in 2004 with Rule Supreme. His team includes the high-class Cooldine while other notable entries from Ireland include Casey Jones and Trafford Lad, who finished well clear of their rivals in the Grade One Knight Frank Novice Chase at Leopardstown on December 28.

The Festival’s longest contest, the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup for amateur riders, has closed earlier than in past years and has attracted 85 entries, easily the highest number in the modern era. Local trainer Jonjo O’Neill has won four of the last six runnings and his four entries include Wichita Lineman, winner of the 2007 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival. Trainer Alan King and owner Trevor Hemmings, who teamed up to win the 2008 renewal with Our Benny, are represented by Pangbourne, a winner at Taunton last week in fortuitous circumstances.

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