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Alner happy with leading duo after Exeter workout.

Byline: By Andrew King

ROBERT ALNER expressed himself very happy with Cheltenham Festival hopefuls Kingscliff and The Listener after the pair were put through their paces in a post-race workout in the twilight at Exeter yesterday.

Partnered by their big-race jockeys Robert Walford, on the comeback trail following a broken collarbone, and Andrew Thornton, the duo galloped around two and a half miles and jumped 12 fences, accompanied by sta-blemates Mort de Rire and Cracking Dawn.

Motoring up the home straight for the second time, the principals were asked to stretch clear of their stablemates and were both driven right out in the closing stages.

Gold Cup hope Kingscliff has not been seen on the racecourse since being beaten by Ebony Light in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in January, and Alner said: "That will have done him and Robert the world of good.

"I'm pleased for both of them as Robert only had his first ride back today on Twisted Logic, and it was important that he is fit to take the ride next week or we would have had to make other arrangements.

"But they have both come through the workout well and had a true test, which was important from everyone's point of view with Cheltenham just around the corner."

The Listener, currently 10-1 with most bookmakers for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, blotted his copybook over fences when falling at Lingfield last month, but Alner said: "He jumped well today and that's the main thing.

"It was a very uncharacteristic fall at Lingfield and the ground had a lot to do with it. I wanted to get a round of jumping into him and he has not put a foot wrong."

Asked if he considered it wise to gallop his two star performers on a rain-softened track well poached after seven races, Alner replied: "It was not ideal but, while you can do plenty of work at home, it's the racecourse that really sharpens them up.

"Look at last year. We got Kingscliff ready just a week before Cheltenham, and then he missed the race!"

CAPTION(S):

Kingscliff pulls clear of Mort de Rire in a twilight gallop after racing at Exeter yesterday EDWARD WHITAKER
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 8, 2006
Words:369
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