Golden Ace steps up for Cheltenham Listed assignment

By Sports Desk April 17, 2024

Star mare Golden Ace returns to the scene of her finest hour attempting to remain unbeaten over hurdles in Cheltenham’s Changing Young Lives At Jamie’s Farm Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Jeremy Scott’s six-year-old hinted at her potential when second to Dysart Enos in a Grade Two Aintree bumper at the end of last season and since switching to hurdles has been flawless, giving her handler a maiden success at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

The form of that triumph was franked by the bloodless success of Gordon Elliott’s Brighterdaysahead at Aintree, with Golden Ace missing her own intended engagement on Merseyside due to a bruised foot.

However, she has recovered sufficiently for a step up in trip on her return to the Cotswolds and this Listed event looks the perfect spot for Golden Ace to finish the season on a real high.

Scott said: “I was very cross we weren’t able to run at Aintree but she seems absolutely fine now and we’ll go to Cheltenham and take our chance.

“On ratings she looks the best but who knows what the others have got up their sleeves.

“Gordon’s horse looked very impressive and that was up to two and a half miles and now we are as well. We will see how well, or not, we see the trip out. She won over two-miles-three and a bit at Taunton (earlier in the season), so I have every confidence she will get it, no problems at all.

“She’s a lovely mare and has been outstanding. We’re looking forward to another run, which will be good for experience and then we can hopefully put her away for next year.”

Dysart Enos may be missing from the line-up but Fergal O’Brien is still represented by Lilting Verse, while Henry Daly’s talented Wyenot, Dan Skelton’s Lightening Mahler and Ben Clarke’s consistent Ooh Betty are others arriving with good form to their name.

Meanwhile, it is Nicky Henderson who has won this race the last two years and with his Seven Barrows string back in form after a short spell in the doldrums, the Henry Ponsonby Racing team can look forward to Aston Martini’s outing in the Cotswolds with more optimism.

Aston Martini was last seen finishing fourth in graded action at Sandown and Liz Rutter, racing manager for the syndicate, said: “I think the ground at Sandown turned out to be far more testing than a lot of people were expecting, so she did well to finish fourth there.

“We are all delighted to see Nicky’s horses back on track and she’s in good form at home. But this is a hot race – the competition is very high – but there are not a lot of opportunities for these mares in novice company, so I think it is worth having a crack at.

“She’s not run at Cheltenham before but there is no reason why she won’t handle it and I think the ground will be lovely; it will be nice, beautiful ground. She’s a very good mover and she’s a very long-striding mare and I think she quite enjoys decent ground.

“She’s a lovely mare who we hope will keep improving, but this could be a tough ask.”

There is also Grade Two action on the card in the British EBF Mares’ Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Final, where Mel Rowley’s Malaita looks to win on the card for the second year in a row.

A winner over hurdles at Prestbury Park’s April meeting 12 months ago, the eight-year-old has been a respectable performer since switching to fences this term and will be suited by drying conditions, having opened her account over the larger obstacles at Ludlow last month.

“She won at this meeting last year over hurdles and now needs to repeat the performance over the bigger obstacles,” said Rowley.

“She ran at Cheltenham earlier in the season and was running an absolute blinder before overjumping at the third last and she fell. It was just one of those where she was just jumping so enthusiastically, she forgot to put the landing gear out.

“We’ve put that to the back of our minds and since then she has gone out and won and is in really good form.

“She looks great and the ground won’t be a problem, as she would prefer a sounder surface anyway. We would be hopeful that would play to her strengths, rather than her weaknesses.”

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    In a press conference on Monday addressing the abandoned races, SVREL Executive Chairman Solomon Sharpe expressed frustration with the rule, highlighting its potential impact on the racing industry.

    "This rule, unique to Jamaica, imposes a strict five-minute limit after the published post time for races at Caymanas Park," Sharpe stated. "It fails to account for various factors that can delay race starts and penalizes all stakeholders when races are abandoned, affecting punters, jockeys, grooms, trainers, owners, promoters, and the government."

    Last year, Caymanas Park contributed over $260 million in combined taxes to the government's coffers. Sharpe urged the JRC to engage SVREL in discussions on Rule 44, emphasizing the need for constructive dialogue to address the rule's impact.

    "We were not consulted during the initial discussions on this rule, and now, with two races abandoned in a single race day, our concerns have materialized," Sharpe explained. "SVREL is open to collaborating with the JRC to review and refine this amended rule."

    Representatives from the Grooms Association, Jockeys Association, and the United Racehorse Trainers Association echoed SVREL's concerns and supported the call for a review of Rule 44.

    Sharpe concluded by appealing to regulators, stakeholders, and the public to support the growth of the horseracing industry in Jamaica. "Horseracing has immense potential in Jamaica and can become a significant foreign exchange earner. Realizing this potential requires collaboration among all stakeholders."

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    Tuesday’s 2-0 home victory over Peterborough kept their hopes alive, sealed by first-half goals from Joe Nuttall and Matty Taylor, leaving them two points behind Burton.

    They must win at Stevenage and hope Burton fail to beat Fleetwood and or Cambridge lose to Port Vale.

    “I thought the boys were magnificent tonight and we needed to be,” Clarke said.

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    With their play-off spot already secured, Posh boss Darren Ferguson rested a host of regulars, making seven changes.

    And his youthful side were blown away in the first half by the Robins, who knew anything other than a win meant relegation with one game to play.

    Nuttall reacted quickest to bundle the ball over the line from close range after goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic could only parry Liam Sercombe’s shot in the 11th minute.

    The lead was doubled 10 minutes later when Taylor brought down a ball forward from Lewis Freestone and applied an expert finish.

    Taylor crashed a shot against the post in the 32nd minute after Liam Kinsella’s pass and Elliott Bonds forced Bilokapic into a smart save two minutes later.

    Posh threatened through Ricky-Jade Jones before half-time, but they were second best and Taylor and Bonds both forced Bilokapic into evasive action in the second half.

    At the other end, Luke Southwood parried Jonson Clarke-Harris’ shot in the 58th minute and kept out a late header from the centre forward.

    Ferguson admitted his team struggled from the first whistle.

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    “The goals were terrible goals to give away, you can’t give goals away like that.

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