A Cape of hope for Norton yard

Gazette & Herald: Cape Tribulation, ridden by Denis O’Regan, is pictured right, coming from behind to beat Imperial Commander, left, in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham earlier this year Cape Tribulation, ridden by Denis O’Regan, is pictured right, coming from behind to beat Imperial Commander, left, in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham earlier this year

CAPE TRIBULATION is already part of the Rowland Meyrick Chase’s tremendous roll of honour. But can the defending champion retain his crown and do something no horse has ever managed before?

Malcolm Jefferson’s hugely talented gelding bids for back-to-back victories in Wetherby’s Christmas showpiece on December 26 – the highlight of the two-day William Hill Yorkshire Winter Festival meeting at the track.

The nine-year-old was an impressive 11-length winner of the £40,000 contest on Boxing Day 12 months ago and followed that up with a decisive half-length success in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham in January.

That was memorable for his collaring and defeat of the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander, and the Norton star went on to finish fifth, behind Bobs Worth, in National Hunt racing’s showpiece.

He rounded off last season with a creditable effort in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree, but has failed to fire in two starts this term.

Pulled up on his return to Wetherby in the Charlie Hall Chase, Cape Tribulation could only trail home 16th, with the burden of top weight, in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 30.

But Jefferson, who also captured the Wetherby prize with According To Pete in 2011, is hoping for more from his stable star during the festive season.

“Cape Tribulation is on course for the William Hill Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase,” he said.

“We were expecting a bit more from him at Newbury, but it is not the easiest race in the world to carry top-weight. Jack Doyle felt he needed it a bit and he has actually come on for the run.

“We lost a little bit of time with him at the end of last season and he was meant to go to York on the Flat for the race he was just beaten in last year, but he was just held up.

“There is only so much work you can do with them and he came back very fat this year, which has meant it has taken that bit longer to get him fit. He seems in good nick now and I am very happy with him.

“He has come down a bit in the ratings and, with Wayward Prince running, he won’t carry top-weight, so that will be a help.”

Among the stellar winners of the Rowland Meyrick Chase are subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Forgive ‘N Forget (1984) and The Thinker (1986). But no horse has ever won back-to-back renewals.

A six-race programme at Wetherby on Boxing Day gets under way at 12.45pm and runs to 3.25pm, with all the races sponsored for the first time by William Hill.

The same sponsor also backs all six races on Friday, December 27, when the highlight is the £20,000 William Hill Castleford Handicap Chase.

Jefferson also has a good recent record in that two-mile contest, having scored with Calatagan in 2006 and 2007, and he will be represented this year by the unbeaten chaser King Of The Wolds.

The six-year-old has scored in novice handicap company at Sedgefield over two and a half miles and Fakenham over two and three-quarter miles.

Jefferson said: “King Of The Wolds will be my runner in the William Hill Castleford Handicap Chase.

“I don’t think the drop back in trip will be a problem, especially on soft ground and given the way he jumps. He has won a two-mile novices’ hurdle at Wetherby anyway (on December 27, 2012). He has done well in his two starts over fences so far and I am hoping for a nice run. We like the horse.”

Gates open at 10am on both days of the William Hill Yorkshire Winter Festival, with complimentary mince pies and mulled wine on offer for the early arrivals. Tickets can be purchased at www.wetherbyracing.co.uk. There is free entry for accompanied children aged 17 and under.

The William Hill Yorkshire Winter Festival at Wetherby forms part of the wider Go Racing In Yorkshire Winter Festival, which continues at Catterick on December 28 and Doncaster on December 29.


Record prize pot for racing to chase as new deal is sealed for 2014

Prize-money on offer in racing next year is expected to be the highest in history following the contributions put forward by the Jockey Club and the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB).

The Jockey Club has announced a record contribution during 2014 of £19.5 million, while the HBLB’s allocation is set to pass £56 million, which is up £6 million on last year.

Paul Bittar, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said: “We forecast that prize-money in 2014 will reach a new record and exceed £123 million, an uplift of over £10 million on this year. This increase is evidence of the benefits of stronger collaboration among racing’s key stakeholders together with a more constructive approach to working with the betting industry.

“The two main developments contributing to the increase have been the securing of Prize Money Agreements or commitments from racecourses and the terms of the recent Levy deal and four-year arrangement with the major bookmakers.

“A critical point that should not be overlooked is the increased stability that these deals provide, particularly in light of the £16 million drop in prize-money between 2009 and 2011 that followed a significant reduction in Levy.

“When combined with the landmark commercial Betfair agreement struck last year, the four-year Levy arrangement delivers significant value above what can rightfully be collected under the current legislation.

“We still have a long way to go to match our international competitors in terms of prize money, but the financial model of British racing is unique.”

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