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Seebald, Classified strengthen Festival claims.

Byline: Jon Lees

MARTIN PIPE tightened his grip on the betting for two of the Cheltenham Festival's novice events when Seebald and Classified kept up their winning runs at Warwick on Saturday.

Seebald was cut to 4-1 favourite (from 7-1) by Coral and is 5-1 joint-favourite in William Hill's list for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy after securing his seventh consecutive win over fences.

Classified achieved his sixth successive victory in commanding fashion, consolidating his position in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle market, in which Coral make him 3-1 from 5-1.

Tackling a new trip and ground on which he had never won before, Seebald sealed an impressive victory in the Roscoe Harvey Memorial Novices' Chase with a big jump at the second-last.

Despite early uncertainty, Tony McCoy never doubted his mount would carry him to victory.

"Someone said he didn't look a natural," he said. "but there aren't many novice chasers in the country that I would feel safer on.

"He didn't jump well down the back because there was a loose horse upsides him. I was very pleased with him on ground he wouldn't like and a trip he'd never been before."

Pipe said: "It's the Arkle next for him. I was delighted with him. I was just worried about the ground because it was quite soft.

"AP was pleased with him. His jumping was good and he was giving weight away. The trip of two and a half miles is the longest he's been over."

Classified made short work of beating what appeared to be a strong field, leading with five hurdles still to jump and coming in eight lengths clear of Eurotrek.

Pipe said: "Tony kicked on early because nothing was going behind. This was one of his toughest races so far.

"He put up a very good performance. He jumped really well and beat a good field very easily. He probably will go straight to Cheltenham but it's a bit early to say yet."

McCoy said: "Classified is a nice horse. He keeps improving and keeps surprising me. He's going the right way but he's not the finished article yet."

Runner-up Eurotrek will also get an entry at Cheltenham, but Robert Alner said he would need really soft ground to be tempted to run him.

Irish Independent

Arkle Chase

Coral: 4 Seebald, 6 Fondmort, Moscow Flyer, Barton, 12 Blue Royal, Armaturk, 14 Royal Auclair, Youlneverwalkalone, 16 bar.

William Hill: 5 Moscow Flyer, Seebald, 8 Fondmort, Barton, 10 Armaturk, Blue Royal, Royal Auclair, Youlneverwalkalone, 16 bar.

Royal & SunAlliance

Novices' Hurdle

Coral: 3 Classified (from 5), 6 Like-A-Butterfly, 7 The Bajan Bandit, 8 Never, 10 Rouble, Tarxien, 16 bar.

CAPTION(S):

Seebald (near side) puts in a mighty leap to clear the second-last at Warwick ED BYRNE
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 14, 2002
Words:460
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