Tag Archive for: Alan King

Run style analysis of a selection of National Hunt trainers

Regular readers will know of my interest in the impact of run style and, in this article, six National Hunt trainers come under the spotlight as I look for running style patterns which might lead to profitable angles, writes Dave Renham. The trainers in question are Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Jonjo O’Neill, Donald McCain, Venetia Williams and Alan King. I have looked at data between January 1st 2015 and December 31st 2021, seven years in total.

Before I start in earnest, however, a quick recap of running styles for all new readers and how Geegeez can help with understanding them.

The first furlong or so of any race sees each horse take up its early position and soon the horses settle into their racing rhythm. Normally these positions do not change too much for the first part of the race. The position each horse takes early can be matched to a running style - www.geegeez.co.uk has a pace section on its racecards that highlights which running style each horse has taken up early in a race. There are four run style groups, as follows:

Led – horses that take the early lead (the front runner). In National Hunt racing you generally get just one front runner, but occasionally there may be two or more horses disputing the early lead;

Prominent – horses that track close behind the leader(s);

Mid Division - horses that take up a more midfield position;

Held Up – horses that are held up near to or at the back of the field.

These running styles are assigned a numerical figure ranging from 4 to 1; Led gets 4, Prominent 3, Mid Division 2 and Held Up 1. Having numbers assigned to runners helps greatly with analysis as you may have seen in previous articles.

 

Run Style Analysis: All races

To begin with, let's take a look at all National Hunt races combined, breaking down the running styles of all horses for each of our six trainers. Connections, most notably the trainers, can clearly have a significant influence on the running style of their horses: most will give instructions to their jockeys before the race telling them how they would prefer the horses to be ridden.

Below, the table shows which percentage of each trainer's runners displayed one of the four running styles. I have included the figure for ALL trainers (1527 trainers combined!) as the 'control':

 

As can be seen there is quite a contrast; both Alan King and Jonjo O’Neill are clearly largely averse to sending their runners into an early lead. In contrast Donald Mc Cain, Venetia Williams and, to a lesser extent, Paul Nicholls seem happy to send a decent proportion of their runners to the front early.

In terms of their success with early leaders / front runners – all of them exceed 20% when it comes to strike rate (see graph below). For the record, 20% is the average winning figure for front runners in all National Hunt races.

 

Henderson and Nicholls have a simply stunning record with front runners – a strike rate for both of pushing 40%. Now I have mentioned before that if as punters we had access to a crystal ball pre-race to see which horse would be taking the early lead, it would be a license to print money. Here are the hypothetical profit/loss figures for the front runners of the six trainers to once again prove that point:

 

Combining all trainers in the list would have yielded an SP profit of £394.91 to £1 level stakes. Now, as we know, predicting which horse is going to take the early lead is far from an exact science. However, with some detailed analysis of the trainers in the race, as well as the horses concerned there will be opportunities to maximise our chances of nailing down the likely front runner.

 

Run Style Analysis: Chases

I have noted in previous pieces that front runners in chases make the biggest profits in terms of National Hunt racing, so let us see how our six trainers perform in these races. Here are their win strike rates with front runners in chases. In the table I have included their All races front running SR% to facilitate comparison:

 

Similar figures for each trainer although Alan King’s figure drop about 5%.

And here are the hypothetical profits from identifying and backing these front runners in chases over the course of the seven years in the sample:

 

All six trainers would have been in profit to SP – a combined profit of £350.38 to £1 level stakes indicates why chases are so ‘front runner’ friendly.

I have also looked at the percentage of their runners which displayed a front running style in chases – as with the All Race data I shared earlier, two trainers (King and O’Neill) are far less likely to send their charges to the front early:

 

It still staggers me every time I see trainers that send a low percentage of their runners to the front early. Just one in twelve of Jonjo O’Neill’s runners goes into an early lead in a chase. However, when they do, they win nearly 25% of the time (one race in four). Compare this to his record with hold up horses in chases. Nearly 45% of all Jonjo O’Neill’s runners in chases are held up early – but just 11% go onto win. It’s nuts! [For all that there might be other reasons for holding certain horses up on some occasions - Ed.]

Hold up horses do not perform well in chases either – to illustrate this here are the chase records of the six trainers with their hold up runners:

 

The summary on hold up horses is low strike rates and huge losses all round. This group will, of course, include a subset of no-hopers though, in relation to such high profile trainers, there will be fewer of these than for most other handlers.

 

Run Style Analysis: Hurdle races

Generally speaking, hurdle races do not offer as strong a front running edge as chases, but it is still preferable to lead early compared with other running styles.

With that in mind, let us review the hypothetical profits from our trainers' front runners in hurdle races:

 

Some good strike rates for Nicholls, Henderson and King, but not the wall to wall profits seen in the chases analysis.

It is noticeable that, as a whole, the six trainers send out a smaller proportion of front runners in hurdle races as compared to chases. This will be in part due to typically smaller field sizes in chases then in hurdles, but that doesn't fully account for the differentials. The graph below illustrates:

 

Alan King has sent just less than 4% of his hurdlers into an early lead despite these runners scoring 35% of the time. As a comparison, his held up runners (which account for 37% of all King's hurdlers) won just 13% of the time.

 

Run Style Analysis: Full Summary

To conclude, I'd like to share the individual trainer win strike rate data across all four running styles in different race types. I have included National Hunt flat races, too. These races do not give front runners as strong an edge although they still perform better than any of the other three running styles.

The table below gives a very clear picture as to why run style is so important. It shows the significant edge front runners have overall; it also shows that prominent runners perform far better than horses that race mid division or are held up.

 - Dave Renham

 

The Glancing Queen aiming to reign for King in Dipper

The Glancing Queen will bid to give trainer Alan King his third Paddy Power Novices’ Chase – better known as the Dipper Novices’ Chase – in five years at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

No fewer than nine runners are scheduled to line up for the first graded race of 2022 in what appears to be the deepest renewal of the extended two-and-a-half-mile heat for many years.

Last year’s race was run at Wincanton after waterlogging forced the abandonment of Cheltenham’s traditional curtain-raiser to the year, and King supplemented his 2018 win with Yanworth as Messire Des Obeaux beat two rivals.

The Glancing Queen, the only mare in the field, has won both her starts over fences after landing two mares’ Listed novice chases at Bangor and Warwick.

King also had the option of running the seven-year-old at Plumpton on Sunday, but admitted he was looking for more course experience ahead of the Festival in March.

“I thought Plumpton looked fairly hot as well,” laughed King. “We had a chat with the team and owners and decided we’d go to Cheltenham. It looks a cracking renewal.

“She is in good order, we gave her a little school on Thursday morning and we are hoping she will run very well.

“Thinking ahead, I just thought it would be good to give her a bit of match practice around Cheltenham before March. That was in the back of my mind.

“She has been to a few Cheltenhams and ran very well in the mares’ bumper last year, but I felt from a chasing point of view it would do her good to go around there and we’ll see what happens.”

Among her rivals is the Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse, who ran out a 13-length winner of a graduation chase at Ascot a fortnight ago.

The six-year-old has been hiked up another 12lb from his last run and is 20lb higher than when winning at Exeter on December 3.

Millers Bank, who unseated Harry Bannister in a Grade Two novices’ chase at Newbury last time, is out to restore his lofty reputation.

He is officially rated 1lb superior to L’Homme Presse on a mark of 149 and trainer Alex Hales hopes last season’s Aintree Hurdle third will make it two wins from three over fences, despite predominately running on flat tracks.

Hales said: “I don’t see why the track wouldn’t suit him. He has done most of his running on flat tracks, but that is more by chance. It has been just the way the races have fallen.

“It is the ideal option to see if an undulating track would suit him and therefore whether we will be able to come back there for the Festival, or we’d skip and go to Aintree. Cheltenham is not the be all and end all.

“I thought Venetia’s horse was very impressive at Ascot but also thought our horse would have learned plenty from Newbury, so if he has, he is in a very good place. He is in great form and we are looking forward to it.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies saddles Fantastikas
Nigel Twiston-Davies saddles Fantastikas (Mike Egerton/PA)

Fantastikas, who chased home Threeunderthrufive at Doncaster, bids to give Nigel Twiston-Davies his first Dipper winner. His son, Sam Twiston-Davies, renews the partnership after Jordan Nailor deputised on his previous run.

“It is a tough race and a difficult one,” said the trainer. “I thought the race would cut up and it hasn’t done. We have a good chance for a place and he is good form.”

Tom George hopes that Come On Teddy, who won on his chasing bow at Uttoxeter, can learn plenty from this step up in class.

“He’s fine, we are happy with him and it is a big stepping stone for him. He won nicely at Uttoxeter and will learn a bit from that, so we are ready for the next step,” he said.

“He was always going to improve over fences and he will probably improve when he goes a bit further as well. Let’s see how we go.”

Quality abounds with Nicky Henderson represented by Gallyhill, while Colin Tizzard saddles Oscar Elite. The field is rounded out by the Jane Williams-trained Gladiateur Allen and Sophie Leech’s Zurekin.

Edwardstone in cruise control at Kempton

Edwardstone ran out a most impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park, cementing his position in the betting for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March.

A Grade One winner last time out at Sandown, Alan King’s charge was dropping down in class for this contest at Grade Two level – and as a result was giving away 5lb to his three rivals.

Bryony Frost sent Solo into an early lead and with some fluent jumping tried to stretch the field out.

Edwardstone made a bit of a hash of the first fence, but was soon back on an even keel for Tom Cannon and adopting his usual stalking role at the rear.

As Solo began to weaken, Do Your Job hit the front seemingly full of running with Edwardstone in behind.

But as he had at Sandown, Edwardstone once again displayed a taking turn of foot and in a matter of strides the race was over.

He flew the last and the 8-15 favourite was ridden out to come home a 10-length winner.

A delighted King said: “This wasn’t really part of the plan, but he came out of Sandown really well and I started thinking ‘it’s two months until the Kingmaker at Warwick and if we have a setback or a freeze-up in early February and we haven’t run since early December, that might be a mistake’.

“I thought we’d come here and it would be a bit more practice for him. Now he can have his break and his (flu) vaccination and hopefully back for the Kingmaker.

“Bar the first fence I thought he jumped very well. He just ballooned it a little bit, but that can happen off the back of running at Sandown.

“He gets the trip very well. You’d have thought on his pedigree he should be running over two and a half or three miles, but for the moment we’ll stick to two.”

Coral cut the seven-year-old to 9-2 from 6-1 for the Arkle and make him their second-favourite behind the Willie Mullins-trained Ferny Hollow (6-4).

King added: “It’s exciting. It’s going back to the old days when we had Voy Por Ustedes and My Way De Solzen. We haven’t had one as good as this for a bit.

“The Arkle is his only target (at Cheltenham) – it will be the Arkle or nowhere. A break, the Kingmaker and then if that goes well, hopefully the Arkle.

“I’m just relived we’ve got today out of the way.”

Tritonic in line to take on Epatante in Christmas Hurdle cracker

Tritonic could take on Epatante in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day, which will come just eight days after his Ascot win.

Alan King’s four-year-old, who was a big fancy for last year’s Triumph Hurdle where he disappointed, bounced back to form at the weekend in a valuable handicap.

While taking on Fighting Fifth dead-heaters Epatante and Not So Sleepy represents a big step up in class, his connections felt they would not be doing their job properly if they did not have the option given only five others were entered.

“When we were looking at the entries at 11am and there were only three in it we just thought we had to have a look at it,” said Iain Turner, racing manager for owner Max McNeil.

Tritonic (left) pulls away after the last to win impressively at Ascot on Saturday
Tritonic (left) pulls away after the last to win impressively at Ascot on Saturday (Nigel French/PA)

“He came out of the race at Ascot fine and while we aren’t saying he definitely runs, if we’re not even entered he definitely can’t.

“We’ll see how he is later in the week and if the handicapper puts us up what we are expecting then we won’t have much to find with some of them, so why not?

“Straight after Saturday’s race the plan was to wait until the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and that will probably remain the plan, but if we weren’t looking at this we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.

“If we weren’t in it and we watched a four-runner race, we’d be asking ourselves why aren’t we in it. At this stage I’d say he’s a probable runner.”

Glory And Fortune (Tom Lacey), Goshen (Gary Moore) and Soaring Glory (Jonjo O’Neill) complete the sextet.

There are also six contenders for the preceding Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, which could stage a fascinating clash between Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame.

Lucinda Russell’s Grade One-winning hurdler Ahoy Senor was a brilliant winner on his latest appearance at Newbury, while the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame is two from two over the larger obstacles.

Ahoy Senor on his way to victory at Newbury
Ahoy Senor on his way to victory at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA)

Nicholls has also entered Threeunderthrufive, who has won his last three starts at Exeter, Cheltenham and Doncaster respectively.

Alex Hales could test the water over three miles with Millers Bank, who impressed on his chasing debut at Huntingdon and looked set to follow up at Newbury before unseating his rider two from home.

Kiltealy Briggs (Jamie Snowden) and Tea Clipper (Lacey) both have a bit to find on ratings.

Both Threeunderthrufive and Kiltealy Briggs are owned by McNeil, and Turner said: “We had planned to go to Ireland with Threeunder because when we made the entries a lot of the bigger names hadn’t run over fences, but what with Covid and the difficulties of travelling we ruled it out and went to Doncaster.

“It was the same situation as the Christmas Hurdle, there was hardly anyone else in so we thought we’d best put him in.

“I don’t think we’d take Bravemansgame on and Kempton is an afterthought with him, it might not be his track. He’s had quite a lot of runs already and has options in January at Warwick and Lingfield or Ascot in February.

“But, if it doesn’t rain and Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame don’t run, we’d be looking at ourselves wondering why we hadn’t put him in.

“I would say Kiltealy Bridge is more likely to run than Threeunder.”

Trophy delight for King and Heskin with Tritonic

Tritonic returned to the scene of his first success over jumps last season to land the valuable Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Ascot.

The four-year-old, trained by Alan King, confirmed the promise of his early days over the smaller obstacles that included victory in the Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton in February with a sterling display in a highly-competitive event.

Global Citizen and No Ordinary Joe set a strong gallop from the start and there were plenty in with chances as the field turned for home with two flights left.

Adrian Heskin produced Tritonic (8-1) to strike the front and hold the challenge of Onemorefortheroad by two and three-quarter lengths. Garry Clermont was half a length away in third place.

King said: “The Greatwood Hurdle probably manned him up a bit – he has never been as quick in his life over hurdles. Clearly he has come forward for it.

“I did hope he would run well, but it is just not a race four-year-olds win. He was just so much sharper over his hurdles than he was at Cheltenham and I read this morning that he might not be a Cheltenham horse and they might be right because twice he has really disappointed. Maybe he is a better horse around here.

“I would imagine he will go to the Schweppes – or the Betfair Hurdle as I think it is called.”

Heskin said: “Kempton was the blow away (moment) last year and then he went to Cheltenham and let us down a little bit. Each time we have gone to Cheltenham we thought he hasn’t handled it, but we were really looking forward to getting him back on this track.

“They went a strong gallop early and I was flat to the boards until the second-last when he came back on the bridle. He is a very smart horse – to do that as a four-year-old was very impressive.

“We had a plan and we changed our plan as we came into the parade ring and I’m glad we did as I was able to ride him with a bit more free reign and ride him as cool as ice. I knew they would go very hard and you can’t keep the gallop going.

“I didn’t expect him to pick up like that though!”

The Glancing Queen continues progression over fences

The Glancing Queen stamped her class on the Actioncoach Invest In The Best Lady Godiva Mares’ Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

A Grade Two bumper winner and twice successful over hurdles, Alan King’s charge made an impressive start to her chasing career in a Listed event at Bangor last month.

A penalty for that victory meant the seven-year-old had to concede 5lb to each of her seven rivals in her bid for a second Listed win, but she could hardly have been more impressive.

Always travelling strongly in the hands of Tom Cannon, The Glancing Queen jumped well throughout and moved smoothly into the slipstream of the pacesetting Barbados Blue rounding the home turn.

King’s mare took over jumping the second fence from home before powering clear – passing the post with seven and half lengths in hand.

“Her jumping was very good. Tom said even when she is in tight she is very quick and away from them,” said King.

“It was always going to suit her stepping back up to two and a half as the extended two mile one at Bangor last time was sharp enough for her and I thought she would travel easier over this trip.

“She is just a grand mare. I’d have been very disappointed if she hadn’t won today even with the penalty.”

Alan King was delighted with The Glancing Queen
Alan King was delighted with The Glancing Queen (David Davies/PA)

Although immediate plans for The Glancing Queen remain fluid, she was introduced at 14-1 for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival by the race sponsors.

King added: “I’ve not really looked beyond today. There is another one the week after, but that is too soon.

“We will work back from Cheltenham now and it is ideal that we have that mares’ chase to aim at now.

“We will give her one or two more runs before then, though.”

Edwardstone is king in Henry VIII at Sandown

Edwardstone stormed home to record an emphatic victory in the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

Starting at 3-1, the seven-year-old provided jockey Tom Cannon with a first success at the highest level with a 16-length win from 9-5 favourite Third Time Lucki.

The market leader jumped erratically at time in front, whereas Alan King’s runner was invariably fluent in his slipstream and broke away after the penultimate fence to stride on into a comfortable lead as the line approached.

Edwardstone is now broadly a 10-1 chance for the Sporting Life Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

A jubilant Cannon said: “The horse did all the talking for me really.

“He was a bit novicey at one or two (fences), but he’s only ever had one completed chase start so he was going to be.

“It was a good jump two out, I gave him a squeeze down to the last and he put it to bed well.

“I’m just delighted for the horse really, more than anything, he hasn’t had much luck in his career but he was lucky today. I was just a passenger really.”

King – winning the race for the third time – said: “He does settle a bit over fences, but we were lucky enough that they have gone a right gallop. He has a great cruising speed and we were thrilled.

“We couldn’t win a bumper. We bumped into some superstars along the way. Over hurdles he was just very progressive. We tried him over fences last year and I think he was unseated in January at Doncaster and I thought it was way too late to keep going, so we went back over hurdles.

Edwardstone on his way to victory
Edwardstone on his way to victory (Steven Paston/PA)

“His form at the back end last season was as good as ever – he was fifth in a County Hurdle and placed at Aintree. But he was always hopefully going to make a chaser.

“We got a nice confidence booster last time and I didn’t really want to come here. To be honest, if I could have found a two-miler with a penalty, I would have gone somewhere, but they were not around and I did want to stay at two (miles).

“Although he is bred to get a trip, to me, he doesn’t need any further than two miles.

“I could not find anything else – unless you wait for Kempton at Christmas and I didn’t want to wait that long.

“He has had three quick runs and it is a nice problem to have where he goes.”

He went on: “It is a while since we had a Grade One winner – Sceau Royal four years ago in this race.

“It doesn’t get any easier. I went to Cheltenham the other week and we had three runners. I didn’t really fancy any of them and I have never been so bored at a day’s racing.

Edwardstone with his connections
Edwardstone with his connections (Steven Paston/PA)

“It means you have to appreciate it when you have a good horse to run, because it means everything. You do get wound up beforehand, but when it comes off, it is a wonderful feeling.

“I hope and think he is an Arkle horse, so we will work back. He has had three fairly quick races. I will probably give him two races. The Kingmaker (at Warwick) would be the ideal one, but he may want somewhere in between. Whether we went to Kempton at Christmas, I don’t know.”

Reflecting further on his landmark triumph, Cannon said: “I have been a slow burner. It took me about four years to ride a winner under rules, so no surprise it has taken me another decade to ride a Grade One winner.

Tom Cannon after his first Grade One success
Tom Cannon after his first Grade One success (Steven Paston/PA)

“The game plan was to do it how it worked out. We went a good gallop. He settled nicely, settled well and was in top gear the whole way down the back just trying to hold him together. He got in close to one of the Railway fences and it was a case of being patient and hoping Harry (Skelton, on Third Time Lucki) would come back to me. I couldn’t really go forcing it and he came back to me sooner than I thought he would.

“It worked out perfectly and he did it easily in the end.”

He added: “It is brilliant – a dream come true. It is nice to cement it further. I won the Whitbread around here last year in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, but to do it properly like that is brilliant.”

Sceau Royal fighting fit for Christmas Hurdle challenge

Sceau Royal will take his chance in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day after coming out of the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in “good order”, according to trainer Alan King.

The nine-year-old defeated last season’s Christmas Hurdle winner Silver Streak on his seasonal bow at Kempton and followed up with a decisive success in the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

However, the versatile Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding, winner of 10 of his 23 races over hurdles, was tapped for toe in the closing stages of last weekend’s two-mile Grade One, where Not So Sleepy and Epatante dead-heated, with Daryl Jacob’s mount a length and a half back in third.

Though Sceau Royal was sent chasing in the spring, the Barbury Castle handler has reverted to the smaller obstacles this autumn and sees the Christmas Hurdle as the ideal race.

King said: “Sceau Royal is fine. We will have a quietish week with him. We will continue his build up and the plan is to go to the Christmas Hurdle with him. He is in good order and has taken his race well. The race looks ideal for him.”

Before that, he is looking forward to Ascot’s Howden Christmas Racing Weekend, with Tritonic set to fly the flag for the yard in the Betfair Exchange Trophy on December 18.

Last season’s Grade Two Adonis Hurdle winner, Tritonic could be joined by stablemate Potterman, who could revert back to hurdles despite winning the bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown in April.

King said: “Tritonic is definitely on course for Ascot. He has been working nicely.

“I’m not sure about Potterman yet. I should imagine if the weather breaks, the ground might be too soft for him then, but I am just giving myself the option. We might leave him for the spring, but we will wait and see.”

Newcastle ground key to Sceau Royal’s Fighting Fifth bid

Alan King is likely to send Sceau Royal for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday week as long as the ground is suitable.

The Barbury Castle trainer is keen to let him take his chance as the nine-year-old has been in fine form since winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton for a record third time earlier this month.

“He’s very well. Obviously, if the weather holds we will seriously look at the Fighting Fifth next weekend,” said King.

“He’s in a good place. I want to go to Newcastle but I wouldn’t go if it was heavy. With this English weather you just don’t know what you’re going to get. If the weather holds, he will probably head to Newcastle.”

King expects Tritonic to be all the better for his fifth place in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday and is looking to run him in the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Ascot on December 18.

“He ran a good race and I think will be much sharper for it – the experience in a big field. He’ll probably go to Ascot the weekend before Christmas,” he said.

“That is what I’m thinking of at the moment.”

Edwardstone delights Alan King with first chasing success

Edwardstone put the record straight, after being brought down 12 days earlier, when landing the odds in the Highflyer Bloodstock Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

Alan King’s seven-year-old was taken down by For Pleasure over this two miles earlier this month, but there was no repeat this time as both horses got round and Edwardstone showed his potential with a pleasing display.

For Pleasure served up his usual front-running tactics but Edwardstone had him in his sights before going on at the second-last obstacle.

Stepney Causeway looked the only danger to the 4-6 favourite but he was brushed aside as Edwardstone, ridden by Tom Cannon, crossed the line seven lengths to the good.

It was the first time in three attempts Edwardstone had put in a clear round over the bigger obstacles as he unseated his rider when favourite on his fencing debut at Doncaster in December, after which he went back hurdling for the rest of last season.

“I was relieved to get him round – I’m really delighted. He jumped away super and it was just what we wanted,” said King.

“I wanted to get today done with and see. He’s had two fairly quick races. I know he didn’t get round last time but that was still his second run in 12 days.

“I’ll get him home and have a re-think. I haven’t got an obvious plan just at the moment. It could possibly be Kempton at Christmas or something like that. We’ll see.

“The important thing is he got round today and won well.”

Trainer Dan Skelton needs just one more winner for 1000 after having a double at Warwick
Trainer Dan Skelton needs just one more winner for 1000 after having a double at Warwick (Mike Egerton/PA)

Dan Skelton is just one away from a career landmark of 1,000 winners after completing a double with Hartur D’Oudairies and West Balboa, both ridden by his brother, Harry.

Hartur D’Oudairies looked an exciting prospect when making a winning debut over jumps in the Olly Murphy Racing “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.

The four-year-old, wearing the JP McManus colours, travelled well throughout before hitting the front after jumping the last. The 4-5 favourite pulled away with the minimum of fuss to score by four and a quarter lengths from Robelli.

“He’s a big, beautiful horse and is only four, so he wants plenty of time. You can see he’s got all of the ingredients and went through the race beautifully – I’m proud of him as he didn’t pull and he had the chance to get keen if he wanted.

“I think we’ve just got to look after him, he’s only five this time next year and I think we’re only just starting to see it with him to be honest – there’s lots of potential there.

“I think we’ll go out under a penalty in December, have his flu vaccine over Christmas and then pick and choose in the spring. I’ll have to talk to the team and see where we end up. We’re going to go steady in the short term and work out the spring when we arrive there.”

West Balboa won at the first time of asking for the Skelton team when comfortably landing the Amy Towers Memorial Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle on her rules debut.

The 2-1 shot led two out and steadily drew clear to beat Queens River, the 8-11 favourite, by 17 lengths.

“She’s a really nice mare and I’ve always really liked her ever since she arrived. I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but I don’t want to aim for the Jane Seymour at Sandown Park because that’s a really tough track and I don’t want to go there.

“She’s good and I’ve got high hopes for her, she won’t go further than two and a half this year I wouldn’t think. but she’s a proper horse.”

Final Nudge (9-2 favourite) came from off the pace to claim the John Sumner Memorial Veterans’ Handicap Chase.

Paddy Brennan bided his time on the Fergal O’Brien-trained 12-year-old before bringing him to challenge the leaders in the straight.

He got the better of a tussle with Fagan to score by three-quarters of a length on his first start since he finished third in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter in March.

Snow Leopardess in line for Becher Chase after Bangor success

There was a popular winner of the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Handicap Chase at Bangor, as Charlie Longsdon’s Snow Leopardess jumped for fun en route to victory.

A quality field was assembled for the three-mile affair, with Canelo, who beat Snow Leopardess in the Rowland Meyrick last season, and Grand National sixth Blaklion both running.

But the grey – who is already a mother, having had a foal to Sir Percy while she recuperated from a leg injury – never looked like being caught and galloped on relentlessly for Aidan Coleman to win by two and three-quarter lengths from Windsor Avenue, as the 5-1 joint-favourite.

Paddy Power cut the nine-year-old to 14-1 from 20s for the Becher Chase over the National fences at Aintree next month.

Snow Leopardess in full flight
Snow Leopardess in full flight (David Davies/PA)

“A lot of people know her history now and she’s been a great mare for us. She did that really well today,” said Longsdon.

“She’s always jumped really well, she loves it and I couldn’t have been more impressed today.

“All ground seems to come alike to her. I probably wouldn’t run on anything quicker than it was today. I worried it wouldn’t be a stiff enough test today, but it was.

“She’s got an entry in the Becher and that is probably what we’ll look at. We’ll take her for a school over the fences at Lambourn.”

The Glancing Queen in winning action under Tom Cannon
The Glancing Queen in winning action under Tom Cannon (David Davies/PA)

The Glancing Queen made a faultless chasing debut for Alan King and Tom Cannon.

King took the unusual step of giving the seven-year-old her first taste of fences in Listed company in the Yorton Stallions Mares’ Novices’ Chase – and was rewarded as The Glancing Queen jumped like an old hand throughout.

Cannon had her nice and settled behind the leading group, with the much more experienced Vienna Court forcing a stiff pace throughout but persistently jumping out to her right, which harmed her chances.

Running down to the last only Maskada was a threat to The Glancing Queen, but Cannon always looked to have her measure and the 5-4 favourite came away to win by a length and three-quarters.

Saint Segal made a winning debut
Saint Segal made a winning debut (David Davies/PA)

Saint Segal (3-1) was a very impressive winner of the Ten To Follow @tote.co.uk Juvenile Maiden Hurdle on his racecourse bow for Jane and Chester Williams, while the Olly Murphy-owned Hunters Call (15-2) once again showed he would have been a very good horse had he been able to avoid injury when an easy winner of the Greenhous DAF Handicap Hurdle.

Donald McCain and Brian Hughes enjoyed their customary winners through Richmond Lake (100-30) in the Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow ‘National Hunt’ Auction Maiden Hurdle, and Barrichello (13-8) in the Racing Welfare Supporting Racing’s Workforce Novices’ Hurdle, the latter showing the benefit of a wind operation after finishing second on his previous five outings.

Sceau Royal out on his own as three-time Elite hero

Sceau Royal became the first horse to win the Unibet Elite Hurdle for a third time when scooting home in the Grade Two at Wincanton.

Alan King’s admirable performer scampered clear on the run-in to add this year’s renewal to his previous wins in 2016 and 12 months ago.

The 4-5 favourite crossed the line five and a half lengths to the good from Teqany in the hands of Daryl Jacob, his task having been made easier by the late withdrawal of Goshen – for whom the ground was too quick.

Sole Pretender took the six runners along in the early stages, with Christopher Wood and Teqany close up. Sceau Royal was always travelling well and took closer order before leading at the final flight and winning as he liked.

King said: “He does all the talking. I don’t have to say much – I think he is a superstar. He has won it as a four year-old, eight-year-old and nine-year-old. I said ‘what the hell was I doing in between?’ – but I was novice chasing.

“He is as good as ever, and I’m convinced he is slightly better. His homework is much better than it was two years ago. We know how to train him now, and he is in such a great place.

“Daryl said he couldn’t have gone any quicker early on, but the one thing he does do is get the trip well. I’ve been saying for two years we will go two and a half with him, but I don’t think we will do that.”

Looking at future targets, King added: “We will speak to Anthony Bromley (racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede), but one thing we won’t do is go right-handed with him over a fence – today he has gone a little bit left, but you can get away with that over hurdles.

“The Fighting Fifth and International at Cheltenham are possible.”

King had earlier enjoyed a one-two when Wynn House (100-30) made a winning return to action, getting the better of stablemate Hotter Than Hell by three-quarters of a length in the Richard Barber Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle under Tom Cannon.

Trainer Alan King had a double on the card at Wincanton
Trainer Alan King had a double on the card at Wincanton (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’ve always thought she was very good. She seems to have grown a fair bit and developed through the summer,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“She probably wants to go up in trip, because the extended two miles five around here on good ground is sharp enough, but she has seen it out well.”

Jordan Nailor enjoyed the biggest success of his career when springing a 40-1 surprise on Rocco in the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase.

The 3lb-claiming conditional brought Nigel Twiston-Davies’ winner through to lead at the second-last fence.

The eight-year-old saw off the challenge of Potterman by two and a quarter lengths to confine King’s charge to runner-up spot in this race for the second successive year.

The first two drew six lengths clear of Hurricane Harvey, with the latter’s fellow joint-favourite Cap Du Nord fourth. There was a sad postscript to the race when it was confirmed Storm Home suffered a fatal fall at the second last.

Of Rocco’s victory, Nailor said: “I had a nice winner over hurdles last season, but to come back early in the season and have another big winner means a lot.

“I’ve ridden in the race a few times, and the thing I’ve learnt is you have to go quick early to get a nice position – otherwise you get shuffled back, but he got the position we wanted and he jumped fantastic, which really helped.

“He had a light enough weight on his back, and the ground was good – which is what he wants. It’s a good jumping test around here, and he jumps brilliantly, so everything panned out brilliantly.

“The Grade Three (handicap at Sandown in March, on Beauport) was my first big winner, so that meant a lot. But this is a race I’ve ridden in a few times – and I thought I’d love to win it and I have now, so there are no complaints.

“He is a bit in and out, but when he performs like that he is a nice horse. This is my first winner since dislocating my thumb in September, so it is good to get a winner like this.”

Jockey Charlie Hammond also had his best win to date when scoring on Captain Tom Cat in the Grade Two John Romans Park Homes ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase.

The 6-4 chance, trained by Richard Newland, put in a good round of jumping and got the better of the odds-on favourite Mick Pastor by two and a quarter lengths.

Hammond said: “That’s by far my biggest winner. I won the Sefton last year, but to come here and win a Grade Two is lovely. The boss (Newland) has been good to put me up today, so things are going well.

“We missed the odd one down the back but we were almost between strides and I was just trying to quicken up then. He has been very clever and got me out of trouble – and over the last three when I needed him, he was really good.

“It was a lovely jumping performance, and he stayed it out well, and that is probably won us the race. He is a big athletic sort that was a cheap buy, but the boss has done a real good job with him.”

Sceau Royal out to prove himself Elite again

Alan King has hailed Sceau Royal as a “legend” as the nine-year-old goes in search of a third win in the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Way back in 2016, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s versatile performer won Saturday’s race as a four-year-old.

He has since gone on to prove himself even better over fences, while also winning the Elite again easily last year – and he looked as good as ever when beating Silver Streak at Kempton on his recent reappearance.

“He’s a legend. He’s going for a third win in this and is very much a yard favourite,” said King.

“He’s in good order and he came out of Kempton well, so I’m looking forward to running him.

“Crucially the ground should suit. We all know he’s better on some nice ground.”

Gary Moore’s Goshen is on something of a retrieval mission this season, following an up-and-down campaign last time around.

He did, though, manage his only win over this course and distance in the Kingwell Hurdle.

There are two Irish runners in Norman Lee’s Sole Pretender, who won the Grimes Hurdle, and Peter Fahey’s Belfast Banter – an impressive winner of the County Hurdle at Cheltenham before then stepping up on that to win a Grade One at Aintree.

Belfast Banter provided Kevin Sexton with the biggest win of his career at Cheltenham
Belfast Banter provided Kevin Sexton with the biggest win of his career at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

He has since finished midfield in the Galway Hurdle, and took a heavy fall at Listowel last time out.

“It’s a tight track, and there’ll be loads of pace involved in the race,” said Fahey.

“It could suit him and hopefully he’ll run a huge race. He’s forward and is fit and well in himself.

“He was a bit sore the day after his fall at Listowel but he’s come out of it fine. He’s schooled well at home. Everything seems fine. He was going to run a big race that day.”

Paul Nicholls runs Christopher Wood, the mount of Bryony Frost, with Harry Cobden on Sole Pretender.

Also on the card is the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase – a race Nicholls has dominated down the years, but the unseasonably quick ground has played havoc with his planning this time.

He declared top weight Truckers Lodge and Highland Hunter in the hope of getting in a prep for the Welsh National for both – but took them out on Friday afternoon, having walked the track with clerk of the course Dan Cooper.

King runs Potterman, who in contrast likes good ground, but the trainer warns he will come on for his first outing of the season.

A short-head runner-up to the re-opposing El Presente in this race 12 months ago, Potterman went on to win the Bet365 Gold Cup following an inquiry – but he was last seen pulling up at Perth in June.

“I think by the time he got to Perth in June he’d just had enough,” said King.

“He’d had a good year before that and has had a good break. He is only just ready to start back now, but I wanted to try and get a run into him before the Ladbroke Trophy.

“I think whatever he does in this he will come on for the race, and also he’s pretty high in the handicap now. The handicapper has probably got him as well, but he likes going right-handed and he won’t mind the ground, so we’ll see how he gets on.”

El Presente, Emma Lavelle’s Irish Prophecy, Fergal O’Brien’s Hurricane Harvey and the Christian Williams-trained Cap Du Nord are other major players in a typically competitive renewal.

All eyes were set to be on Nicholls’  Bravemansgame in the  John Romans Park Homes “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase, following his sparkling chasing debut at Newton Abbot, but the champion trainer pulled him out too on Friday.

Nicholls tweeted: “Have just walked @wincantonraces with @Dan_WCooper
and after their sterling effort watering we both agree the chase track is good, good to firm in places and therefore too fast to run Bravemansgame . @CobdenHarry will switch to Mick Pastor.”

Trueshan brilliant in Long Distance Cup repeat

Trueshan justified strong market support to record back-to-back victories in a rough race for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot.

Winner of the Prix du Cadran just two weeks ago, Alan King’s five-year-old repeated last year’s success on home soil, with veteran stayer Stradivarius third.

His regular partner, Hollie Doyle, missed out on ParisLongchamp due to a riding ban with James Doyle deputising, but she was back in the saddle and took full advantage.

There was a muddling early pace with The Mediterranean settling down in front from Master Of Reality, with Trueshan in midfield and Stradivarius towards the rear.

While Frankie Dettori had to make his challenge wide on Stradivarius after a barging match with Baron Samedi, Doyle had Trueshan in a good position turning for home.

The evens favourite was harassed by Tashkhan, but his class prevailed and he asserted in the final furlong to beat the 50-1 outsider by a length and a half.

Stradivarius finally got a clear run, but his bid flattened out and he was two and a half lengths further away.

Trueshan was quoted at 4-1 favourite with Betfair for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot next summer.

King said: “I haven’t been this nervous for a long time.

“I was just nervous because it was only two weeks (between runs). Dan (Horsford) was very happy with him at home, but he was quite a handful to saddle today and quite hot. I don’t think he was at his best, but we’ve got away with it.

“He had to be very, very tough today. Brian’s (Ellison) horse kept coming back at him and Stradivarius has run another marvellous race the old boy.

“Hollie has ridden him most of the way through and he is her ride. It was unfortunate she had to miss France through suspension. James did a great job, but he knew Hollie would be back on board today.

“Everyone is saying I’ve been too cautious with him, but the only time I’ve taken this horse out is when it’s been proper fast ground – here at the Royal meeting when the rain came a day late, it was very quick at York and so was Doncaster. I would run him on good ground, but I won’t run him on good to firm.

“Let’s hope we get a wet Royal Ascot next year. It would be lovely to run him in the Gold Cup. We’ll duck and dive and if he keeps doing as well as he is at the moment we’ll be very happy.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve won a Grade One over jumps, so it’s nice to win a few big races on the Flat.”

Doyle said: “It’s an amazing feeling and all credit to Alan and the owners for putting me back on.

“The pressure was really on today to deliver given the great ride James gave him in France, so I’m glad it went well.

“It was a bit of a nightmare really. He jumped nicely, I got a nice position early on and he switched off – but at halfway he came to life, put the brakes on and raced rather keenly, but that’s just the way he is.

“I could feel Frankie breathing down my neck five down and I was wider than I wanted to be turning in, but I had to make my move.

“He’s so brave, to back up like he’s done today it’s just amazing.

“We’ll dream again next year, when hopefully he’ll be a stronger horse.”

Stradivarius - beaten but unbowed
Stradivarius – beaten but unbowed (PA)

Of Stradivarius, John Gosden said: “He ran a great race considering the ground. He seems fine after the race and no decision will be made on next year until next week. In other words, we want to see how the horse is in the next few days at home and he will tell us how to play it.

“I think he is more of the Federer blend in a sense. He’s not blowing, but when you look at the tactics, today and in the Gold Cup, you see that other guys are riding the race for him.

“They do go finding him in a race. One day they box him in and the next day they push him out. You look at the Ascot Gold Cup and today and other guys are riding him. I don’t want to go any further than that.

“That (retirement or stay in training as an eight-year-old) is Bjorn’s (Nielsen, owner) decision, but I will tell him how the horse is. Funnily enough the horse is a very expressive character. He will tell us.

“Today it was a great run off a horrible trip.”

Dettori was not at all happy with the ride of Dylan Browne McMonagle aboard Baron Samedi, calling it “a disgrace”.

“It was a disgrace. The kid in front of me did everything possible to get me beat,” he said.

However, Baron Samedi’s trainer Joseph O’Brien felt McMonagle did nothing wrong and put up a strong defence of his riding.

“I thought Dylan gave my horse a fantastic ride. I thought he was very tactically aware, held his position when he had to and I thought he moved at the right point,” said O’Brien.

“He gave him a great ride. It’s not up to Dylan to ride anyone else’s horse. He does his own thing and gave my horse a fantastic ride and held his ground when he had to.”

King wary of swift returns as Trueshan and Stradivarius clash again

Alan King admits only time will tell how much a slog in the Paris mud took out of both Trueshan and Stradivarius ahead of their mouthwatering rematch in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Trueshan will be favourite to make it back-to-back wins in the Champions Day opener, having inflicted a comprehensive defeat on legendary stayer Stradivarius in the Prix du Cadran.

The pair renew rivalry just a fortnight later – and while King has been happy with his stable star since his French triumph, he acknowledges the two-week gap is not ideal.

“We haven’t done much with him since Longchamp, but he had a little breeze on Wednesday and Dan (Horsford), who rides him every day, was happy with him,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“We’re under no illusions, it’s only two weeks since the two of them had a hard race, but it’s Trueshan’s last race of the season, so he’s got all winter to get over it.

“We think he’s OK, but we can’t really be certain until we get on the track. We’ve tried to keep him as fresh as possible and we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”

While conditions will not be quite as demanding as they were in the Bois de Boulogne, King has no concerns regarding the going in Berkshire.

He added: “The ground will be fine. I can’t see it drying out too much. I’ve always said I’d run him on good ground, so I’m not that worried.

“We’re happy, but there is that question mark and there’s no point pretending otherwise.”

Frankie Dettori leaps from Stradivarius after winning his second Doncaster Cup
Frankie Dettori leaps from Stradivarius after winning his second Doncaster Cup (Mike Egerton/PA)

Stradivarius has dominated the staying division in recent seasons, with his illustrious CV including three Gold Cups, four Goodwood Cups, three Lonsdale Cups, two Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.

John and Thady Gosden’s seven-year-old also won the Long Distance Cup in 2018 and was narrowly beaten by Kew Gardens in 2019, but finished a long way behind behind Trueshan 12 months ago.

John Gosden has spoken of his regret at sending his entire to Paris earlier in the month, with conditions set to be more in his favour this weekend.

“We very much wish that we hadn’t run there, as it looks as if he will get ground closer to what he wants at Ascot,” said the Clarehaven handler.

“We are not mad keen on coming back after just 14 days, but once it was clear he wasn’t handling the ground (at ParisLongchamp), Frankie (Dettori) didn’t get after him too much.”

Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe
Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe (PA)

The Tony Mullins-trained Princess Zoe is also making a quick return to action, having finished fifth behind Trueshan and Stradivarius when defending her Cadran crown.

Mullins said: “Trueshan is the one to beat. I’m hoping that we’ll be competitive with Stradivarius, who was a great champion, but he’s coming near the end of his peak.

“We’re going to give it a go. Coming back two weeks after the Cadran is a major factor – it’s a worry for Trueshan and it’s also a worry for us.

“We’re hopeful that Princess Zoe will run as well, if not better, at Ascot.”

William Haggas saddles both Hamish and Roberto Escobarr, with the former holding particularly strong claims judged on his defeat of the high-class Hukum in the September Stakes at Kempton last month.

“If you want to take the Hukum line at face value, Hamish would definitely have a chance. I don’t think we saw Hukum at his best at Kempton, but Hamish is a good horse all the same,” said Haggas.

“I believe the ground is going to be on the soft side of good, probably dead, and that will suit Hamish.

“He’s in good form, he did his last bit (on Wednesday morning) and he looks great.

“Roberto I’d have to say is better on top of the ground, so it might be a bit dead for him.

“But he’s a very genuine stayer and we’re going to put some cheekpieces on him on Saturday and a tongue-tie and hope that that can eke out a bit of improvement.

“Whether it will eke out the stone improvement he needs to be competitive, I don’t know. But he will run and we look forward to it, he looks really well.”