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Third Time Lucky for Bowen at Northwest Racing Masters with Souffleur? 13/11/08

Trainer Peter Bowen is hopeful that Souffleur can rise to the occasion in the £100,000 Betfair “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle (1.05pm), run at Haydock Park on the first day of the Northwest Racing Masters on Saturday, November 22.

The Pembrokeshire-based handler has not enjoyed the rub of the green in the past two renewals of the valuable three-mile contest, having seen Irish Wolf headed near the line by Halcon Genelardais in 2006 and then witnessed Special Envoy fall at the last flight when four lengths clear and looking a likely winner in last year’s renewal.

This year, Bowen is set to rely on Souffleur. The five-year-old enjoyed a progressive first half of last season, winning novice events at Bangor and Aintree before returning to the Liverpool course to beat Hi Cloy in the Handicap Hurdle at last year’s Northwest Racing Masters.

He then went on to glory at the highest level, taking the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury in December, but could only finish third in a Grade Two contest at Warwick the following month and was a distant fourth in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Haydock Park on February 16.

Following a seventh in the Grade One Citroen C5 Sefton Novices' Hurdle at the John Smith’s Grand National Meeting at Aintree in April, Souffleur has been enjoying an autumn campaign on the Flat, running in two handicaps at Haydock Park in September and the valuable Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket on October 18.

Bowen commented: “We are going to enter Souffleur in the Betfair “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle and the race has been his target for some time. He seems in good form at the moment.

“His first two runs on the Flat at Haydock Park were all right but the ground was a bit fast for him in the Cesarewitch and it was a rough race for him. He ran over Fixed Brush hurdles at Haydock last season and we school him over the same type of hurdles at home so the race should be right up his street.

“He’s rated 145, which is 10lb less than when he won at Newbury, so I am sure that he can be competitive off that mark. His form tailed off a little bit at the end of last season because he was wrong on his last four starts but he’s back to his old self and he goes well fresh.

“We’ve been desperately unlucky in the race with Irish Wolf just getting beat and Special Envoy falling when way clear. I think we are due a bit of luck this year!”

Paul Webber is also considering the Betfair “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle for his progressive mare One Gulp, who gained the biggest victory of her career in a Listed mares handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in April. The daughter of Hernando is no stranger to success at Haydock Park, having won a mares’ bumper at the course on her racecourse debut in February, 2007.

The five-year-old, successful on her two first appearances over hurdles in December, 2007, was also third in a Grade Two Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in January and finished seventh in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Banbury handler said: “We will give One Gulp an entry in the Betfair “Fixed Brush” Hurdle and the race is a serious option for her at the moment. She will also be entered in a Listed Mares Hurdle at Kempton the following week and we will go where the ground is softer.

“She improved throughout last season and I was delighted by her victory at Cheltenham. She’s strengthened up over the summer and she’s only five so I would be hopeful that we haven’t seen the best of her yet.

“We were hoping to get a run into her at the end of last month but the ground seemed to be a little quick for her and she had a little cut on her leg so we decided to give her a little time. She’s in good nick at the moment.

“I wouldn’t be concerned about running her in a handicap off a mark of 135 and we will see what the race looks like before making a final decision.”

The Northwest Racing Masters, at Haydock Park and Aintree, offers two of the very best jump racing days of the year.

The card at Haydock Park on November 22 is entirely sponsored by Betfair and also features the £225,000 Betfair Chase over three miles, as well as the three-mile £50,000 Timeform Betfair Racing Club Handicap Chase and the £50,000 Betfair Hurdle for four-year-olds over an extended two miles.

Total prize money for the day comes to a massive £505,000 - the richest-ever day for jump racing at Haydock Park and an increase of £50,000 on the 2007 figure. Becher Chase day at Aintree is the second and final day of the Northwest Racing Masters weekend on Sunday, November 23. With two races over the famous Grand National fences in the £80,000 totesuper7 Grand Sefton Chase and the £120,000 Becher Chase, there's no need to wait until the John Smith’s Grand National in April to experience the unique thrills of witnessing the spectacle of racing over the Grand National course.

The Becher Chase, run for the 17th time, takes place over three and a quarter miles and is a good trial for the John Smith’s Grand National on April 4.

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