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|Arab prince looking forward to Cheltenham|
International Flat racing would certainly
be a very different place without the long-time support of major Arab
investors such as Sheikh Mohammed, but National Hunt racing has rarely
been the focus of their interest. The likely participation of Vulcanite
in the William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham
2012 could be the catalyst though for a potential growth in
support from that prized sector, writes Elliot Slater.
It is a long time since the first serious Arab investor in jumps racing, Sheikh Ali Abu Khamsin, whose admirable chaser Half Free twice won the then Mackeson Gold Cup at Cheltenham, whilst it shouldn't be forgotten that Sheikh Mohammed tasted Champion Hurdle success with Kribensis more than 20 years ago. The renewed Arab interest in jumps racing comes in the shape of Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, whose Pearl Bloodstock has been an increasingly serious player on the Flat stage over the last couple of seasons, including wins in the Melbourne and Hong Kong Cups with the tremendous Dunaden, as well as last season's Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner, the Ger Lyons-trained Lightening Pearl.
Vulcanite, trained by Charlie Longsdon, a useful Flat performer, has made a very bright start to his hurdles career for the Sheikh, showing bags of promise on his Kempton debut to finish a fine second to the potentially smart Tetlami then slamming the subsequent winner Spiekeroog by a facile seven lengths in a Southwell novices hurdle in mid-January. Longsdon reports the son of Dubawi to have come out of his latest run in fine form and all systems are 'go' for a Betfair Cheltenham Festival bid.Ideally Longsdon would like to give his charge one more outing before the Supreme Novices Hurdle (for which he is currently quoted at a top price of 25/1), but with the winter freeze under way he may be forced into going straight to the Grade 1 two-mile contest without the benefit of another run.