Fledgling trainer Ben Pauling aims for Cheltenham

Kellys Brow - runs at Cheltenham

Kellys Brow - runs at Cheltenham

Fledgling trainer Ben Pauling can be forgiven if he feels rather excited when he heads to Cheltenham on Friday. Not that he’s a stranger to Prestbury Park; he’s been many times in the six years he spent as assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson. But on Friday he’ll be saddling Kellys Brow as the first runner there under his own name.

Pauling has taken over the stables at Bourton Hill Farm, just south of Bourton on the Water that Shaun Lycett used to occupy. It’s a bit of a homecoming for him, as he grew up in the Cotswolds, where both his father and grandfather were permit trainers. And if he needs any help, his sister is just up the road in Chipping Norton, married to Charlie Longsdon.

He sent out his first runners recently, and last Monday Raven’s Tower followed up two second places with his and Pauling’s first win in a Plumpton hurdle race. He had a definite plan for the race, which jockey David Bass carried out to perfection. Pauling said, "We were very close with him twice before, beaten a total of a length over two races, so for him to go and do it at Plumpton on ground that was completely unsuitable for him was great. I thought he had plenty of weight in hand and he did it very nicely, and he has also shown us that he might actually handle the ground, which is fantastic because he’s now run on good-to-firm to heavy.

He's a very easy-going horse; he's got plenty of speed and jumps exceptionally well.
In his first two races he was almost doing a bit too much the whole way around so we dropped him in stone last at Plumpton and he switched off. Dave Bass said he's as good a ride as you'll find because you can just switch him on when you need to and then off you go. I thought he'd won the last two, so I didn't start to celebrate until he almost got to the line."

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Now he’s aiming a bit higher. Kellys Brow has already won three hurdle races, and Pauling has high hopes for the six-year-old gelding. He told owners Foxtrot Racing, “Kellys Brow is a very exciting prospect for all of us and I’m very excited to be training a horse of his quality. He looks to have the profile of a very
versatile horse and has a bright future over hurdles and fences with his novice
season ahead.’’

Pauling hopes some of Henderson’s magic will rub off on him. He spoke to Jonathan Herbert of The Citizen in Gloucester, telling him, “I always knew I’d have the ambition to train one day myself. I wanted to be making decisions that Nicky was making. Not that I wanted to make them there, because it wasn’t my place to do so, but I was ready for the responsibility.”

He has that responsibility now, and he’s all out to prove his worth.

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