Webber on course for Wetherby


Trainer Paul Webber is hoping for a big run from course specialist Redemption in the skybet.com Castleford Chase at Wetherby on Stephen's Day, if the meeting passes a 7.30 a.m. inspection because of flooding.

The seven-year-old has won three times and finished runner-up twice in five outings at the Yorkshire track and he is due to line-up for the two-mile event.

Wetherby is one of Redemption's favourite tracks," said Webber. "He seems to act there because it's a flat track and he's a speedy horse - he's a Flat-bred horse rather than a steeplechase-bred one."

Redemption finished a creditable third on his seasonal debut in a handicap chase in heavy ground at Ascot in November.

"He ran very well at Ascot and that's a stiff track for him in that ground," added the Oxfordshire-based handler.

"Obviously, we're taking a bit of a flyer taking on Edredon Bleu but I thought that made more sense than carrying top-weight in the two and a half mile handicap at Wetherby."

The meeting is subject to the track passing an inspection and Webber concedes heavy ground could harm Redemption's chances.

He said: "I'm sure anything which puts more of the accent on stamina than speed may be against him but, although it wasn't as good a race, he has won in this ground."

The sponsors have installed the Nicky Henderson-trained Geos as the 5 to 2 favourite for the £40,000 event with while Henrietta Knight's Edredon Bleu is a 3 to 1 chance.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Kadarann, an easy winner of a handicap chase at Cheltenham earlier this month, is 4 to 1 while Latalomne, trained by Brian Ellison in Malton, is also 4 to 1.

Nicholls also runs 11 to 1 shot Armaturk while the Venetia Williams-trained Davoski is 14 to 1 for the race.

Flooding has caused the abandonment of Huntingdon's popular St Stephen's Day meeting.

Parts of the home straight are under water after brooks surrounding the track burst their banks, according to clerk of the course Michael Prosser.

"I have spoken to the Environment Agency and they are forecasting further floods in the area," he said.

"We are expecting rain every day for the next four days, so we don't want to mess people around and have decided to abandon."

The going at Kempton, which stages the day's feature event the Pertemps King George VI Chase, is described as good to soft, good in places by clerk of the course Brian Clifford. He is expecting some further rain, possibly as much as 10mm, ahead of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Jockey Club officials yesterday confirmed that nearly 30 horses have returned positive initial tests for morphine.

It has been confirmed that 27 'A' samples, all taken from horses that have run in Britain in the last six weeks, have tested positive for the drug, with 12 of those horses being winners.

The Jockey Club describe it as "likely" there will be more than the 27 cases so far as positive results are still being found.

The source is thought to be a contaminated batch of feed used by both British and Irish-based trainers and the Jockey Club have said there are less than 20 different trainers involved, some with more than one case in their yard.

All 'B' samples are sent abroad for analysis at independent laboratories and the Jockey Club will wait for those results before taking any action.

John Maxse, public relations director for the Jockey Club, said in a statement: "As at Monday December 23rd and pending the analyses of the 'B' samples, the results of which are not expected until next month, the number of 'A' samples which have tested positive for morphine is 27. Of these, 12 were samples provided by winning horses.

"Until the samples have been subjected to counter analysis by a different laboratory to HFL (Horseracing Forensic Laboratory in Newmarket), which conducted the initial testing, it would be premature of the Jockey Club to name the horses and races concerned.

"The investigation to establish the source of the morphine is progressing, the most likely reason remains a batch of contaminated feed."

The winners that have tested positive for the drug seem almost certain to lose their races but Maxse added: "There is room for some flexibility with regards to penalties for trainers as, if it can be proved what the source was, they could not reasonably have been expected to know it was in the horses' system and fines could be waived.

"There is no room for manoeuvre on the winners if the 'B' samples prove to be positive."

Brandsby trainer Peter Beaumont yesterday confirmed that his stable star Hussard Collonges is an intended runner in the £30,000 Listed skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Friday.