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Chatham Street Lad straight back to winning ways after Cheltenham

Chatham Street Lad had no trouble stepping up to three miles to easily win the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase at Limerick.

A creditable fourth to Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham just 10 days previously, the nine-year-old showed no ill-effects from that run.

Trainer Mick Winters thought this Grade Three heat was a good opportunity to try the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner beyond an extended two and a half miles, and so it proved when he outclassed his four rivals.

Chatham Street Lad travelled beautifully throughout, just off the pace set by Defi Bleu and Full Time Score, until Darragh O’Keeffe made his move after the third-last fence.

The even-money favourite cruised into the lead and sealed victory with a superb jump at the last, to come home 11 lengths clear of Defi Bleu. Full Time Score was 48 lengths back in third place.

“He thrived on the conditions and had more time to fiddle his jumps and I never saw Darragh so happy,” said Winters.

“He travelled over to Cheltenham fiercely well, but the ground had dried that little extra fraction for him and I was half-thinking of pulling the plug and not running him.

“I did feel he came home out of Cheltenham very well in himself and he loved these conditions today. I know you put your head on the plate a bit, but you can’t hide.

“The way he jumped there, you wouldn’t mind running him in a National on heavy ground, but I’ll leave that up to the owners.

“There is great prize-money now, like the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over in Cheltenham, and great sponsorship and the money today was outstanding.”

Chatham steps up in trip for quick reappearance at Limerick

Chatham Street Lad makes a swift return to action in the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase at Limerick on Sunday.

The Mick Winters-trained nine-year-old was not disgraced in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last week, beaten less than 10 lengths by Chantry House.

He had earlier caused something of a surprise when a 15-length winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December.

Chatham Street Lad faces just four rivals, but they include Henry de Bromhead’s Full Time Score, who lifted a maiden hurdle in February and was sent straight over fences the following month when winning at Gowran.

“He seems to be fine after Cheltenham,” said Winters.

“The ground is soft which he’ll like, but it’s his first time over three miles – I think he’ll stay it.

“It might be his last run this season, we’ll see. He’s eating up though and hasn’t told me I shouldn’t be running him.

“I’m just keen to see if he stays three miles and with the ground as it is, I wanted to run.

“The jockey (Darragh O’Keeffe) just said at Cheltenham he made a mistake at the wrong time and met a bit of trouble. He didn’t look out of place, though.

“I was happy enough with his run, he could have maybe finished a bit closer without interference.

“There’s only five runners, so hopefully he can win. He’s come a long way this season.”

Winters has eyes set on Marsh assignment with Chatham Street Lad

Chatham Street Lad has the Marsh Novices’ Chase as his Cheltenham objective after connections took the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner out of his four other Festival engagements.

Trainer Michael Winters has removed the nine-year-old from the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy, the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair to concentrate solely on the the Grade One novice chase over two and a half miles.

Winters is bringing Chatham Street Lad back to his peak after giving him a break following a defeat at Fairyhouse last month.

“He’s not out of the Marsh. He’s still in that one. That’s the race the owners want to run in,” said the County Cork handler on Wednesday.

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“He had a good break and we’ve taken him to the beach today to freshen him up.

“He’d had quite a bit of racing and he slightly disappointed the last day so we thought we’d freshen him up for Cheltenham.

“He cantered on the beach and in the water and he’s had some physio. He’s thriving.

“There were a lot of small things the last day. If we are going to run a good race the next day we are going to have to be 100 per cent.

“That’s what we’re aiming for and we think he has a good chance. We’d like to see plenty of rain in England.”

Sporting John could be one of Chatham Street Lad’s rivals in the Marsh, after trainer Philip Hobbs revealed ground conditions will determine which race the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase winner will grace at the showpiece meeting.

Sporting John (right) now has a choice of two races at Cheltenham
Sporting John (right) now has a choice of two races at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hobbs took Sporting John out of the Arkle at the latest forfeit stage, but has left the JP McManus-owned six-year-old in the Marsh and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase over three miles.

“We’ve taken Sporting John out of the Arkle and he will either now run in the Marsh or what was the RSA. It will all depend on what the ground conditions are like,” said the Minehead handler.

“If the ground was very soft you would stick to two and a half in the Marsh, but if it wasn’t you would probably look at going further with him.

“It was obviously very pleasing to see him win like he did and warm to the task at Sandown, as it shows he is going in the right direction.”

Cheltenham still beckons for Chatham Street Lad

Michael Winters is still targeting the Cheltenham Festival with Chatham Street Lad, despite his defeat at Fairyhouse.

However, the Cork trainer will probably lower his sights to a handicap, possibly the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate over two miles five furlongs, rather than a Grade One.

Chatham Street Lad already holds entries in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase, having won the highly-competitive Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month over an extended two and a half miles by 15 lengths.

“We’re still heading to Cheltenham – we’re not too much taken aback,” said Winters, reflecting on the nine-year-old’s 12-length defeat in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase.

“He never got into a rhythm – the pace wasn’t right for him.

“I imagine we’ll be going for a handicap there, to be realistic. We’ll be making our mind up about what distance.

“From what he did at Cheltenham last time, we’ll be going back to that kind of trip. I’d imagine that’s where we’ll be looking.”

Winters believes Chatham Street Lad was just not at his best when going off a 7-4 favourite but managing only third to Daly Tiger on Saturday.

He will therefore have a break before preparing for Cheltenham.

“He’ll probably get a freshen-up, and we’ll have him checked out from head to toe to see that everything is right,” added Winters.

“He’s OK – but I don’t think the race went that well for him, with the pace and other little issues. He jumped a bit to the left, so we’ll have that checked out as well and make sure he’s 100 per cent.

“He’s been out in the paddock – he’s fine, but we’re going to freshen him up, check his vaccinations and give him a three-week break and we’ll be rolling on.

“He deserves a break, so we’ll be switching him off and get him swimming. He seems happy enough and he’s sound.

“He may not have been 100 per cent on the day, but he still ran a solid race.

“The thing for us is to get him back to the form he was in at Cheltenham last time. We’ve got plenty of time on our hands – two months.”

Chatham Street Lad headlines Fairyhouse entries

Cheltenham heroes Chatham Street Lad and The Shunter could lock horns in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

The Mick Winters-trained trained Chatham Street Lad was a brilliant winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Prestbury Park last month, while The Shunter won the Greatwood Hurdle in November for Emmet Mullins.

The pair are among 25 remaining contenders for this weekend’s 75,000 euros contest, with Joseph O’Brien’s Front View and Impact Factor from Jessica Harrington’s yard potentially bidding to follow up recent course wins.

Gordon Elliott has left in six horses, including Chosen Mate, winner of the Grand Annual at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, while Willie Mullins has both Fan De Blues and Pont Aven.

Noel Meade’s Daly Tiger made an impressive start to the current campaign at Punchestown in November, but disappointed at Fairyhouse on his latest appearance.

Meade said: “Daly Tiger may run in the Dan Moore at Fairyhouse on Saturday. We’ll see how things progress this week.

“I don’t know why he ran so poorly the last day. Nothing went right for him and we’ll just have to put a line through it.”

Also featuring on Saturday’s card is the ITM Virtual Stallion Trail Hurdle, for which Gordon Elliott has entered Quilixios.

An impressive winner at both Punchestown and Down Royal, he tops a bumper entry of 17 along with the Willie Mullins-trained Youmdor.

Fairyhouse aim for Chatham Street Lad

Chatham Street Lad is on target for the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Steeplechase at Fairyhouse on January 18.

The Mick Winters-trained eight-year-old turned the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham into a procession last month.

He will now drop down in trip for the two-mile-one-furlong contest and will have several entries at the Cheltenham Festival.

“His owners take a real interest in the racing and go to a lot of trouble picking out the right races,” said Winters on Monday.

“I probably wouldn’t have considered the Cheltenham race so I’m happy to roll along with them and go to Fairyhouse.

“He’s in super form, he’s at the peak of his career you could say. He did a piece of work this morning, I know the lass on him was light, but he was flying along.

“It was two and a half (miles) last time and it means coming back in trip, but I don’t think it’s a big thing. The thing about coming back in trip is we might find out he’s a Champion Chase-type and then you meet a different calibre.

“He’s a big, strong horse. I’ve had a lot of point-to-pointers through the yard, but this one stands out.

“He’s very happy in himself so we’ll try to keep him together until then.”

Given Chatham Street Lad is still a novice he is likely to have plenty of options come March.

“I think the owners are going to spend a bit of money when it comes to Cheltenham and cover all options like the Champion Chase, Ryanair and the handicaps and he’s still a novice you see,” said Winters.

“Looking at the novices over Christmas you have Shishkin, Envoi Allen and Paul Nolan’s horse (Latest Exhibition) that we might come up against, so we’ll have to work it out.

“The big, galloping tracks suit him and if you had a choice of going left or right with him you’d go left.”

Sayce Gold out to keep up winning run for Winters

Eight days after taking Cheltenham by storm with Chatham Street Lad, Mick Winters is hoping Sayce Gold can win her fourth successive race in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle at Thurles.

Chatham Street Lad was a brilliant winner of last Saturday’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in the Cotswolds, after which his ever-popular trainer performed a celebratory roll on the ground in the Prestbury Park winner’s enclosure.

While scenes are likely to be a more low-key should Sayce Gold triumph in Listed company on Sunday, she is undoubtedly an exciting prospect – having already won a Fairyhouse bumper, a Thurles maiden hurdle and a Grade Three at Cork this term.

“We were worried about the extra trip going up to three miles in Mallow (Cork), and now we’re coming back to two miles, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Winters.

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“She looks well in herself, and we’re very hopeful and looking forward to it.

“She has to give a bit of weight away to the younger horses. But she’s a big, strong mare – and it’s not going to be easy for four-year-olds in very soft ground.

“This mare has her job done so far, and hopefully she can keep it going.”

The Trevor Hemmings-owned Sayce Gold heads a field of 11 runners, with a pair of unbeaten four-year-olds in Henry de Bromhead’s Kapard and the Willie Mullins-trained course-and-distance winner Gauloise among her rivals.

Chatham Street Lad bolted up at Cheltenham
Chatham Street Lad bolted up at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Winters also provided an upbeat report on Chatham Street Lad’s condition, with connections identifying a handicap chase at Fairyhouse in the new year as a potential next target.

The eight-year-old was priced up for the Marsh Novices’ Chase, the RSA Chase and the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival following his latest triumph, and his trainer is in no rush to decide where he will end up come March.

He said: “We had an enjoyable trip across the water. We were well looked after, and we really appreciated it.

“It was very exciting watching the young jockey on him (Darragh O’Keeffe) floating down the hill. It’s made us all walk a little bit lighter for the moment!

“The horse has come back home very well – the race didn’t knock a feather out of him, and he came out of it without a scratch. He travelled better home than he went.

“The owners are thinking of running in Fairyhouse in January – there’s a two-mile-one-furlong handicap chase there. He’s in great order and he might go there.

“The owners have plenty of time on their hands because they’re half in lockdown, so they’ll be studying away seeing what’s what.

“I think he’s improving all the time, and he can have a bit of time off over Christmas while we all watch the King George and the big races at Leopardstown and stuff like that.”

Chatham claims Cheltenham Gold with runaway success

Chatham Street Lad ran out an impressive winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, giving jockey Darragh O’Keeffe the biggest success of his career.

Trained by Mick Winters, the eight-year-old had won two of his last three, but looked a class apart as he bounded up the hill.

O’Keeffe always looked full of confidence as he moved into a challenging position coming down the hill, with Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody, Benatar, Master Tommytucker and Midnight Shadow all still in contention.

On landing in front at the second last, however, the Irish challenger sprinted clear and absolutely flew the final fence.

The 16-1 chance beat Midnight Shadow by 15 lengths, with the northern raider in turn well clear of Benatar and Good Boy Bobby in fourth.

Chatham Street Lad was introduced him into Betfair’s Ryanair Chase betting at 20-1.

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Winters said: “It was outstanding – it was a local jockey as well. He has come down to school on the horse lately and the horse has improved.

“The owners have always had horses in and they have a couple of pubs locally and things. In fairness he won well in Cork (last time out). This is spectacular.

“I’d be very humble about this. Racing is very special and the horses are treated so kind and people don’t realise it. It would be great to give something back as we are only passing through.

“I was confident we would run a blinder. Once he got over the last fence, I was hopeful after that. He is not Flat-bred he was bred for National Hunt, that’s why he was bought and he will keep developing.

“I don’t know where we might go next, but hopefully we might be back here (for the Festival) or at Aintree. He fiddled a couple of jumps and missed a few fences here and there, but I asked the jockey and he said he got in tight.”

Winters chose to celebrate his first Cheltenham winner in an unusual way, by rolling in the paddock.

He explained: “I said if he won, I would do like the pig and roll in the muck as that is what the pig does, so I had to back it up.

“We got here for the Foxhunters years ago and we finished mid-division. We all dream of the Foxhunters, but nowadays it has gone on a bit tough, so you dream of these races.”

O’Keeffe was also claiming his first victory at Cheltenham and added: “It was awesome.

“The one thing I thought might let him down was his jumping a bit, and at times it kind of did today. He was just a bit green.

“He travelled like a dream, he did make a few mistakes but when I wanted him, he was awesome.

“When Micky Winters comes over to England, he’s got to be taken seriously because when he has the ammunition he’s well able to train them. I’m very grateful to him for giving me the opportunity.

“We thought he’d run well, but we didn’t think he’d do that. It’s brilliant.

“When I was a child, I remember watching Ruby Walsh, Tony McCoy, Barry Geraghty and everyone coming up the hill and I always hoped at some stage of my career I would get to ride a winner here. It’s unbelievable,” he told ITV Racing.