Tag Archive for: Bravemansgame

Cobden confident Bravemans can up his game for Gold Cup challenge

Harry Cobden is expecting Bravemansgame to peak at the right time, as the duo try to turn the tables on Galopin Des Champs in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Paul Nicholls’ star staying chaser jumped the last matching strides with Willie Mullins’ big-race favourite in the blue riband 12 months ago, but it was Galopin Des Champs who pulled out extra in the lung-busting run to the line, with Cobden and Bravemansgame having to settle for a silver medal.

The 25-year-old jockeys’ championship leader is fully aware the defending champion is the one to beat again this week, but is confident Bravemansgame is capable of getting involved in the shake-up and can massively outrun his current odds of around 16-1.

“His preparations have gone very well and he’s schooling well at home,” said Cobden.

“He feels great and worked brilliantly at Kempton last week. I’m very much looking forward to the Gold Cup and I thought he was a big price when I looked at it.

“Obviously, Galopin Des Champs is the horse to beat and I would never say Galopin Des champs isn’t, because on his day, he is definitely the best horse in the race.

“It was no fluke what he did last year and he’s been brilliant on many other occasions, so we have got to step up and we’ve got a bit to find, or we are hoping he is not at his best. But I do think he has a massive chance.”

Bravemansgame was prominent throughout last season’s Gold Cup, while Paul Townend received plenty of plaudits for the way he smuggled Galopin Des Champs into the race and eliminated any lingering stamina doubts.

Ladbrokes Christmas Festival – Day One – Kempton Racecourse
Harry Cobden celebrates winning the 2022 King George VI Chase aboard Bravemansgame (John Walton/PA)

Cobden has pondered whether it may be worth a change of plan for the Bryan Drew-owned gelding’s second crack at Gold Cup glory – and with Galopin Des Champs himself ridden more enterprisingly this season, it could now be team Ditcheat who play cat to Closutton’s mouse.

He continued: “I could possibly ride him a little differently and maybe we follow him?

“I don’t know and we’ve still got a few days to work it out and discuss it with Paul, and if he turned up and finished in the first three, we would be delighted. But we will be riding him to win the race rather than go out to run well.”

The nine-year-old had to settle for second best three times in a frustrating first half of the season for connections and was last seen narrowly failing in the defence of his King George title, as the fast-finishing Hewick flew home to snatch victory.

However, Cobden feels three runs in a short space of time were a contributing factor to his Kempton reversal and that a fresher Bravemansgame promises to be a whole different proposition in Friday’s showpiece event.

“The thing many people forget is he had a hard race at Haydock only 28 or 29 days before that and that took a lot out of him,” he went on.

“He didn’t have the best preparation in the world for the King George and Paul is well aware of that, he would be the first to tell you. I know we can get him better than when he ran at Kempton. He’s had lots of time, he’s fresh, he’s well and he’ll run his race.”

Although missing out on the Festival’s biggest prize in 2023, Cobden walked away from his week in the Cotswolds with two winners courtesy of Stage Star and Stay Away Fay.

Stay Away Fay en route to Festival glory 12 months ago
Stay Away Fay en route to Festival glory 12 months ago (Steven Paston for the Jockey Club/PA)

Both are back seeking a repeat, with Stay Away Fay another Ditcheat inmate tasked with taking on a short-priced favourite from Mullins’ all-conquering string when going toe-to-toe with Fact To File in Wednesday’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.

“There’s not many runners in it, but I think it will be competitive,” added Cobden.

“Fact To File looks a class horse and we’re dropping back into novice company after running in the Cotswold Chase.

“I thought the prep run in the Cotswold Chase was a brilliant experience for a young horse and he didn’t have a massively hard race. Paul said he would improve from that fitness-wise.”

Jockey Harry Cobden has an exciting book of Cheltenham Festival rides
Jockey Harry Cobden has an exciting book of Cheltenham Festival rides (Nigel French/PA)

It will be far from Cobden’s busiest Cheltenham Festival ever, but the jockey is excited about some of the quality he has to look forward to among his book of rides.

He nominated Fred Winter candidate Liari as a potential Nicholls dark horse, while Ginny’s Destiny and Captain Teague are two other top-quality operators Cobden can look forward to from the champion trainer’s Cheltenham squad.

The four-time Festival winner has also picked up some exceptional outside rides which include Ben Pauling’s Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle hope Handstands – whom he partnered to Sidney Banks success at Huntingdon – and handicap fancies Theatre Man and Libberty Hunter.

He is also poised to maintain the ride on Emmet Mullins’ Stayers’ Hurdle contender Noble Yeats after steering him to victory in the Cleeve Hurdle last month, ironically a mount title rival Sean Bowen has partnered six times in the past, including in last year’s Gold Cup and Grand National.

Noble Yeats and Cobden (orange/brown silks) in action in the Cleeve Hurdle
Noble Yeats and Cobden (orange/brown silks) in action in the Cleeve Hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

He said: “I haven’t got the rides of Paul Townend and I wouldn’t have the shorties he has, but it looks to be an exciting book of rides and there will be lots of lads in the weighing room that would love to be on them, so I am very grateful.

“I’m hoping to ride Noble Yeats in the Stayers’ and although it won’t be the busiest week I’ve ever had, there will be 12 or 13 good rides with chances and if I can nick one winner I will be very pleased.

“I’m looking forward to riding Theatre Man in the Plate for Richard Bandey, he will have a good chance and is a great spare to pick up. I will also be on Libberty Hunter for Evan Williams in the Grand Annual and I thought he was relatively unexposed compared to some of the others in the field.

“Liari would be the best handicap chance of Paul’s, I would have thought. I know he has top-weight but he could be a horse that is still improving. He has done nothing wrong and is three from three, it will be a big ask to win the Fred Winter off that weight, but he is a very nice horse.”



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Nicholls expecting poignant Cheltenham Festival after loss of Keagan Kirkby

Paul Nicholls knows this year’s Cheltenham Festival will be a poignant place with Keagan Kirkby “up there watching us” after the jockey’s tragic death last month.

Kirkby, a popular member of Nicholls’ Ditcheat team, died in a fall while riding at a point-to-point in Kent on February 4.

The 25-year-old was laid to rest on Tuesday with mourners in the Somerset village bedecked in the blue and white of Kirkby’s beloved Bristol Rovers.

Champion trainer Nicholls described Kirkby at the service as the “ultimate star player” and that his death had left “a big hole in that team”.

Paul Nicholls (right) holds the Cheltenham Gold Cup with part owner Paul Barber and Denman
Paul Nicholls (right) holds the Cheltenham Gold Cup with part owner Paul Barber and Denman (Barry Batchelor/PA)

It has been a painful time for Nicholls following the death of Paul Barber, owner of his first Gold Cup winner See More Business in 1999, and part-owner of Denman, the 2008 champion.

Nicholls said: “It’s been tough from the day Keagan died but everybody has knuckled down and worked hard. Everyone is thinking of Keagan.

“It’s been a tough year for me, losing Mr Barber at the start of the season. It’s been quite hard not having him about this season and then losing Keagan.

“But the team have rallied together, everyone has worked hard and helped each other. It’s a young team and it’s been quite tough for a lot of them, but everyone has kept the winners flowing and we will all be looking forward to Cheltenham.

Stay Away Fay is a leading hope for Nicholls at the Festival
Stay Away Fay is a leading hope for Nicholls at the Festival (Adam Davy/PA)

“I know Keagan will be up there watching us. He loved Cheltenham and anything to do with horses.

“He used to ride Blueking D’Oroux, Afadil, Firefly who won two days after he died, that was quite a poignant winner and he loved the game.”

This year’s Cheltenham Festival marks the 25th anniversary of Nicholls’ breakthrough into jump racing’s elite.

Flagship Uberalles got the ball rolling in the Arkle that year, Call Equiname landed the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and See More Business rounded it off with Gold Cup glory.

Nicholls’ team indeed partied like it was 1999 and, a quarter of a century on, he is two winners from reaching a Cheltenham milestone.

Captain Teague
Captain Teague is another Grade One hope for Nicholls (Adam Davy/PA)

“When you start off as a trainer, you always want Cheltenham winners,” said Nicholls.

“I think it was eight years I’d been training and I hadn’t had a Cheltenham winner. Then I had three in a week, so that was a good week.

“Flagship Uberalles won the first day so I remember we went down the pub on the night, had a bit of a party and thought we’d best enjoy it.

“The next day Call Equiname won the Champion Chase so we repeated that and thought ‘we can’t believe this’. Then we won the Gold Cup the next day and I think I stayed there for a week!

“It was amazing, just amazing – you pinch yourself because you can’t believe it has happened.

“That kickstarted everything for us really and I hadn’t thought about it being 25 years ago. I think I’ve had 48 winners now, so it would be nice to get the 50.”

Ginny’s Destinys
Ginny’s Destiny has won three races in a row at Cheltenham (Adam Davy/PA)

Nicholls is sending a streamlined squad into action at Cheltenham with quality rather than quantity appearing to be his Festival strategy.

Ginny’s Destiny, unbeaten in his last three starts over fences at Cheltenham, is a big hope for the Turners Novices’ Chase and Stay Away Fay – a Festival winner in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – is a real contender for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.

Last year’s Gold Cup runner-up Bravemansgame is aiming to go one better in the main event, while Stage Star and Hitman are contenders in the Ryanair Chase. Captain Teague and Teeshan could also excel on the Gloucestershire course.

Nicholls won his fourth Gold Cup in 2009 when Kauto Star won his second.

He accepts life has become more difficult at Cheltenham because of Ireland’s firepower and the strength in depth that Irish trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott possess.

Bravemansgame
Bravemansgame will represent Nicholls in the Gold Cup (Adam Davy/PA)

“It’s always hard to win at the Festival, it’s always competitive,” said Nicholls.

“You’re up against Gordon and Willie’s battalions, it’s got harder, but it’s all about having the right horses.

“We’ll probably have a dozen runners over the week, but they’re horses with chances. I’ve learnt over the years you want a small, select team of horses that have chances.”

Nicholls had a Gold Cup one-two-three with Kauto Star (left), Denman (centre) and Neptune Collonges
Nicholls had a Gold Cup one-two-three with Kauto Star (left), Denman (centre) and Neptune Collonges in 2008 (Barry Batchelor/PA)

On the prospect of replicating past glories, Nicholls said: “In those days we had Kauto, Master Minded, Denman, Big Buck’s, Celestial Halo.

“We had the right horses and with the right horses, you can compete. Like in any team sport, you need the right players.

“It’s a surreal feeling when you walk into the winner’s enclosure when you’ve won the Gold Cup, there’s nothing else like it.

“It’s unbelievable and that feeling drives you on and makes you want to do it again.

“They were amazing horses, but you have to move on and find the next generation, which hopefully we are.”



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Bravemansgame primed for Gold Cup assignment

Last year’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Bravemansgame is approaching his peak in his bid to go one better.

While he is among the outsiders this year having failed to win in three outings, trainer Paul Nicholls believes he has valid excuses for all those reverses.

As he is a horse who tends to go well fresh, Nicholls has not run him since the King George on Boxing Day and is hoping a gallop around Kempton on Tuesday will put him spot on for his big date in just over a fortnight.

“He got beat in soft ground at Wetherby first time out and we then went to the Betfair Chase, again in testing ground, en route to Kempton, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get him right for Kempton,” said Nicholls.

Bravemansgame (orange) put up a brave defence of his King George title
Bravemansgame (orange) put up a brave defence of his King George title (John Walton/PA)

“To be fair to him, at Kempton he ran a really good race and in my view him and Shishkin would have been first and second. (Harry) Cobden has got his opinion and Nicky (Henderson) will have his opinion but I don’t think there’s much between him and Shishkin to be honest.

“He still got interfered with when Shishkin had his hiccup, if that hadn’t happened he still probably would have won but then he got stopped dead, and then still picked up and galloped all the way to the line.

“Harry thought he ran a solid race, I still don’t think we had him at his best because of the circumstances in the autumn. He’s right back there now, he looks great, Harry schooled him on Tuesday and he jumped good.

“He’s going to Kempton tomorrow for a little away day when he’ll work with Captain Teague but I’m very happy with him now. I think 20-1 is a massive each-way price. When I look at some of the horses ahead of him in the betting, I think he’s great value.”

Paul Nicholls with Stage Star
Paul Nicholls with Stage Star (Adam Davy/PA)

Another of Nicholls’ big hopes this year is Ryanair Chase contender Stage Star, winner of the Turners Novices’ Chase last year.

He began the season with a fine weight-carrying performance to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup but pulled up on New Year’s Day in very soft ground and he has not run since.

“Stage Star won the Turners last year and goes for the Ryanair. He needs to be fresh, he needs to be right and he’s not the easiest in the world to train as he has a few little issues but when he is right, he is very good,” said Nicholls.

“He won the Paddy Power Gold Cup off top weight very nicely indeed, even though he made a horrific mistake at the last, he galloped all the way to the line.

“I wish now I hadn’t run him on New Year’s Day obviously, but it didn’t work out. The ground had gone testing, he had top weight, he made a couple of mistakes and I don’t think he was quite at his best, but I was struggling to find any option in this country to get a run into him because he has to go left-handed.

“He’s had a few little issues, he’s had lots of physio and he’s back where we want him now, he doesn’t need an away day because he goes well fresh.

“Hitman will also run in the Ryanair but Pic D’orhy will go straight to Aintree. He’s a very smart horse, undoubtedly, and I think Banbridge deserves to be favourite (for the Ryanair) based on his defeat of Pic at Kempton.

“Hitman was third last year and is no forlorn hope. He ran well the other day when he wasn’t fully wound up but he jumped the second last upsides Shishkin.”



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Nicholls: Straight to Cheltenham now with Bravemansgame

Bravemansgame will now skip the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury and head straight for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls had mooted after his good effort in defence of his King George crown the nine-year-old could take in the Grade Two contest, where he would have clashed with Shishkin once again.

However, the Ditcheat handler has decided he does not need to run last year’s Gold Cup runner-up again and will freshen him up in an attempt to go one better than last year in the blue riband.

“Bravemansgame is having a little break and we are definitely going straight to Cheltenham now,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“We had been talking about going to the Denman Chase, but we’re not going to do that.

“I spoke to Bryan (Drew, owner) in depth and Clifford (Baker, head lad) and we’re going to go straight to Cheltenham so he’s having an easier little time, along with Stage Star, who’s come out of his Cheltenham race fine. I don’t want to get on with them too soon.”

Nicholls also confirmed Hermes Allen on course for the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown on February 3, while Rubaud will run in either the Unibet (International) Hurdle at Cheltenham next week or the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on February 17, rather than carry top-weight in the Betfair Hurdle.



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Denman Chase ‘a possibility’ for Gold Cup hopeful Bravemansgame

Paul Nicholls has raised the possibility of Bravemansgame contesting the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury next month en-route to a second tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The nine-year-old had to make do with the runner-up spot in his bid for back-to-back victories in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, with Nicholls of the belief he may have held off the fast-finishing Hewick had he not been hampered by Shishkin’s exit two fences from home.

Last season Bravemansgame headed straight from the King George to the Gold Cup, in which he finished second to Galopin Des Champs, but admitted in his latest ‘Ditcheat Diary’ instalment with Betfair that he is having a change of heart as how best to approach the blue riband this time around.

“He’s come out of the race very well actually, he’s had an easy time and has kept his condition this year better than ever before,” said the champion trainer.

Paul Nicholls and Bravemansgame
Paul Nicholls and Bravemansgame (Adam Davy/PA)

“There’s lots of debate going on about who would have won and I think if Shishkin and Bravemansgame hadn’t got in a bit of a muddle, it would have been really interesting. He (Bravemansgame) definitely showed signs he’s coming back to his best and I think it would have been very close.

“I was going to go straight to Cheltenham and I haven’t spoken to Bryan (Drew, owner), but I’ve spoken to Clifford (Baker, head lad) and I said ‘look, every time we went to the Gold Cup with Kauto Star or Silviniaco Conti or Denman, we always ran in the Denman Chase en-route to Cheltenham’.

“I just thought why not change tack a little bit and rather than being too hard on him at home, keep him nice and fresh and have a look, possibly, at the Denman Chase and then go on to Cheltenham.

“The Denman Chase is a possibility, I’m not saying it’s definite, but we could try to do something different with him and train him a little bit differently.”

Bravemansgame is one of two Gold Cup entries for Nicholls along with star novice Stay Away Fay.

Stay Away Fay was a Sandown winner before Christmas
Stay Away Fay was a Sandown winner before Christmas (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Nicholls expects the latter to stick to novice company at the Festival at this stage, although that could change if he takes his chance and impresses in the Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day.

He added: “He’s very unlikely to run in the Gold Cup, I just put him in that because we were in the Cotswold Chase.

“He’s on schedule to run possibly in the Cotswold Chase, or the Reynoldstown is the other good option for him, and if you’re not in it (Gold Cup) you can’t run.

“Let’s just see how we run on our next start. I don’t think I’ve ever run a novice in the Gold Cup, but novices have won it, so it is possible.

“Last year’s winner (Galopin Des Champs) looks the one to beat – he looks head and shoulders above everybody else – but has he improved that much from when he beat Bravemansgame seven lengths last year?

“In that race the other day in Ireland (Savills Chase), he looked good, but I can’t believe he’s that far in front of all the others. Maybe he is, but we’ve got to keep all our options open.”



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Bravemansgame likely to head straight to Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls is planning on sending Bravemansgame straight to Cheltenham for his next outing and is backing him to be “competitive” again in the Gold Cup.

The nine-year-old was a game runner-up behind Galopin Des Champs in last season’s blue riband but has yet to get on the scoresheet this term.

After finishing second in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and Haydock’s Betfair Chase, he filled the same position when trying to defend his King George crown at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nicholls said: “He’ll go straight to Cheltenham and we’ll see how we get on. He’s got a mountain to climb; we know where he is, we know his level of form, but he’ll be competitive.”

Paul Nicholls and Bravemansgame File Photo
Bravemansgame with trainer Paul Nicholls (Adam Davy/PA)

There is still a chance that Bravemansgame could seek a confidence-boosting success in the Denman Chase at Newbury on February 10, but the direct route to Cheltenham is more likely.

“I’ve got to discuss it with (owner) Bryan Drew and it has crossed my mind, as Kauto Star and Denman always went and ran in that race, so we might,” admitted Nicholls.

“I’ve said he will go straight to Cheltenham, but I will discuss it with the guys to see what they want to do.”

Nicholls feels the departure of Shishkin after the penultimate fence in the King George counted against his charge, who was hampered by that incident before being passed late on by Hewick.

“I think it would have been very interesting between him and Shishkin if he had kept going,” said the champion trainer.

“I think they’d have jumped the last together and then it would have been an interesting race. But ‘if’ is a big word in racing, so we were just pleased with the way he ran.”

Nicholls is not making any firm plans for hot prospect Captain Teague, who gave him and jockey Harry Cobden a fourth straight victory in the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

The Johnny de la Hey-owned gelding overcame continued signs of greenness to come through and beat Lookaway, following in the footsteps of past winners such as Denman, Bravemansgame, Stage Star and Hermes Allen.

“He’s come out of the race well and we’re obviously thrilled with him,” commented Nicholls.

“As Harry said, he idles a little bit in front and he’s still learning his job.

“I haven’t made any plans, Johnny has gone away and I’ll sit down and make a plan with him later on.”

Newbury Races – Saturday December 30th
Captain Teague on his way to winning the Challow (David Davies/PA)

Captain Teague figures prominently in the ante-post markets for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, although he is seen very much as a chaser in the making.

“Stay Away Fay won the Albert Bartlett on his third run of the season and he’s not unlike him in a lot of ways,” added the Ditcheat handler.

“Johnny might want to come to Cheltenham, go to Aintree or something else, but ultimately he’s a chaser and that’s what we got him for.

“Funnily enough, a lot of my horses that won the Challow, apart from Denman and Stage Star, they came to Cheltenham and all got beat before ending up chasing.

“He is a very interesting horse and I think there’s plenty to come from him, but as Harry said, he’s a baby and learning is what it’s all about.

“He’s a very nice horse for the future and if he turns out like all the other ones I’ve won the Challow with, we’ll be very happy.”



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2024 Challow Hurdle Trends

The Challow Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade One event that is run over a trip of 2m4f at Newbury racecourse.

Sponsored by Coral, the contest has been won by some promising sorts over the years, including Wichita Lineman, Diamond Harry, Reve De Sivola, Fingal Bay, Taquin du Seuil, while in more recent years the 2022 King George Chase winner Bravemansgame (2020) & Stage Star (2021) have won the race. While in 2022 we saw the exciting Paul Nicholls-trained Hermes Allen romp to victory and Captain Teague take to pot in 2023 - meaning Paul Nicholl has won the last four runnings and six in total.

We've also seen 9 of the last 14 market leaders win the race while trainers Paul Nicholls, Nick Williams and Jonjo O’Neill have won the race 9 times between them since 2006.

Here at Geegeez, we give you all the key stats ahead of the 2024 renewal.

Recent Challow Hurdle Winners

2023 - CAPTAIN TEAGUE (2/1 fav)
2022 - HERMES ALLEN (11/10 fav)
2021 – STAGE STAR (5/4 fav)
2020 - BRAVEMANSGAME (5/2 jfav)
2019 – THYME HILL (4/6 fav)
2018 – CHAMP (Evs fav)
2017 – POETIC RHYTHM (15/8 fav)
2016 – MESSIRE DES OBEAUX (11/4)
2015 – BARTERS HILL (4/11 fav)
2014 – PARLOUR GAMES (6/1)
2013 – CAPTAIN CUTTER (8/1)
2012 – TAQUIN DU SEUIL (13/8 fav)
2011 – FINGAL BAY (1/4 fav)
2010 – BACKSPIN (5/1)
2009 – REVE DE SIVOLA (15/8)
2008 – DIAMOND HARRY (4/6 fav)
2007 – SOUFFLUER (7/1)
2006 – WICHITA LINEMAN (11/4)

Key Challow Hurdle Trends

18/18 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
18/18 – Had raced in the last 8 weeks
18/18 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
18/18 – Had won no more than 3 times over hurdles before
16/18 – Had raced in the last 6 weeks
15/18 – Favourites that finished in the top 3
14/18 – Had won over 2m4f or further (hurdles) before
13/18 – Won last time out
13/18 – Won between 2-3 times over hurdles before
11/18 – Had won a Grade 2 Hurdle race before
11/18 – Winning favourites (7 of the last 8)
10/18 – Aged 5 years-old
9/18 – Irish bred
6/18 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (last 4 winners)
3/18 – Trained by Jonjo O’Neill
2/18 – Ridden by Daryl Jacob
The average winning SP in the last 18 runnings is 5/2

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2024 King George VI Chase Trends

Staged each year on at Christmas on Boxing Day at Kempton racecourse, (Tuesday, 26th December) the King George VI Chase is the highlight contest on the festive racing calendar.

With star names like Desert Orchid, One Man and, more recently, Kauto Star, who won the King George Chase a staggering five times, amongst the household names to land this decent pot then the 3m Grade One race never fails to attract the best longer distance chasers in training, while it’s also seen as a good guide to that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has won the King George VI Chase a remarkable 13 times and is sure to have a few big chances again in 2024. While last year we saw a dramatic end with Hewick coming with a storming late run to get up in the cloding stages for Ireland.

We take a look back at recent winners and highlight the key stats to take into the 2024 renewal – this year run on Boxing Day, Wednesday Dec 26th - Can trainer Paul Nicholls win the race for a 14th time?

Past King George VI Chase Winners

2023 - Hewick (12/1)
2022 - Bravemansgame (11/4)
2021 – Tornado Flyer (28/1)
2020 - Frodon (20/1)
2019 - Clan Des Obeaux (11/2)
2018 – Clan Des Obeaux (12/1)
2017 – Might Bite (6/4 fav)
2016 – Thistlecrack (11/10 fav)
2015 – Cue Card (9/2)
2014 - Silviniaco Conti (15/8 fav)
2013 – Silviniaco Conti (7/2)
2012 – Long Run (15/8 fav)
2011 – Kauto Star (3/1)
2010 – Long Run (9/2)
2009 – Kauto Star (8/13 fav)
2008 – Kauto Star (10/11 fav)
2007 – Kauto Star (4/6 fav)
2006 – Kauto Star (8/13 fav)
2005 – Kicking King (11/8 fav)
2004 – Kicking King (3/1 fav)
2003 – Edredon Bleu (25/1)
2002 – Best Mate (11/8 fav)

Note: The 2005 renewal was staged at Sandown Park

King George VI Chase Trends

20/22 – French (14) or Irish bred (6)
18/22 – Had raced within the last 5 weeks
18/22 – Had won a Grade One chase before
18/22 – Had won over 3m or further (fences) before
18/22 – Aged 8 or younger
17/22 – Finished in the top three last time out
17/22 – Placed favourites
16/22 – Returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting
16/22 – Officially rated 167 or higher
13/22 – Had won a race over fences at Kempton before
12/22 – Won last time out
11/22 – Winning favourites
11/22 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
11/22 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (13 times in all)
10/22– Ran in the Betfair Chase (Haydock) last time out
8/22 – Won by a previous winner of the race
4/22 – Won by an Irish-based yard (only 5 in the last 38 runnings)
Paul Nicholls, the Tizzard yard and Nicky Henderson have trained 16 of the last 18 winners between them (11 Nicholls, 2 Tizzard, 3 Henderson)
Trainer Willie Mullins has only won the race twice (2021 Tornado Flyer and 2001 Florida Pearl)
The average winning SP in the last 22 years is 6/1

 

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Nicholls hoping Bravemansgame has the answers to intriguing King George

Paul Nicholls believes there are “plenty of ifs, buts and question marks” about the field for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The champion trainer targets the Christmas highlight like no one else and will be seeking his 14th success in the race as he saddles last year’s winner Bravemansgame in the Grade One contest.

See More Business was his first winner in 1997 and he regained the title two years later. Kauto Star then dominated, eclipsing Desert Orchid’s four victories by winning five between 2006 and 2011, before Nicholls sent out two more dual winners in Silviniaco Conti and Clan Des Obeaux.

The Ditcheat handler also runs 2020 big-race hero Frodon, but it is Bravemansgame who has Nicholls dreaming of more glory, despite two defeats already this term, in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

While that puts a slight mark against the defending champion, Nicholls feels the case for favourite Allaho is not totally clear, while Shishkin is on a retrieval mission after refusing to start on his seasonal bow at Ascot.

“We got outstayed at Haydock by Royale Pagaille, but he has run well there (Kempton) before and it suits him well,” said Nicholls.

Connections of Bravemansgame celebrate last year's win
Connections of Bravemansgame celebrate last year’s win (John Walton/PA)

“Allaho came back and won the other day from his time off, but is he as good as he was? There are plenty of ifs, buts and question marks, but we are very happy with Bravemansgame.

“I think he has got a great chance there is no doubt about it. The previous year’s winner of the race is always the one to beat and he has definitely taken a step forward since Haydock.”

Harry Cobden will be on board again and he told Planet Sport: “The track just really suits him and seems to bring out the best in him. He’s a very strong traveller and his jumping really keeps him in the race. If he can reproduce what he did last year, he’ll definitely take a bit of beating.

“Allaho looks the main danger to me. He’s a very smart horse and Willie (Mullins) doesn’t send them over for nothing. He jumps a little bit left which wouldn’t be ideal around Kempton and with Frodon in the race, he won’t have an easy time of it. Hopefully that will play into our hands.”

Ireland’s champion jockey Paul Townend has his first ever ride in the race on Allaho

“I can’t wait to ride in a Ladbrokes King George VI Chase. It is a very prestigious race which I haven’t been to before so it is all new and I am looking forward to it,” he told Ladbrokes.

“Allaho is as good a chance I will get of winning a King George. It’s a class race without it being a massive field. You can make a case for everything in it.

“My horse is a dual Ryanair winner, along with a Punchestown Gold Cup winner, so we are hoping he stays and that the track suits him. Obviously, I am disappointed to be missing some very big rides at Leopardstown, but having a crack on Allaho in this race makes up for it.”

Nicky Henderson retains full faith in Shishkin’s ability as he tackles a staying trip for just the second time under rules.

Winner of the 2021 Arkle, Shishkin won the Aintree Bowl over three miles and a furlong at the end of last season, but his refusal to race at Ascot means he comes into the King George without a prep run – and slightly under the radar, in his trainer’s opinion.

“When he won the Supreme he was a very good horse, and he is still a very good horse,” said Henderson.

“It has taken us a bit longer than it should have done to make us realise he is a three-miler not a two-miler, but if you win the Supreme, not surprisingly, you are thinking along the two-mile route, not three.

“He has proven what he can do over three miles, so let’s stick to it. He is the sort of forgotten person in the race and no one has mentioned him.

“The only thing I would say is don’t judge him on this, because I think it is very unfair coming into a race like this without a run. It doesn’t mean there aren’t bigger and better things to come. He might run very well and not quite get home.

“Kempton is not a stamina track, except in the King George you have got to stay and be fit because this is the one race where there is no hiding place.”

The Real Whacker was a winner at the Cheltenham Festival
The Real Whacker was a winner at the Cheltenham Festival (David Davies/PA)

Patrick Neville’s The Real Whacker is the only horse who has managed to beat Gerri Colombe to date, but he was pulled up on his return to action in the Paddy Power Gold Cup when he went lame.

He will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies again and he told William Hill: “Among many, his biggest asset is his jumping and at Kempton the jumps come quick and thick.

“Paddy Neville is really happy with him and says he’s in good form at home despite bits and pieces going against him at Cheltenham last time.

“You can put a line through that as it didn’t really happen for him that day, but he seems to have turned a real corner since then so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do, especially now he’s got a run under his belt.”



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No place like home for Bravemansgame, says Nicholls

Paul Nicholls remains confident Bravemansgame will put up a staunch defence of his crown in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park next week.

The eight-year-old was a brilliant 14-length winner of the Boxing Day showpiece last season, but has had to make do with minor honours on each of his four subsequent starts.

Bravemansgame was best of the rest behind Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March and rounded off his season with a third-placed finish at Punchestown.

He has been beaten at odds-on in his first two outings of this season, in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and the Betfair Chase at Haydock, but Nicholls feels that while his Gold Cup effort may have taken its toll, his star chaser is showing signs at home he is returning to his peak ahead of what the Ditcheat handler considers as a “home game”.

“Bravemansgame won the race last year and then the season before he won the Kauto Star (Novices’ Chase) around Kempton,” he said.

“He loves it there and it is the ultimate track for him. It is almost a home game for him in many ways.

“Whether the Gold Cup left a mark on him, I don’t know, and it could be that it has just taken a while to get him back. He worked as well as he could work on Saturday, and he looks good. We are looking forward to the King George.”

Harry Cobden celebrates winning the King George on Bravemansgame
Harry Cobden celebrates winning the King George on Bravemansgame (John Walton/PA)

Lat season saw Bravemansgame head straight to the King George following victory in the Charlie Hall, and Nicholls was initially planning on taking the same route this term.

However, having suffered defeat in West Yorkshire, the champion trainer decided to take in the Betfair Chase – and while he was beaten again, he insists he has no regrets.

He added: “The thing is, it is easy to wrap all these horses in cotton wool, but he is a year older and it was a very valuable race at Haydock.

“We knew he would need the run at Wetherby and with Betfair putting all the money into it at Haydock you want to make it as competitive as you can, and it was an interesting race.

“He ran a good race, and he was bang there for three miles. Then Daryl (Jacob) just looked after him. He had only run three weeks before it and between the two races I had been a bit easy on him. It suits him being fresh and doing a lot of work.

“Bryan (Drew, owner) was very keen to go for the race. He owns him outright and you respect his wishes. Ultimately his target, and my target, since he came in has been Boxing Day and he is ready for it. ”

Bravemansgame will be joined in the King George field by his veteran stablemate Frodon, who claimed a popular victory in the race three years ago under Bryony Frost and was last seen finishing third when seeking a second win in the Badger Beer Handicap Chase at Wincanton.

“Frodon loves it around Kempton and he is in really good form. He is not getting any younger, but he will still run a good race,” said Nicholls.

Frodon will also run in the King George
Frodon will also run in the King George (Niall Carson/PA)

“He has been a great horse for us. He has come on from Wincanton where the ground went a bit soft and it didn’t quite work out.

“He has a huge task at the age of 11 against those younger legs, but he will still run a good race. He is a legend of a horse. It would be absolutely wonderful if he could finish third or fourth.”

On the same card Nicholls is planning to send Rubaud into battle against the mighty Constitution Hill in the Christmas Hurdle.

The trainer admits his Elite Hurdle hero faces an “impossible task”, but he is happy to roll the dice.

He said: “His form is progressive, and he keeps on winning, but this another big step he has got to take. You can never be afraid of one horse they say, but Constitution Hill is a special horse.

“He will be a hard horse to beat, but we will give it our best shot and if we finish second we will be delighted.

“I don’t think there is any chink in Constitution Hill’s armour, and he will be ready for this. Rubaud won the Elite Hurdle well, but this will be an impossible task on what we have seen from Constitution Hill.”



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Four-star Cobden makes afternoon at Ascot count

It threatened to be a somewhat strange afternoon for Harry Cobden as he headed to Ascot while his King George champion Bravemansgame made the trip to Haydock for the Betfair Chase, but the leading jockey delivered a thrilling four-timer on a drama-filled day in Berkshire.

Paul Nicholls had made the decision to give Daryl Jacob the leg-up on his star staying chaser in Merseyside, and channelling one of his owners, Sir Alex Ferguson, shuffled the pack and pointed his stable number one in the direction of Ascot to represent Ditcheat in a high-class few hours of action.

Cobden had played the willing team captain throughout the week and although happy to state his disappointment about not riding Bravemansgame, also cited his willingness to make the most of a full book of rides down south while the Gold Cup runner-up travelled north.

He wasted little time getting on the scoreboard and in his first ride of the day helped Farnoge establish himself as one of the yard’s leading novice hurdlers.

Pic D'Orhy was Harry Cobden's main ride at Ascot
Pic D’Orhy was Harry Cobden’s main ride at Ascot (PA)

However, there was bigger still to come and after Shishkin planted himself at the start of the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase, Cobden took full advantage aboard his key ride of the day, owner Johnny de la Hay’s Pic D’Orhy.

Although having to work harder than envisaged aboard the now eight-time fences winner, it was job done and prize-money secured, before the day got even better when De la Hay’s Blueking D’Oroux continued his rise up the hurdling ranks with victory in the Coral Hurdle.

That made it three winners on the day for both himself and Ditcheat and with Bravemansgame still to run, he spoke honestly and pragmatically when saying: “It’s obviously a shame not to be on him.

“I had a chat with Paul earlier and whatever happens happens and I think he probably should win. I had a good chat with Daryl and he knows what he is doing, but at the same time, we’re all in the same camp aren’t we.”

Regent's Stroll brought up Harry Cobden's four-timer
Regent’s Stroll brought up Harry Cobden’s four-timer (PA)

Cobden’s day would end with a fourth victory aboard the supremely exciting debutant Regent’s Stroll, a horse the 25-year-old can begin to dream big about for the future.

But it was clear that the ultimate team player had events at Haydock at the forefront of his mind with his Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up falling short in his Betfair Chase assignment.

“There’s normally more bad days than good ones, but I’ve had four good rides today and they’ve all won so I’m very pleased, Cobden added.

Harry Cobden celebrates winning King George VI Chase aboard Bravemansgame
Harry Cobden celebrates winning King George VI Chase aboard Bravemansgame (John Walton/PA)

“It’s never nice to see Bravemansgame get beat and I haven’t spoken to Paul or Daryl yet so it will be interesting to get their thoughts later on.

“He’s a special horse and the flagbearer for the yard for the past two years. Any horse you ride in the Gold Cup and come down to the last upsides, they are special for you and really hard to get hold of.

“It’s a sad day to see him get beat, but he will bounce back and I’m sure they will get him back and I’m sure the target now will be the King George.”



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Bravemansgame sights still set on King George defence

Paul Nicholls made no excuses for Bravemansgame after his defeat in the Betfair Chase and is still planning to head to Kempton for the King George VI Chase.

The eight-year-old was the 8-11 favourite in the quartet of runners and jumped and travelled well under Daryl Jacob, but was ultimately outdone by Venetia Williams’ six-and-a-half-length winner Royale Pagaille.

Nicholls could not see an obvious reason for the defeat and will adhere to his plan of running in the King George at Kempton to bid to retain the Boxing Day crown he claimed last season.

He said: “He was not good enough on the day, it’s as simple as that.

“He jumped well, travelled well and Daryl said he thought he was going to win going to four out but he didn’t quite pick up. No excuses.

“It’s a different test at Kempton (King George), it probably suits him better there. Daryl gave him a super ride but the other one has just outstayed him from three out really.

“Kempton is his track, it won’t do him any harm to have a few runs.

“I’m not really worried about him having a hard race, he’s got a month really. To be honest with you, you can wrap them up too much in cotton wool, I’ll probably freshen him up more now rather than work him hard.

“I’ve won this race loads of times and then gone to the King George with Kauto (Star) and (Silviniaco) Conti, we’ll get him back there.

“He might want a few races to harden him up a bit. The winner is a real course specialist and we’ve no excuses, Daryl said he just got away from him three out, outstayed him.

“He’s run well and he’ll run well at Kempton.”

Jacob had taken the ride as Harry Cobden had gone to Ascot, where he rode four winners and justified the decision made on riding plans.

The trainer added: “It’s been a great day at Ascot anyway, we got the decision right about the jockey!”

Grand National titleholder Corach Rambler stayed on to claim third place at 18-1 and pleased trainer Lucinda Russell as the run was a big step forward from his well-beaten seasonal debut at Kelso.

She said: “I am delighted with that and he has stayed on really well.

Corach Rambler crossing the line in the Grand National
Corach Rambler crossing the line in the Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“He has now just given us a dilemma as to what way we go with him. The horse means so much to us and we just want him to do well and be safe.

“He jumped a bit big early but once he got into his stride he was neat and professional. I am just so pleased with him.”

The disappointment of the race was last year’s winner Protektorat, who started at 5-2 but did not jump with his usual fluency and was soon struggling. He finished fourth, another 13 lengths behind Corach Rambler.

The eight-year-old’s trainer Dan Skelton said: “It was just not meant to be today and I am not making any excuses.

“That just wasn’t his running, simple as that. He was hanging in the air a little bit at his jumps, but we will be back and have another go.”

Asked if the King George was possible for Protektorat, Skelton replied: “To be discussed. I don’t want to say where we’re going or not because I want to see how he is tomorrow and make a decision from there.”



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Royale Pagaille upsets Bravemansgame in Betfair Chase

Royale Pagaille shone brightest at his favourite track when upsetting Bravemansgame to land the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

The nine-year-old was second in this race in 2021 and returned to the Grade One contest at a price of 5-1 under Charlie Deutsch, having never been out of the first two in four previous trips to the Merseyside venue.

Dan Skelton’s Protektorat was occasionally erratic in his jumping and Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler, the reigning Grand National hero, found the race happening at too quick a pace.

It was left to Royale Pagaille and Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame, the 8-11 favourite, to share the lead in the battle for top honours.

And in the closing stages it was Venetia Williams’ charge who pushed on, jumping well over the final two fences to claim his biggest success to date by six and a half lengths. Corach Rambler was another nine lengths back in third.

Williams, who has her string in red-hot form, said: “Charlie got him into a great rhythm but he said for the first circuit he was quite laid back and not really grabbing the bridle, it wasn’t until he pulled him out wide that he did.

Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch with their trophies
Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch with their trophies (Nigel French/PA)

“He jumped very well, but if you’d seen him school on Thursday you wouldn’t believe it. But that’s him, he shows very little at home and switches it on for the races.

“You’d have to say that’s a career best from him. All horses have their day and have their lesser days. If all the others were at the top of their game then it might put a different light on it. The same applies to us on other days, on this day we were the best.

“Cheltenham is a unique course, you go up and down and round. Courses like this, dead flat, there shouldn’t be hard luck stories so you should have the best horse winning.”

She went on: “I’m not saying he’s gone into any Gold Cup as favourite, but it’s a trappy course. It has to be, as it tests the best, just like the Derby at Epsom.

“He’s run in the last three Gold Cups, he should have only been in two but his owners Susannah and Rich (Ricci) had Monkfish who was red-hot favourite in the novice race and duly won.

“He has never had his ground at Cheltenham. Who knows, this year he might.

“Grade Ones are very hard to get so I’m absolutely thrilled for everyone at the yard.

“I’m glad the Irish didn’t come but they will be at Cheltenham! I wouldn’t have thought we’d be going to take them on over there, we’ve got a lot of nice races here anyway.

Royale Pagaille following success at Haydock
Royale Pagaille following success at Haydock (Nigel French/PA)

“This ranks pretty high in my career, we’ve won a lot of nice races but this one is up there.”

Assessing plans for the future, the Herefordshire-based trainer said: “You’d like to think he will go for the Gold Cup again. He hasn’t truly had his ground in the Gold Cup yet as Cheltenham often seems to start off soft but it never seems to last to Friday.

“He could go for the King George again too which he was second in last year and if it came up softer, his chance would be stronger. You always appreciate these wins and I am thrilled for the Riccis.”



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Nicholls bullish about Bravemansgame ahead of Betfair Chase

Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame headlines a small but classy field for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The eight-year-old was second in the Gold Cup last season and made his comeback this term in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby.

He was beaten by Mouse Morris’ Gentlemansgame in West Yorkshire but Nicholls considers him to have come on considerably for that run, as he begins to tread a path back to the Gold Cup via this contest and the King George.

“He took a large step forward for that run, he hadn’t been for a racecourse gallop or anything and I hadn’t drilled him or anything for that particular race because we knew there’d be bigger targets down the road,” Nicholls said.

“He has come on for that run enormously, he looks great and he’s feeling really good.

Bravemansgame during his King George victory last year
Bravemansgame during his King George victory last year (John Walton/PA)

“He’s high class and should be the favourite really, it’s just that we were a bit negative and we weren’t sure we were going to go there.

“Bryan (Drew), who owns him, was quite keen for him to run – that’s one reason – and he has come out of that race very, very well.

“He will take a step forward for that race the other day. He’s that much older now, we’ve still got a month to Kempton and it’s a valuable race.”

The bay has been ridden in all 18 starts under rules so far by Harry Cobden, but the Ditcheat stable jockey is required to head to Ascot instead and Daryl Jacob steps in the for the ride at Haydock.

“Harry is going to Ascot to ride Pic D’Orhy, who had such a good season last year, from which I hope he’s improved further,” Nicholls said.

Bravemansgame with trainer Paul Nicholls
Bravemansgame with trainer Paul Nicholls (Adam Davy/PA)

“The bottom line is that Harry can’t be in two places at the same time.

“When there is more than one big meeting on a Saturday, you have to plan, but you also need someone to be first reserve and Daryl has been riding out for us.”

Dan Skelton will be represented by Protektorat, the reigning Betfair Chase champion after landing the race by 11 lengths last season.

He was subsequently fourth in the Cotswold Chase and fifth in the Gold Cup and now returns for his seasonal debut with freshness on his side.

“It gives you great confidence when a horse has been there and done it because you can do what you did the year before,” the trainer said.

Harry Skelton winning the Betfair Chase with Protektorat last season
Harry Skelton winning the Betfair Chase with Protektorat last season (Nigel French/PA)

“We know the result we got and if he runs like he did last year, which was visually very impressive, whoever beats him will have a hard race to do so.

“OK, his form after wasn’t as sparkling but we can put that to one side at the moment because we are dealing with first time and we know what he did first time last year.

“Freshness is key with any horse. I know people want to see these horses run more but the truth of the matter is these horses have hard races in big races. It’s not the getting ready for the next race, it’s getting over the one they’ve just had.

“Of course, I’d love to run him more, like I would a lot of others, but you can’t waste runs when you think they might not be at their best. You also have to consider the idiosyncrasies of British courses.

“You want to run them on ones they will be at their best, unless you get a horse like Kauto Star who can do it on all of them and then it’s magical. We’d all love to run them more but it is hard to get them razor right.”

Corach Rambler winning the 2023 Grand National
Corach Rambler winning the 2023 Grand National (Mike Egerton/PA)

Lucinda Russell runs last season’s Grand National hero Corach Rambler, who makes his Grade One debut at Haydock.

After winning the Aintree marathon by two and a quarter lengths in the spring, the nine-year-old returned to action in Kelso’s Edinburgh Gin Chase in late October but was well beaten when fifth of six runners.

Russell reports her stable star to be in good form at home following the run, however, and hopes his performance in the Betfair Chase will prove instructive as to where he will head next.

The William Hill ambassador said: “Corach Rambler is in absolutely fantastic form at home and has been causing absolute mayhem around the place! He’s galloping around the farm in a very happy manner and upsetting the whole string, which is really encouraging ahead of Haydock on Saturday.

“I must admit that I do wake up in the middle of the night panicking about him because he really does mean that much to me. He’s very special and it’s a pleasure to be involved with him and be a part of his journey.

Corach Rambler and Derek Fox (right)
Corach Rambler and Derek Fox (right) (Mike Egerton/PA)

“The ground at Kelso was pretty bad and he obviously didn’t have a great run there, so the fact it will be better on Saturday is a real bonus.

“We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a big challenge against some proper Gold Cup contenders, but I think he’s earned his chance to prove that he’s up to this sort of standard and we’re really looking forward to it.

“It will tell us where we stand with him and whether the Gold Cup is a realistic aim.”

Completing the field of four is Venetia Williams’ Royale Pagaille, second in the contest behind A Plus Tard in 2021.

The nine-year-old has a notably good Haydock record, as three further runs at the track have all ended in victory, though he was a faller in the Irish Grand National when last seen in April and looks to return to form at his favoured track.

Royale Pagaille at Kempton
Royale Pagaille at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Joe Chambers, racing manager to owners Rich and Susannah Ricci, said: “Royale Pagaille loves it at Haydock and with the ground in his favour and a small field, we thought it would be best to kick off his season there on Saturday, rather than going to Newbury the following week.

“He is three out of four at Haydock, with his only defeat coming when second in the Betfair Chase two years ago to A Plus Tard.

“I’d say this season it would be lovely to win a third Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock (in January) with him. What happens either side of that is still to be decided.”



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Pic-ture perfect Ascot would be just reward for Cobden

Harry Cobden is looking to Ascot and Pic D’Orhy to provide him with the perfect consolation for having to miss out on Bravemansgame in the Betfair Chase.

Cobden is the stable jockey for Paul Nicholls and has ridden Bravemansgame in all of his starts under rules, but with a full book of rides awaiting him at Ascot it is Daryl Jacob who will get the leg-up at Haydock.

The main draw at Ascot is Pic D’Orhy, a Grade One winner at Aintree last time out who is entered in the Grade Two 1965 Chase alongside Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin.

“Obviously I’m disappointed not to be riding the best horse in the yard in Bravemansgame, but you’ve got to do what is right for the yard and the owners,” said the jockey, speaking in his blog for Planet Sport Bet.

“I’m sure he’ll run really well on Saturday and while I’d love to be on him, I’ve got some great rides at Ascot too. Pic D’Orhy is a class horse in his own right and I can’t wait to ride him.

Pic D’Orhy en route to victory at Aintree
Pic D’Orhy en route to victory at Aintree (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He won the Melling Chase at Aintree last season, so we know he’s top class. It looks like Shishkin is going to take us on and he’s obviously a very good horse in his own right.

“It’s a bit of rematch as he got the better of us in the race last year, but I do know Paul has been getting lots of work into Pic D’Orhy and he’ll be ready to rock and roll on Saturday.

“Of course it will be a tough race, and we’ll need to put in a career best to beat him, but it’s definitely possible and we’re looking forward to it. It should be a great race.

Nicholls was at the Newbury gallops morning on Tuesday and reiterated the decision was simply a result of the clash in meetings and nothing more significant.

Harry Cobden after winning the Marsh Chase with Pic D’Orhy
Harry Cobden after winning the Marsh Chase with Pic D’Orhy (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Harry is going to Ascot to ride Pic D’Orhy who had such a good season last year from which I hope he’s improved further,” he said.

“The bottom line is that Harry can’t be in two places at the same time.

“When there is more than one big meeting on a Saturday you have to plan but you also need someone to be first reserve and Daryl has been riding out for us.

“I see it’s a small field for the Betfair and we are better off running then being stuck in our stable.”



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