Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Newcastle off but Musselburgh prepare for big day

The freeze hit again today as Newcastle's fixture has been abandoned. Snow is forecast for late today and Catterick will be hoping for some improvement in the weather for their meeting scheduled for Friday.

Rising temperatures are forecast for the weekend and it's hoped that northern trainers have opportunities at Doncaster and Wetherby on Saturday. Those of us north of the border are optimsitic that the weather should allow Musselburgh's Cheltenham Trials meeting to go ahead on Sunday. News is provided courtesy of a course press release:

'A long-term strategy and a dollop of good luck have combined to bring the strongest jumps field ever to assemble at Musselburgh Racecourse this Sunday. (Feb 7)

The John Smith’s Scottish Cheltenham Trials Day has come of age, reckons Musselburgh boss Bill Farnsworth, and punters will benefit from the opportunity to take in some first class racing.

Now in its third year, the Cheltenham Trials has now developed in to a serious try-out event for the country’s top trainers with an eye on the Cheltenham Festival proper. Add to that the dreadful winter weather over the last month which led to mass abandonments affecting all UK tracks, and trainers have seized the opportunity to give their mounts a run-out in Musselburgh’s highly competitive meeting.

Total prize money on the day tops £100,000 and feature race is the John Smith’s Triumph Hurdle, supported by the John Smith’s Scottish Country Hurdle, with both races carrying a £30,000 purse.

General manager Bill Farnsworth said: “It is without doubt the best quality jump card we have ever had at Musselburgh and I hope racing fans will come out in large numbers to enjoy the occasion.

“When we started the Cheltenham Trials Race Day it was with a view of trying to capture the attention of the leading trainers who were preparing for Cheltenham. We have succeeded in building up this fixture as a dress rehearsal but we have also had a little luck with the adverse weather which has restricted racing opportunities. While we suffered ourselves with five cancelled meetings the upside is that many of the leading stables are desperate to get their horses ready for Cheltenham and that is reflected in the quality of the entries we have received for Sunday’s meeting.”

In the John Smith's Scottish Triumph Hurdle a quality entry is headed by previous Musselburgh winners Carlito Brigante and Ascendant and includes Tom Tate's unbeaten youngster Kudu Country as well as the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Baccalaureate, the 100-1 winner of Cheltenham's Finesse Juvenile Hurdle at the trials meeting last Saturday.

The unraced According, one of a large number of potential Musselburgh raiders from the powerful Nicky Henderson stable, is sure to attract interest. The Lambourn trainer has described the four year old in glowing terms and the likelihood of good jumping ground at the East Lothian venue has tempted him to use Musselburgh as the starting point for his Triumph Hurdle prospect.

Henderson has also entered his Totesport Gold Trophy contender Stravinsky Dance for the £30,000 John Smith's Scottish County Hurdle. Owner's son Sam Waley-Cohen will partner this expensive purchase but the lightly raced five year old will face stiff opposition from the more experienced northern handicappers Premier Dane and Red Moloney, already a dual winner at Musselburgh and a probable starter in Cheltenham's County Hurdle at the Festival.

No less than 32 runners have been penciled in for the John Smith's No Nonsense Novices’ Chase but Tazbar looks the one to be on. The star of Keith Reveley's Saltburn stable chased home Long Run in Kempton's Grade 1 Feltham Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day. He has since gained a bloodless victory in lesser company at Market Rasen and has a variety of options at the Cheltenham Festival.'

I am looking forward to an enjoyable afternoon and will I'll be on the spot to provide a report and analysis of the afternoon's action.

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