Saturday, 27 May 2017

Tom George's Champagne City hoping for Kelso glory en-route to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival

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Tom George's exciting prospect Champagne City will be expected to open his account at Kelso tomorrow afternoon.

The four-year-old finished fourth on his debut over hurdles at Newton Abbot, and should come on for that run for the Gloucestershire trainer.

Formerly with master handler Mark Johnston, he boasted a terrific record on the flat winning three races and running well in pattern company.

His best run came when finishing a three length second to Foundation who won a Group Two prize next time out.

If he takes well to hurdling and improves, he could make up a nice hurdler for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

"He's in good form at home and we're happy with him," said the Down Farm trainer.

"We hoped he's improved from Newton Abbot which we felt was a good introduction for him.

"It looks like a good opportunity for him, and we are looking forward to seeing how he gets on here and throughout the season."

Half-brother I'm So Lucky won the Grade Two Celebration Chase in 2010.

He's a half-brother to Celebration Chase winner I'm So Lucky, who also campaigned on the flat with Mark Johnston.

Whilst relatives Star Of Angels enjoyed Festival place success in the Triumph Hurdle and Coral Cup.

He's a 4/6 favourite for the Border Facilities Novices' Hurdle (2:15) at Kelso.

Cheltenham winner Henryville aims to set up Summer Plate date at Uttoxeter

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Silver Trophy winner Henryville will have to defy top weight to claim Uttoxeter's feature Clarke Chase, a key trial to the Summer Plate.

Harry Fry’s nine-year-old forged clear in the Grade Two prize, before adding further success to his record at Newton Abbot last time out.

“He’s in good form in his last two runs and we’ve been pleased with him,” said the Dorset-based handler.

“He’s gone back up in the weights so hopefully he can still be competitive. We’re quietly working away to the Summer Plate at Market Rasen with him.

This race looks competitive even with only seven runners. Three have won last time out, so it promises to be competitive. Hopefully he can continue his fine form.”

Days Of Heaven was an eight length winner back in March.

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson is also eyeing up Market Rasen’s Summer Plate with Days Of Heaven.

The seven-year-old ventured to the USA to compete in two Grade One contests, he wasn’t too far away in two attempts, and has won on both starts since returning to the UK.

“He’s in good form and we’re happy with him at home,” said the champion trainer.

“It’s the right distance and the right ground for him and he’s going well. We took him over to America, and he’s been doing really well since coming back. This looks tough, but I like him and he should go well.”

Jonjo O'Neill will be hoping for more success for the famous colours of JP McManus.

Cheltenham-based Jonjo O’Neill saddles A Little Magic, who has been in flying form recently.

The six-year-old capped off last season with an impressive seven length victory at Market Rasen, before winning when stepped up in class at Kempton earlier this month.

“He’s in good form at home,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus. “Jonjo and the team seem really happy with him at home. We’re looking forward to it and we’re hoping for a good run.”

Gloucestershire’s Nigel Twiston-Davies runs Ballybolley, whilst Tom George’s Valseur Du Granval makes his seasonal bow.

Former Cheltenham Festival winner Ballynagour makes his first start of the season, and Richard Hobson runs Valadom.

Cheltenham Festival legend Paul Nicholls hoping for first flat winner after 26 years

Four time Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer Paul Nicholls could finally gain his first flat winner after 26 years of trying.

Nicholls has grabbed 113 Grade One prizes but remarkably has never enjoyed a success on the flat since starting training in 1991.

The man famed for the likes of Kauto Star, sends High Secret to Goodwood and Volpone Jelois to Salisbury.

High Secret finished fourth in Aintree’s Top Novice Hurdle before a disappointing run in the Swinton last time out.

High Secret on the far right finishing fourth at Aintree's Grand National festival.

“High Secret is dipping his toe in the water really, ” said Nicholls. 

“He hasn’t ran on the flat in a while, so we don’t really know what to expect from him.

“He ran some good races there before, and did well over hurdles too. It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on.”

Volpone Jelois may have the stronger chance of the two, the four-year-old enjoyed plenty of success on the flat in France with former trainer Simone Brogi.

“He should have a good chance for us down at Sailsbury,” said the Ditcheat maestro.

“He ran a good race for us up at Doncaster recently, and hopefully he can improve from that effort. 

He should go tidy, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Nicholls has only sent out 14 runners to run on the flat in the last five years.

In 2014 Amanto came closest when losing out by a neck to Lil Rockerfeller, who has since gone on to compete in Grade One hurdle contests.

Sisol was a runner-up on the all-weather in the same year.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Douvan crowned best chaser of 16/17 season

Cheltenham Festival legend Douvan has been named the highest rated National Hunt chaser by the BHA.

Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old was given a mark of 174 by the handicapper, 5lb higher than last year.

The two-time Festival winner looked different class when picking up pattern prizes in native Ireland, but sustained an injury when seventh in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The late Many Clouds was given a mark of 171 after victory in the Cotsworld Chase in January.

Oliver Sherwood's Hennessy winner suffered a fatal injury following the race.

The former Grand National winner is rated 1lb higher than King George winner Thistlecrack.

Colin Tizzard's nine-year-old was a notable absentee from the Cheltenham Festival, and shares favouritism to claim the Gold Cup in March.

Altior was an impressive winner of the Arkle, his second Festival success in as many years.

Arkle winner Altior shared the 170 mark, after an incredible season for Nicky Henderson.

The six-year-old secured six successive victories this season, with three at Grade One level. He is the antepost favourite to topple Douvan in the Queen Mother at the Festival in March.

Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John was handed a mark of 169, 8lb less than Don Cossack’s mark last year. Colin Tizzard’s Fox Norton shared that mark following his win at Aintree.

The popular Cue Card and Ryanair Winner Un De Sceaux were both rated 168, along with Irish National winner Our Duke.

Grand National winner The Last Samuri is rated 159 after his Aintree success.

Horse (s)
Many Clouds
Thistlecrack, Altior
Sizing John, Fox Norton
Our Duke, Cue Card, Un de Sceaux
Special Tiara
Minella Rocco, Native River, Outlander, Djakadam, God’s Own

RSA Chase winner, and leading 2018 Gold Cup fancy, Might Bite has been given a mark of 162 for Nicky Henderson.

Former Gold Cup winners Coneygree is rated 165, and 2014 champion Lord Windermere is on a mark of 144.