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Paul Nicholls rules out appeal against Enrilo demotion

Paul Nicholls has confirmed connections of Enrilo have decided against an appeal following his demotion in Saturday’s bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

The seven-year-old passed the post in front in the traditional end-of-season feature for the 12-times champion trainer and newly-crowned champion jockey Harry Skelton.

However, the stewards deemed the 7-2 favourite had interfered with the Christian Williams-trained Kitty’s Light and placed him behind that rival in third.

Kitty’s Light was promoted to the runner-up spot, while Alan King’s Potterman, who passed the post in second, was named the winner.

Immediately after the race, Nicholls said: “It’s a bit of a strange result really, but it’s just frustrating because the best horse in the race by miles didn’t win the race.

“He did cause him some interference, but would that horse he interfered with have definitely won the race?

“I don’t know. I thought straight away after watching on my phone that he’d keep it – even though he’s caused interference – and that’s what I said to the owners.

“I’ve just said to the owners we’ll look at it and see if it’s worth an appeal.”

Potterman (left) and Kitty's Light at Sandown
Potterman (left) and Kitty’s Light at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

However, the Ditcheat handler posted about the situation on Twitter on Sunday lunchtime.

The post read: “Just had a long discussion with the owners of Enrilo and we are as it were, going to take it on the chin, move on and not appeal the amended result in the @bet365 Gold Cup @Sandownpark yesterday and look forward to next season with him.”

Connections of Kitty’s Light also appear unlikely to challenge the result, but hope there may be a change to the rules going forward.

Williams remains adamant his charge would have won had he not been impeded on the run-in.

“We’re obviously disappointed, but I’m trying not to be too downbeat,” said the Welsh handler.

“We ran two horses in the race (Kitty’s Light and Cap Du Nord, finished fifth) and both have probably run career-bests and the jockeys were exceptional on the two of them.

“We’d love to have won a Whitbread (bet365 Gold Cup), but we’re at that stage of our career where we’re hoping we’re going the right way and we’ll be able to compete in many more. We’ll try to take the positives out of it and keep marching on.

“I just don’t think it’s right going forward. Three horses went into the stewards’ inquiry and the only horse who couldn’t win was the moral winner of the race, which doesn’t quite sit right.

“For us it’s not so much about yesterday, it’s about making sure things are right going forward for the good of racing.

“I wouldn’t have thought we’ll be appealing, but you’d like to think the BHA will act without us having to say anything – to make sure it’s fair for the next man.”

Trainer Christian Williams has high hopes for Kitty's Light
Trainer Christian Williams has high hopes for Kitty’s Light (David Davies/PA)

Williams is hoping compensation awaits for Kitty’s Light next season, adding: “He’s strengthened up all year and I’m looking forward to getting him back in next year as a bigger, stronger horse.

“He’s improving all the time and I think he’ll have learnt a lot yesterday. He’s got a great mind and we just don’t know where the ceiling is with him.

“He always finishes his races well and knows where the winning line is, which I think would have been proven again yesterday.”

Enrilo loses Sandown feature in stewards’ room

Harry Skelton and Paul Nicholls – who were crowned champion jockey and trainer on the afternoon – were denied a dream end to the season when Enrilo lost the bet365 Gold Cup in the stewards’ room, with Potterman the beneficiary.

It looked likely to be the perfect finale for both at Sandown as 7-2 favourite Enrilo made a bold bid for home with three to jump.

Enrilo made a bit of a hash of the second-last, giving his pursuers another chance. They included El Presente, Potterman and Kitty’s Light, as Rachael Blackmore’s mount Plan Of Attack began to weaken having travelled well for a long way.

When Skelton – who picked up the trophy for being leading rider for the first time before racing – got a big leap out of Enrilo at the last he looked to have sealed the deal.

However, despite the champion jockey having his whip in his left hand, Enrilo veered badly away from the rail with serious consequences for Kitty’s Light.

Christian Williams’ five-year-old had worked up a real head of steam after the final fence and was making ground rapidly on Enrilo, only to be stopped in his tracks.

To Enrilo’s credit, once straightened he did pick up again to cross the line first, with Alan King’s 12-1 chance Potterman, on the far side, beaten three-quarters of a length and another short head back to Kitty’s Light in third.

As the disqualified horse has to be placed behind the one it interferes with, Potterman was awarded the race with Kitty’s Light second and Enrilo only third.

King said: “The plan was to give him a prep, but we ran out of time. I haven’t seen the head on, but my view was that if it was in France we would definitely get it.

“I know it’s not the same here, but I’m certainly not going to complain.”

He added: “I’ve not seen James (Potter, joint-owner) since the race and a few weeks ago he did mention possibly putting him in over in America for the American Grand National, which would be an option.

“That was only mentioned a month ago in passing and I’ve not thought any more about it. He is very much a top of the ground horse. I’ve had a runner in America before, Penny Bridge ran in the Virginia Gold Cup in my first year of training. We will just enjoy today, though.”

Nicholls will consider his options, having felt sure Enrilo would keep the race.

He said: “Mine is a big, green horse and when they came to him away he went.

Paul Nicholls was surprised by the outcome of the stewards' inquiry into the bet365 Gold Cup
Paul Nicholls was surprised by the outcome of the stewards’ inquiry into the bet365 Gold Cup (John Walton/PA)

“He made a huge mistake two out, but then ran a bit green. I thought Harry rode a brilliant race and I’d told him not to get there too soon. He certainly wasn’t tired at the end, it was just through his greenness (that he wandered).

“It’s a bit of a strange result really, but it’s just frustrating because the best horse in the race by miles didn’t win the race. He was unlucky that he made a huge mistake at the second-last and still got back up and just like at Newbury he just ran a bit green and a bit open.

“He did cause him some interference, but would that horse he interfered with have definitely won the race?

“I don’t know. I thought straight away after watching on my phone that he’d keep it – even though he’s caused interference – and that’s what I said to the owners.

“I’ve just said to the owners we’ll look at it and see if it’s worth an appeal. We’ll look at the Ladbrokes Trophy next season.”

Williams, meanwhile, said: “I’m proud of my horse. He was the best horse in the race and got a right bang from Enrilo.

“He should have won. I think my horse will strengthen up over the summer and I might aim him at the Ladbrokes Trophy.

“It is tough to take, but I’m very proud of the horse and Jack (Tudor, jockey). We will try to put the disappointment behind us. Cap Du Nord ran an absolute blinder and Nick (Scholfield) gave him a great ride so the future is looking good.

“It was great to be in a finish with Paul Nicholls and Alan King, who are my two biggest supporters. It looks like he could be a Ladbrokes Trophy horse. He seems like he is good over extreme distances. I do think his jumping is getting sharper. We will see what he does over the summer, but it doesn’t look like we have got to the bottom of him.

“He could be a Grand National horse the way the fences are now.”

Clan Des Obeaux still in Sandown contention

Clan Des Obeaux heads 20 horses confirmed for the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The dual King George hero was last seen bouncing back to winning ways in the Betway Bowl at Aintree earlier this month – one of three winners on the card for co-owner Sir Alex Ferguson.

In the immediate aftermath of that Grade One victory, trainer Paul Nicholls raised the possibility of the nine-year-old contesting the traditional end-of-season highlight.

Should he take his chance, Clan Des Obeaux will carry 11st 12lb and concede upwards of 12lb to his rivals, including stablemates Soldier Of Love and Enrilo.

Welsh trainer Christian Williams has a couple of contenders for the three-mile-five-furlong contest in Kitty’s Light and Cap Du Nord, while Neil Mulholland is set to saddle both The Young Master and Doing Fine.

Williams said of his pair: “The plan is to run the two of them.

“I’m not sure if Clan Des Obeaux will run or not. Paul does like to run them, but it’s a question of whether he’ll run him on that ground.

“It probably won’t make much difference to us if he runs or not. If he does we’ll be slightly out of the weights, which isn’t ideal, but Kitty’s Light isn’t over-big, so if he carries 10st it wouldn’t hurt.

“If Clan Des Obeaux does come out, then he’ll nudge up in the weights, but I wouldn’t be too worried either way.”

The Young Master won the race in 2016 and was second when the race was last run two years ago, while Doing Fine also has winning form over the course and distance.

Mulholland said: “The plan is to run both horses, all going well.

“It’s five years since The Young Master won it, but he’s still going strong and is as fit as we can get him.

The Young Master (left) on his way to winning the 2016 Bet365 Gold Cup
The Young Master (left) on his way to winning the 2016 Bet365 Gold Cup (Julian Herbert/PA)

“He hasn’t had a run for a while (since August), but he’s had a couple of away-days and this has always been the plan for him.

“Doing Fine won the London National at Sandown earlier in the season and likes it around there – he’s run well in this race in the past.

“The Young Master is 12 and Doing Fine is 13. It’s a pity they’re getting on in age, but it happens to us all!”

Henry de Bromhead’s Plan Of Attack and the Sean Doyle-trained Crosshue Boy could travel from Ireland.

Other hopefuls include Kim Bailey’s El Presente and the Venetia Williams-trained Cepage.

Fry eyes bet365 Gold Cup with Ask Me Early

Harry Fry has pencilled in the bet365 Gold Cup as an end-of-season target for recent Uttoxeter winner Ask Me Early, as long as the ground is suitable.

The seven-year-old bounced back from a disappointing effort at Sandown to run out a cosy two-and-a-quarter-length winner on Midlands National day, and his trainer is now eyeing a return to Esher on the last day of the campaign.

He said: “He is in the Scottish National, but it is unlikely he will run there – and the preference at this stage would be the bet365 Gold Cup.

“His plans very much depend on the ground conditions, because his form has all been on slower ground, but we thought at this stage to give him this option.

“He was never comfortable from the word go on his previous start at Sandown, but Sean Bowen said he wasn’t happy going to post – and you could see early on he wasn’t travelling like he usually does.

“He has come out of the Uttoxeter race in really good order. This would be a good race to go for, because we have some good targets in mind as a second season chaser next season. We always thought he was a chaser and out-and-out, three-mile-plus stayer.

“Up until his Sandown run I was training him for the Midlands National. On the back of Sandown we decided not to aim quite that high, but the novice handicap chase on the same card was a nice stepping stone – and he came through that well.

“I think he is a proper National horse next season, certainly a Welsh National type and potentially one for the Grand National.”

Ask Me Early is one of 66 entries for the three-mile-five-furlong feature – with other notable contenders at this stage including the Randox Grand National favourite Cloth Cap, multiple Grade One winner Bristol De Mai, Cheltenham Festival winner Vintage Clouds and Kitty’s Light, who heads the ante-post market with the sponsor at odds of 10-1.

The David Pipe-trained Ramses De Teillee finished down the field in the Midlands National, where his trainer felt he perhaps did not see out the four-and-a-quarter-mile trip, but his participation would also depend on conditions at Sandown.

Pipe said: “Ramses is only nine, but it feels like he has been around for a long time. He would need softer ground to run. I would say he would be OK if it was good to soft.

“He ran well in the Midlands National, where he probably didn’t quite get the trip. But he has come out well, and I was happy to put the entry in the bet365 Gold Cup.

“We will just have to see what the weather is like now. We always thought it would be a tough season. He won well at Cheltenham (in November), though, and ran well in defeat in France (first time out). He disappointed in the Welsh National – but since then he has run well at Haydock and the Midlands National.

“A horse like him is in the grip of the handicapper at the moment, but he has come down 2lb for his latest run. With his rating, it makes life a bit harder for him, but he always runs his heart out every time.”

Bet365 has backed the National Hunt finale since 2008, and announced an extension of its sponsorship for a further three years on Wednesday.

The firm also sponsors Sandown’s Classic Trial Day, which is staged 24 hours before the top-class jumps card on April 23.

Lavelle maps out long-term Sandown target for Prophecy

Emma Lavelle plans to work back from an outing in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown with Irish Prophecy.

After deciding to draw stumps for the winter with the seven-year-old, Lavelle believes the prestigious handicap on the final day of the season could be a suitable long-term target.

Irish Prophecy added to his first victory over fences at Newton Abbot in July with a decisive success at Taunton on his most recent start, having previously found only Badger Beers Silver Trophy winner El Presente too strong at Exeter.

She said: “He has been brilliant recently, but he is off on holiday at the moment as he wants decent ground.

“We will look at some of the nice staying races in the spring with him.

“I would think we will end up looking towards going to the bet365 Gold Cup. ”

Emma Lavelle feels Irish Prophecy has benefitted from having cheekpieces applied on his last two starts (Mike Egerton/PA Images)
Emma Lavelle feels Irish Prophecy has benefitted from having cheekpieces applied on his last two starts (Mike Egerton/PA Images)

The Marlborough handler believes the recent addition of cheekpieces has helped Irish Prophecy begin to fulfil his potential over fences.

She added: “He is a great jumper now, as he used to be slow over them.

“The cheekpieces have made the world of difference to the horse as they have allowed him to travel.

“At Taunton he was quick, accurate and slick.”

With Irish Prophecy racing in the silks of long-standing owner Nick Mustoe, it has given Lavelle further reason to be pleased about his recent progress.

Lavelle said: “Nick Mustoe is the nicest, most loyal person ever planted on this earth.

“To see him having a horse like this and be involved with Shang Tang, who won at Ascot on Saturday, is great as he has been through thick and thin.

“You just want people like him to have all the luck in the world.”