Racing: Native on Festival track

NATIVE UPMANSHIP and Calladine are heading for the Cheltenham Festival after taking the feature events on the opening day of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown yesterday.

On a day when bookmakers got some fine results, Native Upmanship completed a hat-trick for the former champion trainer Arthur Moore and earned a quote of 6-1 favouritism from Paddy Power for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Festival after winning the Denny Gold Medal Novices' Chase.

"This is a very relaxed, laid-back horse who has a better technique jumping fences than hurdles," Moore said. "Although he won well enough, the ground was testing and a longer trip should suit him better."

Native Upmanship will have one more run before Cheltenham, with the Moriarty Novice Chase back at Leopardstown on Hennessy Gold Cup Day (6 February) the obvious stepping stone.

Willie Mullins found it hard to accept that the 7-4 favourite, Alexander Banquet, had run up to his form. The gelding could finish only fourth and Mullins asked for the horse to be scoped.

"The trip was a bit sharp and he needs a better gallop to bring his stamina into play," the gelding's rider, Barry Geraghty, said. "He did not carry me like he had done on his two previous starts over fences though they were over longer,"

Punters were rocked by the eclipse of the main fancies in the Denny Juvenile Hurdle as Calladine sprang a surprise. Although a winner of three Flat handicaps for the Jim Bolger stable, Calladine started a 16-1 chance on his debut for Steve Mahon and earned a 20-1 quote for the Triumph Hurdle from William Hill.

n Today's card at Newton Abbot has been abandoned due to waterlogging. Sedgefield's card is subject to a 9.30am inspection due to fears of frost.