The Sportingbet Haldon Gold Cup takes centre stage at Exeter Racecourse tomorrow with all eyes on top class chaser Sire De Grugy, who makes his seasonal debut.
The Gary Moore-trained nine-year-old took an uncharacteristic tumble at Aintree in April but the brilliant chestnut, who normally jumps with breathtaking ease, is reported to be in fine fettle ahead of tomorrow’s race.
With a huge white blaze dominating his face, the gelding has been easy to spot leading the field home on his 15 successes so far, including the 2014 Queen Mother Champion Chase, Sandown Park’s Celebration Chase in 2013 and 2014, the 2013 BetVictor Tingle Creek, the 2013 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton and Ascot’s Clarence House Chase in 2014.
Last year’s winner God’s Own lines up again with an impressive bit of form to his name since that win including second in the Racing Post Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and second in the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree and he’s receiving weight from Sire De Grugy.
Third Intention won a competitive Graduation Chase at Kempton in February and was just beaten a neck at Chepstow in October by Astracad albeit over three and a half furlongs further.
Other runners includes the up and coming Vibrato Valtat, trained by Paul Nicholls who has been laid out for the race and and Court Minstrel, winner of Chepstow’s Tote Silver Trophy last month. Dunraven Storm, a three times winner at Exeter, is also in the line up.
The seven race card gets underway with the two miles five furlongs Bathwick Tyres Bideford National Hunt Novices Hurdle and several exciting types are in the line up including the Dan Skelton-trained Walking In The Air, the winner of a Irish point-to-point and a bumper and duel point winner Boa.
Yanworth runs in the colours of JP McManus in the following two-mile novices hurdle. He was fourth in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Festival, beaten three and a quarter lengths. Skelton saddles Welsh Shadow who was the easy winner of a Wetherby bumper in March and Barney Dwam has his first run for Fergal O’Brien.
The runners in the novices’ chase include the Mark Bradstock-trained Flintham, bred by Lord Oaksey out of Exeter stalwart Plaid Maid. Not only is she the dam of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree but she also had five of her 19 starts at Exeter, winning four of them.
Flintham pulled up in the grade one Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April, but prior to that he scored a hat trick of wins and is sure to have been well schooled for his chasing debut. Also having his first start over fences is the exciting prospect Southfield Vic.
Caroline Keevil steps up Midnight Lira in trip following his second at Fontwell last month in the Smith & Williamson Handicap Chase where Neil Mulholland saddles course winner What’s Left, who has been raised 8lb for his October success.
Captainofindustry may improve on his second at Ffos Las last month in the two miles seven furlongs Bathwick Tyres Handicap Hurdle while in the concluding handicap hurdle local trainers could be battling it out with Dukes Affair, Ice Konig and Sheer Poetry all looking to have chances.