Tuesday, 26 December 2017

King George VI Chase Day Tips: Don't tuck into the leftovers, Bite!

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James Stevens gives us his best bets from Kempton.

12:45 - If The Cap Fits
I really rate this horse and I hope he can stamp his class over this very good race here. Noel Fehily picked him against the Nicky Henderson rival, and his performance over hurdles have been nothing short of outstanding so far and I expect him to continue his progression here.

Storm Home is a horse I think can continue improving and although this is a very good race, then he can nick a bit of each-way money.

1:20 - Whenyourreadyfreddy
Nicky Henderson could have a massive day at Kempton today and both of his have a big chance in this. I think this is the preferred choice, after making an encouraging fourth-place finish last time out. He should improve from that and I would expect him to go very close.

1:55 - Fountain's Windfall
This horse looked to be travelling really strongly before falling at Newbury last time. I thought he may have won that day but he could make amends here. He is really well regarded and remains the type of horse than continue over fences this year. He should go well and have a really good chance. Ballyoptic is a big danger and could run a big race.

2:30 - Buveur D'Air (simply)
This race is more about watching than betting, so just enjoy it! Buveur D'Air is a class act but the bookmakers have accounted for it.

3:05 - Might Bite
I love this horse and I really think he can win the big one today. He was excellent at Cheltenham and Aintree before looking a bit more mature at Sandown last time. I think conditions will suit him really well and he more than certainly has the class to take a race of this nature. I think he will win the King George. Thistlecrack is my each-way fancy here.

3:40 - Kildisart
This is a very smart horse and I think he is very well handicapped for today's test. He shaped well on his first start before winning impressively when last seen at Ascot. He can continue to build on that run and can run a fine race here.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

International Meeting Day Two: I am sweet on Melon

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We had four winners yesterday, including 16-1 Bless The Wings, and James Stevens has picked out his best bets from day two of the International Meeting.

12:10 - Apple's Shakira
This is one to watch! Apple's Shakira was tipped and was outstanding on her sole start for Nicky Henderson and she will improve for the run and something will need to be amiss for her to get beat today.

12:45 - Movewiththetimes
Paul Nicholls thinks very highly of this horse who has ran very well in his two outings over fences. He finished second at this track a month ago in what looked a very hot race, and he won't face as good a rival as Finian's Oscar here. He will like the conditions and he can run a very big race here.

1:20 - Gino Trial, Bentelimar ew
Kerry Lee's ten-year-old was a very stylish winner at Wetherby a few weeks back and can continue to run well here. He acts very well on this sort of ground, and although he hasn't ran here, I would be confident he can run a fine race.

Bentelimar could be well-handicapped here and despite a poor effort last time could bounce back on ground that will suit.

1:55 - Le Prezien
I think Paul Nicholls' charge can land the big one today after running so well here a month back. He goes off 2lb higher but there is a big run to come from him soon, I am sure of it and he can build on what he has already achieved. He will enjoy the conditions and can go very well here.

2:30 - Kilbricken Storm, Global Stage
This is a very interesting Grade Two and I have been stuck on it for a while. Kilbricken Storm ran really well at Wincanton last month and won quite easily and this will measure how good he is. This is isn't the strongest race and he must have a chance, especially as he runs well in similar conditions.

Global Stage is the outsider of the field but his form adds up really well and he could certainly outrun his odds here.

3:05 - Melon
I really was impressed by the way Melon destroyed the field over in Ireland on his last start and I think there is every reason he can do it again. He has always been regarded as an excellent hurdler and poses a stiff threat to The New One. He is unexposed but there should be a bit more improvement to come this year.

3:40 - Momella, Copper Kay
Momella goes handicapping after some very good efforts as a novice hurdler and I really think she can be excellent in this type of race. She won her first two starts very well before finishing an excellent second to On The Blind Side here last month. This opening mark is very workable, she will enjoy the conditions and can run a big race here.

Phillip Hobbs thinks very highly of Copper Kay, who takes another drop down the handicap after a disappointing effort at Wincanton last month. She should act on the ground and has won at Cheltenham before, so must be capable of making the places.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Cheltenham Friday Tips: Rocky's value may be 'Treasure'

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We have every race covered on day one of the International Meeting at Cheltenham.

12:10 - Western Ryder, Some Man ew
This is a very strong race and it will be interesting to see how strong each bit of form is. On heavy ground this horse gets the verdict as he has been so consistent in big races around Cheltenham and can continue improving here.

Some Man may like the conditions and can build on his promising debut run for Paul Nicholls at Worcester where he finished fourth.

12:45 - Sizing Tennessee
Colin Tizzard is keen to get this horse back and winning ways here at Cheltenham after he threw away a lead to unseat Bryan Cooper at the last fence. That form sets a high standard, especially as he looked to be well clear that day. A repeat effort would see him very go close here.

1:20 - Attest, Sea Wall
Attest is a horse that will run a big race at some point this season and I am hoping that day can be today. He ran well at Ascot, in a race where the form has worked out very well, to take sixth spot and can continue to improve here today. He is dropped 2lb and deserves to go well.

Chris Gordon's Sea Wall has been a consistent sort recently and could still be on a mark he can win off here. He finished second at Lingfield this month and was only defeated on the line, he is up 3lb but can run well again.

1:55 - Theatre Territory
After a very encouraging second place finish at Huntingdon, Warren Greatrex's mare must be able to go very well here today. She finished second to a classy prospect, but will improve for that run and can utilise this current mark. She may be one to go chasing in the future, but her hurdles mark is winnable and she can run well here.

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Colin Tizzard is expecting a big year from Robinsfirth

2:30 - Robinsfirth
The Tizzards think very highly of this horse who missed out on his intended Ladbroke Trophy target this year but could make amends here. He finished fourth on his return to Cheltenham, before a second place finish at Haydock. There is a lot more to come from him, especially now on ideal ground.

3:05 - Josies Orders, Bless The Wings ew
Mark Walsh is the man who will know his best chance of a winner of this type of race and he has chosen to ride Josies Orders here. He is three from three over course and distance, and ran well when second in Ireland. He could easily make it four.

Bless The Wings has pulled-up on both of his last two starts, but he likes these sort of races and can return back to his best form off this current mark.

3:40 - Rocky's Treasure
Kim Bailey sends just one runner to Cheltenham, and Rocky's Treasure looks like he could strike off his current mark here. He finished off last season with two impressive victories, and made a fine return when third here a month back. That run had plenty of promise and off the same mark, and on soft ground, he should run a big race.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Willie Mullins 'Superstar prospect' Benie Des Dieux puts expectations on the line at Carlisle

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Rich Ricci is looking forward to seeing the 'very, very exciting'  Benie Des Dieux, who takes on just four rivals in Carlisle's Mares' Chase.

Willie Mullins, who won the Ladbroke Trophy with Total Recall yesterday, saddled the six-year-old for her first outing in just under a year.

She forged clear of a good field on her sole chasing start in December, picking up a 30 length win at Limerick for her stable debut.

"She is a lovely mare,” said owner Rich Ricci.

“Her jumping display at Limerick was sensational. She is a mare I am very, very excited about. She could be, in the proverbial way, anything.

"I wouldn't mind her taking on the boys, the girls, whoever it is. I can't wait to see her out. She is something to look forward to."

Despite only one appearance for the Master of Closutton, she is already priced up at just 25-1 for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival. Today she is odds-on for her visit to Cumbria.

Donald McCain's Lastbutnotleast poses a serious threat on her chasing debut. Last seen completing a hat-trick in listed company at Doncaster, she has the profile to become an exciting novice chaser this season.

“She’s in good nick and she’s ready to run,” said the Cheshire-based trainer.

“It’s her first run over fences, so the main aim is to get a clear run over fences. 

"We like her a lot, but it is a tough place to start. She’s won at the track and she will love the ground. Hopefully she can go well as it’s a nice place to start her.”

Noel Fehily goes to Carlisle to ride Tacenda, who broke her maiden for Anthony Honeyball at Fontwell last time out.

Verona Opera and Caraline also take their chance.

Gordon Elliott expecting Festival flop Death Duty to prove class in Drinmore Novice Chase

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Gordon Elliott's hugely exciting novice Death Duty targets his first Grade One victory over hurdles in Fairyhouse's Drinmore Novices' Chase.

The six-year-old won four times as a hurdler last season but failed to fire when well-fancied in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March before a third place finish at Punchestown.

He is currently two from two over fences this season, following convincing wins at Tipperary before an impressive Grade Three win last month.

"Death Duty faces his first Grade 1 Chase," Elliott told his Betfair blog.

"He has taken to chasing very well which we always expected and he's going to improve with every run being the huge big horse he is. 

"This race looks ideal for him in every way so with a clear round I expect a big run. 

"The one to beat for him looks like Rathvinden a dual Grade 3 winner of Willie's but I hope everything goes his way and I am very much looking forward to him running."

The County Meath-based trainer also runs Dinaria Des Obeaux and Shattered Love.

"Shattered Love is a lovely big mare who we think a lot of," he added.

"Like Death Duty chasing was always going to be where we saw the best from her and she proved us right with her first two efforts over fences being comfortable victories. 

"Her last run was a narrowly beaten second behind stablemate Jury Duty in the Grade 2 Novice Chase at Punchestown last month so it's another step up in class for her today but I expect another good run.

"Dinaria Des Obeaux won a Mares Listed Chase very easily last month at Clonmel in testing conditions. 

"She came out of the race well and heads here in cracking form. Along with Shattered Love she benefits from the 7lb mares allowance which is a nice plus, as is Jack Kennedy in the saddle who gets the best out of her."

Willie Mullins' Rathvinden has taken to chasing very well for the master of Closutton. The nine-year-old, who once finished third in the Supreme, is four from seven as a chaser.

He won his last two outings both very easily and remains a key danger to Death Duty.

Snow Falcon takes his chance for Noel Meade.

Red Jack aims to establish his place at the top of novice rank in competitive Royal Bond

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Noel Meade's unbeaten hurdler Red Jack hopes to establish his Supreme Novice Hurdle hope as he takes on some of Ireland's promising youngsters in the Royal Bond Novices' Hurdle (1:00).

The four-year-old beat Debuchet well on debut, who went on to finish second in the Champion Bumper, before winning by six lengths at Leopardstown.

He made a fine start over hurdles, striking comfortably at Naas and takes a steep step up in class for this Grade One.

"He won his maiden well and we've been happy with him since," Meade told the Racing Post.

He added: "This will be a big step up in class but he's a horse we like and we thought it worth giving him a shot at it."

Mengli Khan is currently the bookmakers favourite for the two-mile curtain raising contest at the Cheltenham Festival, and seeks to make it three from three over hurdles.

He has won stylishly both on debut and in a Grade Three contest last time out, and remains an exciting youngster for the Gigginstown team.

"Mengli Khan is the pick of our three," Elliott told his Betfair blog.

"He's a lovely horse with loads of boot and he did it very easily the last day in a Grade 3 at Navan.

"A horse that will only improve with time I think he's an exciting prospect and I'm expecting a big run from him today in this seven runner contest."

Elliott also runs outsiders Morgan and Hardline.

Willie Mullins saddles Makitorix who was a good winner on his hurdling debut, whilst Joseph O'Brien is represented by Le Richebourg.

Confidence high for Apple's Jade Hatton Grace clash with Nichols Canyon

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Gordon Elliott has 'every confidence' ahead of the clash of Cheltenham Festival winners Apple's Jade and Nichols Canyon in the Hatton Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The five-year-old won this by a short head in this contest last year, before her memorable victory in the Mares Hurdle back in March.

Also a winner of the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in her campaign last year, she made a brilliant return when winning by two lengths at Navan.

“Apples Jade is back to defend her crown, having won this race by a short head from Vroum Vroum Mag last year,” Elliott told his Betfair blog.

“She ran a blinder last month to win the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on what was her first run of the season and she came out of that in great order.

“Her main danger today is Nichols Canyon who obviously benefits from having much more experience.

“But Apples Jade is a seriously good mare and, with her 7lb allowance today, I have every confidence in her again for a big run.”

She is currently priced at 3/1 to reclaim her Mares Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in 2018.

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Willie Mullins' Nichols Canyon has won eight times at Grade One level

Stayer's Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon is the obvious danger in the field of seven. Willie Mullins' star won by just under a length in the Cotswold before finishing second to Unowhatimeanharry on home soil.

Coral Cup winner Supasundae went within a length of a Grade One win on his last start at Aintree for Jessica Harrington.

Cilaos Emery, Mick Jazz, Swamp Fox and Augusta Kate also run.

Newbury: Total Recall ends Willie Mullins' wait for Ladbroke Trophy glory

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Master trainer Willie Mullins broke his long-wait for a Ladbroke Trophy winner after favourite Total Recall saw off Nicky Henderson's Whisper in a thrilling finish.

The eight-year-old came into the race following a 18lb rise following his comfortable win in the Munster National, and was placed well in midfield for jockey Paul Townsend.

He crept closer into contention before falling behind Nicky Henderson's dual Grade One runner-up with a furlong to go, but he rallied back to claim the lead in the final strides.

"I think a lot of the credit must go to Sandra Hughes, who used her father's training methods and let this horse progress very slowly," Mullins said.

"Paul was fantastic. He was very cool. I thought he was beaten going to the last, but he switched sides and got a different run on the other side, it worked a treat.

"It's a tough race for the Irish to win, why I don't know."

Bookmakers have currently priced him at 25-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where trainer Willie Mullins will give him an entry too.

"He will definitely get an entry in the Gold Cup after that run," he added.

"By the time he runs again I imagine the entries will have closed."

Regal Encore finished third whilst Braqueur D'Or took fourth spot.

Colin Tizzard secured Grade Two glory as Elegant Escape won the John Francome Novices' Chase, it was the five-year-old's first win over fences after seeing off Paul Nicholls' consistent Black Corton.

The highly rated Charli Parcs made a creditable record, but Ben Pauling's High Bridge beat him by just over a length.

Dame Rose saw off Cap Soleil in the mares listed race on the card, and has been shortened into 16-1 for the Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Old Guard, Gold Present and Overtown Express also won on the card.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Newbury: Harry Fry hoping to fulfill the American dream

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Harry Fry's exciting chaser American will bid to fufil his promise, as the big day arrives for long-time Ladbroke Trophy favourite at Newbury.

The seven-year-old won stylishly on his first two outings over fences, but missed out on his intended target the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

He went to October and confirmed his place as a classy chaser, when Welsh National antepost favourite Rock The Kasbah convincingly by eight lengths.

The Dorset trainer has kept him in waiting for this race all Summer, and is hopeful his patience will be rewarded.

“We have been very happy with American’s progress since he came back in over the summer,” said the Dorset trainer.

“It is obviously going to be a big ask first time out but he did nothing wrong last year, and he has an ideal profile for the race as a second-season chaser.

“American makes us work hard. Thankfully, he has come through his work at home with flying colours and is all set for Saturday.

“It’s no secret that his knees are not great and that is why we need slow ground for him. Looking at the forecast, it should be ideal on Saturday.”

Willie Mullins won this contest with Be My Royal in 2002, but the horse was eventually disqualifed and the Master of Closutton is seeking his first win in the race with Total Recall.

The eight-year-old beat a good field at Limerick by eight lengths last time, and despite an 18lb rise in the weights remains a key contender in the race.

"Total Recall is the one on everyone's lips. The pigeons around Carlow appear to have Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat," Patrick Mullins told the Irish Independent.

"He pulverised the field in the Munster National, looking like a horse for whom the sky could be the limit.

"However, the handicapper has reacted accordingly to try and make him another Icarus. He is now 18lbs higher than his Limerick stroll so he will need to forge a performance of a whole new nature to succeed once again.

"With the second horse in Limerick, Alpha Des Obeaux, coming out and winning the Clonmel Oil Chase afterwards, it appears there is sound reason to think that he can step up to the task.

"Total Recall carries only 10st 8lb, a perfect racing weight, and he is an improving horse, who has shown he can handle the red-hot fire of a competitive handicap chase, has a run under his belt, should stay the trip and handle the ground.

"With Ruby sidelined with his broken leg, Paul Townend takes the ride and I think he can finally help heal the wounds and scars of 2002."

Mullins also saddles Pleasant Company, whilst fellow countryman Noel Meade brings A Genie In Abottle across the Irish Sea.

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Whisper is among some well-fancied rivals all seeking Ladbroke Trophy glory in Berkshire

Cheltenham Festival narrow losers Whisper (RSA) and Singlefarmpayment (JLT Handicap) look to take Newbury's prestigious prize, whilst confidence is high for former Gold Cup hero Coneygree's return to Berkshire.

The likes of Carole's Destrier, Double Ross, Vyta Du Roc, Cogry, Southfield Royale and Present Man also take their chance.

Newbury: Paul Nicholls keen to keep 'the ball rolling' with six-time winner Black Corton

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Paul Nicholls claims that Black Corton is better than ever as he seeks to continue his prolific winning record in Newbury's Grade Two John Francome Novices' Chase (12:45).

The six-year-old is seeking his seventh straight victory for the master of Ditcheat, after seeing off the well-regarded Ballyoptic at Cheltenham last month.

He will have to give 3lb to his rivals, but the ride of young jockey Byrony Frost could be set to extend his tremendous record.

"He's amazed me by his relentless improvement since switching to fences," Nicholls told his Betfair blog.

"I've always felt you should keep a horse going when he is on a roll and this race is the next logical step after his latest fine victory at Cheltenham.

"I was going to keep Black Corton back for the three mile novice chase at Kempton's Christmas meeting, but he is in such good form at home it makes sense to strike while the iron is hot with Hattie Heal, his rider, assuring me he has never felt better.

"He is also very well suited by the race conditions as he has to give only 3lbs to less experienced rivals."

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Anthony Honeyball sends his exciting novice chaser Fountain's Windfall to Berkshire

Anthony Honeyball's Fountain's Windfall was a top handicap hurdler last season, and made a workmanlike debut win over fences when securing an eleven length success at Southwell.

Sir Ivan is currently two from two this season for Harry Fry, he won by two lengths when last seen at Uttoxeter at October.

Elegant Escape has finished second on his two appearences over fences, whilst Wait For Me was a faller when last seen at Chepstow.

Newbury: Fergal O'Brien seeking fifth straight winner from Cheltenham-bound Cap Soleil

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Fergal O'Brien's exciting novice hurdler Cap Soleil puts her unbeaten record on the line, as she seeks her fifth career win in the listed Mares Novice Hurdle (12:10).

The four-year-old won on debut at this venue, before striking twice in listed company in bumper company.

She made a hugely impressive hurdling debut as romped to a seven length success at this track a month ago, and confidence is high for the season.

"I felt a bit of pressure as you want to get that first run out of the way, but she was fantastic," O'Brien said after her debut win.

"Her main asset is that she is so laid-back. She doesn't know she's a racehorse, which is what you need.

"A big plus is having Paddy ride her as he's put a lot of work into her.

"You'd like to think she'll end up at Cheltenham in March."

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Gloucestershire-based Fergal O'Brien has been in fantastic form this season

She is currently priced as a 7-1 second favourite for the Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a market currently led by impressive Cheltenham scorer Apple's Shakira.

However the two runnings of the race have both gone to Willie Mullins.

Today she is odds-on to win the opening race on the card, with 4-9 being the best industry price to preserve her unbeaten record.

Dame Rose won Aintree's Grade Two mares bumper in April, before her impressive debut win over hurdles at Hexham. She finished eleven lengths off O'Brien's star mare when the pair met here last month.

Angels Antics, Banjo Girl, Monar Rose and All Currencies complete the six runner line-up in Berkshire.

Newbury: Talented Charli Parcs set for 'perfect' test

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Nicky Henderson has heaped praise on the highly-regarded Charli Parcs, ahead of his return in Newbury's Intermediate Hurdle (2:25).

The four-year-old caught the eye when blowing a quality field apart on his British debut, when winning easily by eight lengths.

Ever since that victory he has failed to build on that initial promise, when falling in the Grade Two Adonis and finishing sixth in the Triumph Hurdle.

There remains plenty more to come on his handicap debut, where he will carry top weight at the Berkshire track.

"He enjoyed a spin around Newbury with Buveur and has done everything I’ve asked of him since," the champion trainer told his Unibet blog.

"Everyone knows how much I love this horse as he has so much ability but does still have a lot of learning to do.

"He’s quite na├»ve, but we knew that last season. His victory at Kempton on his debut for us was a formality and then we all saw what happened back there in the Adonis when Barry was trying to educate him as much as he could.

"I’m keen to teach him as much as possible and an intermediate race like this is the perfect place to kick off as it suits where he is at present. I adore him."

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Malcom Jefferson's Malcom Mews was second in Grade One company last season

Top Novices' Hurdle runner-up Mount Mews could be fairly weighted for Malcom Jefferson. He finished a fair four length second on his seasonal return at Ayr.

High Bridge finished third on his seasonal bow at Kempton, and the form of that race has worked out very strong in recent weeks. Winner Elgin scored in the Greatwood, whilst the second and fifth have both won since. Ben Pauling's chance has been raised 4lb.

Amour De Nuit has been a model of consistency for Paul Nicholls. The five-year-old hasn't finished outside the top two on his last seven runs, and was a listed winner on his last outing.

Philip Hobbs' Poppy Kay won well at this track last month, whilst Alan King's Cosmopolitan reverts back to hurdling after placed efforts on the flat. Recent Wetherby winner Master Of Irony also takes his chance.

Nicky Henderson insists Buveur D'Air will be up to Faugheen clash ahead of Fighting Fifth return

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Nicky Henderson admits he is eagerly awaiting a clash between the fantastic Faugheen, and his reigning Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air.

The six-year-old was unbeaten in five starts last season, where he landed the prestigious two-mile prize on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival by just over four lengths.

He hasn't been seen since his five length win in the Aintree Hurdle, and takes on a field of just six in Newcastle's Fighting Fifth Hurdle this afternoon.

Bookmakers have installed him as short as 1-4 for the Grade One prize, where on ratings he has a 15lb advantage over last year's winner Irving.

“He’s had a completely trouble-free run into this race and I was very happy with his Newbury gallop under a Barry last Tuesday which really sharpened him up,” Henderson told his Unibet blog.

“He galloped again on Sunday with Laurium and Charli Parcs and went particularly well so it’s just a case of getting him out now and building up towards retaining his Champion Hurdle crown.

“The ground at Newcastle is going to be soft but that won’t bother him one iota and this looks a good starting point.

“Obviously Faugheen is back on the scene and will be a mega threat to everybody if in the same shape come March, but our horse is only six and is yet to reach his peak.”

Nicky Henderson's star is currently fancied at 4-1 to retain his Champion Hurdle crown, with bookmakers making Willie Mullins' Faugheen as short as 7-4 after his impressive returning victory.

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Nick Williams' Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger also takes his chance in Newcastle

Paul Nicholls isn't discounting 2014 and 2016 winner Irving despite the addition of the Champion Hurdle winner in the North East.

The nine-year-old failed to beat a rival when last seen in Wincanton back in February.

"He has been a fantastic trooper for the yard over the years and is seeking his third success in this famous old Grade 1 Hurdle at Newcastle," Nicholls told his Betfair blog.

"For all his considerable achievements he has never been straightforward, mainly because of problems with his feet, and he has become trickier to train by the season to the point that a couple of times I felt we might have to pull stumps with him.

"Irving is still a classy horse, bounced back to win this prize 12 months ago and is in good form at home as he returns to Newcastle once more.

"He also always runs well fresh and schooled brilliantly over hurdles on the grass this week.

"So there is plenty to look forward to although on all known form he cannot beat the reigning champion hurdler Buveur d'Air at level weights."

Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger lines up with outsiders Katgary and Mirsaale.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Newbury: 40-1 Beer Goggles stuns Unowhatimeanharry as Thistlecrack disappoints

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A dissapointing Thistlecrack has been eased out to 14-1 after finishing fifth behing 40-1 shock winner Beer Goggles on his return in Newbury's Long Distance Hurdle.

Richard Woollacott's six-year-old , whose last win came in handicap company at Market Rasen, led the field of six and jumped fluently throughout.

He was joined by market leaders Thistlecrack and Unowhatimeanharry from three out, but the former was soon pushed by Tom Scudamore before falling out of contention.

Harry Fry's Stayer's Hurdle hero Unowhatimeanharry attempted to get past, but a determined ride from champion jockey Richard Johnson denied the three-time Grade One hero by two-and-a-half lengths.

"We jokingly said beforehand 50-1 was being a bit rude about him," said jockey Richard Johnson.

"He's been in great form and he's a real improver. He ran a really good race last time under top-weight at Aintree.

"I think realistically, with Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack in the race, you always felt it was going to be hard to beat them, but he jumped and travelled. I was enjoying myself and so was he.

"He stayed and jumped really well."

Unowhatimeanharry's second place finish was creditable considering he was giving his rivals 6lb, whilst Thistlecrack's 13 length defeat was hugely disapointing.

He was eased into 10-1 by bookmakers to reclaim his King George prize later this month, with favourite Might Bite shortened into 7-4 for the Boxing Day showdown.

Taquin De Seuil finished third whilst Colin's Sister and Wholestone took fourth and sixth spot respectively.

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Ben Pauling's Willoughby Court has been shortened into 7-1 for the JLT  at the Festival after his three length win

Elsewhere on the card, Willoughby Court won his battle against Christmas and Liverpool Hurdle hero Yanworth in the Novices' Chase.

The former Neptune winner made all and jumped better of the pair, before seeing off Alan King's star by three lengths for jockey Nico De Boinville.

Nicky Henderson completed a one-two in the Novice Hurdle as Santini beat stablemate Chef Des Obeaux.

Oldgrangewood and The Organist won handicap prizes, whilst Lostintranslation and Bigmatre also were successful on the day.

Newbury: 'Don't give up on Yanworth' insists King ahead of Newbury showdown.

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Alan King is ready for Yanworth to make amends following his fall at Exeter last month, as he takes on a fantastic field in Newbury's Berkshire Novices' Chase.

Last season's Christmas and Liverpool Hurdle winner has risen to the top of the pecking order as a novice chaser this season, and performed excellently over the larger obstacles when winning on his debut over fences.

He steered clear by two lengths at Exeter, and travelled well before falling at the seventh fence. He would've probably won easily that day, and another big run is expected in this tougher contest.

"I do get annoyed when I read such nonsense," King told his website.

"It’s not as if Yanworth jumped clumsily, he just landed a bit steeply and it was a typical novice’s fall.

"He schooled last week over nine fences and it was clear that the fall hadn’t worried him one iota, but it will be good to get some more match practice into him."

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Neptune hero Willoughby Court is well fancied for the RSA and National Hunt Chase at the Festival

Willoughby Court poses Yanworth's biggest threat over fences so far. Ben Pauling's six-year-old battled bravely to deny Neon Wolf in the Neptune at the Festival in March, and comes here following a debut win at Huntingdon last month.

"I'm very keen to keep him over two and a half, to be honest, and that is very likely where we'll go, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to have a look over three as well," said trainer Ben Pauling.

"The ground being decent is a big bonus and there's going to be some good racing, but it certainly won't be a walk in the park if everyone turns up on Friday.

"It will be a fairly serious acid test but I'm confident he is ready for it."

Paul Nicholls Adrien Du Pont was an encouraging winner on his chasing debut at Fontwell. The likes of Western Miller and Battle Anthem also run.

Newbury: Thistle and Harry camps confident ahead of Long Distance Cracker

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Colin Tizzard is confident Thistlecrack can come out on top in the exciting renewal of the Long Distance Hurdle as he takes on classy Stayer's Hurdle hero Unowhatimeanharry at Newbury.

Last season's exciting King George winner is using the Grade Two as a prep run, before attempting to reclaim his Kempton crown on Boxing Day.

The five-time Grade One hero was last seen finishing a narrow loser to the late Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January, and expectations are rocket high for the season ahead on his return to hurdling.

"Thistlecrack has done plenty of work and is ready to run," said the Dorset-based trainer.

"He's bound to improve, but he has been on to go for some time now and we're very happy with him.

"He had a jump on the grass on Wednesday and he's ready to get started. There wouldn't be much between them, I wouldn't have thought.

"We couldn't go for the King George without a run, so he goes to Newbury and, all being well, he'll then head to Kempton."

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Unowhatimeanharry could make things a lot more difficult for Thistlecrack

Meanwhile confidence is just as high for a big run from Unowhatimeanharry, who is hoping to rubber stamp his place at the top over hurdles.

Harry Fry's star won four races from five starts, including two times at Grade One level and in this contest by six lengths.

Although the bookmakers make him out as second best to Thistlecrack, owner JP McManus is confident of a big run after a returning win at Aintree.

"He's been perfect," said McManus.

"That race came along just at the right time as we could get him away and help put the finishing touches on for this weekend. He's come out of that absolutely bouncing.

"We've got to give 6lb to Thistlecrack and a number of other horses in the race, but we go there full of confidence.

"Thistlecrack is a wonderful horse and we've enjoyed watching all his success. Now we meet him with our own stable star, so it's going to be a fascinating renewal of the race."

West Yorkshire Hurdle winner Colin's Sister renews her rivalry with Wholestone, who she beat by two lengths when the pair met last month.

Taquin De Seuil and Beer Goggles also take part in the three mile event.