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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 15:39 GMT
Azertyuiop could spell victory

By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC Sport racing correspondent

Commentators dread his appearance at the races, and scholars of orthography hate the sight of his name on the racecard.

But the unpronounceable, unspellable Azertyuiop has everything it takes to be a Cheltenham Festival banker.

Although as short as 2-1 for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy, his latest victory over steeplechase fences, at Wincanton, was pretty stunning.

Azertyuiop was bred in France, and his name is made up from the letters that form the top line of continental computer keyboards (so the British equivalent would be Qwertyuiop).

Azertyuiop and Ruby Walsh jump to victory at Wincanton
Azertyuiop: Unpronounceable but potentially unstoppable

After arriving here, to be trained by Paul Nicholls, the six-year-old made a notable mark over hurdles.

And he has subsequently blossomed into an even more outstanding young chaser.

Three races this season have produced three victories, at Market Rasen, Cheltenham and then at Wincanton.

Each time he produced the kind of jumping displays of which his considerable seniors would be proud.

Jockey Ruby Walsh's enthusiasm after the Wincanton run was infectious.

As well as putting in some impressive leaps, the horse was always travelling well against respectable opponents, and was going to win easily anyway when his closest rival fell at the final obstacle.

Unfaultable stuff, really, enough to indicate that Azertyuiop will be very hard to beat in the Cotswolds next month, with the Irish challenger Bust Out rated the biggest danger.

The main concern about the favourite is the one that often applies to horses like him.

He has competed only in relatively small fields, and has been able to achieve victory effortlessly.

I am confident he can, and will, rise to this bigger occasion.

Azertyuiop is my most confident thought about Cheltenham at this stage, with Hussard Collonges (Tote Gold Cup), Intersky Falcon (Smurfit Champion Hurdle) and Edredon Bleu (Queen Mother Champion Chase) all strong fancies.

The more I think about Hussard Collonges, the more I like his prospects.

That dour, front-running, clean-jumping style of his may easily create considerable trouble for the Irish novice Beef Or Salmon.

And if the race becomes (as it often does) a slog, that will suit HC miles better than it would the double-seeking Best Mate.

Looking at the Champion Hurdle, you have to remember Rhinestone Cowboy is a boy amongst men.

Such men include Intersky Falcon, his stablemate, who must have decent going on which to race.

If he does, I am polishing up all my clichés about Falcon and flying.


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