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The Festival is almost here…

Press Release 9th March 2017 Cheltenham

There is now less than a week to go until The Festival 2017 gets underway on Champion Day, Tuesday, March 14.
This pre-meeting media information pack contains facts and figures about The Festival, statistics and possible landmarks, and news plus a look at the bonuses on offer.
A full race programme is also included, along with information about what is happening off the track over the four days of The Festival.
A record 260,579 racegoers attended the four days of The Festival in 2016.
There is a final media pack, gathering all the statistics together, the week after The Festival.

The Festival 2017 - Order of Running
Champion Day - Tuesday, March 14 (Old Course)
1.30pm £125,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f - 22 maximum field size
2.10pm £175,000 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m - 20
2.50pm £105,000 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f - 24
3.30pm £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f - 26
4.10pm £110,000 OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f - 24
4.50pm £120,000 J T McNamara National Hunt Chase (Novices) (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 4m - 20
5.30pm £70,000 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (0-140) (Listed) 2m 4½f - 20
Ladies Day - Wednesday, March 15 (Old Course & Cross Country)
1.30pm £125,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f - 22
2.10pm £175,000 RSA Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 3m ½f - 20
2.50pm £95,000 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m 5f - 26
3.30pm £350,000 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m - 24
4.10pm £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 6f - 16
4.50pm £80,000 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m ½f - 22
5.30pm £75,000 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m ½f - 24
St Patrick's Thursday - Thursday, March 16 (New Course)
1.30pm £150,000 JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f - 20
2.10pm £95,000 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed) 3m - 24
2.50pm £300,000 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 5f - 24
3.30pm £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m - 24
4.10pm £105,000 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) 2m 5f - 24
4.50pm £80,000 Trull House Stud Mares Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f - 22
5.30pm £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Amateurs) (0-145) 3m 2f - 24
Gold Cup Day - Friday, March 17 (New Course)
1.30pm £125,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f - 22
2.10pm £95,000 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 1f - 26
2.50pm £125,000 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m - 20
3.30pm £575,000 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m 2½f - 24
4.10pm £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase 3m 2½f - 24
4.50pm £65,000 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (0-145) 2m 4½f - 24
5.30pm £105,000 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m ½f - 24
Facts and stats - The Festival
£135,000,000 - what The Jockey Club has spent on facilities at Cheltenham in the last 35 years.
£100,000,000 - local (Gloucestershire) economic impact of The Festival each year.
£4,305,000 - record amount of prize money on offer at The Festival 2017 - the most of any Jump festival in the world.
£2,200,000 - the amount of money taken from the cash machines at The Festival 2016.
£575,000 - prize money available for the feature race, the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
105,000 - people using Cheltenham Spa train station over the four days of racing.
80,000 - number of movements between the racecourse and the town on the shuttle bus service.
70,000 - maximum capacity at Cheltenham on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day (when all temporary facilities are open).
65,000 - average attendance over the four-day period of The Festival.
45,000 - bread rolls eaten at The Festival 2016.
45,000 - afternoon teas served to customers at The Festival 2016.
40,000 - hospitality guests served over the four days of The Festival.
40,000m2 - volume of space that is built for the four days in the Tented Village and the triple decker stand that sits alongside the racecourse.
36,500 - vehicles parked over the four days.
21,120 - distance, in feet, run during the National Hunt Chase, The Festival's longest race.
12,320 - yards of running rails surrounding the track.
8,000+ - gallons of tea and coffee served.
5,936 - staff employed over The Festival.
5,000 - bundles of birch used every season.
3,500 - catering team operating each day.
2001 - the only year, besides the periods during the two World Wars, that The Festival has been cancelled (due to foot and mouth disease).
1934 - the year Golden Miller became the first horse to win both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in a single season.
800 - members of the press accredited for The Festival each year.
750 - students from over 20 colleges work at The Festival each day.
350 - chefs on site each day.350 - catering managers each day.
240 - private boxes.
£135,000,000 - what The Jockey Club has spent on facilities at Cheltenham during the last 35 years.
65 - mobile catering units.
50 - staff coaches per day, sourced from all over the country, as far away as London, Cardiff, Swansea, Birmingham and Coventry.
£45,000,000 - cost of the redevelopment of Cheltenham Racecourse. This project was concluded on time and within budget in November, 2015.
34 - temporary kitchens.
30 - extra flights put on by Ryanair on the Dublin to Birmingham route during The Festival period (around 20,000 customers will use Ryanair).
28 - National Hunt races run at The Festival.
24 - marquees, with over 2.5 miles of internal walls.
22 - fences jumped during the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
12 - restaurants.
9 - tons of potatoes consumed during The Festival.
8 - most wins at The Festival by a trainer - Willie Mullins - in a single year (2015).
7 - most wins at The Festival by a jockey - Ruby Walsh - in a single year (2009 & 2016).
6 - most consecutive victories by a horse in any Cheltenham Festival race - Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle between 2009 and 2014.
5 - furlongs of temporary bar counters.
5 - tons of smoked and fresh salmon consumed at The Festival.
5 - tons of cheese consumed.
4 - number of feature races run during The Festival - the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stan James Champion Hurdle and Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.
3 - the three-storey temporary stand installed for The Festival, beyond the Guinness Village, is the biggest, three-tiered temporary structure in Europe.
2 - shortest distance raced at The Festival in miles.
Catering Specific
Local produce at the heart of what we do
70% of the fruit & vegetables are sourced within the Cotswolds' region
100% of the cheese used is produced within 50 miles of Cheltenham
100% of the salmon is cured or smoked within 50 miles (Severn and Wye & Coln Valley) & is 100% sustainable Scottish salmon
100% of all the seafood is best of British, either landed at Orkney or Brixham
100% of the afternoon tea selections is best of British

Look out for at The Festival in 2017
Seeking first winner
Leighton Aspell (49 rides), Sean Bowen (12 rides), Johnny Burke (20 rides), Tom Cannon (16 rides), Lizzie Kelly (5 rides), Will Kennedy (17 rides), Paul Moloney (48 rides), Joshua Moore (11 rides), Danny Mullins (14 rides), David Mullins (15 rides), James Reveley (10 rides), Mark Walsh (19 rides), Adam Wedge (4 rides), Trevor Whelan (2 rides).
Seeking first winner
Peter Bowen (36 runners), David Bridgwater (13 runners), Brian Ellison (30 runners since 1994), Alan Fleming (9 runners), Micky Hammond (13 runners since 1994), Martin Keighley (30 runners), Neil King (6 runners), Kerry Lee (1 runner), Charlie Longsdon (52 runners), Fergal O'Brien (8 runners), Ben Pauling (7 runners), Nicky Richards (33 runners), Jeremy Scott (13 runners), Tim Vaughan (38 runners), Paul Webber (60 runners), Nick Williams (36 runners).
Horses entered this year with most previous appearances at The Festival:
Knockara Beau (George Charlton) - entered in Pertemps Network Final - 5th, 4th, 4th, 6th, UR, 7th, PU
Quantitativeeasing (Enda Bolger IRE) - entered in Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase - 5th, 2nd, 7th, PU, 13th, CO, 3rd
Smad Place (Alan King) - entered in Ryanair Chase and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup - 10th, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 8th, 6th
Third Intention (Colin Tizzard) - entered in Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase - 7th, 8th, 6th, 5th, 10th, 4th
Any Currency (Martin Keighley) - entered in Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase - 4th, 9th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st (disq)  
Cue Card (Colin Tizzard) - entered in Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup - 1st, 4th, 2nd, 1st, F
Dodging Bullets (Paul Nicholls) - entered in Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase - 4th, 9th, 4th, 1st, 7th
Ericht (Nicky Henderson) - entered in Ultima Handicap Chase, Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase and Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase - 6th, 5th, PU, 9th, PU    
The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies) - entered in the Stan James Champion Hurdle - 6th, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 4th
Zarkandar (Paul Nicholls) - entered in Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle - 1st, 5th, 4th, 4th, 3rd 
Go Ballistic made nine appearances at The Festival between 1994 and 2003.
Horses entered this year with more than one previous win at The Festival:
Cause Of Causes (Gordon Elliott IRE) - entered in Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase; won J T McNamara NH Chase (2015) & Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (2016) 
Cue Card (Colin Tizzard) - entered in Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup; won Weatherbys Champion Bumper (2010) & Ryanair Chase (2013)
Don Poli (Gordon Elliott IRE) - entered in Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup; won Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (2014) & RSA Novices' Chase (2015)
Douvan (Willie Mullins IRE) - entered in Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase; won Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (2015) & Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (2016)
Holywell (Jonjo O'Neill) - entered in Ultima Handicap Chase; won Pertemps Network Final (2013) & Ultima Handicap Chase (2014)
Lord Windermere (Jim Culloty IRE) - entered in Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup; won RSA Novices' Chase (2013) & Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (2014)
On The Fringe (Enda Bolger IRE) - entered in St James's Place Foxhunter Chase; won St James's Place Foxhunter Chase (2015 & 2016)
Salsify (Rodger Sweeney IRE) - entered in St James's Place Foxhunter Chase; won St James's Place Foxhunter Chase (2012 & 2013)
Quevega won at The Festival six times between 2009 and 2014.

History makers at The Festival?
Jessica Harrington needs one more winner to become the outright most successful female trainer of all time at The Festival. The County Kildare handler is currently joint top alongside Jenny Pitman with eight victories at the meeting. Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Sizing John and top hurdler Jezki, successful in the 2014 Stan James Champion Hurdle, are among her team this year.
Melon, successful at Leopardstown on his only hurdle start,would be the least experienced winner of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 25 years. The Nicky Henderson-trained Flown also captured the race on his second hurdle appearance in 1992.
Nicky Henderson is bidding for a record sixth victory in the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase, with red-hot favourite Altior and Top Notch currently entered in the race. Sybillin (sent off at odds of 4/5 in 1993) was the last odds-on favourite to be turned over in the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase, with subsequent odds-on shots Sprinter Sacre (8/11F, 2012), Simonsig (8/15F, 2013), Un De Sceaux (4/6F, 2015) and Douvan (1/4F, 2016) all obliging.
Willie Mullins is out to become the first trainer to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle in three successive years with three different horses following the victories of Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016), who both miss out in 2017 through injury. Victory for the Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours would make the 10-year-old the oldest scorer since Sea Pigeon (11) in 1981. Moon Racer, representing David Pipe, could become the first novice to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle since Make A Stand, trained by his father Martin, triumphed in 1997.
111101121F15 - Willie Mullins' record in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle. The trainer is seeking a remarkable ninth consecutive victory in the race.
Joseph O'Brien will be aiming for a first official success at The Festival in his first season as a trainer, with J T McNamara National Hunt Chase entry Edwulf among his best chances. He was responsible for preparing the 2016 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov, but his father Aidan was listed as the trainer. Keiran Burke was the previous handler to enjoy success at The Festival in his first season with a licence - he saddled Hunt Ball to glory in the 2012 renewal of the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase.
Whisper would be the oldest winner of the RSA Chase since fellow nine-year-old Miinnehoma was successful in 1992.
Douvan could become the 12th horse to follow victory in the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase with success in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. The Willie Mullins-trained chaser could also go off one of the shortest-priced favourites in the history of the two-mile championship contest - Flyingbolt scored at odds of 1/5 in 1966. Douvan is unbeaten at The Festival, having won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2015 and the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase in 2016, and, if successful, he would be the fourth horse to win three different races at The Festival in consecutive years, after Flyingbolt, Bob's Worth and Vautour.
Cause Of Causes, as well as Douvan, is trying to win a third different race at The Festival in successive years when tackling the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. He won the National Hunt Chase in 2015 and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase in 2016. Trainer Enda Bolger and owner J P McManus are seeking their sixth victory in this race which was first run in 2005.
Willie Mullins hopes to saddle his ninth winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2017.
2016 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle scorer Unowhatimeanharry could be the first horse successful in that race to go on to win the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.Previous Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle winners to run in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle have been - 2006 Black Jack Ketchum (fell in 2007 Stayers' Hurdle), 2007 Wichita Lineman (9th in 2008 Stayers' Hurdle), 2010 Berties Dream (6th 2011 Stayers' Hurdle), 2011 Bobs Worth (3rd in 2016 Stayers' Hurdle), 2013 At Fishers Cross (3rd in 2014 Stayers' Hurdle, 4th in 2015 Stayers' Hurdle, PU in 2016 Stayers' Hurdle), 2015 Martello Tower (7th in 2016 Stayers' Hurdle).
Empire Of Dirt aims to provide Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary with a first victory in the Ryanair Chase - O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud has owned the runner-up three times - Mossbank (2008), First Lieutenant (2013) and Valseur Lido (2016).
Augusta Kate (Willie Mullins IRE) would be the first mare to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
11-year-old Cue Card is bidding to be the oldest winner of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in 48 years - What A Myth captured chasing's Blue Riband at the age of 12 in 1969. Willie Mullins, yet to win the chasing championship, has saddled the runner-up on six occasions.
On The Fringe and Salsify are both seeking to become the first three-time winner of the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase.

The Festival - a look back to....
10 years ago - Kauto Star, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, won his first (of two) Cheltenham Gold Cup, collecting a £1-million bonus offered by Betfair at the time for any horse that could win the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Cheltenham showpiece in the same season.
20 years ago - Sir A P McCoy became the 11th and most recent jockey to win both the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same year. He was aboard Make A Stand, trained by Martin Pipe, in the Champion Hurdle and Mr Mulligan, trained by Noel Chance, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
30 years ago - See You Then, trained by Nicky Henderson and partnered by Steve Smith Eccles, won his third Champion Hurdle, beating off the challenge of American champion Flatterer. The Cheltenham Gold Cup, won by the Arthur Stephenson-trained The Thinker, was run 81 minutes late at 4.51pm after a snowstorm engulfed Cheltenham Racecourse. All the scheduled races were run, with the concluding Cathcart Chase off at 6.26pm.
40 years ago - Night Nurse, trained by Peter Easterby and ridden by Paddy Broderick, won his second consecutive Champion Hurdle, beating his old rival Monksfield by two lengths. The 1977 Champion Hurdle is regarded by many as the strongest-ever renewal. Runner-up Monksfield would go on to win the hurdling showpiece in 1978 and 1979, while fourth-placed Sea Pigeon subsequently won the race in 1980 and 1981.
50 years ago - Peter Easterby saddled the first of his five Champion Hurdle winners with Saucy Kit (Roy Edwards). Easterby is the joint most successful trainer of all time in the Champion Hurdle, along with current handler Nicky Henderson who has also enjoyed five successes and could set a new record this year.
60 years ago - The Cheltenham Gold Cup was won by Linwell, ridden by Michael Scudamore. Linwell was officially handled by Charlie Mallon but in reality was trained by Ivor Herbert, who was unable to hold a training licence in his own name as the stewards of the National Hunt Committee held his role as a racing journalist precluded him from doing so.
70 years ago - Fortina, a six-year-old French-bred entire horse trained by Hector Christie, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the postponed 1947 Festival, with the race staged on April 12. He first made his name in France in 1946 and then was bought by Lord Grimthorpe. He was retired during the following Jump season and became a successful stallion in Ireland. He sired two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners - Fort Leney (1968) & Glencaraig Lady (1972).
80 years ago - The second and third days of The Festival were lost to the weather, through snow and flooding respectively.
90 years ago - The first running of the Champion Hurdle was held and won by Blaris, trained by Bill Payne and partnered by George Duller.
New Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Leading Owner Award at The Festival
A new award for the leading owner at The Festival is being introduced by Cheltenham Racecourse in 2017, with sponsorship from Irish Thoroughbred Marketing.
The jockeys and trainers have had awards for many years at The Festival, with the Boodles Leading Jockey Award and the Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award presented.
The new Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Leading Owner Award will go to the owner who registers most wins over the four days of The Festival. If there is a tie, placed horses will be taken into account. A trophy created by internationally-recognised sculptor Siobhan Bulfin will be presented to the leading owner.
Charles O'Neill, CEO, Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, said: "Irish Thoroughbred Marketing is delighted to sponsor the inaugural Leading Owner Award at The Festival. It is very important that we recognise the contribution that owners make to our industry and we would like to wish all owners and trainers the best of luck at The Festival." 
Ian Renton, Regional Director, Cheltenham & the South West, The Jockey Club, commented: "The race to be leading jockey and leading trainer is a long-established part of The Festival and we are pleased to now also be offering the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Leading Owner Award. Our thanks go to Irish Thoroughbred Marketing for its generous support and to Siobhan Bulfin for producing a wonderful trophy."
Boodles Leading Jockey Award

The recent winners of the Boodles Leading Jockey Award have been:

2016   Ruby Walsh (7)
2015   Ruby Walsh (4)
2014   Ruby Walsh (3)
2013   Ruby Walsh (4)
2012   Barry Geraghty (5)
2011   Ruby Walsh (5)
2010   Ruby Walsh (3)
2009   Ruby Walsh (7)
2008   Ruby Walsh (3)
2007   Robert Thornton (4)
2006   Ruby Walsh (3)
2005   Graham Lee (3)
2004   Ruby Walsh (3)
2003   Barry Geraghty (5)
2002   Richard Johnson (2)
The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award

The recent winners of the Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award have been:

2016   Willie Mullins IRE (7)
2015   Willie Mullins IRE (8)
2014   Willie Mullins IRE (4)
2013   Willie Mullins IRE (5)
2012   Nicky Henderson (7)
2011   Willie Mullins IRE (4)
2010   Nicky Henderson (3)
2009   Paul Nicholls (5)
2008   Paul Nicholls (3)
2007   Paul Nicholls (4)
2006   Paul Nicholls (3)
2005   Howard Johnson (3)
2004   Paul Nicholls (4)
2003   Jonjo O'Neill (3)
2002   Martin Pipe (3)

Phil Tufnell and Hector Ó hEochagáin lead BetBright Cup Teams at 2017 Cheltenham Festival
Former cricketer and professional funny man Phil Tufnell, and Irish TV personality Hector Ó hEochagáin have been named respective Great Britain and Ireland captains for the 2017 BetBright Cup.
The BetBright Cup (formerly the Prestbury Cup) is awarded to the country with the greatest number of Cheltenham Festival winners. After Great Britain won a narrow victory in 2015, last year the teams couldn't be separated and it ended in a stalemate on the final day, though a subsequent disqualification gave Ireland a 15-13 advantage.
"The Cheltenham Festival is an incredibly exciting time for all British and Irish racing fans," said BetBright Chairman Rich Ricci, "the competition between the two nations has rarely been tighter than it was last year. This year, there's no doubt the Irish side will be up against it but I don't think Hector will lose faith.
"The BetBright Cup is a fun complement to the serious sport on the track, allowing racing fans to get behind their country's contenders throughout the week. We have made a change to the format this year whereby we will be making a donation of £10,000 to the Injured Jockeys Fund on behalf of the winning captain."
Phil Tufnell, affectionately known as 'Tuffers', enjoyed an illustrious career with England before becoming a regular face on British TV as a captain on a Question of Sport, a contestant with two left feet on Strictly Come Dancing and King of the Jungle on I'm a Celebrity.
The owner of numerous racehorses and a passionate Cheltenham fan, Phil is looking forward to taking Hector on and reckons the GB team are too strong for the Irish contingent.
Phil commented: "I love The Festival and am thrilled to be back this year as the Great Britain captain for the BetBright Cup. Both sides have lost a number of defending champions in recent weeks, and I've no doubt Hector is preparing the excuses as we speak, but I am banking on a few of our own super subs as well as the superstar Altior to keep the title at home."
Hector Ó hEochagáin is unquestionably one of Ireland's biggest racing fans and was devastated on the final day last year with how GB clawed their way back into contention and managed to sneak a draw.
"It was a Paul Nicholls smash and grab there's no question, a couple of exceptional wins on the last day and he snatched the BetBright Cup from our fingers. We're up against it this year there's no question but if we win a few key battles we could certainly be in contention."
The Giant Bolster and Balthazar King join the stars on parade at The Festival
A galaxy of stars and Festival favourites feature in the line-up for this year's Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) Parade, held on Champion Day, the opening day of The Festival, Tuesday, March 14, at Cheltenham Racecourse.
The parade, which showcases the various activities open to racehorses when they have finished their racing careers, has become an increasingly popular attraction in the build-up to racing on the first day of The Festival.
This year the RoR Parade is sponsored by the Peter O'Sullevan Trust and among the line-up are two Cheltenham Gold Cup victors together with past winners of the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers' Hurdle, the Arkle and the Triumph Hurdle.
Joining National Hunt legends such as Denman and Big Buck's and making their debuts in a RoR Parade are two recently retired chasers, The Giant Bolster and Balthazar King.
The Giant Bolster made the frame in three consecutive runnings of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Retired at the end of 2016, he only started his retraining three months ago but under the tutelage of Lucy Bridgwater, wife of The Giant Bolster's former trainer David, he is already showing considerable promise and Lucy expects him to thrive in a variety of activities, including dressage and showing.
Lucy, who herself has competed at the Horse of the Year Show, has enjoyed the challenge of retraining The Giant Bolster, aka Sammy, and said: "The prospect of being in the RoR Parade at the Festival is both exciting and a little nerve wracking.
"As is often the way when retraining a racehorse, there are good days and bad days. One day I was so thrilled with Sammy, he was really listening and was consistently cantering 20-metre circles on each rein and I thought "wow, we have really cracked it", but the next day he spent the whole time squealing and bucking and not listening.
"I decided to ask his previous trainer (my husband!) for advice. "Take him for a gallop," he said. Well, it was good advice, although I hate to admit it. Having unleashed his inner racing beast, the following day we were back on track.
"Recently, we did our first RoR dressage clinic and he was really good, he tried so hard. On the way home, I have to admit, I felt quite choked-up. Sammy gave so much to all of us during his racing career and he is still being a star now - he really is the horse that keeps on giving. I think he knows how loved he is."
Balthazar King won the Cross Country Chase at The Festival in both 2012 and 2014. In 2015, he incurred a potentially life-threatening injury when he fractured four ribs and punctured a lung following a fall at Aintree. The horse made a wonderful recovery to race again but was retired in 2016. After a summer break, he started his life after racing based with Izzi Beckett, wife of trainer Ralph, who has hunted him regularly this season.
Izzi Beckett said: "Balthazar King has adapted really well to his new life and new routine. He has hunted mainly with the Tedworth Hunt, as well as neighbouring packs and he has taken to it like a natural. He loves watching hounds work and he has impeccable manners. Needless to say his jumping is outstanding! 
"Hunting will be his number one job from now on, however, the plan is to try our hand at some RoR show classes this spring and summer."
Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive of RoR, added: "It's wonderful how popular the RoR Parades have become and our sincere thanks to Cheltenham for providing the stage and amphitheatre so that these fabulous horses can really show off, which they undoubtedly enjoy doing.
"To have the likes of Long Run and Denman in the parade alongside the reigning RoR Supreme Champion in the show-ring, Beware Chalk Pit, encapsulates what we as a charity are trying to do. Special thanks also to the Peter O'Sullevan Trust for their generous support as sponsors of the RoR Parades and Musical Ride for 2017."
The full line-up for the RoR Parade, sponsored by the Peter O'Sullevan Trust, is as follows:
BALTHAZAR KING (Hunting) - ridden by Izzi Beckett
13 year-old by King's Theatre, formerly trained by Philip Hobbs
During a long and distinguished career Balthazar King won 16 races, including the Cross-Country Chase at The Festival in 2012 and 2014. After recovering from a life-threatening injury incurred at Aintree, he is now retired from racing and enjoying hunting regularly with Izzi Beckett, wife of trainer Ralph.
BEWARE CHALK PIT (Showing) - ridden by Rebecca Court
13 year-old by Anshan, formerly trained by Jonathan Geake
Beware Chalk Pit was a two-time winner over fences but is now a multiple winner in the show-ring. Retired from racing in 2015 he is the reigning RoR / Tattersalls Show Series Champion and RoR Elite Supreme Champion. His rider, Rebecca Court, plans to show him again this season.
BIG BUCK'S (Hunting) - ridden by Lucy Tucker
14 year-old by Cadoudal, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls
Winner of the Stayers' Hurdle a record four times, Big Buck's retired from racing in 2014 with a career record of 20 wins from 33 starts. He now enjoys going hunting with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale, ridden by either Lucy Tucker or senior Master, Mike Felton. 
FINIAN'S RAINBOW (Hunting) - ridden by Becky Blandford
14 year-old by Tiraaz, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson
Finian's Rainbow won the 2012 Queen Mother Champion Chase and retired from racing at the end of 2013. He now hunts regularly with the Heythrop and his rider, Becky Blandford, is hoping to compete on him in some RoR showing and showjumping classes this year.
FORPADYDEPLASTERER (Showing and Hunting) - ridden by Joanne Quirke
15 year-old by Moscow Society, formerly trained by Thomas Cooper
After an eight-year career that included victory in the 2009 Arkle, Forpadydeplasterer was retired in 2014. Now with Joanne Quirke, Pady is a regular out hunting and in the summer he turns his hand to showing, including side-saddle. He is twice a winner of the Racehorse to Riding Horse class at the Royal Dublin Show.
LONG RUN (Hacking and Hunting) - ridden by Becky Young
12 year-old by Cadoudal, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson
Winner of the epic 2011 running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he beat Denman and Kauto Star, Long Run had an eight-year racing career, earning over £1.5m in prize money. Retired in 2016, he has since been educating young, homebreds of owner Robert Waley-Cohen's and enjoying some days hunting.
MIDNIGHT CHASE (Hunting and Eventing) - ridden by Sally Hayward
15 year-old by Midnight Legend, formerly trained by Neil Mulholland
A five-time winner at Cheltenham, Midnight Chase retired in 2013 and has since gone on to excel in a range of activities. Under Sally Hayward, he is a Field Master's horse for the Cheshire Forest. In the show-ring, he qualified for the Horse Of The Year Show and he has also completed several British Eventing affiliated events.
PENZANCE (Dressage and Hunter trialling) - ridden by Alex Evans
16 year-old by Pennekamp, formerly trained by Alan King
The 2005 winner of the Triumph Hurdle, Penzance retired from racing in 2008.  Since then he has competed in Dressage, Showjumping and Hunter Trials. For the last two years, together with Alex Evans, he has been qualifying for and competing successfully in the Horseware National Hunter Trial Championships.
PUNJABI (Dressage and Hunting) - ridden by Rachael Kempster
14 year-old by Komaite, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson and David Pipe
Winner of the 2009 Champion Hurdle, Punjabi retired at the end of 2013 and moved to Kinsale Stud, Shropshire. Under Rachael Kempster, Punjabi has since competed in unaffiliated Dressage competitions as well as being seen out on the hunting field. The plan is to upgrade to affiliated dressage this season.
RUBI LIGHT (Showing) - ridden by Kirsteen Reid
12 year-old by Network, formerly trained by Robbie Hennessy
A Grade 1 winner in Ireland and placed in the 2011 Ryanair Chase, Rubi Light won nine of his 45 starts. Since his retirement from racing last year, he has been with Joanne Quirke. He is progressing well and Joanne intends to compete on him this season in both dressage and showing. 
THE GIANT BOLSTER (Dressage) - ridden by Lucy Bridgwater
12 year-old by Black Sam Bellamy, formerly trained by David Bridgwater
A favourite at his local track Cheltenham, The Giant Bolster finished second, third and fourth in the Gold Cup. Retired at the end of 2016, he only started his retraining three months ago. Ridden by Lucy Bridgwater, he is already showing potential and the plan is to compete in some RoR dressage and showing classes this year.
DENMAN (Team Chasing/Hunting) - led up by Charlotte Alexander
17 year-old by Presenting, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls
The winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Denman retired from racing in 2011 after a career that saw him win 14 of his 24 races. Since moving to Charlotte Alexander's yard he has enjoyed hunting regularly and going team-chasing. He will shortly going into full retirement at his owner Paul Barber's farm.
Statue of Sir A P McCoy to be unveiled on Champion Day
Cheltenham Racecourse is pleased to announce that a statue of Sir A P McCoy will be unveiled on the opening day of The Festival, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 14.
The lifesize bronze of the record-breaking legendary jockey will be situated on the Best Mate Plaza by the north entrance to the racecourse.
It was crafted by Dublin-based sculptor Paul Ferriter, who boasts an extensive portfolio including the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition and leading golfers.
Ferriter also produced the statue of jockeys Martin and Tim Molony, which is situated at Limerick Racecourse.
Sir A P McCoy, who retired from the saddle at the end of the 2014/15 season, was the most successful jockey Jump racing has ever known.
He was champion Jump jockey a record 20 times, taking the title every season between 1995/96 and 2014/15, and partnered an incredible 4,358 Jump winners during his career.
His 31 successes at The Festival included two Cheltenham Gold Cups (1997 Mr Mulligan & 2012 Synchronised) as well as three Champion Hurdles (1997 Make A Stand, 2006 Brave Inca & 2010 Binocular).
He is now a pundit for ITV Racing, an ambassador to Randox Health, sponsor of the Grand National at Aintree and the County Hurdle at The Festival, and remains a member of owner J P McManus's team.
Sir A P McCoy said: "I last saw Paul's work about nine weeks' ago, just before it was about to get bronzed and it look very, very good. I took some videos and showed them to friends who agreed that Paul has really captured my likeness.
"Some of my friends were wondering whether the statue was going to be the old or new me - the 10 stone one or the 12 stone one! Paul has done really well in sculpturing me as a jockey and it was a very enjoyable working with him.
"His dedication to getting it right was really outstanding, from measuring me to videoing me and when I was standing for him.
"I thought most people got a statue when they were dead! I guess it will give the birds somewhere to sit."
Ferriter commented: "A P was very easy to work with and very likeable. For me, as a sculptor, he was a brilliant subject. A P has a really great face with incredible cheekbones, a great jaw and chin as well as really good hair.
"He is also a really funny guy and was incredibly obliging throughout the process. In terms of the piece, what I really wanted to try and capture was the kind of intensity that AP has, his total dedication.
"I have basically produced the classic A P pose - standing with his arms folded and the whip under his arm, with an intense look on his face. It is a pre-race pose, lost in maybe that pre-race anxiety and always looking to the future.
"I met A P a few times and went over to his house to take some videos and measurements. I actually produced the sculpture at Croke Park stadium, Ireland's national stadium, as that is where my studio is situated. A P also gave me a set of his silks which I took back to the studio and set up on a mannequin.
"A P came over at Christmas to look at the clay model I had produced. He liked what he saw. He was followed by Ian Renton from Cheltenham, who also liked what he saw. It is important for me to get the green light from the client at the clay model stage before I cast it up.
"I started out by making a smaller two-foot version, which I then enlarged to life size for the final product.
"One challenge I did have was the fact A P has changed a lot since he stopped riding. So I had to go over old images and photos - I really wanted to get the look he had when he was a jockey and at his racing weight. All of us change over time!
"It was a six-month project from start to finish. I will be at Cheltenham for every day of The Festival and am very much looking forward to the statue being unveiled on Champion Day."
Ian Renton, Regional Director, Cheltenham & The South West, The Jockey Club, added: "The achievements of Sir A P McCoy are truly outstanding and we are proud to recognise them with this permanent tribute at the Home of Jump Racing.
"Paul's work is absolutely outstanding and it will be a great prelude to The Festival when the statue is unveiled to the public before racing on Champion Day."
Irish fans spend €22 million attending The Cheltenham Festival

Almost one in three tickets are purchased from Ireland
Horseracing fans visiting from Ireland spent €22.3 million (stg£19.23 million) at The Festival in 2016 spread across travel, accommodation, tickets and entertainment, according to an Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) carried out by the University of Gloucestershire on behalf of Cheltenham Racecourse.
Fans based in Ireland bought 57,375 tickets, or the equivalent of 30% of tickets sold at the prestigious annual event. On average, 14,343 visitors from Ireland attended each day of the four-day Festival. These figures do not include complimentary tickets, hospitality bookings, owners and trainers badges or tickets purchased by further numbers of Irish patrons living in the UK and abroad who also attend The Festival.
The study, which is believed to be the first of its kind, sought to measure the direct economic benefits and participation of attendees who travelled from Ireland to The Festival. The analysis was compiled from 810 completed questionnaires and supplemented by data from Cheltenham Racecourse which showed that there were ticket sales to 12,750 individuals based in Ireland who purchased an average of 4.5 tickets each.
In addition, statistical analysis of ticket booking data has shown that over the past six years, since 2010, the number of Irish ticket bookers at The Festival has increased by 22%.
Commenting, Ian Renton, Regional Director of the South West region of The Jockey Club, said: "The Festival is one the biggest and most successful sporting occasions of the year involving Britain and Ireland. Over the years, it has become synonymous with Ireland through the participation of its great horses, trainers, jockeys, owners and staff.
"This is the first time we have studied the economic impact of Ireland's participation and the results demonstrate the very significant ongoing role played by Irish fans to the success of The Festival. Irish fans make up close to one-third of our attendance over the week, helping to create a truly unique atmosphere and experience for all racegoers.
"Our mutual love affair with The Festival, of course, involves so much more than statistics. Our shared love and passion for our sport creates an enduring relationship and long may that continue. We look forward greatly to hosting our Irish racegoers once again in a few weeks' time for the 2017 renewal."
Commenting, Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: "When Ian was appointed at Cheltenham, I told him he now had one of the most important jobs in Irish racing! We have been aware for some time of the value of the racing and breeding industries to the Irish economy which is estimated at over €1.1 billion per annum, so it is fascinating to now see the value of the Irish impact on Cheltenham. 
"Ireland has long had a love affair with Cheltenham because they put on a wonderful festival where we see the best National Hunt horses in the world taking each other on. 
"The importance of Cheltenham to Ireland goes beyond just the punters and racegoers as winning there is of vital importance to owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys and can be the highlight of a career, or the making of a horse's pedigree. 
"Cheltenham has often been described as the Olympic Games of Jump racing and we are all counting the days to March 14."
In response to the questionnaire, attendees spent an estimated €22.3 million (stg£19.23 million) over the course of the week. The highest spend was on entertainment (betting etc) €5.23 million (£4.5 million), followed by food and drink €4.5 million (£3.87 million), accommodation €4.1 million (£3.54 million) and entry fees €2.6 million (£2.24 million).
Average spends per attendee included: entertainment €556 (£479), tour package €508 (£437), accommodation €419 (£361), and food and drink €374 (£322).
In terms of the relationship between Cheltenham and Irish horsemen (trainers, owners and jockeys), the number of Irish runners has increased significantly over the past two decades.


2001 - The Festival was cancelled due to foot and mouth.
With the numbers of winners seeing a similar pattern. The BetBright Prestbury Cup, the trophy awards to the UK or Ireland depending on who has the most winners over the four days, was won by Ireland for the second time, with 15 winners to Britain's 13.  


Note on Economic Impact Analysis
The Economic Impact Analysis study was conducted by The Centre for Contemporary Accounting Research at the University of Gloucestershire.
The research team sought to estimate the direct economic impacts of attendees who travelled from Ireland for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. A total of 12,750 individuals based in Ireland purchased an average of 4.5 tickets each.
The study bases its results on 810 completed questionnaire responses from individuals who attended the Festival from Ireland. A total of 540 of respondents provided individual expenditure under various headings in the tables provided. A portion of the expenditures were quoted in Euros and these were translated into Sterling at an exchange rate of £0.86 per €1. It is assumed that the random sample employed is representative of the Irish-based fans.
Musical acts playing at The Festival 2017
Thrill Collins
Thrill Collins are a British acoustic trio formed in 2009. The band consists of Robbie Pert on guitar and vocals, Andrew Lansley on double bass/vocals and Peter Harper on cajon/vocals. To date they have released three EPs recorded by producer George Shilling. The band are most noted for their application of the skiffle genre to modern music. Taking inspiration from the DIY ethics of the movement and artists such as Lonnie Donegan and The Quarrymen, the band have sought to replicate the style and humour that is closely associated with the genre.
Taylor & The Mason
Music's finest duo, now that Oxide and Neutrino have packed it in. Taylor & The Mason play lovely folk with great lyrics and catchy hooks. Bringing innovative sounds created by just two guitars and two voices... one soulful and one with a stunning country twang, add to this their honest, lovely lyrics and you have a nicely presented musical package. From Manchester, they are Becky Taylor and Sally Mason.
The Lucky 15's
Whack fol the daddy-oh! Manchester Irish Band, The Lucky 15's, sure know how to get things started. Combining tales of love and woe, bravery and despair, along with songs from all of the five major drinks groups: lager, cider, bitter, ale and stout. Guitarist Josh sings all the right notes (sometimes in the right order), while Bob on the fiddle is second-to-none, and first to the bar. Expect Irish Jigs, Celtic Reels and toe-tapping tunes that will have you giddy with glee. You keep backing the winners, they'll keep singing the songs. Great craic!
The Chip Shop Boys
A regular act at Cheltenham Racecourse, The Festival wouldn't be the same without this superb group. Stuart Walby started the band 20 years ago around pubs and clubs in Cheltenham. Since then, he has added a team of amazing musicians and travelled the world performing at 1,000s of prestigious events, including several high profile celebrity weddings. In 2014, they recorded a live album at the world famous Abbey Road Studios, London. Recently, they have been doing their usual high volume of UK shows, a live album at BBC's Maida Vale Studios and a tour of the USA!
Tommy and The Fuse
Tommy and The Fuse have become one of the most in-demand "event" bands in the south-west after enjoying years of gigging internationally, supporting chart acts, rocking celebrity weddings and entertaining the troops. Between the four band members, their musical history includes work alongside Elton John, Jools Holland, Cheryl Cole, Simply Red, Ricky Gervais, Ronan Keating and recording at Abbey Road. Their set lists are as varied as their tastes, and when they're not creating their own tunes, they're putting their own spin on hundreds of classic tracks by the likes of Madness, The Black Eyed Peas, The Killers, Ed Sheeran, Rudimental, Maroon 5, Queen and Bruno Mars. In short; they play "whatever it takes" to help a few thousand people jump up and down!
The Wickermen
Formed in Liverpool in 1993, The Wickermen have established themselves as one of the most in-demand cover bands on the UK Circuit. The past 10 years has seen them travelling extensively both home and abroad providing entertainment at many major corporate events, weddings and functions.
The Hipcats
The Hipcats are one of the country's leading jazz and swing bands and will be playing their fun brand of music at Cheltenham races with their special outdoor acoustic group. Away from Cheltenham Races, they can be found at weddings, corporate events and even Glastonbury Festival with a line-up that can include vocals, drums, double bass, piano, jazz guitar, trumpet and saxophone. They are inspired by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and all the other jazz & swing greats. Give them a smile and a wave, clap your hands and tap your feet - they look forward to entertaining you.
The Hot House Flowers
Since the release of their last CD, "Into Your Heart" Hothouse Flowers have been playing steadily around Ireland, America, Great Britain, Japan and Europe. Fiachna, Liam and Peter are traditional musicians. This allows for moments of ancestral connection. What was a second before a Doors-like workout, becomes an earnest and a timeless offering to the memory of Currachaí na Tra Báine. A song inherited by Fiachna describing the blow inflicted upon a community and a family due to drowning. This moment and moments like these set the Flowers apart from almost any other band of their time and trade. They are carriers of culture and all of what that entails.
Murphy's Marbles
The Marbles comprise four musicians. Their line-up includes guitars, fiddle, whistle, flute, bass, mandolin, bodhran and harmonica. Murphys Marbles have performed the length and breadth of the country, Ireland, and Europe at numerous major festivals. Their stage performance is charismatic and dynamic. Their music is Celtic based, a mixture of traditional and contemporary with a cutting edge. They also have an impressive portfolio of their own market.
A full-schedule for the musical acts can be found at -
TVV Capital to sponsor year two of Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge
Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle kicks off transatlantic race for $500,000 bonus
When Rawnaq won the US$200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase last May, he not only notched his first G1 success by edging out Irish invaders Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon, but he also catapulted himself into the 2016 Eclipse Award by qualifying to run for the $500,000 Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge.
Rawnaq's training injury in January has effectively eliminated him from the competition, meaning the winner of the G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at The Festival on St Patrick's Thursday, March 16, will now be qualified to run for the half million-dollar bonus at Nashville's Iroquois Steeplechase on Saturday, May 13.
The terms of the Challenge are simple: win the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at The Festival in England in March and the Iroquois Hurdle Stakes in Nashville, USA, in May, or vice versa, within a 12-month time span and gain a $500,000 bonus. With combined purses and bonus, a horse completing the Challenge could earn close to $1 million.
Launched in 2016 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Iroquois Steeplechase and sponsored with great success by Brown Advisory, who continue to be an important sponsor at Nashville, other race meets in America and at Cheltenham, the Challenge is an effort to re-establish the historical transatlantic racing rivalry.
Building upon the momentum, private equity firm TVV Capital of Nashville, Tennessee has agreed to carry the banner as presenting sponsor for 2017.
Brown Advisory CEO Mike Hankin commented: "The Challenge is a tremendous thing for international Jump Racing, and as horse owners we're looking forward to having an opportunity to pursue it ourselves, whilst continuing to support both the Cheltenham Festival and Iroquois Steeplechase."
TVV Capital Founder and President Andrew Byrd says the Challenge has elevated the sport across borders and continents in a way that truly connects Irish and UK racing with the best of American steeplechasing.
He said: "That historical connection is strong, as is our longstanding relationship with the Iroquois, and so we are very pleased to announce the TVV Capital Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge.
"We wish to thank Mike Hankin and Brown Advisory, who first introduced us to the Cheltenham Festival and without whom the Challenge would have been impossible."
TVV Capital is a Nashville-based private equity firm that acquires and grows businesses in the manufacturing, distribution and service industries across the Eastern United States. The hallmarks of TVV Capital companies are strong management teams, consistent profitability, a defensible market niche, and an identifiable growth path, either through organic, internal growth or through acquisition.
Iroquois Chairman Dwight Hall, who also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Steeplechase Association, sees the Challenge as an opportunity to showcase the best of Jump Racing in the United States.
Hall said: "The Iroquois last year was a race for the ages, and we fully anticipate the top trainers in Europe entering their best horses again here in May.
"Our intent was to reignite that overseas rivalry, and I believe we succeeded in doing that. They've seen how our tracks run and they have experienced our hospitality, and we expect the word to spread."
Other bonuses on offer at The Festival
Matchbook Imperial Cup
Matchbook, the new sponsor of the Imperial Cup at Sandown Park Racecourse, will award a £50,000 bonus should the winner of the £70,000 handicap hurdle on March 11 go on to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival the following week.
The bonus will be split as follows: £30,000 to the winning owner, £10,000 to winning trainer, £5,000 to the winning yard, £5,000 to the winning jockey (split in half if two jockeys are involved)
Horses to have won the bonus in previous years are: Olympian (1993 Coral Cup), Blowing Wind (1998 Randox Health County Hurdle) and Gaspara (2007 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle).
Plumpton's SIS Cheltenham Bonus
Plumpton Racecourse continues to offer the £60,000 SIS Cheltenham Bonus, which goes to connections of a horse that wins one of five nominated novice chases at the course and is subsequently successful in any chase at The Festival.
The bonus will be split as follows: £50,000 to the winning owner, £5,000 to winning trainer, £5,000 to the winning yard
Voy Por Ustedes was the last horse to scoop the bonus, winning the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase at The Festival in 2006 after scoring at Plumpton earlier the same season.
This year's qualifying horses are:
Baron Alco (won two nominated Plumpton chases), Top Notch, Theinval and Minella On Line Hurdle & Coral Cup
Leading bookmaker Coral are offering a new €100,000 bonus to connections of Ice Cold Soul if he can follow up his success in the Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 22 with victory in the Coral Cup on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 15.
The big-race double was previously achieved by Xenophon in 2003.
Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Stable Staff Bonus
Irish solicitors Nathaniel Lacy & Partners will provide a bonus of €50,000 to the stable staff at Willie Mullin's yard if Let's Dance can follow up victory in the G2 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors £50,000 Cheltenham Bonus Stable Staff Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 29 by winning any race at The Festival.


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