Cleeve Hurdle preview: Beer Goggles to take centre stage on 'incredibly sad day'

Fri 26 Jan 2018

Watch in-depth video analysis of the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday with Niall Hannity and Ben Linfoot and The Verdict on Beer Goggles' Newbury win.

Beer Goggles will bid to land what will be an undeniably emotional success in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

With the death of trainer Richard Woollacott at the age of 40 announced earlier in the week, the seven-year-old will run under the name of his wife, Kayley.

The decision to take up his entry was left solely to Woollacott's family, with part-owner Nicky Martin happy to go along with whatever outcome was reached.

"Obviously it's going to be very emotional," said Martin.

"What we did was speak to the family and we left the decision totally to them, we were quite happy not to run so it was down to them.

"It's going to be an incredibly sad day whatever the outcome. Richard did a lot of work with the horse, and I'm sure he'd have wanted him to run.

"We've seen and heard the amount of goodwill behind the horse tomorrow.

"He's such a lovely little horse, Newbury was unbelievable, to beat horses like Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack. The main thing is that he comes home safely.

"Richard was a personal friend, we go back a long way through point-to-pointing so it's been a very traumatic week."

Beer Goggles lines up as the highest-rated runner and is looking to cement his Stayers' Hurdle claims and is as big as 7-1 with Coral and BetVictor.

The intriguing runner in the race is Colin Tizzard's Finian's Oscar. A leading novice hurdler last season, injury meant he missed the Festival but he won at Aintree and was second at Punchestown.

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He has been novice chasing this term, but despite two wins and a narrow defeat to the smart Benatar, he finds himself back over timber.

"He's really well and this looks a nice race for him back over hurdles," said Tizzard's son and assistant, Joe.

"There still might be an opportunity to go chasing with him this season, but right now we just want to test the waters back over hurdles.

"The World Hurdle (Stayers' Hurdle) is the plan for him at the moment."

Finian's Oscar will wear a tongue tie for the first time and is no better than 100-30 with BetVictor.

Bar one poor run behind Beer Goggles at Newbury, Nigel Twiston-Davies' Wholestone usually runs his race and put that effort behind him when winning the Relkeel Hurdle.

"Nothing came to light after Newbury and he was right back to his best last time," said Twiston-Davies.

"It was just one bad run, a bad day at the office, everyone is allowed one of those.

"Other than Newbury, he has been the most consistent horse so I can forgive him one bad run and last time he was very good."

Ellmarie Holden will be hoping for a less eventful run from Ex Patriot than on his last visit to Cheltenham for the Triumph Hurdle when he got loose before the race but still finished fourth.

"It was a long journey over, but he's been out on the track and seems fine," said Holden.

"He ran twice in four days over Christmas, winning at Limerick and then finishing second to Killultagh Vic at Punchestown.

"He's improving with each race, he's only five and is slowly getting there. Hopefully he'll run well."

The Nick Williams-trained Agrapart goes well at the course, a sentiment echoed by assistant trainer Jane Williams, who said: "Agrapart loves Cheltenham and his two career-best runs have come in the Relkeel Hurdle - he won it the first year and was second this year.

"The ground is soft, which he loves, and the step up to three miles should not be a problem." 

Nicky Henderson's Thomas Campbell and Tom George's The Worlds End add further strength in depth, along with Fergal O'Brien's mare Colin's Sister.

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