He’s had a quiet spell of late, but yesterday at Kempton Ben Pauling struck twice in half an hour with a pair of unexposed eight-year-olds.
Formerly with Nick Gifford, A Hare Breath is now two from three since returning to the track after a two year absence. Injury had kept the promising young horse off a racecourse, though since his arrival with Pauling the trainer reported a smooth run prior to his seasonal debut at Cheltenham in November. He won that novice handicap hurdle and followed it with a respectable fourth place finish at the track in December.
Yesterday proved far more straightforward, when impressing as odds-on favourite at Kempton. Stepping up in trip, he took the 2m5f novice hurdle with the minimum of fuss. A crack at the County Hurdle or indeed the Coral Cup may now be on the agenda, assuming he comes through his latest exertions unscathed. He had strong form in the book prior to his injury and Pauling has been impressed since his arrival at the yard.
Just a half hour before that win, Pauling had saddled Local Show to a thrilling victory in the three mile novice chase. He got the better of Onenightinvienna in a truly rip-roaring clash. Sent on by Nico de Boinville in only his second outing over fences he kept up a relentless gallop and was foot perfect at every obstacle. The two pulled miles clear of the unfortunate chasing newcomer Closing Ceremony, himself a decent hurdler with the potential of making into a proper chaser.
However, he never got a look in with the leading pair as they barely touched a twig of the 18 obstacles, whilst hurtling round Kempton Park. A head separated them in a pulsating finish, with Hobbs’ runner closing in on the winner with every stride. It really was an absolute cracker and both come out of the race with huge credit.
Onenightinvienna was instantly shortened in price for the National Hunt Chase at The Festival whilst Pauling said of the winner: “We thought he was a fast-improving horse but taking on Onenightinvienna off level weights was tough. He jumped brilliantly and with his tendency to jump right we thought coming here would suit. He will get entries in the four-miler (National Hunt Chase) and the RSA. We will keep options open.”
Ben Pauling could well prove the surprise package at the Cheltenham Festival in March. In Barters Hill he has a potential star, likely to run a huge race in either the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle or the Albert Bartlett. Speaking at the weekend the Cotswolds trainer reported his stable star in tip-top shape, having done a ‘fantastic piece of work’. He’s due to run at either Doncaster or Cheltenham on Saturday.
Drumacoo is another exiting member of the equine team. Entered in the RSA at Cheltenham, the seven-year-old arrived at Pauling’s yard having previously been trained by Michael Hourigan in Ireland. He was a talented novice hurdler having beaten Roi Des Francs back in 2014. His introduction to fences proved something special when defeating Fletchers Flyer at Huntingdon by a country mile.
Speaking earlier in the month Pauling had said: “He was very impressive but I've spoken to the owner at length and we don't think going to Cheltenham off one chase is the most sensible thing to do, so we're going to run him in the Reynoldstown at Ascot in mid-February. It's a Grade 2 in its own right and if he comes out of it well we'll go to the RSA.”
Kempton may well prove the springboard as Pauling winds up his team with Cheltenham on the horizon. This is sure to be an exciting period for the fledgling trainer.