Buzz and Coffey lead Betfair bidding for Henderson

Nicky Henderson is triple-handed in his bid for a sixth victory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Sunday.

It is 23 years since the master of Seven Barrows first plundered the always-competitive handicap with Sharpical, since when he has added to his tally with dual winner Geos (2000 and 2004), Landing Light (2001) and My Tent Or Yours (2013).

His two chief contenders for this year’s renewal are the unexposed course-and-distance winner Mister Coffey and top-weight Buzz.

Stable jockey Nico de Boinville partners Mister Coffey, last seen finishing third in the December Handicap Hurdle at Sandown, while Kevin Brogan takes 5lb off the back of Betfair Exchange Trophy runner-up Buzz – who would otherwise carry the welter burden of 11st 12lb.

Henderson said: “Mister Coffey finished third at Sandown last time, and I think we’ve got to assume his education is over now and ride him with more confidence and more prominently.

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“There’s no point trying to drop him out in a race like this. We’re hopeful Nico can ride a normal race, which should make it easier.

“Buzz seems to have improved a fair bit this year. He acts on soft ground, was very good at Ascot and began the season by finishing third in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.

“He has run three very sound races, but consequently has crept up the handicap. We’re claiming off him to help a bit.”

Henderson’s third string is outsider Fred, who reverts to hurdling after finishing fourth on his chasing debut at Warwick in the autumn.

Cadzand (right) on his way to victory at Kempton
Cadzand (right) on his way to victory at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The two at the top of the market are Dan Skelton’s Cadzand and the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Soaring Glory.

Runner-up on his hurdling debut at Ayr, Cadzand has since produced two impressive performances to win at Warwick and Kempton.

Mark Speelman, racing manager for owners Chelsea Thoroughbreds, said: “He travelled like a nice horse last time at Kempton – and the form has worked out since, with the second (Christopher Wood) winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Musselburgh.

“He does look to be a horse who will hopefully be suited by a big field. He really caught the eye at Kempton and quickened up nicely, showing a nice turn of foot and putting the race to bed.

“Obviously he’s got a bit more weight to carry, but hopefully he can continue his progress.”

Ben Pauling has high hopes for Shakem Up’Arry, who carries the colours of football manager Harry Redknapp.

The seven-year-old reverts to handicap company after chasing home Metier in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last month.

“He’s a chaser in the making, but certainly has plenty to give for the rest of this season over hurdles,” said Pauling.

“Like with a lot of horses, he’ll only get better and better with age.

“I think he goes to Newbury with a great shout. He’s a very strong traveller, he’s a great jumper and he handles very tough ground.”

Redknapp looking to ‘Arry to shake up Betfair rivals

Viewers of this week’s Soccer Saturday programme may notice an empty chair at 3.35pm as Harry Redknapp nips off to watch his horse Shakem Up’Arry in the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Trained by Ben Pauling, Shakem Up’Arry will arrive at Newbury with solid claims having finished second to Metier in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time out.

He meets the winner again, but is much better off at the weights this time and Redknapp is just hoping his TV absence while the race is being run goes unnoticed.

“I’m doing Soccer Saturday this week with Jeff Stelling,” said Redknapp.

“I’ve never done it before, but they asked me about six weeks ago, before I knew the horse was running and I said I would.

“I’m going to have to find a way to get out for five minutes to watch the race because I’m not missing it!”

Shakem Up’Arry has always been held in high regard, but has had the misfortune of bumping into some top-class prospects to date.

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“We love him. Ben likes him very much but he’s come up against some good horses. He came up against (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner) Shishkin at Newbury, we were actually favourite that day,” Redknapp said, on a call hosted by Great British Racing.

Shakem Up'Arry (striped cap) chased home Metier in the Tolworth Hurdle
Shakem Up’Arry (striped cap) chased home Metier in the Tolworth Hurdle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He jumped the last upsides going equally as well, but he went away from us on the run. We’ve also come up against Mister Coffey, so he’s come up against some good ones.

“Ben says the horse is really well. We’ll need it, but we’ve got a 13lb swing at the weights with the favourite (Metier) from Sandown, which should bring us closer together.”

As for his name, Redknapp took inspiration from his days managing West Ham United.

He said: “There used to be a guy who stood behind me at West Ham when I was manager and for 90 minutes he’d just shout ‘shake ’em up ‘Arry’, and it was all I could hear on a Saturday night when I got home. When I played, someone used to shout ‘wake up Harry’, so I’ve got one called that as well.

“When I came to picking my colours I was just trying to keep everybody happy, as I wasn’t sure where I’d be managing at the time!”

Harry Redknapp is a frequent racegoer in his spare time
Harry Redknapp is a frequent racegoer in his spare time (David Davies/PA)

Redknapp’s interest in racing stems from his grandmother and he explained: “My nan was the bookies’ runner in our street in the east end of London, for Frankie Brown.

“Cyril the Paper Boy – who would have been 60-odd but we still called him that – he would come to my nan’s because she would collect all the bets in our street. She’d take a paper off him and drop the bets in his basket.

“I would come home for my school dinner and my nan would be being taken off to the police station because it was illegal. I was about six or seven, she’d be shouting ‘your dinner’s in the oven, I’ll only be an hour’. She’d get a slap on the wrist and we’d listen to the results on the radio when she got home.

“The next day Cyril would be back with any winnings. Three tuppenny doubles and a tuppenny treble was the standard bet. I had no choice but to be interested. I couldn’t read or write at eight years of age, but my nan would give me a pen to pick out some horses. She was amazing, Maggie, my nan.

“I remember going to Ascot and being in a box with Michael Tabor and JP (McManus) thinking, ‘what would my nan think now’.”

Should Shakem Up’Arry win this weekend, his Cheltenham entries might not seem so fanciful and Redknapp, like most, would love nothing more than a winner at the Festival.

“The dream would be to have a winner at Cheltenham one day, but everybody who is involved in racing has the same dream. It’s not easy, obviously. It must be amazing to have a winner there, what a great Festival it is,” he said.

“Wake Up Harry is entered in the Derby and I’d love a runner in that, but we’ll wait and see how good he is. He won well the other week and could be half decent.”

One thing he will not be doing, though, is joining the likes of Mick Channon and Micky Quinn, as a former footballer in the training ranks.

He added: “I’ve no intentions of training, I wouldn’t know enough about it. There’s nothing worse for a trainer than some busy owner telling them what to do having never trained a horse in their life. It’s a little bit like football – I never liked being told by someone who hadn’t done it.”

Pauling may supplement The Cob in Albert Bartlett

Ben Pauling will give serious consideration to supplementing The Cob for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival following his impressive victory at Doncaster.

The seven-year-old made a flying start to the current campaign with back-to-back wins at Uttoxeter and Haydock, but came up short in his hat-trick bid at Newbury over Christmas.

As a result, he was a 25-1 shot for his first start over three miles in Saturday’s Grade Two Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle – but ran out a dominant winner under Daryl Jacob to leave connections dreaming of Festival glory.

Pauling said: “I was delighted with him, and he seems in great form this morning.

“Was it a big shock? I think he was under-estimated at the prices, but I can’t say I expected him to win in that fashion.

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“The step up to three miles has obviously brought out the best in him – he’s handled the ground and he’s got a decent engine.”

Cheltenham has therefore entered the equation.

“It’s just over £4,500 to supplement him for the Albert Bartlett,” added Pauling.

The Cob was well on top in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster
The Cob was well on top in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster (Tim Goode/PA)

“We don’t have to supplement him until March 13, so we can train him up to that day – and if he’s in bang-on form then I think we will supplement him.

“I didn’t enter him originally because I probably thought he was 10lb short of being worthy of an entry. Over two and a half miles, he might have been, but going three miles has clearly made a big difference to him.

“I think he probably deserves to have a go at the Albert Bartlett now, particularly because it looks a very open race this year.”

More immediately, the Cotswolds trainer is eyeing big-race success with Shakem Up’Arry in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 13.

Runner-up to the brilliant Shishkin in a novice hurdle at the Berkshire circuit last season, the Harry Redknapp-trained seven-year-old was last seen chasing home Harry Fry’s Metier in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

“There is a strong possibility he will go for the Betfair Hurdle if the ground stays like it is at the moment,” Pauling added.

“He is a big, raw horse that will want two and a half miles in time – but he has the gears for two miles, and we know he handles very soft ground very easily and he jumps beautifully.

“I think next season over a fence he is going to be something else – you don’t get many that jump as well as he does.

“He is just a very cool horse that I think is going to be a proper novice chaser.”

The Cob surprises River Don rivals

Ben Pauling won the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle as The Cob sprang a 25-1 surprise at Doncaster.

Bouncing back from a disappointing run at Newbury last time out, he showed stamina in abundance in the straight as all the fancied runners dropped away one by one.

Emir Sacree, a close relation to Sprinter Sacre, and Kim Bailey’s Bobhopeornohope helped force the pace, but by the top of the home straight, the pair were struggling.

Emma Lavelle’s Shang Tang cruised into contention with Exploiteur another still going well, but Daryl Jacob was sitting pretty on The Cob.

Portstorm stayed on to claim second at 50-1, some nine lengths away, with Castle Robin third.

Jacob said: “All credit to Ben and his team. With Cheltenham off, he switched me to this fella. He had no worries about the trip for him.

“He travelled through the race nicely and jumped nicely. It was probably my mistake three out. Other than that he’s won readily enough and pricked his ears after the last. Thankfully, he had race sewn up by then.

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“Ben just said to get a nice start. They went a nice, even gallop and with it being his first try at the trip, I didn’t want to be handy. I just lobbed away and got into a relaxed rhythm.

“On that ground, if you do too much you definitely won’t get home. I just wanted him to last and stay the trip, most importantly.”

The Late Legend (7-2 favourite) gave a bold front-running display in the hands of Sean Bowen to take the Sky Money Back As Cash Handicap Chase.

Tom Weston’s eight-year-old crossed the line half a length ahead of Special Acceptance and survived a stewards’ inquiry to win for the fifth time this season.

Bowen said: “He was a different horse today. He normally doesn’t travel that well and jump that well, but he was really enjoying himself.

“He’s always dossed in front and that’s what he did today, but he kept going where it mattered.”

Dorking Lad (13-2) returned to form when defying a big weight in the Visit Handicap Hurdle.

Tom Lacey’s six-year-old had disappointed on his last two starts, but was back to his best when collaring long-time leader, 150-1 shot Sayar, between the last two flights to score by two and a half lengths under 7lb claimer Jason Dixon.

“It was nice to get him back on track, having run so well over fences at Exeter, but then things went wrong at Huntingdon,” said Lacey.

“We gave him plenty of time to recover from that and this looked a lovely opportunity. It’s nice when it comes off.”

There was a sting in the tail for Dixon. He was banned for two days for using his whip without giving his mount time to respond after jumping the final hurdle.

Marshmallo (20-1) saw off the attentions of Billiams Legacy to open her account in the British EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

The Henry Daly-trained six-year-old stepped up on an encouraging debut effort to score by two lengths in the hands of former champion jockey Richard Johnson.

“The owners bred her as well so they will be delighted,” said Johnson.

“She’s obviously improved a bit from Warwick. To win on that ground is hard work so it showed she’s got a good attitude.

“I’m sure she’ll make into a nice staying hurdler in time.”

Le Breuil in good shape ahead of renewed bid for Classic Chase glory

Le Breuil bids to make amends for being unlucky in the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase 12 months ago when he returns to Warwick on Saturday.

Being slowly away put the Ben Pauling-trained Le Breuil on the back foot for a horse that likes to be up with the pace, but he nevertheless put in good late headway to take fifth place behind Kimberlite Candy.

Pauling also feels a wind operation since he finished third to Vieux Lion Rouge in the Becher Chase at Aintree will help his cause, as will his slide in the weights.

“He’s in good order with himself. He’s had a wind op since the Becher, I think that will help him a lot,” said the Cheltenham-based handler. “He just slipped his palate at the back of the second-last at Aintree.

Trainer Ben Pauling
Trainer Ben Pauling (David Davies/PA)

“The trip and track suit, but he had no luck in the race last year. He jumped off near last when he likes to race prominently and then he flew home, so I suggest that he’s got every chance of running a big race.

“I’m looking forward to it. He’s 8lb lower than last year and I’ll think he’ll run well.”

Captain Chaos was second last year and his trainer Dan Skelton is expecting another big show.

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“Captain Chaos is in good form. We’ve put the blinkers back on and he ran well in this race last year,” he said. 

“I’ve not seen much from him this season, which is a bit of a concern, but he always starts his season slow, while the ground was really bad on his second start at Bangor. 

“Blinkers make a big difference to him and we know he acts here as he ran well in it last year. He is as well as I can have him. 

“He is favourite, which is a big leap of faith from those betting on him I feel, but hopefully having the headgear back on will make a big difference.”

Alan King has had the Classic Chase in mind for Notachance
Alan King has had the Classic Chase in mind for Notachance (David Davies/PA)

Notachance made a winning comeback at Bangor in November following 10 months off the track, after which trainer Alan King specifically aimed the seven-year-old at this race.

“This has been the target all the way through since his win at Bangor. He did have an entry in the Welsh National, but I never thought about racing him in that on that ground,” said the Barbury Castle hander.

“This looks like a logical race to have a go at with him. Everything has gone well in the build up. He has raced over three and a quarter miles before, so I don’t see the trip being a problem. We always thought he would be a nice staying chaser. 

“I think he is a better horse this season than last. He is more mature. I’m very happy with him and he has done well. 

“We are hoping he will be one for the Scottish National as I had that as a long-term target, but we will get this out of the way first. He won’t go to Aintree, as neither the trainer nor owner are keen on the race.”

Storm Control heads for the Classic Handicap Chase on a hat-trick after two wins at Cheltenham
Storm Control heads for the Classic Handicap Chase on a hat-trick after two wins at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Kerry Lee is looking forward to finding out if Storm Control can prove a contender for Randox Health Grand National honours.

The eight-year-old has improved for stepping up from two and a half miles to three miles plus with wins at Cheltenham on his last two starts.

With those victories has come the inevitable hike in the ratings for Storm Control, but that does not worry Lee.

“He’s been in great order. I wouldn’t be unduly concerned about his rise in the ratings. He’s still on a nice racing weight in this particular race,” said the Presteigne trainer.

“I’m looking forward to finding out if he’s a Grand National contender at the trip.”

Robert Walford is hoping Walk In The Mill can bounce back following an uncharacteristic fall at the Chair when bidding to win the Becher Chase for the third year running at Aintree last month.

“He was a bit stiff after Aintree, but he’s all right now,” said Walford.

“It’s a tough race, but we’re hoping he’ll run well.”

Ben Pauling considering options for Shakem Up’Arry

Ben Pauling is looking forward to seeing what Shakem Up’Arry can do over fences next season following his fine effort in second to impressive Tolworth Hurdle winner Metier at Sandown.

A second-season novice, Pauling’s charge – who is owned by football manager Harry Redknapp – ran in the Ballymore at Cheltenham in March, although his trainer sees his long-term future very much over the larger obstacles.

Races such as the Betfair Hurdle, Imperial Cup and even the County Hurdle are under consideration if the ground is still on the soft side.

“He’s come out of the race incredibly well, he’s bouncing and I think he ran a really nice race,” said Pauling.

Shakem Up'Arry (red and white cap) made gave the high-class Metier a race at Sandown
Shakem Up’Arry (red and white cap) made gave the high-class Metier a race at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The winner was really quite impressive so while it might not have been a vintage Tolworth there were some decent horses in it and the front pair pulled nicely clear, looking good prospects for the future.

“Over two miles I think we’ll need soft ground, but over two and a half he’d be fine. He does have quite a knee action, though.

“There are plenty of options for the rest of the season. We might toy with the Betfair Hurdle, but that might come a bit soon so something like the Imperial Cup or even, if the ground was soft, the County Hurdle would be up his street.

“If it went really soft we could even think of the better novices, but Saturday showed where he was. He’s a nice horse but he’s a chaser, it’s all about next year and I think he’ll be a very smart novice chaser.”

Harry Redknapp looks to have a smart prospect on his hands in the shape of Shakem Up'Arry
Harry Redknapp looks to have a smart prospect on his hands in the shape of Shakem Up’Arry (Simon Cooper/PA)

Redknapp has been in touch with Pauling already, and is “very excited” at what the future might hold.

“Harry is very excited, everyone can see that he’s got a bright future. He’s a great, big, solid horse, but he didn’t have the Flat speed of the winner and that showed over the last two,” said Pauling.

“We’re very happy. He’ll be campaigned to be as competitive as he can be for the rest of this year, but I can’t wait to get him over a fence.”

Walk In The Mill seeking Aintree history in Becher Chase

Trainer Robert Walford is wary of the extra weight Walk In The Mill must carry as he bids for his own piece of Aintree history with a third successive win in the William Hill Becher Chase.

Two other horses have won the race twice, Into The Red and Hello Bud, but even they did not manage to win it back-to-back as Walk In The Mill has.

His task is distinctly harder this time around from a mark 12lb higher than his first win, and he is rising 11, but he showed up well for a long way on his comeback at Ascot to suggest all his ability remains.

“He’s in really good form but he’s obviously got more weight than he’s had in previous years. We’re hopeful of a good run,” said Dorset handler Walford.

“He always needs his first run of the year really. I was quite happy with the way he ran at Ascot. I thought he ran quite nicely.”

Ben Pauling is hoping Le Breuil can build on his solid first attempt over the Grand National fences 12 months ago when he has his second crack at the race this weekend.

Winner of the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, Le Breuil ran better than his seventh place would suggest.

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“He’s in great order with himself. He ran well in the race last year, so I’m expecting another big run from him this year,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“He obviously loved the fences last year. Hopefully he’s in as good a form as I can have him going into the race.

“It was nice to see him in the form of old up at Kelso. We look forward to a big run on Saturday.”

Last year’s runner-up Kimberlite Candy has also risen in the weights, but his trainer Tom Lacey believes the eight-year-old can handle that now.

Kimberlite Candy on his way to winning the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick
Kimberlite Candy on his way to winning the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick (Steven Paston/PA)

“He does have a lot more weight to carry than last year, when he was second, but he is another year stronger,” he said.

“He’s been a late-maturing horse all the way through his life, and I think he’s the finished article now – so I can’t wait.

“He ran an absolute belter in the race last year and he is going back having run a career-best in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time out.”

Alex Hales cannot wait to pitch Smooth Stepper over the Aintree fences. The 11-year-old won the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February, and shaped well on his comeback run at Sandown four weeks ago.

“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to run him in, and I thought he ran very well in his prep race at Sandown on unsuitable ground,” he said.

“He comes here, and it looks like the ground is going to be in his favour.

“I thought he proved at Sandown he could be competitive off his new handicap mark – and he’s in very good order.

“I’m looking forward to it. He looks an ideal type for the race.”

Vieux Lion Rouge, the winner in 2016, makes his fifth consecutive appearance in the three-and-a-quarter-mile contest and is one of two runners from the David Pipe stable.

“He ran well the other day. It was a pipe opener for this and he qualified for the veterans’ final as well so it served its purpose – he’s come on a lot from there,” Pipe said in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“He’s working as well up the gallops now as he was three years ago. He has dropped down the weights but he lights up for this occasion, and he’s not without a shout.”

Pipe has a second string to his bow in Ramses De Teillee, who put up a gutsy display to land a narrow victory at Cheltenham last time.

Ramses de Teillee (left) tries the Grand National fences for a second time when he lines-up for the Becher Chase
Ramses de Teillee (left) tries the Grand National fences for a second time when he lines up for the Becher Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s a better horse on softer ground and he should get that on Saturday,” said the Nicolashayne trainer.

“He’s going back to Aintree for a second time – which can be a thing. A lot of jockeys and trainers will tell you most horses will do something well once, it’s the second time you have to be wary.

“Hopefully, because of the softer ground, they won’t go as quick, and he’ll be in his comfort zone.”

Newbury beckons for Global Citizen

Ben Pauling is weighing up two handicap options at the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury for multiple Grade Two winner Global Citizen.

The eight-year-old failed to complete a race for the first time in his career when pulling up on his seasonal return in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last week.

Pauling hopes Global Citizen can leave that effort behind in either the Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase on November 27 or the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase, better known as the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy, 24 hours later.

He said: “Global Citizen came out of the Exeter race fine, and the likelihood is that he will go to Newbury now at the end of the month.

“He will either go for the two-mile-three handicap chase on the Friday or what is the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy.

“He should have dropped to a nice mark for a handicap like either of those.”

With a decision to drop Global Citizen in behind the pace at Exeter failing to work, Pauling plans to switch him back to the front-running tactics which have served him well in the past.

He added: “It was disappointing at Exeter, but we thought we would try different tactics and just drop him in. Some horses don’t enjoy being ridden like that, and he is one.

“He likes to flick his toe out and attack the fences and not sit in behind horses where he can’t do that.”

2019 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle third Bright Forecast who has been retired (Simon Cooper/PA Images)
2019 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle third Bright Forecast, who has been retired (Simon Cooper/PA Images)

Pauling has announced the retirement of 2019 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle third Bright Forecast, who missed all of last season and has since suffered a second heart issue.

He added: “His heart has gone out of rhythm twice, and we now feel it is going to be hard to keep it right.

“He has gone back to his owners, we have to keep the horse’s interest at heart, and there is no point carrying on.

“It is a desperate shame, there are no two ways about it, because in the short spell he had with us he was very exciting.”

Citizen all set for Haldon Gold Cup

Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase winner Global Citizen is among 16 entries for the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on Tuesday.

Last seen finishing fourth on unsuitably soft ground in the Arkle at Cheltenham, the eight-year-old is still massively unexposed over fences.

His Grade Two victory at Kempton in December could hardly have worked out any better, though – given runner-up Rouge Vif dominated a handicap under a huge weight on Saturday, the third Grand Sancy has won a Listed event at Chepstow and fourth Al Dancer beat Master Tommytucker at Newton Abbot.

“Global Citizen will go for the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter,” said trainer Ben Pauling.

“Unfortunately for him it rained on the Monday night before Cheltenham, which turned the ground soft, and he doesn’t like it.

“Exeter has been very quick at the meetings they have had so far this season, and by the looks of the forecast coming, I would say the ground will be lovely for him there.

“So he’s in good order, we’re aiming him for the Haldon and we’re looking forward to it.”

Olly Murphy’s Brewin’upastorm, Evan Williams Grade One winner Esprit Du Large and Venetia Williams’ Fanion D’Estruval, who went off favourite for the Wayward Lad, are among a classy entry.

Paul Nicholls’ Greaneteen and Capeland, Mick Channon’s Glen Forsa and the Tom George-trained Bun Doran, third in the Champion Chase, add even more strength in depth.

Newbury hope Kildisart set for hurdles prep

Cheltenham Festival runner-up Kildisart will run over hurdles at either Wetherby or Carlisle this weekend – with the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury his early-season aim.

Ben Pauling’s eight-year-old was being aimed at the Grand National last spring before the pandemic struck.

After a couple of below-par runs last winter, Kildisart bounced right back to his best in March when second to The Conditional, beaten just a neck in the Grade Three Ultima Handicap Chase.

He holds entries this weekend in the Grade Two bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday and Carlisle’s Join Racing TV Now Handicap Hurdle on Sunday.

“Wherever he runs this weekend, and I haven’t had chance to discuss it with Anthony (Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede) yet, it is all preparation for the Ladbroke,” said Pauling.

“He’s in very good order with himself for his first run of the season – we’re happy with him, and he will run somewhere this weekend.

“He was right back to his best at Cheltenham. He is a very nice horse, but last season just didn’t work out for him early doors for one reason or another.

“After that he came right back and you couldn’t have asked for much more at Cheltenham, being beaten a neck.

“Obviously, he was then going for the National off what looked a favourable weight.

“But it is what it is, and it didn’t happen, so this season we’ll look to have a crack at the Ladbroke and make a plan from there.”

Early NH Season, Part 2

A few weeks ago, my last article focused on National Hunt trainers who fly out of the gates in the autumn, writes Jon Shenton.   When compiling data and researching angles for that edition there were a few other areas of interest which I’d like to touch on today.

A key aspect that was considered for the aforementioned piece was evaluating where trainers had a runner returning to the track after an absence of more than 180 days, or about 6 months.  The thinking is that some trainers will have horses wound up and ready to go after a summer absence, while others’ animals generally come on for a run, taking a long-term view of the season ahead.

The below graph shows the total volume of runners returning to the track after a layoff of that magnitude.  Clearly, now is a good time to dive into which trainers are ready to go or otherwise.  As can be seen, we are in peak season for long absence returners.

Graph illustrating number of horses returning to the track after a break of 181+ days, since 2010, by month


Bargepoles and Scary data

My general approach is to always try and provide a few pointers to find a reasonable return over the medium to long term.  However, there is definite value in identifying horses through which to strike a line: data for those inclined to lay in other words.

The first stop is what I’d uncharitably term a ‘bargepole list’. The table below comprises of trainer records in terms of horses making a reappearance after more than 180 days off the track.  50 runs is the minimum level for inclusion and I have sorted in reverse A/E, accounting for all runs from the start of 2010 onwards.


Trainer performance for all runners from 2010 where the horse last ran 181+ days previously

Trainer Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
Jewell, Mrs L C 51 0 0.0 -51.0 5.9 -100.0 0
Menzies, Rebecca 52 0 0.0 -52.0 11.5 -100.0 0
Young, Mrs L J 62 0 0.0 -62.0 11.3 -100.0 0
Carroll, A W 81 1 1.2 -72.0 11.1 -88.9 0.17
Stephens, Robert 56 1 1.8 -39.0 17.9 -69.6 0.24
Newton-Smith, A M 51 1 2.0 -40.0 11.8 -78.4 0.25
Dennis, David 73 2 2.7 -61.8 12.3 -84.7 0.3
Wintle, A 57 1 1.8 -48.0 10.5 -84.2 0.31
Brennan, F J 55 1 1.8 -26.0 10.9 -47.3 0.34
Henderson, P 79 2 2.5 -63.0 12.7 -79.8 0.37
Dyson, Miss C 99 2 2.0 -71.0 9.1 -71.7 0.37
Easterby, T D 62 3 4.8 -36.3 22.6 -58.5 0.37
Thompson, V 53 1 1.9 -44.0 11.3 -83.0 0.38
Davison, Miss Z C 57 1 1.8 -36.0 10.5 -63.2 0.41
Normile, Mrs L B 67 1 1.5 -54.0 9.0 -80.6 0.43
Goldie, J S 68 3 4.4 -42.0 19.1 -61.8 0.44
Candlish, Jennie 129 5 3.9 -90.5 22.5 -70.2 0.47
Frost, J D 76 2 2.6 -37.0 7.9 -48.7 0.47
Bewley, G T 62 3 4.8 -42.8 27.4 -69.0 0.49


That’s a combined 30 wins from 1290 attempts with a A/E performance on average of 0.30.  Ordinarily I’d like to keep table data to a top 10 or so, but in this case, it felt a bit like a civic duty to share it all!

It goes without saying that if you’re backing a runner from these stables under these conditions that you need a very compelling reason to argue against the data. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that they can’t win – and horse can win any race – and, as ever, sample sizes are sub-optimal. Treating all of these stable runners with caution under these circumstances is advised.

The yards contained on the bargepole list are generally of the small/mid-range in terms of size.  Of greater interest may be to evaluate some of the household names of the game with the same conditions applied.  The table below contains larger outfits (100+ runs and not included in the first list above).  All have A/E rates of 0.8 or lower for horses where they are absent from competitive racing beyond the 180 days limit.


Trainer performance for all runners since 2010 where the horse last ran over 180 days previously (min. 100 runs at A/E less than 0.8)

Trainer Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
Gordon, C 110 5 4.6 -48.1 18.2 -43.8 0.51
Webber, P R 188 8 4.3 -104.5 17.6 -55.6 0.51
Keighley, M 145 9 6.2 -61.6 22.1 -42.5 0.51
Dobbin, Mrs R 127 7 5.5 -83.0 21.3 -65.4 0.58
Williams, Ian 180 13 7.2 -72.5 25.0 -40.3 0.59
Hammond, Micky 110 5 4.6 -75.2 14.6 -68.3 0.59
Smith, Mrs S J 308 24 7.8 -104.2 26.3 -33.8 0.65
Russell, Lucinda V 332 27 8.1 -147.5 27.4 -44.4 0.66
Richards, N G 220 24 10.9 -68.5 35.0 -31.2 0.67
Hill, Lawney 120 10 8.3 -41.1 24.2 -34.3 0.67
Down, C J 106 4 3.8 3.5 17.9 3.3 0.67
Case, B I 102 6 5.9 -34.2 22.6 -33.5 0.7
Phillips, R T 115 5 4.4 -53.0 19.1 -46.1 0.71
Wade, J 166 10 6.0 -76.3 22.9 -45.9 0.72
Alexander, N W 169 12 7.1 -84.1 20.1 -49.7 0.73
Greatrex, W J 250 40 16.0 -106.7 37.2 -42.7 0.73
Wadham, Mrs L 118 13 11.0 -6.3 31.4 -5.3 0.74
Jefferson, J M* 163 20 12.3 -63.5 33.7 -39.0 0.75
Mullins, J W 175 11 6.3 -70.5 19.4 -40.3 0.76
Bailey, Caroline 100 7 7.0 -34.8 22.0 -34.8 0.77
Moore, G L 317 32 10.1 -144.1 24.6 -45.5 0.79
Dickin, R 116 7 6.0 -41.3 17.2 -35.6 0.79

*J M Jefferson yard now overseen by daughter, Ruth. It remains to be seen whether she adopts the same patient approach


Your first 30 days for just £1

A lot of these are undoubtedly considered elite level exponents of the training game.  They all will have short priced horses making their seasonal reappearance right about now.   Across the board the win strike rate is a moderate 8%.

On a personal level, awareness of this data has resulted in a modification of my betting habits over the last few weeks.  Sure, sometimes using intel such as this will leave you kicking yourself as you leave a winner out but it’s all about getting a few more right than wrong in the long-term.


Winter Sunshine

Enough with the negativity. Let’s find a few rays of winter sunshine. Using the same 180 days off the track criteria with the addition of only considering runners at an SP of 20/1 or less (to prevent one or two big winners skewing the data) I’ve curated the following, more optimistic, data set.  This time I’ve sorted by ROI: bottom line profit is the ultimate goal after all. To qualify for the winter sunshine list at least 50 runs are required, a minimum of a 10% ROI at SP and a minimum of a 10%-win rate.


Trainer performance for all runners since 2010, 180+ days layoff, SP 20/1 or shorter

Trainers Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
Bridgwater, D G 98 21 21.4 53.7 41.8 54.8 1.47
Easterby, M W 51 11 21.6 24.9 35.3 48.8 1.65
Hales, A M 74 12 16.2 34.0 35.1 46.0 1.42
Pauling, Ben 100 25 25.0 37.6 45.0 37.6 1.24
Honeyball, A J 119 26 21.9 41.2 43.7 34.6 1.14
Walford, Robert 59 10 17.0 18.9 30.5 32.0 1.33
Scott, J 118 20 17.0 30.4 39.8 25.8 1.23
Symonds, Tom 64 10 15.6 13.6 43.8 21.2 1.09
Williams, Evan 339 60 17.7 64.0 39.2 18.9 1.07
Scudamore, M J 74 11 14.9 13.3 35.1 17.9 1.27
Leech, Mrs S 74 10 13.5 12.8 27.0 17.2 1.14
OBrien, Fergal 189 38 20.1 29.7 42.3 15.7 1.12
Dartnall, V R A 119 19 16.0 15.8 40.3 13.2 1.09


A much more interesting set of results for backers, all pretty positive and all worth further investigation.  As usual it’d be remiss not to have a quick dive into the most profitable on the list, in this case the Cotswolds-based trainer, David Bridgwater.


David Bridgwater runners after a break of 180+ days, SP 20/1 or shorter by year

Year Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
ALL 98 21 21.4 53.7 41.8 54.8 1.47
2018 7 2 28.6 19.0 71.4 271.4 2.41
2017 3 1 33.3 2.0 66.7 66.7 1.18
2016 13 1 7.7 -7.0 23.1 -53.9 0.71
2015 25 8 32.0 15.0 44.0 59.9 1.65
2014 15 2 13.3 0.5 40.0 3.3 1
2013 20 3 15.0 20.0 35.0 100.0 1.4
2012 6 1 16.7 -2.0 16.7 -33.3 1.23
2011 6 2 33.3 5.8 66.7 95.8 2.27
2010 3 1 33.3 0.5 66.7 16.7 1.89


Judged on this criterion, “Bridgie” has clearly peaked between 2013-2015 in terms of volume. However, he still appears to get his horses primed after a layoff these days, just in lower numbers.   Perhaps the increased activity during the peak years were as a result of his stable star The Giant Bolster finishing 2nd, 4th and 3rd in consecutive Gold Cup’s at Prestbury Park, thus raising the profile of the operation.  Delving slightly deeper into the data the performance is strong in the rank and file classes of NH racing (4 and 5), with 19 winners from 70 runs, ROI of 106% at SP. That’s probably an angle to keep in the back of your mind I suspect, rather than to follow blindly.

Picking another yard in a semi-random way (as I have an affinity for them) let’s check the Ben Pauling outfit. Willoughby Court signalled a change in fortunes with regard to my woeful Cheltenham Festival record back in 2017 and I’ve been following them ever since that momentous occasion.  The expanding yard is coming off the back of its most successful season and is clearly going in the right direction.

The beauty (or one of them) of evaluating data such as this is that it can act as a gateway into a deeper understanding of a trainer, generating a different angle or view to what was initially expected.  Let me illustrate:

Pauling’s 25 wins from 100 with a 37% ROI looks overwhelmingly positive (and it is), however, here is the breakdown by month 

Ben Pauling runners with 180+ off the track at SP of 20/1 or shorter by month

Month Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
January 4 1 25.0 9.0 50.0 225.0 2.08
February 4 0 0.0 -4.0 0.0 -100.0 0
May 5 2 40.0 -1.0 40.0 -20.0 1.3
June 3 0 0.0 -3.0 66.7 -100.0 0
July 1 0 0.0 -1.0 0.0 -100.0 0
October 20 1 5.0 -14.0 35.0 -70.0 0.27
November 46 13 28.3 11.2 50.0 24.4 1.31
December 17 8 47.1 40.4 52.9 237.5 2.31


Look at October in relation to November and December.  They are pretty powerful numbers (small sample small-print applies).  In fact, they’re so powerful I have the strong inclination to check all of Pauling’s runners, irrespective of whether they’ve had over 180 days rest or not.  The graph below shows the split of profit and loss by month for all of the stable’s runners at 20/1 or shorter.


Ben Pauling P&L performance by month for all NH runners at 20/1 or shorter from 2010 onwards


The first thing to say is that the trend from the 180+ data is very much a representation of the whole yard’s performance.  Backing every Pauling entry during November and December appears to be a very promising area in which to potentially invest the kid’s university funds.  The whole stable appears to go into overdrive as we get towards the dying embers of the calendar year.

As a final and potentially arbitrary step, the Pauling record in Nov/Dec with fillies and mares is very poor with just one win from 28 runs.   Checking the overall year-round performance with the fairer sex there have been a skinny 5 wins from 68 runs, losing over 70% of funds invested.  As a result, I’ll happily exclude fillies and mares from the angle: training these has unique and different challenges, so exclusion can, I feel, be justified. That leaves the overall angle performance as per the table below.


Ben Pauling November/December male runners by year with, SP of 20/1 or shorter

Year Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
ALL 205 56 27.3 104.7 46.8 51.1 1.35
2018 5 1 20.0 0.0 40.0 0.0 1.75
2017 72 18 25.0 14.2 47.2 19.7 1.17
2016 56 13 23.2 2.1 41.1 3.8 1.17
2015 36 15 41.7 54.3 52.8 150.8 1.72
2014 31 8 25.8 35.1 51.6 113.3 1.57
2013 5 1 20.0 -1.0 40.0 -20.0 1.56


In summary, backing Pauling male runners in November and December at 20/1 or shorter returns 51% to SP with a healthy strike rate of over 27%.  Maybe the market is catching up and pickings have certainly been slimmer over the past year or two.   Having said that, the yard is definitely still one to keep close to your thoughts as soon as we move into November.

Another trainer from the Winter Sunshine list, this time entirely based on volume, is Evan Williams.  The Vale of Glamorgan handler has delivered 50+ National Hunt winners every year since 2010 and is on track to do so again in 2018.

There is little doubt that this is an operation that gear themselves to getting horses out fresh and ready in October and November.   Using the P&L graph again, below is the distribution.

Evan Williams P&L performance by month for all runners 180+ days off the track, 20/1 or shorter, since 2010


A nice profit has been gleaned in the focus months; unlike Pauling, however, there are other potential periods of interest. Also, whilst the Pauling yard is historically flying with all runners in months 10 and 11 there is a clear distinction in Williams’ stable between fresh and already active animals.


Evan Williams Oct & Nov runners by month from 2010 by days since last run, SP 20/1 or shorter

Days since LR Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) ROI
180 days or less 456 78 17.1% -84.0 -18.4
181 days or more 190 45 23.7% 84.4 44.4


As a result, we only want to consider the fresh horses from the yard, even though performance for the other horses is far from terrible.

If we want to sharpen up further, the trainer hasn’t had a victorious horse at odds of greater than 16/1 from 11 runs in this dataset.  There might be a big one out there though, as always, it’s personal choice in terms of appetite for risk and reward.

In summary, backing all Williams charges with over 180 days off the track in Oct/Nov at 16/1 or less would yield 53% at SP, delivering £95 profit from a £1 level stake.

I’m fully aware that October is in the rear-view mirror in 2018.  However, this year the stable was exceptionally quiet during the month in terms of qualifiers, finishing with a record of 0/5.  My guess would be that the exceptionally dry summer and autumn may be pushing this (and other) yard’s general routines back a few weeks, patiently waiting for winter ground.  If that is the case, then Team Williams may burst into life as the squad start hitting the course over the next few weeks.

Obviously, it doesn’t always work like that, it’s just part of the evolving punting puzzle that we all know and love.

Good luck!

 - Jon Shenton