• Racing/
  • Unioniste Allowed Gold Run

Paul Stewart Ironspine Charity Challenge Gold Cup (Grade 3 Handicap Chase) 2m 5f

  • (4yo+, 2m 5f, Class 1, 14 runners)
  • Winner £56,950 2nd £21,370 3rd £10,700 4th £5,330 5th £2,680 6th £1,340
  • Going: Heavy, Soft in places
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 5m 47.10s
  • Off time: 14:33:05
Full result
Result 14:30 Cheltenham
Pos Horse Distance/th> Odds
1st 18 Unioniste 15/2
2nd 4 Walkon 11 7/2f
3rd 12 Golden Chieftain 6 20/1
  • Last Updated: December 14 2012, 16:40 GMT

Ante-post favourite Unioniste will get a run in Saturday's Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup at Cheltenham after Divers was declared a non-runner.

Divers: Has been taken out of Saturday's race
Divers: Has been taken out of Saturday's race

Paul Nicholls' four-year-old headed the market for the Grade Three event but missed the cut for the race by one and was forced to take the place of first reserve.

Ferdy Murphy had entered both Divers and De Boitron in the handicap feature but the race was a second choice for both horses, with the trainer planning to run at Doncaster.

However, connections of Divers decided to make an early decision and pull their horse out before the 9am deadline, allowing Unioniste to sneak into the race.

Mark Ball of owners Let's Live Racing tweeted: "Divers taken out of Cheltenham race, thus allowing @PFNicholls Unioniste to run. Divers goes to Doncaster.

"The rain is landing at Cheltenham, ground wouldn't suit Divers, so it's a no-brainer to allow another runner to race."

Nicholls revealed that he had a fair idea that Unioniste would make the final field.

"Ferdy was very helpful and we had a fair idea that we might get in," said Nicholls. "I thought it was a really good performance the last day. He's got a nice, light weight.

"I'm not worried about him being a four-year-old - another four-year-old of mine hacked up in a handicap chase at Newbury the other week.

"If you saw him jumping at home, you would think he was an eight-year-old. He's got plenty of experience."

Nicholls believes his charge is potentially well-treated despite being 6lb out of the handicap with conditional jockey Harry Derham taking the ride and able to claim 5lb leaving Unioniste to shoulder just 9st 9lb.

"Harry's (Derham) taking 5lb off so he's going to carry 9st 9lb, so it's 1lb away from his mark," the Ditcheat trainer told At The Races.

"He's low down because he got a mark of 137 and a 7lb four-year-old allowance. In effect he's quite nicely in.

"Obviously with the weight he had it was ideal Harry take 5lb off, so 9st 9lb is an attractive weight."

Nicholls is also represented by Cristal Bonus, who made a successful reappearance in the Grade Two Ladbrokes Chase at Down Royal six weeks ago.

"He won well last time and the more it rains tomorrow, the softer the ground and the more chance he's got," he said.

"He loves really soft ground and we're hopeful of a good run from him."

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Race sponsor Andy Stewart is represented solely by the Richard Rowe-trained Tatenen after the Nicholls-trained Ghizao was scratched at the final declaration stage.

Stewart explained this race is a stepping stone to his main objective, the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase at Ascot next month which he has won for the last two years.

"Tatenen is absolutely fine and his main aim will be trying to win the Victor Chandler handicap at Ascot in January for the third year in a row," said Stewart.

"We did have him in the Hennessy Gold Cup but when it came up bottomless, we thought we could come for my race at Cheltenham.

"Andrew Thornton will ride and I think Richard is quite optimistic. As long as the ground isn't bottomless, it will be fine for him."

Alan King has high hopes for Walkon, who was runner-up to Al Ferof in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham four weeks ago.

"I have heard the theory that Walkon might be best fresh, but when he first came to us he ran four times in two months and won three of them," the Barbury Castle trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.

"He then finished second in the Triumph and promptly went one better in the Anniversary Hurdle at Aintree three weeks later, so I am not sure how much credence there is that line of reasoning.

"We have never really had a clear run with Walkon since his juvenile season, so for me if the horse is sound, it doesn't much matter whether there is two weeks or six months between his races.

"He did not lose much weight for his Paddy Power run, and there was 12 lengths back to the third, so I have no complaints about going up 5lb, and if he is in the same sort of form, he is the one they all have to beat.

"He did a nice sharp bit of work on Tuesday morning and goes there in top condition - his preparation has gone great and the ground won't be a problem, so now we just need luck in running."

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Nigel Twiston-Davies feels the extra distance will play to Astracad's strengths.

The Naunton trainer reports the six-year-old to have thrived since his first run of the campaign over two miles here last month.

"Astracad has been in brilliant form since his run at The Open and I think he has come on a bit for that run," he said.

"The extra half-mile will definitely help him and I don't think soft ground will be a problem either."

Twiston-Davies also runs Have You Seen Me, who is on the comeback trail after being off the track for 611 days.

"Have You Seen Me is down there at the bottom of the weights and he is also in good form," he said.

"It is his first run for a while but hopefully I have him fit enough and he should run a good race."

Nicky Henderson is double-handed with last year's winner Quantitativeeasing and Nadiya De La Vega, who was third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

"They are both in good form. Nadiya De La Vega has been running well all season," said the Seven Barrows trainer.

"Quantitativeeasing won it last year, but he's 8lb higher this time. It's a very difficult mark for him to win off."

Andy Turnell is concerned conditions might be unsuitable for Micheal Flips who could not handle the ground in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and was pulled up.

"He's fine but I'm a bit apprehensive about the weather. I was hoping the forecast might be wrong and the rain might miss Cheltenham," said the Wiltshire handler.

"He patently didn't handle the ground last time, but it might be better being wet.

"I've got James (Banks) taking 7lb off as Nick (Scholfield) wasn't available and nor was Brian (Hughes) who rides a bit for the owner, so I thought we'd take some weight off his back.

"If he does his stuff all well and good, but I'm not particularly optimistic going into the race.

"He has run all right in the wet before, but he does prefer better ground. We'll see, but I think there's a good race in him."

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