Go Native faces a tough challenge to land £1m
Liverpool Daily Post - 2010-03-16
GO NATIVE is favourite as he bids for a £1million bonus in today’s Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, the eagerly-anticipated feature race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, writes Chris Wright.
Last year’s champion Punjabi, the second and third home 12 months ago – Celestial Halo and Binocular as well as Alan King’s Medermit – are just four rivals who will make sure Noel Meade’s market leader will have to be at his very best to strike it rich.
Having already bagged the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, Meade’s seven-year-old will win the WBX.com £1m bonus for connections with success in this afternoon’s Grade One contest.
But seven-time Irish champion trainer Meade has not had the best of luck at Cheltenham down the years, with just three Festival winners.
Meade’s Harchibald was runner-up to Hardy Eustace five years ago and the County Meath handler is hoping his luck changes.
He said: “Go Native is my one in a million... he is at the moment, anyway! We’ll give it our best shot.
“Cheltenham hasn’t always been kind, but hopefully he can make up for the disappointments. He is in really great form and I hope he runs as well as he has earlier this season.
“I couldn’t have him any better and I’ve been very pleased with him. Hopefully he can succeed where Harchibald narrowly failed.”
Davy Condon partnered Go Native at Newcastle and Kempton, but stable jockey Paul Carberry, who won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on him last season, is back on board.
Meade added: “Paul knows him well and he doesn’t do pressure. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word. He’s as cool as a cucumber and he’ll be fine. It’s a competitive race and they will go a good clip, but the quicker they go the better for us. Harchibald didn’t have the speed that Go Native has.”
Before the Champion Hurdle, in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase there could be some chasing stars for the future. Willie Mullins is hopeful Sports Line can go one better than when second in the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown. But he is worried that the excitable seven-year-old has been buzzed up since arriving at Cheltenham.
Mullins said: “Though he has travelled well, he now seems a bit geed up so we will have to see what bearing that has on his performance.
“He does seem to be excited by the whole thing but he does tend to get a bit wound up.”
Somersby is unbeaten in his two starts this season and has not run since winning the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown three months ago.
Trainer Henrietta Knight said: “He’s done everything right at home since Sandown and we haven’t got any complaints. He’s very well, so we just keep our fingers crossed.
“It’s a very hot race and it will be a very good race. A clear round will count for a lot so I just hope we are lucky.”
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