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19 chase Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup glory at Cheltenham on Friday

Press Release 10th March 2018 Cheltenham

Eighteen confirmations and one supplementary entry go for glory in the highlight of The Festival, the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, with record prize money of £651,720, on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16. 
 
The supplementary entry is American (Harry Fry), who was added to the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup this morning at a cost of £27,500.
 
Unbeaten in three outings over fences as a novice in 2016/17, the Jago Family Partnership-owned eight-year-old was last seen out when the eight-length runner-up to Definitly Red (Brian Ellison) in the G2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 27.
 
Trainer Harry Fry reported on his Betway blog today: "There's only one Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and we decided that we'd take our chance.
 
"There's also the added bonus that Noel [Fehily] will now take the ride.
 
"Obviously, we're not supplementing him because we think we can win, but it's the Blue Riband event of our sport and it would be a dream come true for all of us to have a runner in the race.
 
"With the ground how it is, dafter things have happened and we'd all be thrilled to bits if he could run into a place."
 
Native River (Colin Tizzard) and Minella Rocco (Jonjo O'Neill), second and third respectively in 2017, both go forward, while last year's winning trainer, Jessica Harrington, is set to be represented by the 2017 Irish Grand National hero Our Duke.
 
The ante-post favourite is last season's dramatic RSA Insurance Novices' Chase victor Might Bite (Nicky Henderson), who is two from two in the current campaign with his most recent victory coming when defeating Double Shuffle (Tom George) and Tea For Two (Nick Williams) in the G1 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
 
Nicky Henderson said today: "We are very happy with Might Bite. He did a nice piece of work this morning and it is all systems go for Friday.
 
"The slight worry is going to be the ground. He won't relish it as much as some of our others, such as Buveur D'Air (in the Unibet Champion Hurdle on the first day), but the Cheltenham going can change very quickly.
 
"I will do my walk of the course tomorrow as normal. I am hoping the ground does dry up in time for Might Bite on Friday. He is in great form and I couldn't be happier with him."
 
There are 10 Irish-trained entries remaining in total. In addition to Our Duke, G1 Unibet Irish Gold Cup first and second, Edwulf (Joseph O'Brien) and Outlander (Gordon Elliott), both go forward.
 
Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has a quartet of horses - Djakadam, fourth last year and the runner-up in 2015 and 2016, the unexposed Bachasson, Total Recall, successful in the very valuable G3 Ladbrokes Gold Cup at Newbury in December, and Killultagh Vic, who fell at the last when still travelling well in the Irish Gold Cup.
 
Other leading Irish challengers include G1 Leopardstown Christmas Chase winner Road To Respect (Noel Meade) and Anibale Fly (Tony Martin), impressive when winning a valuable handicap chase at Leopardstown over Christmas before falling two out in the Irish Gold Cup.
 
Rest of the action on Gold Cup Day
 
Ante-post favourite Apple's Shakira (Nicky Henderson) and Redicean (Alan King), both unbeaten over hurdles, are among 15 confirmations for the four-year-old highlight of The Festival, the £125,000 G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm) over two miles and a furlong.
 
Ireland has a strong hand, with six contenders, including G1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle one-two Mr Adjudicator (Willie Mullins IRE) and Farclas (Gordon Elliott IRE). Willie Mullins' four-strong team also features Saldier and Stormy Ireland, both impressive first-time out winners for the stable.
 
Mullins has captured four of the last eight editions of the £100,000 G3 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f). The Co Carlow handler accounts for 14 of the 63 confirmations, headlined by ante-post favourite Max Dynamite (10st 13lb) and G3 Betfair Hurdle runner-up Bleu Et Rouge (11st 12lb).
 
The longest novices' hurdle of The Festival is the £125,000 G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (2.50pm, 45 acceptors) over three miles. Henderson has a strong hand with the unbeaten Santini and Chef Des Obeaux, both successful in G2 company last time out. G1 Challow Novices' Hurdle victor Poetic Rhythm (Fergal O'Brien) also goes forward, along with 21 Irish-trained challengers.
 
Previous winners Pacha Du Polder (Paul Nicholls), successful in 2017 and On The Fringe (Enda Bolger IRE), the winner in 2015 and 2016, are among 28 confirmations for the £45,000 St. James's Place Foxhunter Chase (4.10pm). The market leader is Burning Ambition (Pierce Power IRE), while Paul Nicholls has also left in Untioniste, Virak and Wonderful Charm.
 
A massive 103 entries remain in the £70,000 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (4.50pm), in which Flawless Escape (Gordon Elliott IRE) is clear favourite to give Ireland a sixth victory in the contest.
 
The Festival draws to a close with the £110,000 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (5.30pm), in which 47 contenders remain including last year's victor Rock The World (Jessica Harrington IRE). Theinval is the hope for Henderson as he seeks a third victory in the contest named in honour of his late father.
 
Renton looks forward to The Festival
 
Ian Renton, Regional Director, The Jockey Club South West, said today: "I love The Festival - it is the best four days of the year for all of us.
 
"We work to this point 12 months a year. Immediately The Festival has finished one year, we start thinking of how we can do little improvements to make it even better the following year.
 
"It is tweaks this year. One of the introductions we have brought in is a bit more of a crackdown on the tout activity.
 
"We work very closely with Cheltenham Borough Council and the police. A public space protection order has been brought in which actually makes it an offence for a tout to operate either in the town or on the racecourse.
 
"We hope that will assist in our racegoers getting a little bit less nuisance from touts than in the past. It is not going to solve everything, but it is a step in the right direction.
 
"This year we brought in a refund policy before The Festival and we urge racegoers not to feed touts with tickets and not buy tickets from the touts.
 
"For the first three days of The Festival, we have tickets available at the entrances and that is the way to buy your ticket or online through www.cheltenham.co.uk
 
"The danger is you pay your money to a tout and you won't be allowed in. The advice is to go through the official channels.
 
"Friday, Gold Cup Day, is sold out. In previous years, we have sold out quite early. We tried to reduce the sales a little early doors this time, so we only sold out about a week ago and hopefully everybody who wants to come to Cheltenham on Friday is already booked in.
 
"That means a crowd of 70,000 on Gold Cup Day and we are looking for good crowds on the first three days as well. Everything has gone incredibly smoothly and the team here has worked very hard to get the sales where they are. We hope for a total of around 260,000 people attending The Festival next week.
 
"Hospitality sales have gone very well - we have moved forward from last year. We have introduced a new restaurant, The Theatre, this year, with a Pan-Asian menu, and it looks fantastic. We are in good shape.
 
"We still have the biggest three-tiered temporary structure in Europe in operation for The Festival - it is pretty massive - 185 metres long and overlooking the racecourse. It is a brilliant building for people to enjoy the racing.
 
"This year we have 42,000 square metres of tentage, which is in fact more than the permanent facilities we have here. It is the biggest temporary operation probably in Europe and maybe beyond as well.
 
"There is a bit for everybody - hospitality, the Guinness Village, the Guinness seats which offer a brilliant view over the racecourse, the Moet Champagne Bar and the Shopping Village with 80 shops."
 
Latest Ground
 
The going at Cheltenham changed early on today to: Soft, Heavy in places (from Good to Soft, Soft in places)
 
Simon Claisse, Director of Racing, The Jockey Club South West, and Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, reported this morning: "We had over half an inch of rain overnight - 14 millimetres in total. We were expecting plenty of rain, but not quite so much.
 
"It is difficult to predict what the going will be at the start of racing on Tuesday afternoon at this stage, as it depends on how much more rain we get and the temperatures.
 
"The forecast is for occasional showers over the next few days, producing around six millimetres of rain, but we need to wait and see what happens."
 
The forecast for The Festival is:
 
Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13 - mostly dry
 
Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14 - up to nine millimetres of rain
 
St Patrick's Thursday, March 15 - mostly dry
 
Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16 - mostly dry

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