10 March 2002
The main contender: A literal reading of Istabraq’s defeat of Bust Out at Leopardstown over Christmas suggests he will struggle to win a record fourth Champion Hurdle (3.15), but Aidan O’Brien and his team were satisfied with the performance and everything has been geared up for this day. The form book says he will need to produce a career-best effort to win but, if successful, the cheers will echo round Prestbury Park for a long time to come.
The big plunge: They don’t come much cannier than Christy Roche, and the word from across the water is that Calladine has been `laid out’ for the Pertemps Final (5.05). The six-year-old improved on the Flat last summer and then caught the eye in a major way when fifth in the qualifier for this race at Leopardstown in January. The money is already down.
The dark horse: Nocksky hasn’t raced since July, 1999, but Martin Pipe will have him spot on for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Handicap Chase (4.30). A rating of 115 gives the nine-year-old a proper chance in a competitive race.
The main contender: Edredon Bleu, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2000 (and runner-up in 1999), has been kept in cold storage by Henrietta Knight for the defence of his title (2.35). Some good judges believe that old rival Flagship Uberalles will be too good for him this year.
The big plunge: Jonjo O’Neill’s tremendous run of form can continue with Rhinestone Cowboy (5.40), who carried the support of some serious players when landing a touch on his racecourse debut at Ascot. The six-year-old produced so many gears there that Norman Williamson says he is his best ride of the meeting.
The Dark Horse: Polish St Leger winner Galileo (not to be confused with the 2001 Derby winner of the same name) did enough when making a winning debut over hurdles at Kempton to suggest he can go close in the opener (2.00). The six-year-old, who won half-a-dozen times in his native country and finished second in a Listed contest in Germany, comes here with better credentials than his current price would suggest.
The main contender: Noel Chance, who sent out the physically fragile Mr Mulligan to win the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1997, has worked wonders to get his 2000 winner Looks Like Trouble back for another crack at jump racing’s greatest prize (3.15). We didn’t learn much from the 10-year-old’s easy victory at Wincanton in January, but the trainer is confident he has the horse back to his best.
The big plunge: Royal Auclair (also entered for the Mildmay Of Flete on Wednesday) looks another strong candidate for the Pipe-McCoy team in the Cathcart (5.05). The five-year-old receives a handy weight allowance and comes here fresh from a mid-season break.
The dark horse: The word from Ireland is that Christy Roche has kept Timber King in training specifically to win the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle (5.40). The six-year old hasn’t run since October, but he’s been `tuned to the minute’ for this valuable prize and the drying ground will suit him.