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Cheltenham Festival 2018

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Entries & Recent Form

What an amazing week it has been! Although we were only represented by a handful of runners, a couple of high-profile winners certainly do no harm for morale. The Haydock Grand National Trial success of Vieux Lion Rouge means that we now have the ante-post favourite for the big one at Aintree in April, while Rathlin Rose’s Royal Artillery victory at Sandown under the amazing Captain Guy Disney was a poignant and emotional occasion and helps to bring a sense of perspective to everything.

Many of you will be familiar with the story of Captain Guy Disney who lost his right leg below the knee when the vehicle he was travelling in was hit by a rocket in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2009. Guy had been a successful point-to-point rider before joining the armed forces and that fire still burned even after sustaining his injury. Following an amazing recuperation and a long and protracted battle with the BHA over his riders’ licence, they were finally satisfied that he should be allowed to ride again under rules. His success aboard Rathlin Rose in the Royal Artillery on Friday was his first under rules and the first victory of a jockey with a prosthetic leg. Guy is a real inspiration; courageous and humble in equal measure and an example of what can be achieved if we put our minds to it. He quickly paid tribute to the soldiers who helped him escape with his life and those who were not so fortunate. The success of Rathlin Rose was our 50th of the campaign and until Friday, this season had had its frustrations, but tales such as Guy Disney’s quickly make you realise just how fortunate we really are and I am very proud to have played a small part in this inspiring story.

Vieux Lion Rouge (pictured above) kept the momentum going on Saturday when a ready winner of the valuable Grand National Trial at Haydock over 3m4½f. A winner of his only previous start this season in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December, he will now head straight to the big race itself in April. He is due a 3lbs rise for the big race, although he could still be ahead of the handicapper who is likely to raise him by more than that in future handicaps. A course winner who stays and jumps well, he has a progressive profile and is worthy of his prominent position in the market.

Talking of the Grand National, I attended the weights launch at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London last Tuesday and had an enjoyable evening. Much has been made of the Anglo-Irish ratings but from a personal perspective I have no complaints with the weights for my entries very much as anticipated. Indeed, I am pleased that Phil Smith added a little extra for course form guaranteeing Vieux Lion Rouge a place in the line-up. Such is the competitive nature of the race these days you need a mark north of 145 just to get in and take it from me, that is not always easy!

Looking to the week ahead, we have runners at Carlisle and Lingfield this afternoon, while Citrus travels to Wetherby for the handicap hurdle tomorrow. Poisoned Berry could well go for the 2m5f handicap hurdle at Ludlow on Wednesday. We have a few entries at Huntingdon and Sedgefield on Thursday, while we have plenty engaged at our local track Exeter on Friday. There is some very good action to look forward to this weekend with cards from Chepstow, Kempton and Newcastle on Saturday and we have confirmed Gevrey Chambertin for the Eider Chase at the latest stage. The stable won the Eider in 2008 with subsequent Grand National winner Comply Or Die and I would love to add to that tally with our talented grey who produced a good effort when second at Kempton last time.

I was pleased to welcome Racing Post writer Steve Dennis this morning as he starts their coverage of the countdown to the Cheltenham Festival – you will be able to read about his visit in tomorrow’s paper.

For all of the latest gossip from the stable and news on our runners don’t forget to check Chester’s Daily Chat or follow us on Twitter @DavidPipeRacing. Only 3 weeks to go!

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