Grands Crus to test Gold Cup terrain on Festival trials day

 

On the day when British horseracing measured its resilience against recession, publishing record attendances in 2011, racegoers were given every incentive to get the turnstiles clicking again at Cheltenham on Saturday. Entries made yesterday for the Festival trials card appear to guarantee at least one new favourite for the real thing, in March, with the three horses sharing the top of the JCB Triumph Hurdle market all lined up for a dress rehearsal. Even so, no race will be more instructive than the Argento Chase, perhaps the last opportunity to prevent the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup becoming another straight duel between Kauto Star and Long Run.

Synchronised may yet get involved, when returning to Leopardstown for the Hennessy Gold Cup next month, but for now the Argento most obviously provides a platform for Grands Crus. Connections are tempted to fast-track their novice to the Gold Cup, after just three starts over fences to date, and intend to test the water on Saturday.

The defeat of Al Ferof at Ascot last weekend shows how even top-class hurdlers, who have demonstrated an immediate aptitude for their new calling, must raise their game against more seasoned opponents. But with his main rivals having so far hesitated to make a breakthrough of their own, this represents a perfect test of the feasibility of a Gold Cup challenge for Grands Crus. Coral make the grey 9-4 favourite, from Diamond Harry and Time For Rupert on 5-1, and Captain Chris on 11-2.

Grands Crus was a brilliant winner of the Cleeve Hurdle on this card last year, only to find Big Buck's too relentless at the Festival. This time round, the champion will himself be taking in the Cleeve, having been kept fresh for March in the past two seasons, as he attempts to extend his unbeaten spree to 15. Only an act of God would seem likely to stop him, with Timeform granting him 17lb and more in hand of 10 other entries.

As for the juveniles, it remains worth remembering that the last two Triumph Hurdles were won by French imports, Zarkandar and Soldatino, who delayed their British debuts until Kempton barely three weeks before the Festival. Their profile corroborates the theory that the provision of a handicap alternative for juveniles, since 2005, has altered the complexion of the Triumph. Grumeti, Sadler's Risk and Baby Mix have so far completed only one hurdle race in Britain apiece. But Alan King, who has a fine record in this discipline, remains anxious to give Grumeti more experience after his fall at Newbury last week.

Figures released by the Racecourse Association show a third consecutive increase in attendances, to 6.15 million raceday visits in 2011. Admittedly, a climb of 6.6 per cent largely reflects better weather in winter months, compared with 2010, but an aggregate of six million had last been achieved in 2004. The biggest gains, predictably, were posted during Racing For Change's free racing initiative in April, expanded last year from one week to a month.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Even Stevens (2.50 Southwell)

A genuine class act on this surface, better than ever on his latest visit, and likely to take all the beating once again off his revised mark.

Next Best: Don't Tell Sailor (3.40 Leicester)

Remains lightly raced over fences and improved again when pushing another well treated novice all the way last time.

One to watch: Ballyfoy (Gary Moore)

Well handicapped for his new yard and the way he rallied for fourth in a Newbury chase last week suggests that he will be competitive given a stiffer test.

Where the money's going: Hurricane Fly

Hurricane Fly is set to resurface at Leopardstown on Sunday, is 7-4 from 2-1 with Paddy Power to retain the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary