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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Whisper to skip Bristol De Mai clash for Grand National preparation

Whisper (left) leads Total Recall over the final fence in the Ladbrokes Trophy
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Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Whisper will not run in Saturday's BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, for which he was disputing favouritism at around 13-8 with runaway Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai.

Trainer Nicky Henderson explained: "The Grand National is where we are going and he doesn't need to be running at Cheltenham on Saturday in that ground."

The Cotswold Chase is still expected to be an informative affair, with Bristol De Mai, odds-on now in places despite having been well beaten along with Whisper in the King George VI Chase, 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree and 2016 Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri all believed to be on course for the race.

Also expected to be in the line-up is Harry Fry's American, who was such a disappointment in the Ladbroke.

The 11 entries for the Cleeve Hurdle, which in recent years has proved a great pointer for the Sunbet Stayers' Hurdle, include Richard Woollacott's Beer Goggles, who caused one of the upsets of the season when a 40-1 winner from Unowhatimeanharry in Newbury's Long Distance Hurdle.

Beer Goggles (left) clears the last ahead of Unowhatimeanharry in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury
Also entered are the Colin Tizzard-trained Finian's Oscar, who has suffered two defeats over fences since getting his chasing career off to such a good start at Chepstow and Cheltenham, Nigel Twiston-Davies' Wholestone, a smart winner of the Relkeel Hurdle on Cheltenham's New Year's Day card, and the Henderson pair L'Ami Serge and Thomas Campbell. 

Woollacott is looking forward to Saturday, and said: "Beer Goggles is ever so well and we're pleased with where he is.

"We took him to an away gallop on Saturday to give him a change and he did a good piece of work, so he's in good nick. Really heavy ground would be a slight worry, but I don't suppose we'll get that.

"Wholestone [last in the Newbury race] looked a miles better horse last time and you have to respect Finian's Oscar too, but we just keep pinching ourselves at the improvement Beer Goggles seems to have made, and what will be will be."

The same card's JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, won last year by Triumph winner Defi Du Seuil, has been reopened after only eight entries were received. Henderson is known to have entered We Have A Dream as well as Triumph Hurdle ante-post favourite Apple's Shakira. 

Doncaster's Sky Bet Handicap Chase looks set to be as competitive as ever, with 22 acceptors.

The weights are headed by last month's Aintree Grade 2 winner Definitly Red, who is among the ante-post market leaders but also features among the Cotswold Chase entries. 

Nicky Henderson has two of the principals in L'Ami Serge, who would be running over fences for the first time in more than a year but is also entered at Cheltenham, and O O Seven.

L'Ami Serge (Daryl Jacob): engaged over hurdles at Cheltenham and fences at Doncaster

However, his Gold Present, who was a 10-1 chance with the sponsor, is not among the acceptors, and nor are Go Conquer and Dingo Dollar, who were also among the market leaders. 

L'Ami Serge and Definitly Red now dispute favouritism at around 6-1 and 7-1, despite their alternative engagements.

The Lightning Novices' Chase has been reopened until Tuesday, having received only nine initial entries. Alan King's Grade 1 Sandown winner Sceau Royal is understood to be among those already entered.

Saturday's entries

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The Grand National is where we are going and he doesn't need to be running at Cheltenham on Saturday in that ground
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