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Racing: Alner joy at Kingscliff run-out.

Byline: By William Hayler

Robert Alner completed the preparations for totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup second-favourite Kingscliff when sending out four horses for a secret post-racing gallop under the gathering gloom at Exeter last evening.

Rumours circulated all afternoon that Alner planned to work some of his Cheltenham-bound team after the last race.

And 30 minutes after the finale, a quartet of horses headed out, completing more than a circuit of the track, jumping 12 fences.

Setting off in front were Kingscliff (Robert Walford) and Mort de Rire (Daryl Jacob), with The Listener (Andrew Thornton) and Cracking Dawn about 50 yards behind.

By the time the quartet made it round for the second time, Royal & SunAlliance Chase candidate The Listener had made significant inroads on the first pair, despite making at least one early jumping mistake.

Although conditions were extremely testing on heavy ground, the quartet went a decent gallop and left Alner with a contented smile.

"None of them seemed to mind the ground and I am pleased with that," he said.

"The Listener seemed to jump well and that was the important thing with him today.

"When he came down at Lingfield last time I think the ground had a lot to do with it.

"He hadn't touched a twig up until that point and, if anything, it was just overconfidence that saw him make the mistake.

"He needed some rain and I am pleased we have had some. We don't really know what the going will be like at Cheltenham - it could still be anything.

"Kingscliff handles anything apart from the extremes and he wouldn't mind this drop of rain either. It's good for Robert to get this under his belt too."

Walford was forced to miss the ride aboard the gelding in the Stan James King George VI Chase and has struggled with a broken collarbone ever since.

Alner continued: "He had a ride here on Twisted Logic earlier in the afternoon which went okay and he has come back with no ill-effects here either.

"His collarbone just hasn't healed very quickly but he is a sensible lad and he wouldn't dream of riding in the Gold Cup unless he is 100 per cent happy.

"Kingscliff wouldn't run if it was firm or heavy but anything else should be fine.

"He's in really good form and I'm looking forward to the race."

Mort de Rire is entered in "a couple of handicaps" at the Festival and also pleased Alner.

Moreover, there was even more comfort to be taken from the performance of Foxhunter Chase candidate Cracking Dawn, who worked in a visor for the first time and comfortably kept tabs with The Listener for a mile-and-a-half before tiring in the straight and ultimately refusing at the final fence.

CAPTION(S):

Secret session - Robert Alner pictured with Kingscliff and jockey Robert Walford
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 8, 2006
Words:474
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