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Richards doubles up for Smurfit.

Byline: Racing Round-up

Nicky richards is set to be double-handed in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 14.

The Greystoke trainer plans to saddle Faasel and grand old campaigner The French Furze in the blue riband event, with the latter acting as "half a pacemaker" for his stablemate, who was runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago.

Both horses are in the ownership of Jim Ennis, and Richards explained: "Hopefully Faasel will be running in the Champion Hurdle.

"He had a gallop at Musselburgh just so he could remember what it was like on some better ground.

"He hasn't been on it all year but he seems to have enjoyed himself.

"It's all systems go now and I think he'll run a very big race. Another summer won't do him any harm and 12 months down the line we could be going there with an even better chance.

"He won't have another race before Cheltenham. He'll go there fresh and well and I think he'll give a good account of himself on better ground."

SHANE KELLY has had his 28-day riding ban reduced to ten days after an appeal hearing before the Jockey Club's disciplinary panel.

The jockey was judged to have dropped his hands close home aboard 1-2 favourite Just Logic in division two of the Be Lucky @ Maiden Stakes at Lingfield last Saturday.

He was originally banned under rule Rule 156 which covers negligence, but that has been reduced to ten days under Rule 158 - failure to take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race.

Kelly will now be out of action between February 22 and March 3.

"I'm absolutely delighted and I feel justice has been done to a certain degree," said Kelly.

NEWMARKET raider Vague claimed glory for trainer Jeremy Noseda and jockey Mick Kinane in the UAE 1000 Guineas on the dirt at Nad Al Sheba.

The daughter of Elusive Quality was always travelling well and was in command as soon as her rider took her to the front three furlongs out.

Ted Durcan's mount, Rock Opera, threatened briefly but cried enough at the furlong pole.

"She is a very good filly and has done it well. She took to Dubai and the weather straight away and has thrived the whole time she has been here," Kinane said.

SIR PERCY is on course to make his seasonal reappearance in the Stan James 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Marcus Tregoning's three-year-old was a revelation last term and maintained his 100 per cent unbeaten record with a neck defeat of Horatio Nelson in the Group One Darley Dewhurst Stakes on the Rowley Mile last October.

Tregoning confirmed his stable-star has wintered well and will now be primed for the first Classic of the 2006 Flat season on May 6 - for which he is currently an 11-1 chance with the sponsors.

"The plan is to head straight to the Guineas with Sir Percy," said the Lambourn handler.

"He's had four runs and won all of them so he doesn't need any more experience - I think it would be wrong to run him beforehand. "He's had a good winter and physically has done very well.

"He has not done any serious work yet - it's still too early for that - but we'll start to step things up in about a month's time."

The Vodafone Derby could also be on the agenda for Sir Percy and Tregoning remains hopeful his charge has the appetite for the mile and a half trip around Epsom."
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Title Annotation:Sport Racing
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Feb 17, 2006
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