Freebets.com offered a five-figure bonus if the winner of the Freebets.com Trophy Handicap Chase goes on to win at Cheltenham Festival and winning connections have taken up the challenge to scoop the extra £50,000 prize money.
Gavin Sheehan drove Annacotty up the Cheltenham hill to get the better of Big Fella Thanks and land the Freebets.com sponsored race in January. The seven-year-old has been entered for two races at the Festival in less than two weeks’ time and Freebets.com’s Paul Vickers tracked down trainer Martin Keighley to find out what plans connections had to lighten the company’s bank balance. Here’s what he had to say:
Martin Keighley Questions And Answers
Q: Annacotty is entered for the Ultima Solutions Handicap Chase on Tuesday and Brown Advisory Stable Place on Thursday, has a decision been made for which race he'll run?
A: He’ll definitely go for the Tuesday race, the three mile one, that’s his ideal distance
Q: He has been raised 5lb for the win in January, how much scope does Annacotty have for improvement?
A: I was quite pleased with that really. He’s definitely an improver and confidence wise, getting his head back in front after the disappointing run in the Hennessy. He’s a young horse and should be improving so yes I’d say there’s plenty of scope for improvement.
Q: How has the horse trained since his victory in the Freebets.com Trophy Chase?
A: I couldn’t be happier with him, he delivered a decent work yesterday on the grass gallop, he looks and feels amazing and he’ll go there in top form
Q: What going does Annacotty prefer?
A: He’s one of those, he’ll go on any ground. It wouldn’t be a major concern what the ground is going to be. He’s got good form on soft ground, good ground he’s quite versatile
Q: Who will ride him at this year's Festival?
A: Gavin Sheehan got to know him last time and obviously did a good job so Gavin will keep the ride and he’s going to school him next week.
Q: Are there any horses that you are worried about in the race?
A: Yes plenty. It’s just these handicaps are very tough races to win so they all concern me. Different entries but every horse of that class … I worry about them all really, it’s very competitive.
Q: How confident do you feel about landing the £50K bonus from Freebets.com
A: It would be very nice, I know he’s going there with an outstanding each way chance. He’s in good form!
Q: Annacotty made his Festival debut last year, what did you make of his run in the RSA Chase.
A: He was unlucky, he got badly interfered with on the first circuit, on the far side. That was his race over then, he stayed on late on but it was all too late then. Just bad luck in running.
Martin was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule at Condicote Stable in Luckley, less than half an hour from Prestbury Park, where the stable are making their final preparations for Cheltenham. Annacotty was bred in Ireland and is owned locally by Liz Prowting who also has Coyabo and Faultless Feelings in training with Keighley.
Annacotty's Cheltenham Festival Credentials
The highlight of Annacotty’s career to date was his victory in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices Chase (formerly Feltham Novices Chase) at Kempton’s 2013 Boxing Day meeting. It’s a race that has thrown up many top class chasers, most recently Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run (2009) and Ryanair victor Dynaste (2012).
Annacotty has run four times at Cheltenham, finishing fourth on his first look at the course as a novice hurdler in April 2013. He returned for Festival Trials Day the following year when a highly promising second to Indian Castle in the Timeform Novices Handicap Chase.
The son of Beneficial made his Festival debut last year in the RSA Chase, generally regarded as the three-mile championship for novice chasers. He suffered bad luck in running during the first circuit and made a coupe of errors in the last half mile when desperately trying to make up lost ground. He eventually finished eighth, behind Irish raider O'Faolains Boy. He found the winners enclosure on his most recent start when getting up to beat Big Fella Thanks at this year's Festival Trials Day and hopes are high he can repeat that winning performance at the Festival.
His career record is 3 wins from 11 starts over fences and two from three over hurdles. Annacotty is top priced 25/1 with Ladbrokes to win the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase on Tuesday 10th March which would earn an additional £50,000 from the Freebets.com bonus.