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Cheltenham News 15th - 18th March 2005

Cheltenham 2005

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Cheltenham 2005 / news/

Farmer Jack dies on gallops 16/03/05

Farmer Jack, who was supplemented for Friday's totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup at a cost of A£17,500, has died after suffering a suspected heart attack.

The Philip Hobbs-trained nine-year-old landed the Aon Chase and the Racing Post Chase on his last two starts and was a general 12-1 chance for the blue riband.

"It happened about 8.30am - he was just having an ordinary canter and just dropped dead," said Hobbs. "We presume it was a heart attack, but at this stage we just don't know."

Farmer Jack had improved on his previous efforts when stepped up to three miles on his two runs last month and was only added to the Gold Cup field on Saturday.

The news is a further blow the Festival showpiece with Kingscliff and Rule Supreme taken ruled out yesterday, and Best Mate scratched last week.

Farmer Jack added to Gold Cup field

Philip Hobbs has supplemented Farmer Jack for next Friday's totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup at a cost of £17,500.

The nine-year-old, one of 21 engaged in the race following the confirmation stage, has proved a revelation since upped to three miles on his last two outings.

"The owners came to see him, we discussed it and we think he has got a good chance so we decided to have a go," said Hobbs.

"What happened to Best Mate has definitely made a difference to our decision and there are doubts about some of the others as well."

After easily landing the two-and-a-half-mile Wigan Chase at Aintree on his seasonal debut, Farmer Jack failed to get his head in front on his next four starts, all over the shorter distance.

However, when upped to three miles he saw off Gold Cup hopefuls Strong Flow and Celestial Gold in the Aon Chase, before going on to land the Racing Post Chase under top weight.

"I am not sure whether it is the trip or whether he has just improved in his recent runs, but he certainly has improved as the season has gone on," the Minehead handler continued.

While having proved himself over further this season, Farmer Jack has yet to tackle the Gold Cup trip of three and a quarter miles, but his trainer does not see the extra distance being a problem.

"He was staying on well at Newbury and Kempton so you would think that he has every chance of getting it," added Hobbs.

Farmer Jack dents Gold Cup hopes 12/02/05

Farmer Jack ploughed up the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup picture as he confounded punters at Newbury with a battling success in the Aon Chase.

The Philip Hobbs-trained 12-1 chance, who is not even entered for the Gold Cup, came into the race with something to prove about his ability to see out the three-mile trip.

But having been headed by Strong Flow at the cross fence five out, he stuck on well under Richard Johnson to regain the advantage in the final stages and quicken up to win by a length and a half.

Celestial Gold lost his unbeaten record for the season as he finished a head further back in third, having looked to be travelling best for so much of the contest.

On the face of things it was a disappointing performance by Strong Flow and Celestial Gold, sent off 2-1 joint-favourites for a race that is often a key trial for championship honours next month.

If anybody was feeling disappointed in the unsaddling enclosure, it wasn't showing, with every trainer expressing themselves satisfied.

"One thing is certain, we can get him a lot fitter than that," said Strong Flow's trainer Paul Nicholls. "You only have to look at him to see that he's having a good blow. He'll improve - all of mine will.

"He jumped well and that was the main thing as it was his first race over jumps since Kempton last season, and that was more than a year ago. I'm really pleased."

Also happy with the result was Martin Pipe, trainer of Celestial Gold, who was also coming back from a break from the action.

"I know Strong Flow has been here for a gallop and that my horse will improve as much as any other for this race," he said. "I was delighted. It was a good run."

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