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The Festival: Arkle Chase briefing: Pipe banks on Seebald to continue winning run; Trainer confident ahead of bid for third Arkle.

Byline: David Yates

MARTIN PIPE, leading current trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with 25 winners, is convinced that Seebald, whose unbeaten record over fences faces its sternest test in the Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy today, is one of his brightest prospects to add to that score.

Two years ago the 11-time champion

trainer, who saddled Or Royal to win the

two-mile novice title in 1997 and Champleve 12 months later, made the audacious move of

giving Wahiba Sands his chasing debut in the race.

The horse finished a creditable sixth to Tiutchev, but Pipe has taken a very different road to the Festival with Seebald, who runs in the colours of the Macca & Growler Partnership of England international footballers Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler.

Seebald began his public education over fences when winning a novice event at

Hereford last May, and has collected a further six victories, including two over today's course and distance.

"Seebald has done wonderfully already for us this season, and goes there with a string of 1's next to his name," said Pipe yesterday.

"He jumps well, stays and has a turn of foot, and although he's been on the go a long time, he seems very well. He's one of my bankers."

Fondmort bids to give Nicky Henderson

his fourth Arkle success, after the victories of

Remittance Man (1991), Travado (1993) and Tiutchev (2000).

The six-year-old was still travelling with

comfort when forfeiting his chance with a

blunder two out in a Grade 2 chase won by Seebald here in November, and Henderson said yesterday: "That is the race everybody has got to make up their minds about.

"Martin Pipe says Seebald is his best chance of a winner, and I'm not sure Fondmort isn't one of our best chances.

"Remittance Man was at the top-he was as good as you would get-but Travado was good and Tiutchev was good, and this horse lives with Travado and Tiutchev."

Jessica Harrington, who with her husband John is Henderson's guest during Cheltenham week, reports Moscow Flyer "in great form", while Tim Easterby is also confident about the chances of Barton, winner of the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle in 1999.

Having unexpectedly been beaten on his chasing debut at Wetherby in October,

Barton has run up a sequence of four chase victories, including in the Grade 2 Cantor

Index `Dipper' Chase at Newcastle last

time.

One of those successes came over

three miles, but Easterby has no concerns

over Barton's ability to show his best ability at the minimum trip.

"It doesn't matter what trip you run him over, he is still a hell of a horse," he said yesterday. "He is in tremendous form-I have

seen Seebald win and the Irish horse [Moscow Flyer] win, and I am looking forward to it."

Ferdy Murphy gave Truckers Tavern the

go-ahead to run in the race after walking the course yesterday.

The trainer, who had stressed that the

seven-year-old would not participate on

unsuitably fast ground, said: "The ground is in tremendous shape and there will be no

excuses for any of the horses.

"He is going to be rated high next year and the options for him are not great.

"He will have to run in the big handicap chases and you need experience to survive

in those, so the main priority is to get more

experience.

"I wouldn't run him unless he had a chance. He is a very good horse and he will run a big race."

Paul Nicholls, winner of the Arkle with

Flagship Uberalles three years ago, is represented by the five-year-olds Armaturk and Kadarann.

Stable jockey Timmy Murphy has plumped for Armaturk, second to Seebald at Cheltenham on his chasing debut in November and winner of his two subsequent starts, including in the Grade 2 Michael Page International Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick last month.

"Armaturk has improved enormously since we threw him in at the deep end over fences and I think he has to be one of the leading players here," Nicholls said yesterday.

"Kadarann goes there with a fair chance, too, especially as his form has been working out quite nicely.

"They are both in good form, have schooled well recently, and should handle the course and the ground."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 12, 2002
Words:710
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