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Cheltenham entries stacking up 02/02/09

With his first crop of runners now aged seven, Kayf Tara is being represented by more and more highly promising jumpers as evidenced by the raft of entries for his offspring at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

In the hurdling division, Venalmar advertised his sire’s prowess when being beaten a neck in a thrilling finish to the G1 Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle last year. This time around, potential starters for that race include Strokestown, Clan Tara, Tarablaze and, of course, the very exciting duo of Mad Max and Michael Flips, both of whom also hold entries for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the traditional Festival opener. Mad Max looks likely to go straight to Cheltenham and, if so, will arrive with his unbeaten record intact. He has won two bumpers, including a G2 event at Newbury last season, and has impressed in his two hurdle runs to date, beating the subsequent Cheltenham December meeting winner Karabak on the first of these. Michael Flips has also had four runs and has been bettered just once, when second at Kempton in November. Since then, he has returned to the Middlesex track, where he won by seven lengths under A P McCoy on Boxing Day. His trainer Andy Turnell said: “He’s come out of his win at Kempton in good form and we will be going straight to the Festival with him now because he goes well fresh. He made a very bad blunder at the penultimate flight when he was second to Show Winner in November, and cut his knee open.

“I would be optimistic that he’s improved since Boxing Day and he’s only five so we’ve still got plenty to look forward to with him. We bought him as a potential chaser and he’ll go over the larger obstacles next season so anything that he does this season is a bonus.” Strokestown, who is set to return Sedgefield this week following his victory there on 20 January, has won two races under rules and an Irish point-to-point and has finished runner-up twice in his seven career starts (including points). The word consistent can be applied to all of the above and also to the promising pair of Tarablaze and Clan Tara. The former has won three races and finished second on his other two runs, with two of these outings again being in the Irish point-to-point field. Clan Tara, bred by trainer Don Cantillon but trained in Ireland by Paul Nolan, has again never finished out of the money, with two wins and three placed efforts to his name, including third in the G2 Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas in January. Another making the trip over the Irish Sea is the British-bred Give It Time, who has won three Listed hurdle races for Jessica Harrington, trainer of the mare for her husband John. Give It Time is set to run in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle while the Oliver-Sherwood-trained Circus Of Dreams, a winner over hurdles at Folkestone in December, is entered for the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, which is run over three miles and is also a possibility for the aforementioned Clan Tara and Tarablaze. In the coming weeks, we will be taking a closer look at Kayf Tara’s entries in the Festival steeplechases and the Champion Bumper.