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Racing: JACK TRUMPS KING; Gold Cup hopes dashed as Alner feels chill Artic blast.

Byline: LARRY LYNX

ANOTHER threat to Best Mate's Gold Cup crown fell by the wayside at Haydock yesterday.

Unbeaten Kingscliff was backed down to 4-7 favourite for the Peter Marsh Chase but finished a well-beaten second to 6-1 chance Artic Jack.

Kingscliff was rated by bookies the main danger to Best Mate for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March but was yesterday pushed out to 10-1 from 6-1 by Ladbrokes, with Best Mate now evens favourite for a third successive Blue Riband.

Artic Jack was given a 40-1 quote for the Gold Cup with trainer Sue Smith's husband Harvey saying: "At that price the bookies could go skint.

"He could well go to Cheltenham and no doubt his owner Trevor Hemmings will enter him for the Grand National."

Robert Alner, who trains Kingscliff, said: "Full credit to the winner, but our fellow did not jump as well as usual.

"We will take him home and have him scoped. If all is well the Gold Cup will still be his target."

Rooster Booster returned to form in the Champion Hurdle Trial and remains 4-1 favourite to retain his crown at Cheltenham.

Richard Johnson decided that the sedate pace was not suiting Rooster Booster and he took up the running a good mile from the finish.

Running on in fine style, the grey had seven lengths to spare over Hasty Prince, with Specular a well-beaten third.

Winning trainer Philip Hobbs said: "I am a relieved man because I did not think the ground would suit him but he did it well and now we are looking forward to Cheltenham again."

Specular, who cost owner JP McManus more than pounds 300,000 after winning prolifically in Australia, jumped well but faded from two hurdles out.

He remains 8-1 with Ladbrokes for the Champion Hurdle but will have to improve a great deal to turn the tables with the winner.

There was a tremendous finish to the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot, with Isio, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald, beating Azertyuiop by a neck.

CAPTION(S):

Mick Fitzgerald with Isio (left) jumps the last ahead of Azertyuiop ridden by Ruby Walsh before going on to win Ascot's Victor Chandler Chase
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jan 11, 2004
Words:365
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