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Cheltenham Festival 16th - 18th March 2004

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FINAL FESTIVAL ENTRIES ANNOUNCED - 08/03/04

Entries for all 20 races at the 2004 National Hunt Festival have now been revealed following today's publication of the horses engaged in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Christie's Foxhunter Chase and Cathcart Chase Challenge Cup.

The Weatherbys Champion Bumper, only run for the first time in 1992, is now an integral part of the Festival and has attracted a record 58 entries of whom no less than 30 are trained in Ireland. Among those bidding to take this prize across the Irish Sea for the ninth time in 12 runnings is J P McManus's Martinstown, winner of both his starts to date for trainer Christy Roche, and no less than 11 entries bidding to give Willie Mullins a fifth success in the race. The John Kiely-trained Blazing Liss, who has won all three of his starts, Tom Cooper's stable star Total Enjoyment, and Edward O'Grady's pair Overbury Affair and Sidalcea, a half-sister to Best Mate, are others in a strong Irish-trained entry while Francois Doumen's Sandown winner Royal Paradise boasts strong claims of posting a first French success. The domestic challenge includes an unbeaten trio trained by Jonjo O'Neill, Manners, Millenaire and Refinement.

There are 71 engaged in the four-mile National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, run on Wednesday, March 17 and the Festival's longest race. Rosslea, representing the Best Mate connections of owner Jim Lewis and trainer Henrietta Knight, is currently ante-post favourite for the amateur riders' event in which he will be ridden by Richard Burton. Other notable entries include the Guillaume Macaire-trained Look Collonges, Silver Birch from Paul Nicholls' stable and some interesting entries from Jonjo O'Neill including Hawk's Landing, Native Emperor and World Wide Web.

Champion trainer Martin Pipe leads the way among his colleagues with 30 Festival successes but his

son David could get on the scoreboard this year with Lord Atterbury, one of 39 entries in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase, along with stablemates Oneminutetofive and Polar Champ. Trainer Paul Nicholls could bid to be a winning owner via the Chloe Roddick-trained Ask The Natives while the Ditcheat handler himself is represented by the 1998 winner Earthmover and the 2002 third Torduff Express. Nicholls' neighbour Richard Barber, who boasts three previous successes, is represented by Always On The Line and Ease The Pressure. Ireland's challenge looks to be headed by the Ted Walsh-trained Never Compromise, a winner at Leopardstown on February 8, with other notable entries including the Trevor Hemmings-owned Arctic Times, General Montcalm, trained by Edward O'Grady, Spot Thedifference and the Willie Mullins-trained Castle Weir.

Many of the 33 Cathcart Challenge Cup entries could take up alternative engagements at the Festival but, with the likes of Adamant Approach, Barrow Drive, Calling Brave, Cloudy Bays, Farmer Jack, Hand Inn Hand, Impek, Irish Hussar, Iris Royal, Isio, last year's winner La Landiere, Le Coudray, Our Vic, Patricksnineteenth and Therealbandit entered, there is no shortage of quality.

COMPARISON OF ENTRIES 2004/2003/2002/2001/2000/1999/1998/1997/1996/1995

National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup 71/71/61/58/44/41/42/48/47/50

Weatherbys Champion Bumper 58/46/46/56/55/52/42/*/*/47

Christie's Foxhunter Chase 39/41/35/36/34/35/28/28/27/28

Cathcart Chase Challenge Cup 33/46/42/54/46/57/36/26/26/36

IRISH-TRAINED ENTRIES 2004/2003/2002/2001/2000/1999/1998/1997/1996/1995

National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup 17/24/17/19/10/11/10/10/7/13

Weatherbys Champion Bumper 30/21/14/18/21/18/8/*/*/14

Christie's Foxhunter Chase 7/10/4/5/4/6/8/6/4/6

Cathcart Chase Challenge Cup 5/11/4/8/11/6/3/3/4/5

*Five-day closing in 1996 and 1997

Edward Gillespie, Cheltenham's Managing Director, commented: "Today's publication of entries for the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Christie's Foxhunter Chase and the Cathcart Chase Challenge Cup slot the final pieces into the jigsaw for next week's National Hunt Festival. We have 20 fascinating contests in prospect and the stage is set for a magical three days."

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