Happy Diva chasing Paddy Power Gold Cup double | Racing News

first_img“At the weights we probably can’t win but we’ve got to have a go at it, her prep run brought her on and we’re 100 per cent happy that she’ll run her best race, whether that is good enough we’ll find out.“This will probably her her last handicap – mares’ races like the one at Doncaster at Christmas, where she just got beat by Lady Buttons, and the new one at the Festival are probably what we’re looking at.”Simply The Betts has taken to chasing with real aplomb, winning four of his five starts last season, culminating in his win in March.- Advertisement – Happy Diva aims to become the first back-to-back winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup since Bradbury Star when the Kerry Lee-trained mare lines up at Cheltenham on Saturday.While Cyfor Malta did win the famous handicap twice after Josh Gifford’s top-class performer, his victories came four years apart.- Advertisement – That was a breakthrough at the big meeting for trainer Harry Whittington, who has been delighted with his preparation for this.“We were thinking about the Old Roan or the Paddy Power in the summer and the same owners have got Itchy Feet, so it makes sense for him to be going back to Cheltenham,” said Whittington.“He’s two from two, he loves the track, he thrives (there). I think that’s a huge advantage.“He’s fresh, he’s incredibly well. He’s done plenty of work because he started off when he came in in June.“His work has been sparkling, we’re very happy with him and he’s won fresh every season so we’re really looking forward to running him.”Happy Diva was the beneficiary of a late fall by Slate House last year with Colin Tizzard’s charge, who was a novice at the time, slipping up two out.He later went on to win a Grade One at Kempton and assistant trainer Joe Tizzard feels he is back in top form.He said: “He has not had a prep run before the race this year, but he goes well fresh. He likes the track and it seems like a nice target for him.“It looked like he was cruising in last year’s race until he fell, but it was just one of those things. As his season went on he improved like we hoped he would although the Cheltenham Festival never really worked out for him.“He is quite a bit higher in the weights this year, but we still feel it is the right race for him.“If you forget his Cheltenham Festival run he has always run pretty well round Cheltenham. He goes well fresh and runs well at this time of year.”The Tizzards also saddle one of the outsiders, The Russian Doyen, but he could outrun his odds.Tizzard said: “He got injured at Aintree and that was it for last season, but the season before he finished fourth in the Listed novice handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he was the best of the English-trained runners.“He could be a slightly forgotten horse and had a nice prep run over hurdles at Fontwell. I think he has got a great each-way chance.”The ante-post favourite for a long time was Paul Nicholls’ Saint Sonnet, before he was joined at the head of the betting by Mister Fisher and Simply The Betts.Nicholls told Betfair of his French import: “We freshened him up before he won a little race at Catterick at the end of February and he then ran an encouraging race in the Marsh Chase at the Festival. I’ve had the Paddy Power Gold in mind for him ever since.“Saint Sonnet has had a perfect preparation since coming back into training at the start of July, he should be very fit, and a mark of 147 is fair enough without being a gift.“I did plan to give him a pop over hurdles at Chepstow a month ago, but took him out because the ground was too quick. He is an improving five-year-old and I couldn’t be happier with him.”The Pipe family have a good record in this race and David Pipe hopes new recruit Siruh Du Lac can get involved at the finish on his first run since leaving Nick Williams.“Siruh Du Lac is in good form. He had a wind operation over the summer. He works well as you would expect from a 150-rated horse. He needs to step up his game to be involved in the finish, but he has been working well at home and we are very much looking forward to it,” said Pipe.“Siruh Du Lac has been to all the big occasions anyway. He usually races up towards the front of the field and touch wood is a good jumper.“He did fall at Cheltenham last time and you just think about whether horses remember that. He has jumped nicely at home and jumping is one of his strengths, so I think he was just unlucky last time.“The horses have been in good form and are running well. We of course have a history with the Paddy Power meeting, and it would be great to enjoy another good weekend at Cheltenham.”Nigel Twiston-Davies is another trainer with a good record in the race and feels the step up in trip could suit his Al Dancer.The William Hill ambassador said: “His win first time up this season at Newton Abbot was quite remarkable to be honest. The reason why I felt it was so good was because he settled so well, better than he ever had done before, and that could be the key to him.“He had to run over two miles before because he wouldn’t settle, but if he settles here then this trip might bring out the best in him. I think this extra distance should put him ahead of the handicapper.” – Advertisement – Happy Diva may turn 10 on New Year’s Day, but continued to improve throughout last season and was second at the Festival behind Simply The Betts, whom she meets on better terms this weekend.When it was put to her that Happy Diva would be attempting to emulate one of the greats of the National Hunt scene, Lee said: “She’s already one of the greats in our eyes!“I still maintain that her career-best effort was at the Festival last year, she just got chinned. She’s in great form going there, but we know she’s up against it as she’s up in the handicap (from last year).- Advertisement –last_img read more

Badgers reflect on season’s end, opportunities for next year

first_imgAmanda Seyferth and the rest of the Badgers experienced a frustrating season in the spring of 2011. Wisconsin finished with a 14-10 record but frequently failed to pull through in close matches.[/media-credit]For the Wisconsin women’s tennis team and the 2011 season, the curtain closes on a heart-breaking scene.After grabbing the first three points of its conference tournament quarterfinal match against Ohio State this past weekend, Wisconsin proceeded to drop four straight matches and lose to the Buckeyes once again, 4-3.Though the Badgers finished the year with a winning record (14-10, 5-5), the loss to Ohio State mirrors many of those they suffered throughout the course of the regular season.“That’s honestly been the story of the last couple of years with this tennis program,” sophomore Hannah Berner said. “We’re competitive, but we don’t pull out the big wins.”Looking ahead to next season, it’s those close matches the team needs to begin turning around in its favor.This year, Wisconsin lost four matches 4-3 and another match 5-2 after winning the doubles point.Still, even with several tough losses, head coach Brian Fleishman believes the season was still very much a success.“This is the best season we’ve had in 10 years here at Wisconsin, which says a lot about the girls that are on the team right now,” Fleishman said.The Badgers do have several positives to draw from as they prepare for the forthcoming fall season.The team will return the majority of its starting lineup, but not senior captain Jessica Seyferth.The minimal lineup turnover is important, according to Berner, as the team had a difficult time at the beginning of the season adjusting to the new players on the team this year.And as college tennis is a team sport, chemistry is paramount.“Four newcomers is a half a team,” Berner said. “I think that might be why it has taken us so long to mesh well. But I think for next year we’ll definitely be more comfortable, we’ll know what we’re getting ourselves into.”Wisconsin will, however, add one more piece to the puzzle, as it has recruited German-native Sarah Loebel to come play in Madison next season.According to Fleishman, the German tennis season is played mostly indoors, and as most of Wisconsin’s matches also take place inside, her experience should immediately help the team.What’s more impressive to Fleishman, though, is Loebel’s game itself.“She’s a baseliner that hits a flat ball,” Fleishman said. “She’s a very fast player, very quick around the court and athletic enough to retrieve and play defense. That’s a good combination.”Fleishman believes his new recruit will come in and contribute at a high level right away. The head coach also hopes Loebel will push freshmen standouts Nicky Stracar and Jenny Hois, both of whom had impressive first years for the Badgers.Stracar and Hois themselves are another positive for Wisconsin as the team moves forward.It isn’t often that freshmen can come in and contribute not only as players, but also as leaders of a team.“They surprised me a lot just because from a freshman’s standpoint they’re supposed to be learning from the other girls,” Fleishman said. “They’re supposed to be watching and seeing how the other girls on the team are doing it, and these two freshmen came in this year and really took a lot of initiative.”Regardless of who returns to the team, if Wisconsin is going to succeed next year and improve its record in the Big Ten, it will take nothing less than hard work.Over the offseason, in coordination with the strength and condition coach, Fleishman gives his players a stringent training schedule in order to stay in shape for the next year.But as most of the players go home for the summer, it’s up to them to follow it.“We have to find it within ourselves to work as hard as we can over the summer and improve upon our weaknesses so we can come out strong in the fall,” Hois said.To begin next season, Fleishman believes that either Stracar or Hois will anchor the starting rotation at No. 1 singles.But to begin turning around the close matches they’ll likely have, the top of the order can’t be the only successful part of the team.“The best part of this team is our depth,” Berner said. “Everyone can compete at that number one spot; it depends on who’s playing well, who’s mentally more confident. I think [No. 1 singles] is up for grabs, but it’s more about the depth of our team and being able to win at all six spots.”last_img read more