Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor go head to head at Kempton

Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor are set for a fascinating showdown in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame puts his unbeaten record over fences on the line in the three-mile Grade One event, and is held in such high regard at Ditcheat that he is already drawing comparisons with the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Denman.

A Grade One-winning hurdler, Bravemansgame easily justified favouritism against three rivals in each of his first two runs over the bigger obstacles – an intermediate chase at Newton Abbott and a graduation chase at Haydock.

The mighty Denman was a superstar for Paul Nicholls
The mighty Denman was a superstar for Paul Nicholls (David Davies/PA)

Harry Cobden’s mount faces an altogether different test against Ahoy Senor, though, who destroyed some smart rivals at Newbury last time out.

Nicholls said: “He’s been good this year, he won well at Newton Abbot and the horse he beat (Fusil Raffles) went and won the Charlie Hall and then he won nicely against more experienced horses at Haydock. This will be the first time he’s run in a novice chase.

“I think we’ve learned this year that he doesn’t want to do quite so much work and it’s paid off, things have been a bit better for him.

“He schooled on Monday with Clan (Des Obeaux), Frodon and Saint Calvados and I’m very happy with him.”

As for the comparisons with Denman, Nicholls is not in a rush to praise him so highly. But he is arguably in front of where ‘The Tank’ was at the same stage of his career.

He said: “I’d love him to go as far as Denman did, obviously, but it’s just because he won a Challow Hurdle and followed the same sort of route. His two chase runs have possibly been better than what Denman did, but there’s no point comparing them with horses from the past – if he can achieve half of what Denman did we’ll be delighted.”

Ahoy Senor, who was visually impressive when taking the Grade Two John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury on his second try over fences for Lucinda Russell, is the new big hope of the north.

Russell’s partner, eight-time champion jump jockey Peter Scudamore, hopes the six-year-old can back up his 31-length success over Mr Incredible, having previously unseated his regular rider Derek Fox on his chasing debut at Carlisle.

Scudamore is under no illusions of the task facing Ahoy Senor, however, despite beating Bravemansgame by seven lengths in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April.

Ahoy Senor destroyed his rivals at Newbury
Ahoy Senor destroyed his rivals at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA)

He said: “It wasn’t my ideal thing to be taking on Bravemansgame. I have the utmost respect for him and obviously for the man who is training him.

“The race just seems to fit. If Lucinda and I want to get him to Cheltenham and if he doesn’t jump with any fluency here, then we have another chance of giving him another run before then.

“We are going there with the utmost respect for the opposition and I hope he does himself justice.

“You can look at his last run in so many ways. Perhaps the opposition ran below par. They have got to learn their trade a bit, but for a novice, I thought he jumped well at Newbury. He was a bit unlucky at Carlisle where he jumped straight.

“There is hope there that he can jump well and put up a good performance.

“The forecast is for heavy rain on Friday night for a couple of hours and at this time of the year, that makes a tremendous difference.

“You could argue that his best form is on good, good to soft. It was quick enough ground at Newbury and we were worried about running him on watered ground at Aintree.

“As long as it is safe ground he’ll be fine. He has got to learn.

“If he jumps round safely and puts up a good performance, then I will be very happy and then we can work towards something else.”

Kiltealy Briggs, who broke his duck over fences at the seventh time of asking at Haydock earlier this month for the Jamie Snowdon yard, and the Tom Lacey-trained Tea Clipper, who was beaten 30 lengths by Nassalam at Newbury last time, also line up against the two principals.

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