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Soaring Glory scales new heights in Betfair Hurdle

Jonjo O’Neill illustrated his knack for laying out a horse for a big handicap when Soaring Glory swooped to conquer in the Betfair Handicap Hurdle.

Under the trainer’s son Jonjo Jr, the 17-2 shot looked to be travelling by far the best approaching the final flight and when given the signal, he accelerated away on the run to the line.

Soaring Glory pulled three lengths clear of Fifty Ball, with Edwardstone a length and a half back in third and Annual Invictus fourth.

Buzz in fifth was the best of Nicky Henderson’s three runners as Mister Coffey ruined his chance by hanging in the closing stages, while 11-2 favourite Cadzand failed to menace.

O’Neill admitted he thought he had a good horse on his hands when Soaring Glory won at Chepstow on his seasonal bow.

The Jackdaws Castle handler said: “After Chepstow, he fell when going too easily in a bad race at Wetherby. He was not a natural jumper and Yogi Breisner did a lot of work on him.

Jonjo O'Neill was delighted with Soaring Glory
Jonjo O’Neill was delighted with Soaring Glory (David Davies/PA)

“It’s great to win a race like this and we thought ‘let’s have a go’ as novices often do well in it.”

O’Neill will almost certainly look at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, for which Paddy Power cut Soaring Glory to 10-1 from 25s.

He added: “He’s entitled to run in it and Jonjo is riding with loads of confidence. He’s super cool and he does the job right.”

Chelsea Thoroughbreds team excited ahead of Cadzand Betfair bid

Cadzand is the new favourite for Sunday’s Betfair Hurdle after 28 runners stood their ground for the rearranged contest.

With Harry Fry choosing not to run Metier, Dan Skelton’s Cadzand is now the 9-2 market leader with the sponsors.

He is owned by Chelsea Thoroughbreds and Mark Speelman, who runs the National Hunt side of the operation, is hopeful of a bold show from the Kempton winner.

“It’s a great effort by everyone to get the race rearranged, especially with the same prize money – it makes a big difference,” he said.

“You couldn’t say the race has cut-up, but it is obviously quite nice not to have Harry Fry’s horse in there and it’s very exciting.

“Novices do have a good record in the race, but Metier would have had to give us plenty of weight had he run. My Tent Or Yours carried something similar, but it does take a big performance.

“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 County Hurdle at Musselburgh.

“He’s really a chaser in the making, but at the moment he’s not doing anything wrong over hurdles, so we see no reason not to take this step off his current rating.

“It’s very exciting – we don’t have many National Hunt horses, so fingers crossed he can fly the flag on Sunday. We hope we can create some interest off the back of it as lots of people are excited. If he were to win, there might be a couple more, you never know.

“Nothing is confirmed at the moment regarding jockeys.”

Nicky Henderson’s Buzz heads the weights with Soaring Glory, Milkwood and Shakem Up’Arry among the others.

Champ won the RSA over three miles at Cheltenham
Champ won the RSA over three miles at Cheltenham (Andrew Matthews/PA)

As expected, Champ has been entered in the two-mile Betfair Cheltenham Free Bet Pot Builder Game Spirit Chase by Nicky Henderson.

He could face Greaneteen and Sceau Royal in the Grade Two.

In the Betfair Denman Chase, dual King George winner Clan Des Obeaux is one of 10 possibles, along with last year’s Gold Cup third Lostintranslation.

Henderson sweet on Coffey’s Betfair bid

Nicky Henderson believes he has two live chances in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury with top-weight Buzz and Mister Coffey.

Henderson, who has won the richest handicap hurdle of the season five times – one more than the great Ryan Price – has his fingers crossed Saturday’s meeting can survive the current cold snap.

He has booked promising conditional Kevin Brogan to help ease the burden on Buzz, while stable jockey Nico de Boinville will ride Mister Coffey.

“I like Mister Coffey a lot,” said Henderson.

“After he won on his debut last year, where he was impressive, we took him to Huntingdon – and because I didn’t think there’d be much pace on, I said ride him handy.

“Well, he literally took off with Nico. He ran the first mile as if he was in the St James’s Palace, not a novice hurdle at Huntingdon, so not surprisingly he didn’t get home.

“Since then we’ve spent a lot of time trying to re-educate him to settle. First time out this year at Sandown, he was great – it was very bad ground, but he was dropped out and came through to win comfortably. He was then third in a better race at Sandown.”

Buzz finished third in the Welsh Champion Hurdle first time out before bolting up at Ascot, for which he was handed an 11lb rise. But he still ran Not So Sleepy close last time out.

“We’re going to claim 5lb off Buzz with Kevin Brogan,” Henderson added, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“He’s got top-weight, so it seems sensible to claim – 5lb is the optimum claim, because 3lb isn’t enough and 7lb doesn’t get you enough experience in a race like this.

“Kevin has been riding very well – he’ll know what to do, and that 5lb is valuable. He works for Jonjo (O’Neill) and he came recommended from (agent) Dave Roberts, who said he was the man I needed.

“I won this race for Thurloe (Thoroughbreds, owners) with Sharpical, and they shared Geos with Pier Pottinger who won it too.

“He won too easily the first time he ran at Ascot. He didn’t used to do much in front and when he got there I thought he’d falter, but he ran away. If you are trying to get in off the right mark unfortunately that is not what you want to happen, so consequently we’ve rather shot ourselves in the foot.

“I think they are both the right types for this. I can’t say it has been a long-term plan, but we’ve said for a while this is where we’d go with both horses. They are genuine two-milers. Both in time might get further – but you need to stay well, and I expect the ground to be testing, so stamina will be required.

“They haven’t been laid out for it. They’ve run some very good races this season and have been getting on with the job.

“Thankfully I don’t have to pick one over the other – I honestly think they both have a good chance. Buzz might be the sharper of the two – but Coffey, now he’s learned to race, I think he’ll be very competitive.”

Wild Max (right) on his way to winning at Huntingdon
Wild Max (right) on his way to winning at Huntingdon (Tim Goode/PA)

Paul Nicholls also holds a strong hand in the big handicap, with Wild Max, Friend Or Foe and possibly Thyme White.

“For Thyme Whyte I’ve been waiting for better ground over the winter, which is why you haven’t seen him since Newbury in November. He could do with the ground drying up a little bit,” said Nicholls.

“Both Friend Or Foe and Wild Max don’t mind soft ground and have been running very well.

“Wild Max won the last day, and Angus Cheleda will take 7lb off him. He’s in seriously good order and is improving.

“Friend Or Foe won at Wincanton and was hit by a big rise (13lb) from the handicapper and finished second at Sandown. He’s gone up again since Sandown, so he is right at the top end of his mark.

“He’ll have to improve again really, but he deserves to take his chance. I’ve got to talk to his owners and sort out who rides him. Ideally he could do with few pounds off his back, so we’ve got to decide on that one.”

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.

“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.”

Metier still on course for Betfair Hurdle

Ante-post favourite Metier heads 26 contenders in the hunt for Betfair Hurdle gold at Newbury.

Harry Fry’s charge was last seen when winning the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown at the start of January, extending his unbeaten record over obstacles to three in the process.

He has dominated the market for Saturday’s big handicap ever since, although he is set to shoulder 11st 9lb – behind top weight Buzz on 11st 12lb.

Fry has another string to his bow in Lightly Squeeze – while Dan Skelton’s Cadzand, the Alan King-trained Edwardstone and Jonjo O’Neill’s Soaring Glory are others prominent in the betting.

O’Neill has also left in Sky Pirate, who has alternative weekend engagements over fences in both the Game Spirit Chase on the same card and the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

Nicky Henderson has Mister Coffey in contention along with Buzz, while Chris Gordon is another who could be double-handed via Highway One O Two and Annual Invictus.

Paul Nicholls has three to pick from in Friend Or For, Thyme White and Wild Max – as does Evan Williams, leaving in Ballinsker, Dans Le Vent and Mack The Man, who still held every chance when brought down by the fall of Lightly Squeeze at the final flight last year.

Ben Pauling’s Shakem Up’Arry, owned by Harry Redknapp, chased home Metier in the Tolworth but has a 13lb pull at the weights.

Ben Pauling will be hoping to be celebrating again this weekend
Ben Pauling will be hoping to be celebrating again this weekend (Nigel French/PA)

“He’s in really good form, he’s been in good form all this season,” said Pauling, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“Harry was good enough to let me go over to Ireland and find him a good horse. He’s by Flemensfirth and has a proper jumping pedigree. He’s a big, raw horse – and it’s really been a patient game with this lad.

“We’re still having to be patient, we’ve kept him as a second-season novice. He probably would have won an egg-and-spoon race at Leicester but for tipping up – which for the way he jumps, is hard to believe.

“Obviously Metier came past us and won a shade cosily, but he had the rest of the field well beaten. It might not have been a vintage Tolworth – but looking back, it might not be as bad as people thought at the time.

“The likelihood is Daryl (Jacob) will ride again. He’s had a few different jockeys but we like to keep as consistent as we can. Daryl gets on well with him.

“I think this horse could be absolutely out of the top drawer next season. I think fences are what he wants and I really do think he’s got everything you need.”

Tolworth hero Metier tops 49 Betfair Hurdle possibles

Harry Fry is considering the Betfair Hurdle for his impressive Tolworth winner Metier, with the sponsor installing him as the 6-1 favourite on release of the entries.

Useful on the Flat in Ireland for Andy Slattery, Metier has taken to hurdles exceptionally well following a year off, winning at Newton Abbot and Ascot before his romp in last Saturday’s Grade One at Sandown.

With nothing else on Fry’s radar, it will either be Newbury on February 13, for which Metier is one of 49 entries, or straight to the Cheltenham Festival for the unbeaten novice.

“The owner and I discussed plans after Saturday’s win and wanted to give ourselves the option of the Betfair Hurdle, because we think it’s a race that could really suit him,” said Fry.

“He will either go for that en route to Cheltenham or go straight for Cheltenham – we will just look at the entries and weights and see how the horse is in the coming weeks.

“We’ve thought for a while now that a race like the Betfair Hurdle would be right up his street – a really strongly run two-mile race on a big, galloping track like Newbury, plus as an ex-Flat horse we know he will handle a big field.

“We’ve been delighted with the progress he’s made this season and are really excited to see how far he can go over hurdles in the future – hopefully he can make a mark at the spring Festivals.”

Fry also has another entry in Lightly Squeeze, who was still in front when coming down at the final flight in the race last season.

Trainer Harry Fry has two live entries in the Betfair Hurdle
Trainer Harry Fry has two live entries in the Betfair Hurdle (John Walton/PA)

“We’ve also entered Lightly Squeeze, who was running a great race in this last year when taking a heavy fall at the last,” Fry added.

“He ran a nice race in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot last time out, so we potentially have two darts to throw at race.”

Paul Nicholls has a numerically strong entry with Solo, Thyme White, Christopher Wood, Miranda, Friend or Foe and Wild Max.

Nicky Henderson, the most successful trainer in the race with five victories, can choose from Buzz, Fred, Marie’s Rock and Mister Coffey.

Last year’s runner-up Ciel De Neige could run for Willie Mullins, with Dan Skelton holding two live chances in Third Time Lucki and Cadzand.

Ballyandy, Soaring Glory, The Shunter and Albert’s Back are others among a strong field of contenders.