Posts

Champions Day hero Trueshan clashes with Japan at Chester

Alan King expects his Qipco British Champions Day hero Trueshan to improve for the run when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the tote+ Pays You More At tote.co.uk Ormonde Stakes at Chester on Thursday.

The French-bred gelding won three of his five starts last season, rounding off his campaign with victory in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot in October – the first leg of a double on the high-profile card for record-breaking rider Hollie Doyle.

With Doyle once again in the saddle, Trueshan makes his belated return to action over an extended mile and five furlongs on the Roodee.

King said: “We’ve been waiting on a bit of softer ground. We didn’t want to start him off in the Sagaro (at Ascot) or the Further Flight (at Nottingham) because it was too firm.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“The trip is probably short enough for him and you know what Chester is like, but it’s all about getting a run into him and getting him started really.”

The Barbury Castle handler hopes the Group Three contest will act as a stepping-stone to a potential tilt at the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

He added: “The Gold Cup is the plan, ground permitting. If we get a scorching June then we won’t be running, but that would be the target and this race fits in time-wise.

“I had him in the Yorkshire Cup next week, but I didn’t want to wait for that and then the ground dried up again. We sort of said that wherever we got the first decent ground he would take his chance, so that’s what we’re doing.

“He’s in good order, but I think he’ll come on for it.”

Japan (near side) winning the 2019 Juddmonte International
Japan (near side) winning the 2019 Juddmonte International (Nigel French/PA)

High on the list of dangers to Trueshan is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Japan, who has his sights lowered following eight consecutive outings in Group One company.

Japan struck gold twice at the highest level in 2019, in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International – and while he failed to get his head in front last season, he was placed in the Eclipse at Sandown and the King George at Ascot.

Jockey Ryan Moore told Betfair: “Ideally, we probably could have done without all the recent rain, but he finished fourth in a deep ground Arc a couple of years ago and is pretty versatile, and hopefully his Group One class will see him through.

“It’s a good race, with the likes of Trueshan in here, but my horse is unpenalised for his Group One wins back in 2019 and his third in the Eclipse last year makes him the one beat form-wise

“This is the longest trip he has faced, but the way in which he has finished off his races over a mile and a half when at his best suggests it should not be an issue. It’ll take a very good one to beat him if he is on his A-game.”

Conditions appear to have come right for the Andrew Balding-trained Morando, who won the latest renewal in 2019 and returns to defend his crown, while Roger Charlton saddles his veteran stayer Withhold.

Euchen Glen (Jim Goldie), Kipps (Hughie Morrison), Sextant (Keith Dalgleish) and Sonnyboyliston (Murtagh) complete the field.

Her Indoors picks up Grade Three honours at Cheltenham

Form from the Festival played its part as Her Indoors came out on top in the NAF Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

According to trainer Alan King, the 6-1 shot found the hustle and bustle of the Fred Winter (Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle) a shade intimidating, and was happier in this smaller field.

Under Adrian Heskin she seized command from Scholastic on the approach to the final flight, staying on the better to score by three and a half lengths.

“It was a good race to target,” said King of the Grade Three contest.

“I thought the smaller field would certainly help her, and with her stamina she would power up the hill.

“It might be a while before she runs back over hurdles as I plan to give her a few runs on the Flat.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

Heskin said: “She was a bit star-struck in the Fred Winter, but is a good tough filly who has the scope to jump a fence one day.

“She wants a stiff two miles and will stay two and a half. She has a good heart and a lovely attitude, and I knew half a furlong before the last she was going to win.”

Martello Sky also took part at the Festival and she readily outclassed her foes under a confident Aidan Coleman in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Martello Sky in full flight
Martello Sky in full flight (David Davies/PA)

In spite of three withdrawals on account of the changing ground, the Lucy Wadham-trained grey went off at 10-11 before pulling two and three-quarter lengths clear of market rival Sandymount Rose up the final hill.

Eight in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Festival, Coleman confessed his mount was confidently expected to prevail, saying: “She’s a very very nice mare, and I fancied her before the non-runners were announced.

“She now has black type with loads of options in the new mares’ programme for next season. She flicked he ears turning for home, but jumped super, and I was delighted with her.

“She stayed the trip well, and while they went slow early on I’m sure she will have no problem with the distance in a more strongly-run race.”

Venetia Williams praised the Cheltenham ground staff with their watering after the triumph of Pink Legend in the British EBF Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase Final.

Under Charlie Deutsch, the 11-2 winner kept on to score by two and a half lengths from Danes Idol.

Williams said: “I think the old cheekpieces have helped her focus, and I’m delighted for her owner Frank Mahon who bred her. She’s now got black type from a Listed race at Cheltenham.

“I would also say they have done a lovely job with the watering.”

Pink Legend (right) won for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch
Pink Legend (right) won for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch (David Davies/PA)

Williams added that Royale Pagaille is “on the mend and being led out each day” following his run in the Gold Cup.

“It’s all going the right way and he’ll be back for the new season in the autumn,” she said.

Michael Scudamore was the proudest man at the course after rags-to-riches mare Northern Beau made it a third course and distance triumph at Cheltenham in the Visit racing tv.com Mares’ Handicap Chase.

After Brendan Powell brought the 11-4 joint-favourite home 14 lengths clear of Miss Amelia, the trainer said: “She was rated 35 on the Flat and was sold to be a riding pony. Then they decided to run in point-to-points and she’s ended up winning three at the home of steeplechasing.”

The Christian Williams-trained Win My Wings reacted favourably to a return to a race contested by her own sex when defying top-weight under Nick Schofield in the Catesby Estates PLC Mares’ Handicap Chase.

Alan King anticipating Triumph ‘battle’ for Tritonic

Alan King is confident he has Tritonic in top form as he prepares for a “proper battle” against a clutch of fellow prospective stars in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Even before embarking on his so far unbeaten hurdles career, which includes a highly-impressive Grade Two win in Kempton’s Adonis on just his second start under three weeks ago, Tritonic took King to centre stage on the Flat as a Royal Ascot runner-up last summer.

The Barbury Castle trainer therefore has every right to consider him a leading light at the top level – but he has great respect for Friday’s opposition from either side of the Irish Sea.

Zanahiyr, like Tritonic unbeaten over jumps, has spent most of the winter as ante-post favourite.

He will represent Denise Foster, as he bids for a fourth successive victory – while his Irish compatriot Quilixios, transferred this month from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead’s stable, is already a four-time winner after his Grade One success in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.

The home contingent has a second strong contender too, in David Pipe’s Adagio – who won both the Triumph Trial over course and distance in December and the rescheduled Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow a month later.

Tritonic was yet to race over hurdles at that point, but has since surged towards the top of the market, and King is delighted with his preparation.

“He’s absolutely A1,” he said.

“I don’t think the track (at Cheltenham) will be any different to him, but the opposition is a lot stronger.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“I’ve got great respect for David Pipe’s horse and the Irish horses – so it’s going to be a proper battle.”

Tritonic’s eyecatching Flat rating of 99 is an obvious indication that he could go right to the top over jumps.

“I hope so,” added King.

“But if he can do the talking on Friday now, we’ll see what happens.”

Quilixios, who has won his races by an aggregate of more than 50 lengths, also boasts fine credentials for the Champion Hurdle-winning partnership of De Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore.

Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, echoes King’s respect for the opposition – albeit in a select field of eight.

“It looks a very good race,” he said.

“The fields might be a little bit smaller at Cheltenham this year, but all the top horses are there.”

Quilixios was an impressive winner at the Dublin Racing Festival
Quilixios was an impressive winner at the Dublin Racing Festival (Niall Carson/PA)

Quilixios could yet be one of them, and Richardson added: “He’s done nothing wrong – he’s four from four.

“He was most impressive when well clear at Leopardstown last time.”

Adagio has done plenty to fuel Pipe’s dreams of victory in a race which launched his father Martin’s great training career when Baron Blakeney won it as an unconsidered 66-1 shot 40 years ago.

In his three wins from four starts over hurdles, he has proved all conditions come alike to him.

“The great thing about Adagio is that it doesn’t really matter what the ground is and he’s got Cheltenham form,” said Pipe, who reports Tom Scudamore’s mount back in rude health after being briefly laid low in mid-winter.

“He had a little colic after his last run and was a bit quiet in himself.

“(Normally) he’s a real character who loves his food and he was just off games for the week.

“He’s been in very good form since, and jumps and travels.

“It’s a red-hot Triumph Hurdle. Is he good enough? We’ll find out at Cheltenham.”

There are also two Willie Mullins’ hopefuls – Haut En Couleurs, a narrow winner on his only French start but unraced for current connections – and Tax For Max.

Completing the eight are Nigel Hawke’s Historic Heart – runner-up to Adagio in the Triumph Trial – and Sean Curran’s filly Talking About You, who is the most experienced hurdler in the field with four wins from her 10 starts.

Zanahiyr and Tritonic clash in Triumph Hurdle

Tritonic and Zanahiyr are among eight juveniles declared for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.

Zanahiyr is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles this season and edges favouritism for Denise Foster, who recently took over the training licence at Cullentra House from the suspended Gordon Elliott.

The Alan King-trained Tritonic, who was runner-up on the Flat at Royal Ascot last summer, is the clear pick of the home team after successive jumping wins at Ascot and Kempton.

Next in the betting is Quilixios, who is three from three since arriving in Ireland and impressed in Grade One company at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned four-year-old will make his debut for Henry de Bromhead under Rachael Blackmore after being moved from Elliott’s yard earlier in the month.

David Pipe has high hopes for course-and-distance winner Adagio, while Willie Mullins runs Tax For Max and Haut En Couleurs, who was a narrow winner on his only previous start in France.

Historic Heart (Nigel Hawke) and Talking About You (Sean Curran) complete the octet.

A much larger field of 17 runners have been declared for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

Barbados Buck’s runs in the Albert Bartlett
Barbados Buck’s runs in the Albert Bartlett (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Leading Irish hopes for the three-mile contest include the Mullins-trained Stattler and Foster’s pair of Fakiera and Torygraph.

Paul Nicholls is responsible for two of the big British-trained contenders in Barbados Buck’s and Threeunderthrufive.

Fergal O’Brien’s Alaphilippe and Adrimel from Tom Lacey’s yard are others to consider in a competitive heat.

Elimay is part of a strong Mullins team in the Mares' Chase
Elimay is part of a strong Mullins team in the Mares’ Chase (Brian Lawless/PA)

Petit Mouchoir heads a maximum field of 26 runners for the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle, while likely favourite Billaway heads 18 declared for the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup.

Mullins appears to hold the aces in the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, with market principals Elimay and Colreevy, as well as Salsaretta and Cabaret Queen, part of an 11-strong line-up.

Ireland’s champion trainer is also responsible for the likely favourite in the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in the form of the JP McManus-owned Gentleman De Mee.

Monday Musings: Tritonic to be the Spring King?

I was speaking to Micky Hammond a couple of weeks ago and he declared: “Winter has finished!”. I thought maybe he was rather precipitous as there were still great drifts of snow around much of the North of England and points further on, but he must have had divine inspiration from somewhere, writes Tony Stafford.

Often the Kempton Saturday meeting in late February has offered better ground than anywhere else for ages and as such provided a nice lead-in for Cheltenham Festival runners. February 27 2021 proved no exception.

Through this most depressing of winters, denied visits to the racecourse and resigned to watching horses slogging through the mud day after day on television, Kempton’s jumps track always provides the kindest of surfaces. No wonder Nicky Henderson opposed plans for its closure so vigorously.

On Saturday the three-mile handicap chase, which has had many identities, but was staged under the Close Brothers banner this year, was run in five minutes 51 seconds, one second FASTER than standard time.

Clondaw Castle was the meritorious winner. Trained by Tom George and ridden by Jonathan Burke, he led home a field of 17. Runner-up Erick Le Rouge, a 33-1 shot, had been successful on similarly fast ground at the corresponding meeting two years ago in a handicap hurdle while on that same card, Southfield Spirit, a faller when favourite for the Close Brothers, won the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle for Paul Nicholls.

Micky must have been slightly irritated at the accuracy of his prediction as he chose the same weekend for the return to hurdling of stable star Cornerstone Lad in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell yesterday. The ground had dried out appreciably there too and Cornerstone Lad, a proper mud-lark, was pulled up.

I always loved the late February meeting at Kempton which used to be a two-day affair on the Friday and Saturday. I know my memory plays tricks these days but I definitely remember one year (not sure which one) when at least half a dozen of the Kempton winners (and possibly a couple more) went on to success at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Adonis Hurdle will always be a favourite and its annual arrival unfailingly reminds me of the 2007 renewal which led to a 14-year connection with Raymond Tooth. Sadly Raymond’s association with racing has for now been curtailed but I will always be grateful to Punjabi and to Derek Hatter and Brod Munro-Wilson whose input that day hastened the union.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Few winners of the race, which in 2007 and 2008 provided Nicky Henderson with the 2009 and 2010 (Binocular) Champion Hurdle winners, were more impressive than Saturday’s ten-length Adonis victor Tritonic, a fifth Adonis score for Alan King, equalling Henderson’s tally.

Tritonic, a 99-rated Flat racer, had been more workmanlike than spectacular in the Ascot mud five weeks earlier when a strong-finishing one-length victor from the Gary Moore-trained Casa Loupi. That horse, a far inferior performer on the level but still a tough campaigner, was again the main rival on Saturday.

Coming to the last flight it appeared that there would probably be only a slightly wider margin between them but once over the obstacle, Tritonic took off and sprinted away up the run-in in the manner of a Goshen in an easing-down ten-length exhibition.

Cheltenham has a habit of fooling us with its ground and many times I’ve been in a less than successful going prediction business, certainly not in the Hammond league anyway. At various Cheltenham preview nights I’ve suggested it will be impossible for it to be anything but soft and it often wasn’t. I don’t think it matters for Tritonic, who is down to 7-2 for the juvenile championship.

I feel I have to change my Triumph allegiance, with French Aseel showing no sign of a second run having transferred into the Willie Mullins team. Gordon Elliott still has a strong grip on the race with 2-1 shot Zanahiyr and third-best Quilixios (6-1) but he is making all the wrong headlines after the picture of him talking on the phone while sitting on a dead horse on his gallop started doing the rounds. Both the Irish authorities and the BHA are understandably on the Elliott case.

In these more sensitive times in terms of animal welfare it is little wonder that social media has been so much on this matter. I’ve been told that the belated release of the grotesque image many months after it was captured last summer is because of the ire of a scorned former paramour of the trainer! Whatever the truth of that, it’s a great story. As Mr Bolger instructed when I first contacted him back in the 1980’s: “No names!”

In those days in Ireland you never knew who was listening in. Nowadays there’s always someone taking a picture and it has an ever-ready target audience. No doubt in no time at all there will be a million “likes” of which 999,000 of them will be utter “dislikes”.

Anyway, I digress. Tritonic is a reminder of Alan King’s talent as a jumps trainer which to some extent has been slightly eroded in the public understanding because of his equal facility on the Flat. Considering he doesn’t have easy access to the top pedigrees but instead needs to develop his own talent, that success is even more meritorious.

Tritonic was a case in point. Bred by Kirsten Rausing, he was originally sold as a foal at Tatts December sale for 14,000gns to Tony O’Callaghan’s Tally Ho Stud. Eighteen months later at the lesser of the two Tatts Breeze-ups, with the benefit of the Tally Ho expertise, he realised almost a 300% increase at 55k.

He might not have seemed the obvious “breezer” in pedigree terms. He was by the German Derby winner – by 11 lengths! – Sea The Moon who won four of five career starts with his only defeat coming as a 2-1 on shot in his last run in the Grosser Preis von Baden. The four-year-old winner there, Ivanhowe, was later a multiple Group 1 winner in Australia.

King didn’t waste any time with his May purchase. Tritonic had his first start in July as an unconsidered 50-1 outsider for a Haydock 7f novice race and, bar taking a false step in the closing stages, could have been even nearer than fourth place, less than a length behind the winner.

He built on that with wins at Ffos Las in August and Newbury in September and was only a 6-1 chance when fifth to Max Vega in the Group 3 Zetland Stakes over 10 furlongs at Newmarket in October. Placed in four of his five attempts – including first time out at Royal Ascot – in good-class handicaps as a three-year-old, he had the benefit of experience without being over-raced. So when the trainer turned Tritonic to hurdling he already looked the finished article.

With two Triumph Hurdle winners, Penzance and Katchit - who as a five-year-old followed up in the Champion Hurdle - to his credit, King certainly knows what’s needed and, after welcoming his winner on Saturday, there was only one race on his mind.

Another of the Kempton winners that interests me is Cape Gentleman who travelled over from Ireland to win the Dovecote Hurdle in determined style after a tussle with the Dan Skelton-trained Calico, a decent horse in Germany before making an easy winning UK debut at Ludlow.

Cape Gentleman started out in the Nicolas Clement stable after being sourced as a yearling at Arqana’s Deauville sale by the trainer and his sales associate Tina Rau for €20k. After three runs and one win he was back at the company’s Saint-Cloud venue where Emmet Mullins bought him for €80k on behalf of owner Margaret O’Rourke.

It’s uncanny that Tritonic and Cape Gentleman had such similar increases in value between sales and are rated 1lb apart on the Flat: second time out for Mullins in the Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh last September Cape Gentleman showed tremendous stamina and determination to win by a couple of lengths in a field of 20 after which his mark was increased from 85 to 100.

First time over hurdles he won well at Punchestown but then, in Grade 1 company over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival three weeks ago, he was pulled up. That he could recover from those exertions and put in such a good performance within such a short time and back at two miles is testimony both to the horse’s constitution and his trainer’s skill.

Cape Gentleman has two Cheltenham engagements and is a 25-1 chance for both. With the run guarantee in many places, I reckon there will be worse each-way shots at considerably shorter odds on the day. Just two weeks to go.

I’d actually been asked to go to a friend’s house to do an on-the-day hosting of one of the days at the Festival for some of his pals who play for a Premier League team and love their racing. That was great at any rate until spoil-sport Mrs S pointed out that it was still illegal – and no doubt one of the lads would live stream the event, ensuring big fines all round. I had regretfully to decline.

- TS

Tritonic powers to impressive Adonis victory

Tritonic cemented his JCB Triumph Hurdle claims with a hugely impressive display in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.

The four-year-old championship at the Festival had looked at the mercy of Gordon Elliott, who has an embarrassment of riches in the division with the first two in the betting in Zanahiyr and Quilixios, as well as the unbeaten Teahupoo, who won again at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

But Tritonic, more than useful on the Flat for Alan King and placed at Royal Ascot, has clearly taken to his new discipline very well.

A winner on his debut at Ascot when he only wore down Gary Moore’s Casa Loupi in the closing stages, the pair were first and second again – but this time Tritonic’s superiority was much greater.

Running to the last Tritonic was just a length in front, but by the time the 5-6 favourite crossed the line he had put 10 between them, with Adrian Heskin not being overly vigorous.

Betfair cut the winner to 5-1 from 8s for the Triumph – and King could hardly have been happier with the display.

Your first 30 days for just £1

The Barbury Castle Stables trainer said: “We wanted to get a bit more experience into him for Cheltenham and he will have learned plenty down the inside (rail) today. Once or twice he goes to sleep, but as soon as Adrian gives him a squeeze, he is straight back on the bridle. I could not have been more pleased with him.

Tritonic comes well clear after the last
Tritonic comes well clear after the last (Alan Corwhurst/PA)

“We gave him a proper holiday at the end of last Flat season – he was gelded and had six weeks in the field. He was only just ready to start at Ascot and I just felt we had to try to get two runs into him if we were going to have a serious Triumph horse.

“We were going to come straight here and I thought ‘well, that’s not right’, he just needs a little bit more experience. We certainly felt he had improved since Ascot, fitness-wise, and he has built on that again today.

“He is much the best of my former Triumph Hurdle horses on Flat ratings. We have trained him differently. Katchit we started back in September, the rest had a lot more experience than Tritonic has coming into the Triumph.

“But I think the two runs over hurdles will be enough and he has experience in big handicaps on the Flat.”

He added: “He is the highest-class Flat horse I’ve ever sent jumping. He is a good mile-and-a-quarter Flat horse. He might appear to be a little bit slow, but that is because he goes to sleep on you in a race. He only just does what he is asked.

“He should be fine for Cheltenham and he has the gears to hold a position wherever you want to ride him.

“Everything impressed me. The way he came back on the bridle. He was a bit short of room once or twice and I love the way he went away from the last as well. He hit the line really well, which is always a good sign.

“From day one he has schooled lovely. I thought today his jumping was accurate and he’s good when he is in tight as well.

“I don’t think he will come on much fitness-wise, but he will just be a little bit sharper for this experience.

“I hope he’d have a very good chance at Cheltenham. He’d be the highest-rated Flat-wise and I certainly wouldn’t be one to swap him for anything. I’m very happy with my lad.”

Heskin is also looking forward to Cheltenham.

The rider said: “He is a very smart horse. I was a little bit caught for pace midways in the race, but once I switched him out when we turned in, he really came alive. He wasn’t in full flow down the straight – there is still a bit (more there) with him.

“His momentum carried him through. He was just coming alive at the second-last and he is very quick across a hurdle, no matter what stride he is on. That is big asset to him.

“The pace of the Triumph Hurdle will be ideal and that Cheltenham hill will really suit him.”

Cabot Cliffs impresses in Warwick victory

Dan Skelton is in no rush to decide whether Cabot Cliffs will be part of his Cheltenham Festival squad next month following a runaway victory in the opening race at Warwick on Friday.

A winner on his hurdling debut at Uttoxeter in the autumn, the Gleneagles gelding subsequently ran with credit in Listed and graded company at Wetherby and Cheltenham, before getting his head in front for a second time at Warwick three weeks ago.

The four-year-old looked to have plenty on his plate on his return to his trainer’s local track for the South West Syndicate Juvenile Hurdle, with Nicky Henderson’s Kempton scorer Heross Du Seuil all the rage to maintain his unbeaten record over jumps as the 4-7 favourite.

However, Cabot Cliffs (15-8) was sent straight to the lead by the trainer’s brother Harry – and while Heross Du Seuil appeared to be in top gear a long way from home, the Skelton runner scooted clear for a commanding 17-length success.

“He’s thriving at the moment. He looks great and loves jumping,” said the Alcester-based trainer.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“He surprised me today with how straightforward it was. I think the form of his last run here at Warwick is pretty good and you can’t be anything but impressed with his progression.

“He’s a credit to himself as he’s really enjoying it and is doing everything he should do, albeit in a slightly crazy way!”

Cabot Cliffs hold an entry in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in less than three weeks’ time, but is not certain to take up the engagement.

Skelton added: “I don’t know if the handicapper will overreact massively, because the second horse obviously hasn’t run up to his form and I’m not sure what the rest is worth at the moment.

“For Craig and Laura (Buckingham, owners), Cheltenham is not their God. They’ll do whatever is right for the horse, so we’ll see how he comes out of it and see what happens.”

Jay Bee Why justified 2-7 favouritism in the British Stallion Studs EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

The six-year-old bolted up on his hurdling debut at the track in December, before finishing a close-up fifth in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle last month.

Jay Bee Why jumps the final flight clear at Warwick
Jay Bee Why jumps the final flight clear at Warwick (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Stepping back down in grade, Alan King’s inmate comfortably pulled seven lengths clear of Hurling Magic.

“It was a nice display. He’s just growing up all the time, and I love the way he settled today and jumped well,” said King.

“He’s a horse we like. We’re just sort of marking time with him at the moment, as he’ll likely be going chasing next year.

“I didn’t put him in for Cheltenham because he wouldn’t have been ready for that this year, but he’ll run again this season.”

The Barbury Castle handler and jockey Tom Cannon doubled up in the concluding bumper, with Moonamacaroona (15-8) lunging late to win by a length-and-a-half – denying Alexandra Romanov and Skelton-trained favourite Get A Tonic in a three-way finish.

Ga Law in ‘great order’ for Pendil assignment

Jamie Snowden is in optimistic mood for Ga Law’s return to action in the Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

The Sinndar gelding provided his trainer with a first victory at graded level when readily beating two rivals in the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November.

A drop in trip and a rise in class for the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown a month later ultimately proved too much, but Snowden feels his stable star has a good chance of getting back on the winning trail in Saturday’s Grade Two contest.

“He had a bit of a break and a quiet month after the Henry VIII, but he’s back in and in top shape and goes to Kempton in great order,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.

“He’s obviously got to carry a 5lb penalty for his Grade Two win at Wincanton, and his weight-for-age is diminishing as the months progress, so he’s got to keep improving – but he’s in good order, and we go there with every chance.

“Kempton is not too dissimilar to Wincanton, and I think going back up to two-and-a-half will help.

“In the Henry VIII he was just taken off his feet slightly, but he was only beaten just over 10 lengths and wasn’t disgraced.”

Ga Law’s biggest threat appears to be the Paul Nicholls-trained Tamaroc Du Mathan, last seen filling the runner-up spot behind Arkle favourite Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton in December.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Nicholls told Betfair: “He made quite an impression on his chasing debut at Wincanton, where he jumped for fun and readily pulled clear in the closing stages.

“I thought he then ran really well when runner up to Shishkin at Kempton over Christmas. I’ve been waiting for better ground for Tamaroc Du Mathan ever since, and everything looks set for another big run from him.”

Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody (Evan Williams) and Son Of Camas (Nicky Henderson) are the other hopefuls.

Nicholls also has a leading contender for the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, in the hat-trick seeking Atholl Street.

The Trevor Hemmings-owned six-year-old has earned the step up to Grade Two level, following a pair of facile wins at Taunton.

“He is another of mine that loves decent ground, so I have saved him for this race since he hacked up at Taunton early in December,” Nicholls added.

“That was his second impressive win at the Somerset track, and he fully deserves a step up in class.

“While he still holds an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a good run at Kempton is more likely to book his ticket for Aintree.”

Chief among Atholl Street’s rivals is Calico, who is trained by Nicholls’ former assistant Dan Skelton.

A high-class performer on the Flat in Germany, the five-year-old made a successful hurdling debut for his new connections at Ludlow.

Skelton said: “I’m really happy with him and I think the track will suit him.

“He has got high-class form on the Flat. He should be able to go at the pace they are likely to go in this race.

“It is a big step from his win at Ludlow, but I feel he can compete at this level – and he has performed well on better ground in the past.”

Emmet Mullins saddles Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman, who needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Alan King is hoping Son Of Red can earn himself a shot at the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

“I don’t know whether he’ll be up to this, but he needs a third run to qualify for the Fred Winter (Boodles),” said the Barbury Castle trainer.

“He has to have a third run by Sunday, so that’s why he’s running.

“I think he’s done well for his break. Whether he’s quite up to this level, I don’t know, but we have to go somewhere with him.”

Lunar Sovereign (Fergal O’Brien), Mackenberg (Donald McCain) and Pyramid Place (Milton Harris) complete the field.

Tritonic aiming to enhance Triumph Hurdle claims at Kempton

Royal Ascot runner-up Tritonic bids to earn himself a ticket to the Cheltenham Festival with victory in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.

The son of Sea The Moon was beaten just half a length by Highland Chief in the Golden Gates Handicap at the showpiece meeting in June, before going on to run at Listed and Group-race level.

Having been gelded during the autumn, Tritonic made a successful start to his jumping career at Ascot last month and will be a hot favourite to follow up in Grade Two company this weekend.

“We’ve been very happy with him and everything has gone well since Ascot. He’s worked away well and schooled well,” said King.

“He’ll learn plenty again on Saturday. This isn’t the be-all and end-all – it’s to hopefully get him spot-on for Cheltenham.

“It will be a sharp test for him.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

The Barbury Castle handler has saddled four previous winners of the Adonis, with his 2005 scorer Penzance going on to strike Festival gold in the JCB Triumph Hurdle the following month.

At a general 8-1, Tritonic is the shortest-priced British-trained runner in the ante-post market for this year’s Triumph.

Alan King has high hopes for Tritonic
Alan King has high hopes for Tritonic (David Davies/PA)

King added: “I’ve trained him totally different to the others, to be honest, in that the others all started much earlier over hurdles.

“This horse had a proper holiday at the end of the last Flat season.

“He’s the best of them on his Flat mark by some way, but they all came into this race with a fair bit more experience than he’s got.”

Tritonic renews rivalry with the Gary Moore-trained Casa Loupi, who was only a length behind when runner-up at Ascot last month.

Moore said: “He gave a good account of himself on his first run over hurdles. I don’t think it will be quite so easy this time. I think he got an easy lead.

“He’s come out of it very well. Whether he’ll come on or not, I don’t know. He was pretty fit from the Flat, so I don’t think there’s a lot of improvement fitness wise.

“Whether a bit sharper track will suit him, we’ll see.”

Jane Williams saddles Honneur D’Ajonc, while dual winner Margaret’s Legacy is an interesting contender from France and Paso Doble makes his jumping bow for Paul Nicholls.

Paso Doble makes his debut for Paul Nicholls
Paso Doble makes his debut for Paul Nicholls (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He is a promising recruit from Ireland, where he won twice on the Flat for Jim Bolger as a three-year-old,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I’ve given him a bit of time since he was gelded and he may well be one for the future.

“To find out for sure, we are are going down the route we took with Zarkandar in this race some years ago.

“If Paso Doble happens to win at Kempton, then he will head for the Triumph at Cheltenham. If he doesn’t, then we will keep him for next season.”

Champ delights Henderson with Game Spirit second

Nicky Henderson was thrilled to see Champ enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials in defeat after finding only Sceau Royal too strong in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

Having been off the track since claiming a last-gasp victory in what is now the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, the JP McManus-owned Champ was originally due to make his long-awaited return in the three-mile Betfair Denman Chase.

However, with Newbury’s Betfair Super Saturday card pushed back eight days after the original fixture was frozen off, Henderson made the surprise decision to instead run Champ over an extended two miles in the Game Spirit, due to the meeting’s proximity to the Festival.

Ridden forward by Nico de Boinville back over this shorter trip, Champ travelled with zest and jumped with accuracy, before eventually being reeled in by Alan King’s proven two-miler Sceau Royal (3-1 favourite) and Daryl Jacob.

“He’s enjoyed himself there and he’s clearly not slow,” said a delighted Henderson.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“The great thing was his jumping – it was deadly – and that will have done him the world of good.

“We boxed him over to Henrietta Knight’s the other day and he’s gone three times either way in the loose school. That (his jumping) needed ironing out and it clearly worked.

“He’s an exciting horse and much better on a racecourse than at home. You wouldn’t give two and sixpence for him on the grass gallop, but when he gets to the racecourse it’s like flicking a switch and he’s on the case full wallop!

“He’s got so much natural pace and he’s versatile. It was better to give him a kinder race today than go three miles, but on the evidence of the RSA last year, we know he stays.”

Bookmakers were clearly impressed by Champ’s display in being beaten just two lengths, with Coral cutting him to 6-1 from 8-1 for for the Gold Cup on March 19, making him their second-favourite behind dual winner Al Boum Photo.

Henderson added: “He was on the bridle until the second-last and now we have two days short of a month until the Gold Cup.

“We are now very much looking forward to Cheltenham with him.”

King was understandably proud of the admirable Sceau Royal, who was winning for the third time this season, having previously landed the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

The nine-year-old, who fell on his most recent outing in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, is entered in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month, but is not certain to line up in either.

Sceau Royal on his way to winning at Newbury
Sceau Royal on his way to winning at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

King said: “He’s a wonderful little horse and it’s great for the owners, as they had a bad day yesterday, losing poor old L’Ami Serge.

“I’m not sure what happened to him at Kempton last time – it was so out of character for him to end up on the floor. He jumped absolutely super today, didn’t he?

“Whether he goes to Cheltenham will be very much ground dependent. If it’s soft ground we’ll wait – there’s the two-and-a-half-mile race at Aintree (Melling Chase) and the Celebration Chase at Sandown, so we’ll see.

“I’m not saying he won’t go to Cheltenham, but we would need it to dry out quite considerably, which can happen.

“We’ll enjoy today.”

Delight for King as Royal Pretender returns to winning ways

Alan King was delighted to see Royal Pretender claim a first career victory on the latest ‘jumpers’ bumper’ card at Kempton on Thursday.

Having shaped with promise on his first two starts over hurdles at Chepstow and Ascot in the autumn, the five-year-old was all the rage to make it third time lucky at Doncaster last month, but was ultimately well beaten in third place.

Switching to an artificial surface for division two of the vbet.co.uk ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race, Royal Pretender was an 11-2 chance in the hands of Tom Bellamy and showed a willing attitude to get up and beat Quiana by a neck.

King said: “I’m very happy. He’s been a progressive horse and just got completely stuck in the ground at Doncaster last time. He never travelled at all and was never once on the bridle, so he actually did well to finish third in the end.

“That was much more like it today and he’ll go back hurdling when the ground improves.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

There was a surprise result in division one of the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest, with Colin Tizzard’s 25-1 shot Floy Joy finishing with a flourish under Jonjo O’Neill Jnr to deny 5-2 favourite Dorking Lad by a head.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “We’re chuffed to bits with him.

“The horse actually ran all right in a couple of bumpers. He was getting balloted out left, right and centre in novice hurdles and there’s a bit of a backlog in that division.

Floy Joy (right) provided Colin Tizzard with another winner
Floy Joy (right) provided Colin Tizzard with another winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We were keen to give him a run, so we let him take his chance today and it worked out lovely.

“I wouldn’t say I thought he’d win, but I thought he’d be competitive.”

The victory continues the recent revival in of the Tizzard team’s fortunes following a difficult winter.

“As I said over the weekend and last week, we think we’ve got the horses back right, but the proof is in the pudding,” Tizzard added.

“It’s lovely that they’re all going and running well. Hopefully we can keep going strong until the end of the season now.”

The Warren Greatrex-trained Young Lieutenant (20-1) was an authoritative winner of the Download The VBet App ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race, with Gavin Sheehan the winning rider.

“We were waiting to go chasing with him, but a few meetings were off and we said we’d go back hurdling once the ground gets a bit better and maybe go chasing from May onwards,” said Greatrex.

“We thought this race today was a nice opportunity to get him out and it’s great he’s won again – that’s two from three this season now.

“He’s not the easiest to train as he hasn’t got the best feet and has had wind issues, but when he’s on-song he’s a fair horse.”

Elsewhere on the card Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden teamed up to land the Play Golden Shot At VBet Mares’ ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race with Tomorrow Mystery (4-1).

King sights set on Marathon date for Rainbow Dreamer

Alan King is looking forward to running Rainbow Dreamer in the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship Final following his victory at Kempton on Saturday.

The eight-year-old made all the running under an astute ride from Hollie Doyle to land the spoils by half a length from Ocean Wind.

It was Rainbow Dreamer’s first win from three starts this winter and sets him up for Lingfield on Good Friday (April 2).

“It was a very good ride from Hollie, so hopefully we’re bang on course for Lingfield now,” the King.

“There is a fast-track qualifier at Chelmsford, but I would imagine we’ll go straight to Lingfield. Easter is pretty earlier this year.”

Messire Des Obeaux is to be aimed at handicap chases in future
Messire Des Obeaux is to be aimed at handicap chases in future (Alab Crowhurst/PA)

King will be looking to running Messire Des Obeaux in handicap chases after the nine-year-old lost his unbeaten record over fences in the Grade One Scilly Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

The Barbury Castle trainer felt Messire Des Obeaux was totally unsuited by the testing conditions but was none the worse for the race.

“He’s absolutely fine. He was perfectly sound this morning. He couldn’t really handle that deep ground, but he’s OK,” he said.

“He’s now had his three runs so he does now qualify for those decent handicap chases, so I will have to have a look through. There maybe a race for him at Newbury in March, but I haven’t got a plan in place yet.”

Messire sights set on Scilly success

Alan King has brought forward Messire Des Obeaux’s Cheltenham Festival a couple of weeks, with the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase his chief target.

Due to his history of leg trouble, King did not even enter the nine-year-old for next month’s feature meeting and is pinning his hopes on gaining a first Grade One of the season at the Esher venue.

Prior to this term, Messire Des Obeaux had only managed one appearance since April 2017, but he is now unbeaten in two chase starts, impressively winning a Grade Two last time out.

“I don’t think the rain on Thursday night was very welcome. He should handle it though, he has before and I don’t think we’ll be using it as an excuse,” said King.

“We didn’t put him in anything at Cheltenham. I didn’t think it would suit him, so there weren’t many other options and this looked the place to come.

“Obviously this is another big step up in class for him, but his form is pretty solid. The horse who finished third to him at Wincanton (Lieutenant Rocco) bolted up on Thursday.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“That was a Grade Two, this is now a Grade One, so we’ll just see what happens – I’m very happy with the horse this end anyway.”

Another unbeaten over fences is Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, who has been very impressive in three outings, including when beating The Big Breakaway in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton last time out.

“I’m really happy with Shan Blue and he has come out of the Kauto Star at Kempton over Christmas really well,” said Skelton.

“We’ve given him a good bit of time until this. I actually think the trip is perfect for him and we know he is effective right-handed, as we saw last time out.

Shan Blue (left) was impressive at Kempton over Christmas
Shan Blue (left) was impressive at Kempton over Christmas (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Sandown should be a fine track for him and he has raced on soft, so I’m not worried about the ground at all. I’m really looking forward to him and I don’t think there are any negatives.”

The Philip Hobbs-trained Sporting John looked very promising in novice hurdles, but he needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Cheltenham Festival and a below-par run on his chasing debut.

“At Exeter he jumped extremely well, but he just ran below form. He seems in very good form now and everything seems to have gone well. Hopefully he will put up another good run on Saturday,” said Hobbs.

“We could have looked for a smaller race, but connections have decided this is the way they want to campaign the horse for the moment.

“We will see if he handles the ground at the weekend, but he certainly copes fine with soft ground, so hopefully he can act on this ground.”

Sporting’s John’s owner JP McManus is also represented by Nicky Henderson’s Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie.

Hitman chased home Skelton’s Allmankind over two miles last time out and Paul Nicholls is keen to see how he gets on up in trip.

“He worked great on Thursday morning and I’m really looking forward to running him at Sandown,” said Nicholls.

“Physically he’s improved enormously. He’s a proper horse and it’s a proper race.

“I think two and a half miles is well within his capabilities. The ground will be attritional, but remember he’s only ever run in the heavy.”

Her Indoors lifts Listed honours at Doncaster

Her Indoors was a tough winner of the Listed Sky Bet Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster for Alan King and Adrian Heskin.

The four-year-old got the better of three-time winner Talking About You to prevail by five and a half lengths at a price of 11-2 on her third hurdles start.

The two horses had met previously in a similar Listed event at Aintree, where the latter triumphed by a comfortable seven and a half lengths.

After another second-placed run from King’s filly at Kempton, that prior Aintree form was then overturned on Town Moor as Her Indoors gave her trainer a second victory from only three renewals of the race.

“She’s as tough as nails,” Heskin said of the ex-flat performer.

“She was a little bit keen at Kempton early on and probably got caught for pace then round a speed track.

“The ground here really suited her, it’s a stiff track.

“Once I’d got her settled early, I let her get in to the race but she probably got racing a bit too early as she missed the third last. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I just got behind a couple and she came home strong on the inner rail.

“We’ve done plenty of schooling with her now. She was second in a Listed race at Aintree and then we were a little bit disappointed with her at Kempton, but we had plenty of excuses. I think it was the wrong way round for her and it was too quick of a track.

“That was a fair performance and she’s all heart, she’s a real stayer. She’s a good attitude and there’s plenty of positives to take forward.”

Winning start for Tritonic delights King

Alan King feels there is plenty more to come from JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Tritonic following his winning debut over hurdle, with Kempton next on the agenda.

A top-class Flat handicapper in the summer, the Sea The Moon gelding finished second at Royal Ascot in the inaugural Golden Gates Handicap and was also runn-up in the Listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton.

Sent off favourite at Ascot on Saturday, he was made to pull out all the stops by Gary Moore’s Casa Loupi with the pair 18 lengths clear.

Tritonic will now either run in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle against his own age group on February 27, or take on his elders in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle on the same card at the Sunbury track.

“I was obviously very pleased with him, he was only just ready to start back on Saturday as he was gelded and had a proper break at the end of the Flat season,” said King, whose runner is a best-priced 14-1 for Cheltenham.

“I just felt if he was going to get to the Triumph then he needed two runs beforehand, so this is a good starting point and he’s come out of it fine.

“I would think we’ll go to Kempton next for either the Adonis or the Dovecote. We’ll put him in both and have a look.”

The Barbury Castle trainer added: “The front two finished a long way clear of another decent horse. I must admit jumping the last I did think we were booked for second – I was still thinking it was a satisfactory debut, but then he dug in and got there in the end.

“I’d like to think there’s a lot of improvement to come from him. There’ll have to be, but I do think there is.

“He’s been to the big handicaps on the Flat so that will stand him in good stead and he’ll be a lot sharper for the run.”