There are currently 23 entries for this years Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with last year’s victor Honeysuckle, the current odds-on favourite to retain her title.
Henry de Bromhead’s mare extended her unbeaten run to 13 by claiming the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November.
It’s possible she make go to Leopardstown next month looking for a third successive Irish Champion Hurdle before heading over to Cheltenham. Also in the list of entries are De Bromhead’s Quilixios and Aspire Tower.
Opposition is likely to come from last year’s third, the Nicky Henderson-trained Epatante. She made a good start to this campaign when dead-heating in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and then went on to claim the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Nicky Henderson has also entered the 2017 and 2018 winner Buveur D’Air.
Sharjah, who was second to Honeysuckle in 2021 and to Epatante in 2020, will challenge again following his fourth consecutive win in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Trained by Willie Mullins, he joins the teams other entries, Appreciate It, who has been off the track since winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival, with Saint Roi and Echoes In Rain.
Gordon Elliott has four possibles – Abacadabras, Saint Felicien, Teahupoo and Zanahiyr.
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Cape Gentleman had an easy day when cruising to victory in the Watch Racing Free Online At Ladbrokes Beginners at Punchestown.
Now trying fences, he was a useful runner on the flat with a rating of 101. Also a Grade Two winner over hurdles in the Dovecote at Kempton last season, he completed his attempt over fences for the first time with ease, but only after main rival Ballyadam, suffered a crashing fall at the first fence.
Henry de Bromhead’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Ballyadam, was the bookies favourite with Cape Gentleman the 7/4 2nd Fav.
After the fall, jockey Brian Hayes only needed to steer him round and jump all the obstacles to win. However, a second-last fence error could have cost the race but he managed to gather his momentum again for an easy victory.
“It’s a great start and I couldn’t ask for any more,” said trainer Emmet Mullins.
“He had a good round of jumping, a little novicey mistake at the second-last but hopefully he should learn from that and it’ll stand to him going forward.
“It’s good to see he took to fences and he could be an exciting novice going forward for the rest of the season.
“I haven’t thought of any future plans, but he’s a high-quality horse and we’ll be looking at all the graded options anyway.
“He won his maiden hurdle on proper heavy ground here during the winter, but if we have options we’ll definitely be picking better ground.”
He went on: “It’s probably more of a worry whether we can go back left-handed again after Leopardstown last year. I’d like to forgive him the run, but time will tell.
“He has a high cruising speed so I told Brian to buck out and go as fitness was on our side and he’s a slick jumper in the main.
“Trip-wise I’d say he’ll be very versatile and I’d have no qualms about going up in trip. The Ascot Stakes was two and a half on the Flat and he was still galloping at the line (when fifth to Reshoun), he was actually caught flat-footed that day.
“He’s an exciting horse and we have plenty of options.”
Hollywoodbets at The Curragh – a touch of Purple at the home of Irish flat racing
The Curragh Racecourse will undergo a splash of purple powered passion on Thursday 14 October, when sportsbook operator Hollywoodbets sponsors four of the seven races in an action-packed programme at Ireland’s premier flat racecourse.
The scenic and historic County Kildare venue is the destination of choice for any racing fan and is home to all five classic races on the Irish racing calendar.
The watershed event on 14 October is a proud and auspicious moment for the emerging sportsbook operator, which has already shown its commitment to the much-loved sport of kings on the Emerald Isle, through its relationship with Dundalk Racecourse.
Appropriately known as the ‘place of the running horse’, The Curragh’s racing heritage presents a proud achievement of equine dedication that has stood the test of time. There was chariot racing on the Plain as early as 110 BC and today the passion lives on through a national awe and admiration for the majestic thoroughbred.
The partnership between The Curragh Racecourse and the dynamic Hollywoodbets brand will sow the seeds and herald the springing of the starting gates to an association that will deliver benefit to the local industry and the community at large, in time to come.
On 14 October, stakeholders will enjoy the renowned Hollywoodbets hospitality, with bespoke winning rugs being awarded to the triumphant horses on the day.
Hollywoodbets will also be running a Grooms’ Initiative on the day. The winning grooms across the 7-race card will be acknowledged for their commitment and dedication through the award of a gift bag.
The Finishing Line Podcast’s Andrew Halligan will be featuring the 14 October programme on an episode of the popular show leading up to the big day. One of the fastest-growing horseracing podcasts in Ireland, The Finishing Line offers a refreshingly modern, light-hearted, and humorous approach to insights and information about the horseracing, with an infusion of years of knowledge and passion.
Spokesman Doug Stangroom commented “Hollywoodbets thanks The Curragh Racecourse for the opportunity to add value and fun to what is always a great day at this iconic venue.”
Don’t miss Hollywoodbets at The Curragh on Thursday 14th October 2021!
A tilt at Breeders’ Cup glory is next on the agenda for A Case Of You following his popular success in the Prix de l’Abbaye on Sunday.
Having narrowly missed out on being a first Group One winner for trainer Ado McGuinness in the Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh last month, the son of Hot Streak went one place better on Arc day – sparking jubilant scenes in the ParisLongchamp winner’s enclosure.
A Case Of You arrived back to his home on the outskirts of Dublin on Tuesday morning – and provided he pleases connections when returning to full work, he looks set to head for Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
McGuinness said: “We had a great night on Sunday. That’s what life’s all about really.
“The horse came off the truck this morning and we’re very happy – he’s 100%. He’s a great horse to grub – he’s never left a nut at all. He’ll go out for a roll and a pick of grass now.
“He’ll get a few nice, easy days to freshen up and then we’re going to prepare him for Del Mar, so long as there are no mishaps or anything.
“We’ll make an entry for Hong Kong as well, just in case there’s a hiccup going to America.
“The Turf Sprint is five-and-a-half (furlongs) and it’s a bit tight, but if he had a nice draw I think it would make a big difference and I think this lad would come from anywhere.”
Whatever happens in California, McGuinness is already looking forward to seeing what his stable star can achieve as a four-year-old in 2022.
He added: “He’s going to be a fabulous horse next year. You could say put him away, but there’s only one Breeders’ Cup, he’s in the form of his life and I think he’s getting better.
“If the horse is fit and healthy to travel he will travel and if he’s not fit and healthy he won’t travel.
“But at this present moment, we’re looking at tickets anyhow.”
The late Pat Eddery is set to be inducted into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame.
Eddery, who died in November 2015, was crowned champion jockey on 11 occasions between 1974 and 1996 and chalked up more than 6,000 winners during his illustrious riding career.
Among his 4,632 British wins – a figure exceeded only by the Gordon Richards (4,870) – were 14 Classics, including three Derby winners in Grundy, Golden Fleece and Quest For Fame.
Grundy went on to win the Irish Derby and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the same year of 1975, with his clash with St Leger winner Bustino in the latter event at Ascot known as the ‘race of the century’.
Eddery’s daughter, Natasha Eddery-Dunsdon, a competing showjumper, said of her father: “He was, and always will be, one of the all-time greats.
“When I think about what he was like as a jockey, I think about his quiet concentration, his focus, the determination to win. That’s what set him apart, his desire to win and to beat his comrades – winning was everything to him, second best just wasn’t an option.
“He had the best hands of any jockey, he was a kind rider, intuitive, he just connected with horses.
“Entering the Hall of Fame would have made him so proud; I only wish he were still here to experience this special moment. It’s one myself and my family will cherish.”
Frankie Dettori said: “We used to call him ‘God’ because he was like God.”
As well as the aforementioned British Classic winners, Eddery was associated with many other champions, including El Gran Senor, Zafonic, Danehill, Sadler’s Wells and Warning.
However, his most famous association was no doubt with Dancing Brave, one of an incredible four Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners for him in the 1980s.
In addition, the Kildare man helped British trainers gain landmark first wins in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 1985, aboard Pebbles, and in the 1986 Japan Cup, on Jupiter Island, both for trainer Clive Brittain.
Brittain said: “You got exactly what you paid for with Pat. He gave every horse a professional ride. He’d give good feedback too; he was good at assessing the horse’s distance, ground conditions – he covered it all. He was worth every penny.
“You never gave Pat orders – you just told him what the horse was like and left the rest to him. You couldn’t pin him down to instructions before a race. Horses were always willing to run for Pat.
“When he rode for you, you got everything you’d want from a jockey. Everything he did on the horse’s back came so naturally to him.”
In recognition of Eddery’s posthumous induction into the and to mark his achievement, his family will be presented with a specially commissioned medal.
This medal will be displayed as part of a special Hall of Fame exhibition at British Champions Day, which takes place at Ascot on 16 October.
David Menuisier is likely to declare Wonderful Tonight for the Prix Foy this weekend – but the current good ground at Longchamp is causing him some concern.
Menuisier had his fears confirmed at York that his stable star was not as effective on a quick surface when she could only finish fourth behind Snowfall in the Yorkshire Oaks.
Wonderful Tonight is also still engaged in the Prix Vermeille, in which she would have to take on Snowfall once more. But Menuisier favours taking on the boys with his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe contender – if the ground is suitable.
“I think we’ll declare in the Foy, but that doesn’t mean we’ll run as the ground is currently good with a read of 3.2, that’s the quick side of good which is not our cup of tea,” said Menuisier.
“If the rain doesn’t materialise, unfortunately we’ll have to bypass and go straight for the big one.
“The forecast is the same as England and Ireland this weekend. You might get lucky and get some rain or you could be unlucky and get none.
“The French do always keep the ground moist so it won’t be rock hard, but we know the filly is not the same on good ground. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do to give her a hard race before her main target of the year, which is the Arc.
“If we don’t get her ground we’ll sit and wait and hope for the best on the first weekend of October.”
Last year Wonderful Tonight won the Prix de Royallieu on Arc weekend and then followed up at Ascot on Champions Day – and should conditions suit the two meetings could be on the cards once more.
“Last year, it wasn’t the plan to do both meetings, but three days after Longchamp she was climbing up the trees so we sent her to Ascot,” said Menuisier.
“At the moment it is very hard to predict, but Ascot is very much on the agenda. If the weather isn’t more in our favour by the first week in October we might have to accept that we won’t run in the Arc.
“Realistically speaking, if the ground is quick she won’t win. That is what we gained by running at York, we know she is not the same filly on good ground.
“I’m thrilled we ran at York because if we hadn’t we could be tempted to run this weekend on unsuitable ground which would mean she’d give herself a hard race much nearer the Arc.”
Among Wonderful Tonight’s possible opponents in the Foy are Skalleti, Broome and Deep Bond from Japan.
Snowfall is one of 12 still in the Vermeille, one of which is her stablemate Love.
Roger Varian’s Teona, Mark Prescott’s Alpinista and Andre Fabre’s Philomene remain in the mix.
O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet is the leading light in the Prix Niel, with The Mediterranean and Pretty Tiger among the seven left in.
France Galop is encouraging racegoers from Britain and Ireland to make the trip to ParisLongchamp next month for the 100th edition of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The 12-furlong showpiece is an undoubted highlight of the autumn – and after it was contested with just a limited crowd last year because Covid restrictions, officials at France Galop are eager to celebrate the race’s centenary with a bigger audience in attendance.
Plans are in place to deck out the track in the silks of the 99 previous winners of the race, with former winning riders set to be invited as France Galop acknowledges a landmark occasion.
France Galop’s general manager Olivier Delloye has outlined requirements for British and Irish fans to attend the fixture, where face masks will be required indoors and outdoors wherever social distancing is not possible and proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test is a necessity.
In a press conference via Zoom on Monday, he said: “The number of daily cases is decreasing every day – so people who are keen to come to France, especially in the Paris area, I think provided they are themselves vaccinated, should not be afraid about the situation here.
“There’s no limit on capacity this year. All that people need to go to the races is to show this ‘health pass’ – either showing you are fully vaccinated, or you can show a negative PCR or antigen test – and we will be offering the service of antigen tests at the gates of ParisLongchamp.
“It’s obviously much easier for British racegoers if they are vaccinated, knowing there will be no quarantine going back home for them. This trip to Paris for the Arc would be much easier for those who are fully vaccinated.”
Given travel restrictions can be changed at short notice, Delloye confirmed a refund policy is in place should the situation change.
He added: “Should there be any change in England as far as restrictions are concerned for people coming back from France, obviously we will reimburse people who purchase their ticket ahead of the event.”
Delphine Violette, sales director and marketing of France Galop, admitted to concerns the crowd could be down on the 2019 total of 42,000 if people believe a trip to France will prove difficult.
She said: “We noticed that 50% of fans are from England and Ireland – and we fear that with Covid, people will not come because of some restrictions. That is why we are explaining that it will be easy to come to ParisLongchamp, if you are vaccinated of course. We invite people from England and Ireland to come back to the Arc.”
Of advanced ticket sales, Delloye added: “They are definitely behind our 2019 figures, but that is the same for French spectators as well – I think the trend is consistent on both sides of the Channel.
“We felt that from England it’s not obvious you can go racing without any limit of capacity and under what conditions, so it was important for us to share the information.”
This year’s Arc is shaping up into a clash of the titans – with dual Oaks winner Snowfall currently heading the market for Aidan O’Brien ahead of Charlie Appleby’s Derby and King George hero Adayar and the Dermot Weld-trained Tarnawa, who was victorious at last year’s Breeders’ Cup.
Mishriff, Hurricane Lane and Wonderful Tonight are also prominent in the betting, with Saiydabad the shortest-priced potential French runner at 20-1, leading Delloye to think visiting racegoers will be cheering home a familiar winner.
He added: “It’s a little early to be sure of the line-up for the race, but we definitely hope to gather the likes of Tarnawa, Mishriff, Adayar, potentially Hurricane Lane and some others.
“We are looking for the big French runners this year, and I think we are a little below what we are used to providing for the race in the last few years, so it looks like it will be an English or Irish Arc this year, unless Mr (Andre) Fabre unveils a great horse – as he can do.”
Real Madrid have made a €160m bid for Paris St Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, according to Spanish and French media reports.
There was no immediate comment from either club.
France’s L’Equipe said PSG’s position remained unchanged, with the Ligue 1 club determined to keep Mbappe until at least the end of his contract in June next year even if he could then leave for nothing.
Spain’s Marca said the move was a first step by Real, who have long had their sights on the 22-year-old World Cup-winner who scored 42 goals in all competitions for PSG last season and has reportedly said he wants to move to Spain.
The As.com website quoted Real sources as saying however that the fact money was not an issue for wealthy Qatar-owned PSG was an obstacle for Real.
Sky Sports said the offer was made on Sunday.
Any sale of Mbappe would allow PSG to recoup some of the costs of Lionel Messi’s salary package after they signed the Argentina forward and six times Ballon d’Or winner from Barcelona earlier this month.
PSG ended last season with only one major trophy, the French Cup, after losing the league title by one point to Lille and crashing out in the Champions League semi-finals.
Real, now managed by Italian Carlo Ancelotti, were runners-up domestically last season to city rivals Atletico.
Mbappe joined PSG from AS Monaco in 2017, on loan initially and then permanently a year later in a deal valued at €180m.