THE first two horses in this year's Tote Chester Cup are making news for very different reasons.
The winner is off to Australia and the runner-up to the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.
Six-year-old Hugs Dancer had what turned out to be his final outing for trainer James Given in the Melbourne Cup last month. He's been bought by owners in the southern hemisphere and will be given a chance to improve on his ninth place in Australia's major race next November.
Given, who admitted that everyone in his yard was disappointed that their most high-profile horse was leaving, said it reflected the higher prize money available in Australia.
The unlucky second-placed horse to Hugs Dancer at The Roodee last May has started his career over hurdles in the most promising fashion.
Big Moment started out at Plumpton and has since followed up at Fontwell Park, the jumps tracks nearest to trainer Linda Perratt's West Sussex base.
The classy recruit from flat racing is now set to return to Fontwell for that course's richest ever race in February, before going on to the Cheltenham Festival for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle.
Meanwhile, Internet and telephone bookmaker Blue Square has announced that it will be betting on course at Chester from next May.
Following Wednesday's final fixture of 2003 at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse, the next meeting is on Friday, February 13. Admission to the Course Enclosure is £6, while the Paddock Enclosure is £12. Accompanied children enter free.
More information is available on the racecourse website www.BangorOnDeeRaces.co.uk or contact the course on 01978 780323.
The next racing at Chester Races is the May Festival in 2004. More information is available on website www.chester-races.co.uk
The racecourse can be contacted on 01244 304600.