Bravemans route seen as ‘ideal’ next step before Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls views Saturday’s handicap assignment at Newbury as an “ideal” stepping-stone to Cheltenham for Bravemansgame.

The seven-year-old has been hugely impressive in winning each of his three starts over fences to date, most recently coming out on top in a highly-anticipated clash with Ahoy Senor in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Bravemansgame must concede over a stone all round in the Betfair Cheltenham Roarcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, but the champion trainer is keen to get more match practice in ahead of a likely tilt at the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival.

“He’s got to go somewhere as a prep for Cheltenham and I think this will be ideal,” he said.

“The Brown Advisory is what we’d be looking at come March. The other race (Turner Novices’ Chase) is an option just in case the ground came up testing.

“I did hear someone say we should have entered him for the Arkle. Why would you do that when he’s won a Grade One over three miles? Cheltenham is also sharper than you think.

“Bravemansgame is a stayer, he jumps well and three miles is our focus unless the ground at Cheltenham was very testing.

“This meeting comes at a great time, all of our good horses down the years have run at it at some stage. He may as well have a run here as keep galloping at home.”

Nicholls has never hidden the high regard in which Bravemansgame is held, even mentioning him in the same breath as the great Denman.

Paul Nicholls with Bravemansgame
Paul Nicholls with Bravemansgame (David Davies/PA)

The comparisons are obvious, with both horses winning the Challow Hurdle before being beaten in the Ballymore at Cheltenham. Denman, of course, went on to win what is now the Brown Advisory and, a year later, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“I dropped myself in it when he ran in the Challow and I said he’d gone down the same route as Denman because I was accused of comparing him with Denman, but he has won the same sort of races,” said Nicholls.

“He stays nicely and has plenty of boot and at this stage he’s a dual Grade One winner.

“You can’t make comparisons with the past, all you can say is he’s a nice horse and we’re looking forward to this season and the next few.”

The two biggest dangers to Bravemansgame appear to be Chris Honour’s Grumpy Charley and the Rebecca Curtis-trained Pats Fancy, both of whom are in receipt of 16lb from the hot favourite.

Grumpy Charley, who won three of his six starts over hurdles, opened his account over fences with a clear-cut success over this course and distance in December.

Honour said: “The problem is there aren’t a lot of options. It was either come here or wait for Haydock next week and we decided we’d go back to Newbury and take on the Paul Nicholls horse.

“We’ve got Bryan Carver back on our horse. He’s won four races on him and with his 3lb claim, we’ve basically only gone up 3lb for our last win.

“We jump very well, as does Bravemansgame, but if you’re ever going to take on a Paul Nicholls horse, now is the time to do it. His horses aren’t in great form, which is unfortunate for him, but I’m sure it’ll sort itself out.

“I need to give our horse his third run (over fences) to give me the option of going for a handicap if we’re going to go to Cheltenham.

“We obviously get plenty of weight from Bravemansgame and if the handicapper is right, Grumpy Charley deserves his chance to take him on.”

Pats Fancy on his way to victory at Chepstow
Pats Fancy on his way to victory at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

Pats Fancy could only finish fourth on his chasing debut at Chepstow, but has since raised his game to register back-to-back wins at the Monmouthshire circuit, the form of which has worked out well.

“Obviously I hope he’ll run well, but it’s more a prep run for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham than anything,” said Curtis.

“I think Pats Fancy is more a horse for staying tracks like Chepstow and Cheltenham and he’d prefer softer ground, but I think he’ll go well and give Bravemansgame a run for his money.

“I have huge respect for Bravemansgame who is obviously a proven Grade One horse and for us it’s not all about Saturday.”

Fern Hill (Ben Case) and Gallyhill (Nicky Henderson) complete the line-up.

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