Cheltenham Festival 2009 

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Entries For Festival Novice Hurdles Revealed

Entries are revealed today for the four Grade One novice hurdles at The Festival – the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Tuesday, March 10), the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle (Wednesday, March 11), the JCB Triumph Hurdle (Friday, March 13) and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Friday, March 13).

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle always provides a thrilling curtain-raiser to The Festival and this year’s contest looks as competitive as ever with 112 entries, including 38 from Ireland. Leading contenders include last year’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Cousin Vinny and the hugely exciting Hurricane Fly, who are two of seven entries from Willie Mullins’ yard, while Nicky Henderson’s Mad Max, unbeaten in four starts, looks one of the strongest contenders from the home-trained contingent.

Few horses so far this season have created such a favourable impression as Diamond Harry, who is now unbeaten in six starts and one of 125 entries for the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle. Two of his victories have come at Cheltenham, most recently in the Grade Two Racecourse Of The Year Classic Novices’ Hurdle on Festival Trials Day, January 24. There are 46 entries from Ireland while Francois Doumen supplies the two contenders from France.

Always one of the most competitive contests at The Festival, the JCB Triumph Hurdle has attracted 83 entries in 2009, including 20 from Ireland and two from France. There are several unbeaten four-year-olds engaged, including Zaynar from the Nicky Henderson stable and Starluck, who could aim to give Alan Fleming a Festival winner in his first season as a trainer. Alan King won the JCB Triumph Hurdle in 2005 with Penzance and with subsequent Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle victor Katchit in 2007. This year he has another strong contender in Walkon, who advertised his credentials with success in the Grade Two Wragge & Co Finesse Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day.

The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, run over three miles, has received 102 entries, including 37 from Ireland and three from France. Paul Nicholls has nominated the contest as a likely target for Pride Of Dulcote.



Wiltshire-based trainer Andrew Turnell has recorded four successes at The Festival, most notably with Katabatic in the 1991 Queen Mother Champion Chase, and has another live contender for glory this year in the shape of Micheal Flips, a £200,000 purchase from the Brightwells Sale held at the racecourse in April, 2008. The five-year-old, a winning Irish point-to-pointer, has won three of his four starts over hurdles. His latest victory came at Kempton on Boxing Day, when he scored by an impressive seven lengths.

Turnell said today: “We have given Michael Flips entries in both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle and he will almost certainly go for the two-mile race at the moment.

“He’s come out of his win at Kempton in good form and we will be going straight to The Festival with him now because he goes well fresh. He made a very bad blunder at the penultimate flight when he was second to Show Winner at the same course in November, and cut his knee open.

“He would appear to be more effective on a faster surface but he won a point to point at Lismore last March on yielding ground so I’m hopeful that he’s quite versatile in terms of ground.

“I would be optimistic that he’s improved since Boxing Day and he’s only five so we’ve still got plenty to look forward to with him. We bought him as a potential chaser and he’ll go over the larger obstacles next season so anything that he does this season is a bonus.”

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