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Intersky rules over Rooster; Bruce Jackson on a change of plan that worked out perfectly for a hurdler who could be destined for top honours.

Byline: Bruce Jackson

INTERSKY FALCON posted a stern reminder that he deserves serious consideration for top honours at Cheltenham in March by landing his second consecutive victory in the Christmas Hurdle at the main expense of Rooster Booster.

Success in the Jobs@Pertemps City-sponsored Grade 1 contest opened up the betting on the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, with Rooster Booster eased to 5-1 with Ladbrokes, and Intersky Falcon cut to 8-1 (from 16) with William Hill and Ladbrokes.

Intersky Falcon had been beaten in Newcastle's Fighting Fifth Hurdle last month but bounced back to form here, leaving connections dreaming of another big payday in March.

The six-year-old, who has netted nearly pounds 300,000 and won 11 of his 20 starts, skipped around in front a year ago, but was ridden differently yesterday. With connections worried about the front-running tactics of Brooklyn's Gold - acting as a pacemaker for Rooster Booster - Intersky Falcon was handed the role of stalker.

Liam Cooper coolly kept to the gameplan in tailing Rooster Booster before pouncing in the straight and settling the issue with the minimum of fuss on the run-in, as Rooster Booster outbattled Sporazene for second.

Former Liverpool and Newcastle United footballer Terry McDermott, spokesman for the 33-strong ownership group interskyracing.com, said: "This is a dream come true, as we had real trepidation after the way he ran at Newcastle.

"We've beaten a decent Champion Hurdle winner and hope he gets the recognition he deserves now. I'm not going to say he's going to win the Champion, but he must have a bloody good chance.

"Jonjo was never happy with him before the Champion and, as far as I'm concerned, he wasn't right there. Today he has

proved he deserves to be up there with the best."

The Rooster Booster camp will beg to differ over bragging rights come March, as the grey has now proved that, despite being nearly ten years old, he has far from lost the plot.

That was plain to see as Rooster Booster tanked around in his usual fashion, only to be outsprinted by Sporazene and Intersky Falcon from the second-last. He clawed one back on the run-in, but not the other, leaving connections keeping faith.

Trainer Philip Hobbs said: "He wants a stiffer track than here and the race didn't work out, with the pacemaker getting ignored. He was running on in the last 200 yards and will have one more run at least. He's a very, very sound horse, so there's no reason not to run him."

Sporazene did his Cheltenham credentials no harm in third, and trainer Paul Nicholls looks likely to go into the Champion Hurdle double-handed.

He said: "I think that will be the end of handicaps for him. He certainly deserves a Champion Hurdle entry, and may have greater scope for improvement than some of the others.

"He will probably have only one more run before the Champion, and this will be his only crack at it, as this time next year he will be chasing."

Rigmarole, stablemate of Sporazene, was ruled out of the race with a sinus infection that came to light on Christmas Day.

What they said

Winning trainer Jonjo O'Neill, who was at Uttoxeter

"I didn't see the race myself but it's nice that he did it well. He will obviously go for the Champion and we will probably look for another race that fits in well first, but it's good to see him back."

Terry McDermott, spokesman for winning owners Interskyracing.com

"Jonjo rang me at 12 about the decision on the change in riding plans, and what a good one it was. The horse has proved how good he is, able to go from the front or behind."

McDermott again, asked about his ante-post vouchers

"We all had to tear up our betting slips last season, but I got 20-1 from my good friend Mike Dillon this season and I've just asked him if there is any more 20s!"

Paul Nicholls, trainer of third-placed Sporazene

"I was really delighted with that, especially

as he began the season as a 142-rated

handicapper."

Christmas Hurdle

1 Intersky Falcon 11-4

2 Rooster Booster 7-4f

3 Sporazene 5-2

Owner: Interskyracing.com

Trainer: Jonjo O'Neill

Jockey: Liam Cooper

Groom: Elliott Cooper

Distances: 2 l, 1 l

CAPTION(S):

Intersky Falcon scampers clear of Rooster Booster and Sporazene to record his second win in the Christmas Hurdle
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 27, 2003
Words:735
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