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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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“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.”

Tritonic advertises Triumph claims

Tritonic emerged as a leading light for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with a debut success over jumps that will have taught him a great deal and elevate dreams for his owners of landing the juvenile championship at Cheltenham in March.

Good enough on the Flat to finish second to Highland Chief at the Royal meeting in June, Tritonic started a warm order at 5-4 for the bet365 Juvenile Hurdle – but looked to have plenty to do as Casa Loupi set sail for home on the homeward turn.

Happily for his supporters, the favourite gradually ate into his rival’s four-length lead and reeled him in in the final 100 yards to score by a length under Adrian Heskin.

The jockey, who had schooled his mount twice at Alan King’s Banbury Castle base, said: “Alan likes them dropped in, so I rode him to come from off the pace. He was a bit keen early and I had to sit and suffer a little going up the hill where, I let him fill up and find his feet. I thought turning in I would pick them up.”

Betfair cut Tritonic to 16-1 from 20-1 for the Triumph, with Coral unchanged at 20-1.

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Heskin added that he could envisage Tritonic developing into a contender for the race, saying: “He has stamina and gears and his jumping is good, while Mr (Max) McNeill has a dream to win the Triumph. He was brave up the straight and got the better of a very tough rival.

“I would say it was a fair race.”

Tom Cannon made the best of what he described as a “dream come true” in picking up the spare ride via his agent Dave Roberts on Craigneiche, a clear-cut winner of the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle.

Owing to Nico de Boinville partnering Buveur D’Air at Haydock and Jerry McGrath’s absence through injury, Cannon stepped in for a first ride for Nicky Henderson and the combination pulled seven lengths clear of Arrivederci on the run-in.

Tom Cannon enjoyed a dream spare ride on Craigneiche
Tom Cannon enjoyed a dream spare ride on Craigneiche (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Craigneiche carried bottom weight of 10st 6lb and made Cannon’s morning run to make the weight worth every second as he powered home at 14-1.

The jockey enthused: “Dave Roberts texted me on Thursday morning to tell me about the ride and my mum was so thrilled she cut it out of the paper and put it in her scrapbook on the mantel piece. And I must admit I had to pinch myself .

“I could very easily have been at another meeting riding for Alan King or Chris Gordon, and thought I would be scrabbling around for a ride so it was a good feeling to get the news.

“I chatted with Nicky, who thought he was on an appropriate mark and said he’d been working well and that he gets on his toes, but although he felt fresh he settled.”

Betfair introduced the winner at 16-1 for the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.

Charlie Hammond enjoyed a winner to remember with Enqarde
Charlie Hammond enjoyed a winner to remember with Enqarde (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Charlie Hammond notched a first career success at Ascot when Enqarde (4-1) overcame a tendency to jump left to land the Matchbook Best Odds Handicap Chase.

The former French-based gelding, trained by Dr Richard Newland, responded to hands and heels riding to score by three and a half lengths and two from Cobolobo and Crossley Tender.

Hammond said: “He got into a lovely rhythm, but I had to keep him up to his work from the bottom of the hill. I think he might have got there too soon, but he jumped super and luckily kept going all the way to the line, showing a great attitude.”

Hammond explained that his season has turned a corner since November and added: “I made a steady start but have got going in the last couple of months, especially for outside stables.”

Messire heading for Scilly Isles – with Cheltenham off agenda

Alan King’s exciting fencing recruit Messire Des Obeaux is on course for the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown early next month.

The Barbury Castle trainer reports the nine-year-old in top order following his impressive triumphs in successive visits to Wincanton this season.

Messire Des Obeaux returned from a 10-month absence to stylishly take out a Class 3 and a Class 1 at the Somerset track, but will not have Cheltenham on his horizon.

King is reluctant to risk aggravating an old injury by running his charge on an undulating terrain.

He said: “Messire is grand and will go for the Scilly Isles (on February 6), which has always been the plan since his last run.

“Touch wood he’s fine, but I won’t even enter him for Cheltenham. I would be concerned he might be vulnerable to a recurrence of his problem running on an undulating course.”

King favouring Festival novice option for The Glancing Queen

Alan King may work back from the Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with The Glancing Queen.

The Barbury Castle trainer favours running the seven-year-old in the Grade Two novice contest rather than the Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.

Having finished third in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on her penultimate start, The Glancing Queen made it two wins from three starts over hurdles when she was dropped back to an extended two miles for an odds-on victory at Bangor last week.

King said: “The Glancing Queen was fine after her run at Bangor.

“I don’t know where we will go now, but I’d imagine we will try to find something next month.

“She is entered in the two-and-a-half-mile mares’ race at Cheltenham. But she is not slow, and she might be better against the novices, and I’m probably favouring that at the moment.”

Stablemate Canelo will bid to follow up his Rowland Meyrick victory at Wetherby on Boxing Day in the Listed Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster next week.

King added: “The Sky Bet has always been the plan since he won at Wetherby. He has had a little bit of a break and did his first piece of work on Friday.

“It was a good performance at Wetherby. He travelled very well, but he doesn’t do a lot in front – although it was another step in the right direction.”

King hopes recent Wincanton scorer On To Victory can creep into the bottom of the weights for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 13.

He added: “He made heavy weather of it at Wincanton, but he hated the ground. He jumped super, though, and that was the most important thing.

“We will aim him at the Betfair. But he might not get in it – 130 got in last year, and he is (rated) 129, so he is right on the cusp.

“If he doesn’t get in that, we will qualify him for that series where the final is at Sandown on Bet365 Gold Cup day.”

Wintry Wolverhampton will always be special for Georgia King

All-weather meetings in the depths of winter rarely live long in the memory – but the one staged at Wolverhampton on January 5, 2021 will always be special for Georgia King after Gavi Di Gavi became her first winner.

The daughter of Gavi Di Gavi’s trainer Alan King, Georgia will forever treasure her breakthrough success in the Bombardier ‘March To Your Own Drum’ Handicap.

Coronavirus restrictions meant there was no crowd to welcome the 18-year-old back in, of course, but she was all smiles then and still is as she relives the four-length victory on the Camacho gelding.

“I knew I had a chance if it all went to plan, but my nerves were increased because it was against the professionals like Tom Marquand and Ben Curtis,” she said.

“I managed to get in a nice position – because I didn’t want to get wide early on. Down the back straight I got shuffled back, but it did me a favour because it gave me room on the rail.

“When they all spread out on the turn I kept on the inside. I couldn’t really believe that I won – and he ended up doing it really easily. I was just delighted.”

Working with horses was always likely for King, but making it as a jockey was not originally on her agenda.

“I was really into eventing and I represented Britain in the 2018 (FEI) European Pony Championships in Yorkshire when I was 16,” she added.

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“I was lucky to get on the British team in my last year. The dressage and cross country went OK, but the showjumping didn’t end up a personal success. I felt a bit deflated after that, because I had worked so hard to get there.”

There is normally a decisive moment which most jockeys can point to in helping them choose a career in the saddle, and King is no different.

“A few weeks after the pony championships I rode Sula Island in a charity race at Epsom,” she said.

“Everyone else had been preparing for it for months, and I found out a week or two before I would be on Sula Island in it – plus I hadn’t been riding out that long.

“Although we jumped off pretty far back, I ended up winning pretty easily because she made up ground well and it ended up being a great result.

“It was some feeling – even though I struggled to carry the saddle because it had so much lead in! But it made me want to do it again.”

Georgia King is still all smiles with Gavi Di Gavi after their Wolverhampton win together
Georgia King is still all smiles with Gavi Di Gavi after their Wolverhampton win together (Graham Clark/PA)

Having the backing of a trainer like her dad comes with its advantages, but playing an equally important role has been the support from mum Rachel.

King said: “Mum always said she was gutted that I gave up eventing and handed me over to dad – but to be fair, she has taken me to every race I’ve been to.

“She doesn’t go racing loads, but she loves coming into the parade ring with me and being really supportive. She has definitely got into it.

“Although mum was there to celebrate my first winner, she didn’t watch most of it!”

King can also call on the help of retired Classic-winning rider George Baker, who has been her jockey coach since she was granted her apprentice licence in November.

She said: “I’m pleased to have George as my jockey coach – he was the one I really wanted.

Former Classic winner George Baker is Georgia King's jockey coach
Former Classic winner George Baker is Georgia King’s jockey coach (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

“He spoke to me the night before the ride on Gavi, running me through the race and telling me what I needed to do – which as a young rider was a massive boost.

“He knows everything, and if I ever need anything he is always there to ask things.”

With a winner already on the board, King is of course hungry for more but will not rush her development as a jockey.

“Over the next few months, I just want to try and get as much experience as I can and try to ride a few different horses, then when the spring comes to get on the grass and give a few a spin,” she said.

“There are quite a few good girls coming through – which is great to see, and it helps give you more confidence -while Hollie Doyle has done the sport the world of good.

“Dad is happy for me just riding for him at the moment, and then when I get more experience get a few outside rides. I know you have got to dream big, but I think I’m better off keeping my head down and working my way up.”