Racing: Americans aiming for glory in the Cotswolds

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The Independent Online

Solo Lord, trained in the United States by Bruce Miller, is among 81 entries for the William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase on 12 March, the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, and sets handicapper Phil Smith a poser.

Solo Lord, trained in the United States by Bruce Miller, is among 81 entries for the William Hill National Hunt Handicap Chase on 12 March, the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, and sets handicapper Phil Smith a poser.

The 10-year-old was still a maiden when he made all under owner Michael Hoffman, an investment banker, to win last year's four-mile Maryland Hunt Cup run over 22 timber fences by five lengths. However, there were only four runners in the historic event, which is restricted to amateur riders, including the veteran Welter Weight, who had beaten Solo Lord easily in the two previous runnings. Bred in Maryland, Solo Lord was sold at the 1994 Fasig Tipton Sales for just $1,200 [£857] before Hoffman acquired him privately for about $5,000 [£3,570].

Smith, the British Horseracing Board's chase handicapper, is researching Solo Lord's form and is confident he can give him a fair weight.

The horse's trainer, who is based at Cochranville in Pennsylvania and has also entered Pelagos in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Festival on 14 March, commented: "We are waiting to see the weight the handicapper gives Solo Lord before making a final decision about whether to bring both horses over on 8 March.

"Owner Michael Hoffman, who also has horses with Nicky Henderson, loves British racing and is very keen for Solo Lord and Pelagos to go to Cheltenham. The horses are training well and Solo Lord is such a good jumper that he should adapt from timber racing which he is used to here, but the distance is shorter than he normally races over. Both will run at a point-to-point here on 23 February and a few days later we find out Solo Lord's weight."

The diminutive seven-year-old grey Pelagos may be more familiar to British racegoers as he ran eight times for Roger Charlton as a two- and three-year-old, winning a Brighton maiden over a mile. He struggled in claiming races over jumps in the USA, but has been transformed since being transferred to Miller last year and had just one outing for the yard before finishing a head second to top US jumper Praise The Prince in the $100,000 [£72,000] Meadow Brook Hurdle, over two and a half miles at Belmont Park in June. Both horses will be ridden by Miller's daughter, Blythe – no stranger to British racecourses as she won on Lonesome Glory over hurdles at Cheltenham in 1993 and over fences at Sandown two years later.

Jump racing in the United States is overshadowed by the Flat and there are only around 300 jumpers in training, but their occasional runners here should not be underestimated as they have a sound record. Jay Trump (1965) and Ben Nevis (1980) both won the Aintree Grand National while Flatterer finished third to See You Then in the 1987 Champion Hurdle.

Solo Lord's opponents in the National Hunt Chase could include Kingsmark, Wahiba Sands, What's Up Boys and dual Cathcart Chase winner Stormyfairweather.

The seven handicaps at Cheltenham have attracted a record 636 entries and Martin Pipe has 19 of the 59 engaged in the Pertemps Final Hurdle on the first day. The Coral Eurobet Cup the following day has 115 entries, while there are 72 in Thursday's Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup, including Seebald.

At Fontwell yesterday, Jair Du Cochet finished a disappointing third to Rouble in the Collins Stewart National Spirit Hurdle but remains a definite contender for next month's Stayers' Hurdle, for which he was eased three points to 8-1 by Victor Chandler.

Guillaume Macaire, Jair Du Cochet's trainer, also confirmed that Japhet will run in Friday's Weekender Novice Chase at Kempton and Tempo D'Or in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle there the following day.

Bookies on Red alert after Marsh gamble

Paperising and Red Striker were made joint-favourites by the Tote yesterday for the Racing Post Chase at Kempton on Saturday, for which 19 confirmations were made yesterday.

The Nicky Richards-trained Paperising looks to have been laid out for the prize. After his reappearance run, in a Haydock hurdle last month, the 10-year-old's rider was banned for not making sufficient effort to gain the best possible placing. Red Striker, trained by Norman Mason, landed a gamble when winning the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock the same day.

Commanche Court, runner-up last year and trained in Ireland by Ted Walsh, currently tops the weights on 12st but there are doubts whether he will run. A decision on his participation will determine running plans by many other stables.

RACING POST CHASE (handicap, 3 miles) Tote betting: 13-2 Paperising, Red Striker, 7-1 Tremallt, 8-1 Ad Hoc, 9-1 Lord Of The River, 10-1 Mr Baxter Basics, Trouble Ahead, 11-1 Commanche Court, Goguenard, 12-1 Cadougold, Gunther McBride, Red Ark, 14-1 Luzcadou, Occold, 16-1 Dulas Bay, 20-1 others.

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