Thursday, 29 June 2017

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson conquers Worcester with promising Cheltenham contenders

Nicky Henderson unleashed some potential stable stars as he enjoyed a treble on Worcester’s Wednesday card.

The Lambourn handler has enjoyed a successful start to the jumps season securing 20 victories from 55 runners, recording a tidy 36% profit.

Forever Field enjoyed his first victory over fences in the curtain raiser, beating Paul Nicholls’ odds-on favourite Black Corton in a head to head battle.

The novice chaser won three times over hurdles, and finished a close third behind former Sefton winner Ballyoptic in Chepstow’s Silver Trophy.

His maiden win over fences was both impressive and professional, he may remain a handicapper to follow.

Forever Field is a half-brother to Kim Muir winner Same Difference, who won at the Festival in 2013.

Yet the most impressive winner of the trio came from newcomer Malton Rose, who enjoyed an easy seven length success in bumper company.

The well-bred six-year-old kicked on well from two furlongs out, to beat more experienced rivals in convincing fashion.

Not many were surprised as the penultimate race of the card went to the Seven Barrows handler, as Monbeg Legend justified 1-5 odds to secure a third straight victory.

The seven-year-old defied a two year absence to win at Southwell earlier this month, but found his third start the most troublesome.

Although the class act in the field, he struggled to overcome some obstacles but kept on to win in good fashion to complete the treble.

He hasn’t been the most straightforward winner, but should progress into a nice prospect throughout the season.

Peace And Co enjoyed success in his first attempt over fences, he won the 2015 Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.

Earlier in the week former Cheltenham Festival winner Peace And Co won his first start over fences, winning a novice chase contest at Hexham by eight lengths.

The 2015 Triumph Hurdle winner had struggled in handicap company in two starts last season, and the switch to chasing seemed to work as he completed his fences in good style.

He’s a 25-1 chance of winning the Arkle in the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Top Hats vs Tweed: 6 reasons why I believe the Cheltenham Festival always beats Royal Ascot

With the end of Royal Ascot, we remind you some reasons why a cold afternoon in the Cotswolds always beats a summer's day in Berkshire. Well, we think so!

1 - Dress Code
"Very pretty, but I'm trying to watch the race and I can't see a thing!"

In the build up to Royal Ascot, a lot has been said about the strict dress code at Royal Ascot. Some enclosures require a full top hat and full suit, which on a sweltering June day is the last thing you need. Cheltenham's dress code is less strict, and fashion doesn't take centre stage at the meeting which is ideal for real racing fans.

2 - Atmosphere
Is it a fall? Is it a photo finish? No, they've run out of Guinness. Although that would never happen.

Cheltenham's atmosphere can vary massively depending on the results, and the day. The main mood is very good, with people in good spirits for the entire week. The meeting is kicked off by the famous 'Cheltenham roar', which the jockeys claim is so loud they can feel hit by it's sound wave. St Patrick's Day Thursday highlights the fun of the week, but the highs and lows on the track grip the crowd as horses fly over fences and battle up Gloucestershire's iconic hill.

3 - Value for Money
Not all investments pay off

The lowest price for Royal Ascot is £37, for your place in the Windsor Enclosure. Whilst for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival you can get into the Best Mate stand for just £25. Yet Cheltenham offers live music in all areas, and better views of the racecourse. Parking, racecards and some drinks are all generally cheaper at Cheltenham.

4 - The very best in the game
Going to Cheltenham is always a target, there are more options on the flat than Ascot

Although Ascot features plenty of top races and world-class horses it doesn't include all of them. The Royal meeting features global field, but with a wider flat calendar plenty of the flat's best rated runners miss the meeting. The Derby and Oaks normally grab a majority of Britain's leading three-year-old's, whilst plenty miss a Berkshire outing to go for the Eclipse, Irish Derby and many more lucrative prizes on the calendar.

The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the National Hunt season, and only really the Grand National is more illustrious than going to the Cotswolds.

5 - The pinnacle meeting, the pinnacle races

Despite winning two King George's Silviniaco Conti, is always remembered as the horse who never won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Flat fans drool over the Guineas, Derby and Arc to name a few races; but in the National Hunt all those races we crave for come at once... at Cheltenham. The King George, Betfred and Hennessy are all established races by themselves but a true jumps fan can't help but be teased by whether they believe such winners can win the Gold Cup in the following year. The National Hunt season slowly pieces together the Festival fields throughout the season, before all is revealed in the March spectacle and those long-awaited antepost bets are tested.

6 - The Irish

This leprechaun is searching for a pot of gold at Prestbury Park

Whether it's in the pub telling you stories, at the racecourse picking their horse or drinking their Guinness somewhere else, the Irish make Cheltenham what it is today. They make the Festival so memorable as they conquer the Cotswolds in their numbers, uplifting the area with their fine spirits and beautiful dark drink.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Willie Mullins' Thomas Hobson flies into Cheltenham frame after Royal romp

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Willie Mullins’s Thomas Hobson forged his way in the Cheltenham Festival after an impressive week at Royal Ascot.

The seven-year-old won well in Tuesday’s Ascot Stakes under the hands of Ryan Moore, where he trailed for most of the way before powering home in the final few furlongs.

His six length success impressed Mullins so much he declared him for Saturday’s Queen Alexandra Stakes, where he ran creditably to finish second behind Mark Johnston’s Oriental Fox.

He failed to complete an Ascot double, but the hurdler may also attempt to add Cheltenham glory to his established CV.

Thomas Hobson looks set for a summer of flat racing, and may even go down under to contest Australia’s biggest race the Melbourne Cup.

After two good efforts at the Royal Meeting, Mullins was delighted by his efforts.

“It was a very good run,” Mullins said.

“I’m very pleased that he backed up like that.

“He was quite keen after his run the other day, which didn’t help him today.

“However, things are looking good for the future for his Flat racing. We will look at York.”

Pierre-Charles Boudot, who bred Triumph winner Defi Du Seuil, enjoyed his first Royal winner this week.

Cheltenham Gold Cup winning handler Jessica Harrington enjoyed a good week at the Royal meeting, however her star two-year-old  Alpha Centauri could only finish second in the Albany.

Her other juvenile Brother Bear wasn’t beaten too far when fourth in Tuesday’s Coventry Stakes.

Alan King, trainer of Festival favourite Yanworth, picked up some valuable place money with handicappers Top Tug and Who Dares Wins.

Whilst three-time Champion Hurdle winning trainer Aidan O’Brien picked up the top trainers prize at Royal Ascot.

French jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who bred this year’s Triumph winner Defi Du Seuil, also enjoyed Royal success aboard Le Brevido in the Jersey Stakes.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Jonjo O'Neill's promising Minotaur set for Aintree test on route to 2018 Cheltenham Festival

Jonjo O’Neill’s exciting novice Minotaur is targeting his second victory over hurdles at Aintree this evening.

The former French listed winner is a short price favourite to follow up his maiden success in the Try Foot Golf At Aintree Golf Course Novices' Hurdle (6:50).

In the famous colours of JP McManus he enjoyed a creditable hurdling debut at Ffos Las, being defeated by more experienced rivals A Bold Move and Mon Palois.

But stepped up to power clear to a 20 length success at Cartmel on his next start to enhance his credentials for Jonjo O’Neill.

He takes on a stronger field at Aintree this afternoon, but connections are confident of another strong show from the potentially brilliant five-year-old.

“He’s in good form at home and ran well last time,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus.

“Jonjo (O’Neill) is happy with him and we hope he can run well.”

His flat form is exceptionally strong for the hurdler, having ending his time in France with a four length success in listed company.

Wichita Lineman was the last winner of the Albert Bartlett for Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus in 2007.

He won six times across the Channel picking up over £80,000 in prize money, winning on ground varying from very soft to good.

The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or Neptune Novices’ Hurdle may be a long-term target for this eight time winner.

However, he does have a declaration for the Northumberland Plate on the flat and O’Neill may try and capitalise on his tidy handicap mark of 103.

This evening his biggest rival at the Lancashire track is Jimmy Breekie who was last seen winning a novice event at Perth in good style earlier this month.

Whilst Bere Haven makes his racecourse debut for Jennie Candlish.

The seven-year-old was victorious on his only start in a point-to-point, winning at Tralee by eight lengths.

Minotaur is as short as 8/13 to take this evening’s contest.

Paul Nicholls novice Alcala powers clear to gain valuable Newton Abbot prize as Irish Cavalier pulls up

Alcala earnt his place among Paul Nicholls’ star novices after winning Newton Abbot’s feature Handicap Chase (2:45) in a convincing manner.

The seven-year-old jumped well and stayed close to the lead before making his move late on. Eyeballing Phillip Hobbs’ Brother Tedd over the last, his rival made a crucial mistake handing the victory to Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount.

It’s his second victory on the trot following an easy 33 length canter at this track only 11 days ago.

“We’re really happy with him," said Nicholls.

"I thought with the 7lb penalty was worth taking a chance on,

“They seemed to go pretty quick, and he jumped nicely. The ground is the most important thing for him.

“We have the option now of running in a nice handicap or keep him novice chasing.”

The last time Paul Nicholls won the RSA Chase was with Denman in 2007, he won the Gold Cup the following year.

The Cheltenham Festival may not have his optimum quick ground, but he may take his chance in the RSA Chase which was won by Might Bite in 2017.

Alcala may feature in some of jump racing’s leading races throughout the summer period.

Nicholls hailed the prize money on offer at the Devon track, Alcala won the race with prize money in excess of £14,000.

“It’s a credit to jump racing to put on that sort of prize money at this time of the year,” said the Ditcheat maestro.

“You don’t mind supporting them, and there were some nice horses on show here.

“With novice races in the summer it’s worth bringing some good horses out for.”

Pre-race favourite Brother Tedd finished second, whilst Alan King’s Midnight Cowboy finished third.

Irish Cavalier, who won the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Haydock, was pulled-up sharply through the race.

Rebecca Curtis’ eight-year-old contested the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup but failed to finish in the Festival’s feature race.

Whilst pre-race favourite Ballybolley was withdrawn from the race in the morning by trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Former Ballydoyle ace Cook Islands out to emulate Festival winning stablemate Ivanovich Gorbatov

Joseph O’Brien's Cook Islands will need to defy young age as he lines up in a tricky novice hurdle at Roscommon (6:10) this evening.

He continues his journey towards the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, where he hopes to follow in the steps of stablemate Ivanovich Gorbatov who was victorious at the Cheltenham Festival at the same age.

The four-year-old won impressively on his only start over hurdles, winning a very competitive Punchestown maiden in good style.

His flat form is encouraging , he enjoyed one success when at Ballydoyle but ran well in pattern events such as the Dee Stakes.

With conditions an optimum he’s set to improve from the outing, however his close rivals in the betting are three years older than him.

Ivanovich Gorbatov and Barry Gerahty celebrate after beating Apple's Jade to the Grade One Triumph Hurdle in 2016.

The Triumph Hurdle could be his main target, which Ivanovich Gorbatov won two years ago.

The trainer rode him to maiden victory, before training him to Triumph Hurdle success just a year later.

The JP McManus-owned star was last seen finishing sixth in the County Hurdle at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

Willie Mullins’ Robin Des Foret looks to be his biggest danger in the betting, the seven-year-old has won his last three starts for the County Carlow trainer.

He enjoyed the step-up in trip at Kilbeggan last time, but may not get optimum quick ground.

“The ground and track will be fine but he is not particulary well suited by the race conditions,” said Mullins to his website.

“He is dropping back in trip having won over 3m1f last time but he seems versatile enough.

“He has been in good form at home and should go very well.”

Gordon Elliott is represented by Dorans Rover, who was last seen finishing second at Ballinrobe last time out.

Cook Islands is estimated as a 3/1 shot to take the novice contest, whilst Robin Des Foret is a 9/4 favourite at the Connacht track.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

London Prize boosts long-term Cheltenham claims after Goodwood romp

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Ian Williams' London Prize enhanced his flat and hurdle form after an impressive victory in handicap company at Goodwood.

Williams missed out on the Cheltenham Festival with the six-year-old, who instead went to the Imperial Cup where he won by a length ahead of Nicky Henderson's Fixe Le Kap.

The Scottish trainer insisted he would 'benefit from a break', after a month off the track following his eighth place finish in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock.

He stayed midfield throughout the race, before leading when travelling strongest and was pushed clear under James Doyle to enjoy an eight length success.

Remarkably the two-time hurdle winner looked to have plenty left after crossing the winner's post at the Sussex track, and could appear in the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

Sternrubin, who dead-heated in the Ladbroke in 2015, could only finish third for Phillip Hobbs.

The Northumberland Plate or Ascot Stakes could be next on his agenda, before he should campaign back over hurdles.

His principal target could be a return to the Imperial Cup, or he could be tested in the County Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

On the nature of his victory, he may even have a crack at some of the higher grade races in March's showcase.

Cheltenham Festival runner-up L'Ami Serge completes Nicky Henderson's English and French Champion Hurdle double

Nicky Henderson has completed an English and French Champion Hurdle double, as Festival runner-up L’Ami Serge powered clear at Autueil.

The newly crowned champion trainer enjoyed success on Tuesday’s feature race, as Buveur D'Air forged clear to lift the Champion Hurdle.

In the Irish edition Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours was touched off my Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave at Punchestown.

“It's pretty nice to win the English Champion Hurdle and the French one,” said Seven Barrows handler.

“We were second at Punchestown, otherwise we might have won all three. That would have been good, and rare.”

L’Ami Serge had previously been beaten by a neck in the County Hurdle in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, creeped into contention before powering clear over the last fence.

He reversed the form with Willie Mullins’ Shaneshill who beat him when the pair clashed at this track a month ago; the Irish challenger finished third behind France’s Alex De Larredya.

"The horse was great, and that was one of the best rides you'll ever see, because we had no idea he'd stay,” the Lambourn handler told Sky Sports.

“It was a brilliant ride and well done to the team. This horse is very relaxed at the moment. When you think he was beaten a neck in the County Hurdle under a big weight over two miles, to then go and do that is quite extraordinary.

“I think he loves these French obstacles, he ran very well in the Prix La Barka when Shaneshill beat him and we were two kilos better off today, so if he stayed he had to have a good chance.

Buveur D'Air gave Nicky Henderson his sixth Champion Hurdle victory in 2017

Henderson’s raider has finished once place better on all three visits to the Festival, he finished fourth behind the mighty Douvan, before a third placed effort the following year and narrow runner-up in the closing day of this year’s Festival.

“The money here (in France) is unbelievable, but I think we'll stay in England,” said the champion trainer.

"We've got all summer to think about what we are going to do and don't forget he's a good jumper of fences.

L'Ami Serge is being priced at around the 16/1 mark for the Stayer’s Hurdle.

Willie Mullins star juvenile Bapaume targets French Grade One glory after Festival failure

Willie Mullins’ promising juvenile Bapaume is searching for his second Grade One victory in Auteuil’s Prix Alain du Breil (4:05).

The four-year-old enjoyed a good campaign over the winter, winning a pattern race at Leopardstown before just losing out to Mega Fortune in his first attempt for Grade One success.

He was fancied in the Cheltenham Festival’s Triumph Hurdle, but Mega Fortune and Defi Du Seuil were too good for the French-born challenger.

He finally gained top level success at the Punchestown a month later, defeating the well-regarded Landofhopeandglory late on to win the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle.

"On his Irish and English form Bapaume is a Grade 1 horse and better than Dandy Mag," said Mullins to the Racing Post.

Dandy Mag finishing second in Fairyhouse's G2 Juvenile Hurdle in April

Mullins is also represented by Dandy Mag who won easily at Ballinrobe last time out, but faces a steep rise in class this afternoon.

"Dandy Mag ran well at Punchestown, better than his finishing position suggests. I don’t think he's good enough to win but the extra three furlongs will help, and he's improving."

He will have to overcome De Bon Coeur, the French raider who is unbeaten in all six starts.

Francois Nicholle’s star four-year-old has won once at the top level, and was last seen destroying the 
field in a nine length romp in the Grade Two Prix Amadou.

The leading juvenile in France gets her ideal conditions, and may take some stopping even in her hardest race yet.

"De Bon Coeur is in fantastic shape as I gave her a bit of time after her last race to recharge her batteries," Nicolle told the Racing Post.

"The others can do what they like but if they try to follow her, they will be in trouble. Even I have no idea of her limits.”

Cheltenham Festival bridesmaid Shaneshill bids for French Champion Hurdle success

Willie Mullins is hoping for a fifth French Champion Hurdle (2:35) prize with Shaneshill, who has finished a runner-up in three visits to the Cheltenham Festival.

After landing Grade Two success in Auteuil’s Prix La Barka, a key trial, he is set to hold favouritism for the 3m1f race.

"He's been hard to train during the winter, but I think he's going to be a lot easier to train in this summer weather," the County Carlow handler said.

"He promised me an awful lot early on. He was second three times at the Cheltenham Festival.

"Now I think he's a bit stronger and maybe he can go through with the promise he showed me."

The experienced eight-year-old was beaten just over a length in the Champion Bumper, before reversing the placings with Silver Concorde to gain his only ever top level success at Punchestown.

He was well beaten by the legendary Douvan in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the following year, still finishing one place ahead of 2017 Gold Cup winner Sizing John.

In 2016 he went closer than ever when narrowly beaten by Blaklion in the World Hurdle, he failed to finish in this year’s renewal of the Stayer’s Hurdle.

Ptit Zig was an encouraging winner of the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in 2015 

Paul Nicholls hopes to reclaim the prize with Ptit Zig, who hasn’t tasted victory since his surprise success in the Grade One contest a year ago.

The eight-year-old missed out on the Festival, and could only finish sixth in the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree.

He did finish the season with an improved effort in Sandown’s Select Hurdle, where he was beaten by L’Ami Serge, who faces him once again.

Nicky Henderson’s raider has been a revelation since almost gaining Cheltenham glory in the County Hurdle.

The seven-year-old was defeated on the line by Arctic Fire, before landing Sandown’s grade two contest. He was beaten by Shaneshill on his last start, but not even a length separated the pair.

One Track Mind was a Grade One winner over hurdles last season

Warren Greatrex is represented by One Track Mind who won the Punchestown Stayers Hurdle last season, but has disappointed over fences.

Blue Dragon is the strongest chance for the French, the six-year-old enjoyed a comfortable Grade Two success at this track in April. 

Friday, 9 June 2017

Narrow Festival loser Wonderful Charm begins route to Cheltenham at Stratford

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Cheltenham Festival narrow loser Wonderful Charm begins his road back to Cheltenham in Stratford’s Foxhunters Champion Hunters' Chase (7:50).

Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old was just beaten in the Foxhunters by stable rival Pascha Du Polder, to give the Ditcheat handler a first winner at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

He then went on to give a good account of himself in the Grand National, when finishing midfield (purple colours) in the famous steeplechase.

He returns to foxhunting level at the Warwickshire track, hoping to go one better at the Festival than he did last year.

Wonderful Charm winning the Grade Two Berkshire Novices' Chase at Newbury in 2013

“I think it’s fair to put a line through his Aintree run as things did not go his way but prior to that he had run a blinder in the Cheltenham Foxhunters when just touched off by his stablemate Pacha Du Polder,” Nicholls told the Racing Post.

“We have kept him fresh at home with this race in mind as a flat track like Stratford suits him ideally and he should give Sam a great spin. 

"His father Robert recently bought into the horse for Sam to ride in the race and in hunter chases next year.”

Nicholls also runs Rebel Rebellion who is seeking a third successive victory, after winning at Warwick and Newton Abbot.

His biggest rival comes in the form of Balnaslow, who was a narrow loser in Aintree’s Foxhunter’s Chase before striking at Punchestown next time around.

But Graham McKeever’s ten-year-old failed to beat Wonderful Charm when the pair clashed at the Festival in March.

Wonderful Charm is a 6/4 chance for tonight's race, and a 7/1 chance for next year's Foxhunters Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Willie Mullins' potential Cheltenham Festival hope Senewalk targets maiden win at Tranmore

Former Supreme Novice favourite Senewalk targets a maiden victory as he prepares to campaign to the Cheltenham Festival tonight.

Willie Mullins' five-year-old runs in the Maiden Hurdle (8:00), hoping for his first win over hurdles.

Formerly a Cheltenham fancy, owner Rich Ricci claimed he had 'high hopes' for him, but he's disappointed in two efforts in maiden company since.

He was a winner on the flat in France, but finished sixth on his hurdle debut at Punchestown, before missing out on a place when fourth on return to the County Kildare track.

Ridden by Ruby Walsh, he takes a big step down in class for this evening’s race, and he has plenty to improve from that run 17 days ago.

“Senewalk runs in the maiden hurdle over 2m5f,” Mullins told his website.

“He has been disappointing but is dropping down a lot in grade here.

“He is fit and well, but needs to show improvement if he is to get off the mark over hurdles today.”

Willie Mullins' last Neptune victory came in 2016 with Yorkhill.

Mullins' main target for Senewalk would be the Neptune Novice Hurdle over a similar trip, if he can begin to show his full potential.

The Irish trainer is already dominating the antepost market for the Neptune with Champion Bumper 
winner Fayonagh the current favourite.

Meanwhile Mullins’ Bumper fourth Next Destination and three-time winner Getabird all look to have live chances in the Grade One contest.

Early prices are indicating Senewalk as a 20/1 shot for the Neptune, despite winless over hurdles.

Although he could re-route to the curtain raising Supreme Novice hurdle, but that would mean he steps down in trip to two miles. The bookies rate him around a 25/1 chance for Supreme success.

He is priced at around 13/8 to break his maiden this evening.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Cheltenham winning trainer Warren Greatrex confident in trio of runners at Perth

Festival winning trainer Warren Greatrex is confident in about the chances of his trio of runners at Perth on Sunday afternoon.

The Berkshire-based trainer established himself as a leading player when he trained Cole Harden to World Hurdle glory, ahead of the popular Saphir Du Rheu.

He hasn’t enjoyed Festival success since, but is expecting his long voyage to Scotland to be worthwhile.

Magic Money takes her place in the Mackie's World Class Indulgence Handicap Chase (2:45), the nine-year-old has rapidly improved quickly.

After two quick wins, she found the step up in class no trouble when finishing second in a listed contest at Cheltenham.

Confidence is high as the experienced mare steps back into handicap company.
“She’s been something of a revelation for us in the spring,” said the Berkshire-based trainer.

“She won two nice races and then was second in a listed race at Cheltenham. She seems in good form, and she’s had a little break.

“She should be fine going up there, and the trip is probably a minimum. She won’t mind the ground, and can make plenty of use for it. She seems in good form, hopefully she can run a good race.”

Cole Harden's World Hurdle victory remains Warren Greatrex's only Cheltenham Festival success.

In the Perth Is The Place To Be Handicap Hurdle (3:15) Attest bids for his third win on the trot for Greatrex.

He battled well to win on both starts at Stratford and Warwick, and looks good enough to overcome a 5lb rise from the handicapper.

“He’s won his last two for us,” said Greatrex, whose trained two winners so far this season.

“He really seems to be in the groove now. He’s in good form, and off a mark of 115 I still think he still looks pretty solid. I’m expecting a big run from him.”

The Caller rounds off the trio in the Heineken UK Handicap Hurdle (4:45). The six-year-old is making his seasonal bow, having finishing last season finishing a long way off when third at Wincanton.

“The ground was probably a bit too quick for him the last day,” said the Upper-Lambourn trainer.

“He ran well in his first handicap at Chepstow. The step up in trip will help, and he seems in good form. He should be up to going close on this sort of mark.”

"I'm focused on the next thousand" says Cheltenham's top trainer Gordon Elliott

Reigning Cheltenham Festival top trainer Gordon Elliott insists he’s focused on the next landmark after celebrating his 1000th winner earlier this week.

The Irish handler earned six Festival wins including Labaik’s shock win in the Supreme, and Apple Jade’s Mares Hurdle win to pry the crown from dominant trainer Willie Mullins.

The County Meath-based trainer has enjoyed success in Britain’s biggest racing, with Grand National success in 2007 with Silver Birch, and Gold Cup glory with Don Cossack in 2015.

“It’s been a great season for us, and it was great to reach that landmark,” said Elliott.

“The yard have been fortunate to have some really good horses, and we’ve had a lot of good results and good days out.”

“We’ve worked hard and we’re hopeful for many more winners over the years, now we’re fully focused on reaching 2000 winners!”

Elliott gained his first taste of Cheltenham Festival success when Chicago Grey won the National 
Hunt Chase in 2011.

He’s also enjoyed two Festival wins with Gigginstown’s Tiger Roll, and a treble with Cause Of Causes who landed the Cross Country three months ago.

Rightdownthemiddle found Colin Tizzard's Sizing Codelco too good in a listed contest at Aintree.

This weekend Elliott saddles two runners to Perth. Rightdownthemiddle looks set to play a leading role in the feature race, City Of Perth Gold Cup.

The nine-year-old finished second at Aintree before falling when in a promising position at Punchestown last time out.

“He ran really well at Aintree and was a bit unlucky at Punchestown with a circuit to go,” said the Irishman.

“That form looks to be pretty good, and we’re happy with him. He seems well at home and we’re hoping he can run well.”

Meanwhile Elliott’s training ability will be put to the test as he saddles Arizona Bound.

The five-year-old has been well beaten in two starts in point-to-point contests, and has a bit to prove on his first racecourse appearance.

“He’s in good form at home but he’s been a bit disappointing in two runs in point to points,” said Elliott.

“His work has been good, and we are expecting a bit better from him.”

Champion jockey Richard Johnson will partner both of Gordon Elliott’s chances.

Evan Williams targetting Royal Ascot glory with John Constable

Evan Williams is hoping for his first Royal Ascot success with impressive Swinton winner John Constable.

The six-year-old put a season of poor efforts behind him, as he powered clear to a 14-length success of the Haydock spectacle last time out.

With a love of quick ground and good staying ability, Williams is targeting the Ascot Stakes handicap with the three time hurdle winner.

He had one appearance at the Cheltenham Festival, where he finished midfield in the County Hurdle; he could be targeted towards one of the big handicaps in March.

John Constable was formally trained at Ballydoyle with master trainer Aidan O’Brien, he enjoyed one victory and five places in Ireland.

John Constable before falling at the last at Aintree.

“We’re aiming to take him to the Ascot Stakes on the first day,” said the Welsh handler.

“He’s rated 88 so whether he will get in, I don’t quite know but I hope he does.

“It may be a struggle to get him in, and if he does he will really be on the cusp of the handicap.

“It’s where we really want to go, so it’d be nice to get him in and run him.

“To have a runner at Royal Ascot is very special, and he’d suit the race pretty well. I just hope he can get in!”

The last six winners of the Ascot Stakes were trained by National Hunt trainers, the likes of Simenon and Clondaw Warrior the most notable victors for Willie Mullins.

Last year Jennies Jewel took the prize for Irish trainer Jarlath Farley.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

1000 winner Gordon Elliott's top five Cheltenham Festival moments

Gordon Elliott enjoyed his 1000th winner on Wednesday, as Moonday Sun struck at Punchestown. The Irish trainer has enjoyed success in the biggest races in jump racing including the Grand National, and Gold Cup. But what have been his landmark success in the biggest meeting of the National Hunt season.

1) Don Cossack – Gold Cup (2016)
The pinnacle of the Festival, and the race every trainer wants to win. Don Cossack aimed for redemption after falling in the King George. He prepped by winning the Kinloch Brae easily, and was sent off the 9/4 favourite. Under the hands of Bryan Cooper he powered home to defy Djakadam and the already fallen Cue Card. There is no better prize in jumps racing than the Gold Cup.

2) Champagne Classic – Martin Pipe (2017)
After four straight dominant years of Willie Mullins taking the top trainer’s prize, Gordon Elliott took the crown in the most fascinating of battles in recent years. Despite an early burst of winners, the County Carlow handler hit back with a Thursday four-timer. Elliott had the final say as Champagne Classic forged clear to hand him the title on countback.  

3 Cause Of Causes – Cross Country Chase (2017)
One of the most popular Festival horses in recent years is Cause Of Cause. In 2017, he bidded for a third straight Festival win in the iconic colours of JP McManus. With amateur Jamie Codd aboard, he powered home strongest to beat stable rival Bless The Wings by a mighty five lengths. On his next start he went on to finish second in the Grand National.

4) Chicago Grey - National Hunt Chase (2011)
Following a novice win at Cheltenham in October, Chicago Grey had established himself as an exciting novice over the longer trips. With the 4 mile contest the plan, he prepared by finishing a good fifth in a Grade One contest in Ireland. As a 5-1 favourite, he failed to disappoint his fans. Having been ridden patiently, he slowly made ground throughout the race and powered home to give Elliott his first ever Festival success.

5) Labaik – Supreme Novice (2017)
The Festival’s biggest shock winner came in the curtain raiser, outsider Labaik came into the race finishing 100 lengths behind in a Novice hurdle and refusing to race in the two races prior. He defied odds of 50-1 to defeat Willie Mullins’ highly-thought prospect Melon. The packed stands of Cheltenham were left silent, and bookies virtually empty.