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Big guns lined up for Cup shootout.

Byline: David Carr

BEST MATE may be missing, but today's William Hill Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter brings together some of the best of Britain's heavyweight two-mile chasers in a race to savour.

Former Champion Chase hero Edredon Bleu deputises for his illustrious stablemate in a Grade 2 contest that features the return to action of three of the brightest pretenders to the two-mile crown in Armaturk, Seebald and Latalomne.

Edredon Bleu was well beaten in this extended 17-furlong event in 1998 and 1999 but is expected to do better this time in a race to be screened live on the Racing Channel.

"He is a very able substitute and is in good form," said trainer Henrietta Knight yesterday.

"He ran in the race twice before and the ground was too soft for him, as it usually is around now, but he will love the ground this time.

"It is quite a task he has - Latalomne, for one, is a very good horse."

The Paul Nicholls-trained Armaturk and Martin Pipe's Seebald resume rivalry after taking third and second nContinued, page 2

respectively in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March and then reversing places when first and second in the Grade 1 Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree the following month.

Armaturk reopposes on 2lb worse terms for his length-and-a-quarter Aintree win, and Nicholls said: "There shouldn't be much in it again. Armaturk is in good shape and this has always been his target, but Mr Pipe will have Seebald in good form.

"It is a good race with Edredon Bleu and Latalomne in there, too. My horse is 20kg heavier than when he was racing last season. He is physically stronger and I hope that he has improved as much."

Tony McCoy is looking forward to getting back on board Seebald, who won seven races in the colours of footballers Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler last season.

"I schooled him last week and he was very well in himself," the jockey said. "He did very well last season, but we will have to see where we are with him after this. I would say that Armaturk may be the main danger."

Despite a fitness scare, Latalomne carries plenty of confidence on his 646-mile round trip from Brian Ellison's Malton stable in Yorkshire.

The eight-year-old led the field in the Queen Mother Champion Chase from the third fence until he fell at the second-last, and reopposes fourth- placed Edredon Bleu on 12lb better terms.

His trainer said: "If he is in the form he was at Cheltenham, he will win.

"My horses were wrong last month and they have run as though they needed the race since they came back, but we never stopped with Latalomne and he does go well fresh, so I'm hoping for a good run. When he schooled on Sunday he was electric."

Mick Fitzgerald takes over on Latalomne from Vinnie Keane, who had the ride at Cheltenham.

Ellison said: "The horse is still inexperienced over fences and all the others in the race have top-class jockeys, so the owner wanted an experienced rider - Vinnie has never even ridden round Exeter."

Timmy Murphy, recently released from prison, was on Armaturk at Aintree and for his six previous starts, but he has been handed the mount on outsider Ichi Beau this time.

Explaining the jockey booking, trainer Ferdy Murphy said: "Timmy won the Irish National on Davids Lad for Ichi Beau's owner, Nicholas Butterly, and he wanted to support him. The horse is out of the handicap but there is prize-money down to sixth place and you've got to support races like this."

CAPTION(S):

Ichi Beau: provides big-race mount for Timmy Murphy
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 5, 2002
Words:615
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