Discorama aiming to realise Nolan’s dream

Paul Nolan will travel to Aintree for a tilt at the race he has has always dreamed of winning – the Randox Grand National.

A sound jumper and a proven stayer, Discorama is set to carry a handy racing weight of 10st 6lb and is reported to be in fine fettle as the big race approaches.

Discorama did not line at the Cheltenham Festival, side-stepping the meeting in favour of a trip to Liverpool – having run well at Prestbury Park for the previous three seasons without enjoying a victory.

In fact, despite a string of admirable performances in graded races, Discorama has not won at all since triumphing on his chasing debut in 2018 – something County Wexford-based trainer Nolan attributes to both his running style and a degree of misfortune.

“He is due a bit of luck,” he said.

“He’s been placed at three Cheltenham Festivals, and he’s always off the pace that little bit – you need so much luck in running when you do that.

“You need things to happen in front of you. You need to be very lucky – and unfortunately, so many times he just didn’t have that.

“He’s certainly a horse we’d love to get his head in front, but it’s not easy with the way he runs and the way he stays behind the bridle a little bit.

Discorama (left) in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase during the 2019 Cheltenham Festival
Discorama (left) in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase during the 2019 Cheltenham Festival (Nigel French/PA)

“You have to sit and suffer – we’ve tried different ways of running him, and they didn’t seem to suit him.”

Nolan has trained three Grand National entrants thus far – with Colonel Rayburn pulling up in both 2005 and 2006 and Joncol meeting the same fate in 2013.

“When you train horses, there are the races that you dream about – and the National is certainly one of them,” he said.

“The Gold Cup, the Irish National, the Irish Gold Cup – they’re the races everyone’s always taking about.

“You have your favourite races, and certainly the English National captures the heart of millions of people.

“The horse that wins it becomes a household name for a certain bit of time. It would absolutely be a dream come true if he was able to win.”

That dream is shared with the horse’s joint owner Andrew Gemmell, famously associated with the prolific staying hurdler Paisley Park and who shares Discorama with Thomas Friel.

Gemmell was not able to be at Cheltenham, where Paisley Park finished a gallant third in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

But limitations on owners attending tracks have since eased, and he is looking forward to being back on course for Discorama’s run at Aintree.

“It would be fantastic if he could put on a good show at Aintree,” he said.

“It’s everyone’s dream to win the National.

“He’s been a very consistent horse and he’s had three good runs at Cheltenham.”

Paisley Park will also travel to Liverpool, taking up an entry in the Stayers’ Hurdle on the same day as the Grand National.

“He’s come out of Cheltenham very well, and so he should be ready to go,” Gemmell said of Emma Lavelle’s stable star.

“We’d like a bit of rain beforehand, but he should be great.

“It’ll be fantastic to be back – it’s really exciting and it will be a dream come true to run both of them at Aintree.”

Nolan was also absent for the Cheltenham Festival, missing Mrs Milner’s triumph in the Pertemps Final, but he will be attendance at Aintree and is delighted Discorama’s owners will be too.

“Hopefully everything stays on track, and I can go there. I do intend to travel myself,” he said.

“Andrew Gemmell and Tom Friel, they’re the two guys that own him, so it’d be great for the lads as well.

“Andrew was so disappointed that he couldn’t get to see Paisley Park go to Cheltenham.

“Thankfully the restrictions have been lifted, and that’ll allow owners to go to Aintree. That’s a huge bonus.”

Latest Exhibition will avoid heavy ground after Punchestown defeat

Paul Nolan will hunt for better ground as he plans the next steps in his Cheltenham Festival runner-up Latest Exhibition’s novice chase campaign.

The seven-year-old, second in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in March, was sent off the odds-on favourite for the Grade Two Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown on Sunday but had to settle for minor honours again, seven lengths behind Pencilfulloflead.

That was his second start over fences after an initial course-and-distance success in a beginners’ chase last month.

Nolan put the defeat down to the heavy going, and hopes there will be better ground to be found at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.

“Of course we were disappointed – but I just think with the extreme heavy ground, possibly he didn’t just act as well on it,” said the Wexford trainer.

“On the day he was definitely beaten by a better horse – and hopefully there’ll be a little bit of not-so-heavy ground on another day, and we can head for Leopardstown at Christmas.

“Hopefully he’ll handle the ground that bit better, but certainly that’s what we blame anyway. He just didn’t act the same or pick up the same in the really heavy conditions.”

Mrs Milner also collected a runner-up spot for Nolan over the weekend when beaten a neck by On The Blind Side in the Listed Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The five-year-old’s British rating is 7lb higher than her Irish mark, an increase Nolan felt could have cost her the race because margin of defeat was so narrow.

“Mrs Milner was good – she was just unfortunate,” he said.

“Looking at it now, she was rated 123 in Ireland, and I suppose the 7lb that she got in England unfortunately just got her beaten by that bit of a distance. If it had have been a four or five-pound hike she might have won.

“Then again, she had plenty of time to get past him (On The Blind Side) – and she didn’t. It was just unfortunate to get so near to large black type at Cheltenham, and get beaten by so little on the day.

“She’s a very consistent filly and hopefully she’ll remain consistent for the rest of the season. We were delighted with the run – it was just unfortunate to get so close.”

Nolan also sent Discorama over to Cheltenham for the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase, in which he finished a distant fifth of six runners.

“We were disappointed with how he ran – we thought he was in great shape,” he said.

“Maybe he was just that bit too fresh, just too keen early on – and in that sort of ground if you won’t settle you’ve no chance. He just pulled too hard early on in the race, pulled his way to the front – and when that happens it’s very, very seldom over that sort of trip that you’ll finish out your race.

“He’s never been that way before, never acted that way before, and that’s why we’re just going to draw a line through it. He was just too keen – the race was basically over (for him) after four or five fences.”

Having been placed at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals, including when third in the Grade Three Ultima Handicap Chase this year, Discorama finds himself running off a mark of 150 – which makes him tough to place.

“We’ll wait and see now – unfortunately with the programme, there’s not much for him,” added Nolan.

“He’s in no man’s land really, with regards to his mark. Do you run him in Grade Twos and Grade Ones against the top horses, where he’s more than a stone wrong on his rating? But there are times when you get a bit of luck on the day, and you never know what will happen.

“That was a bit of a plan to go to Cheltenham, that backfired on us.

“It didn’t work out, so we’ll just assess it now over the next few days. We’ll make a bit of plan from there and see how we go.”

Nolan scans calendar for Discorama

Paul Nolan is struggling to find a suitable opportunity for his stable stalwart Discorama.

The seven-year-old has been placed at the Cheltenham Festival in each of the past three seasons, most recently finishing third behind The Conditional in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March.

Discorama made a promising start to the new campaign when beaten a short head by Gordon Elliott’s Milan Native in a conditions chase at Galway this month.

However, he has not managed to get his head in front in almost two years, and Nolan feels his charge is a victim of his own consistency.

“He’s in good form, (but) it’s just unfortunate you’re in no man’s land with a horse rated 150 like he is,” said the Enniscorthy-based trainer.

“He’s rated too high for handicaps in Ireland really. You’ve got the Troytown in Navan, but that’s a 0-150 race, so he’d carry top-weight in that – and we didn’t even enter him.

“You’d nearly need to be a Gold Cup horse to be winning a handicap chase in Ireland off top weight.

“Do you run him 10lb or 20lb wrong in the Grade Ones and Grade Twos, when he doesn’t seem to be up to that level, or do you carry top-weight in a handicap? You might have wait for some of the bigger handicaps and basically plan your season around those.”

Discorama’s admirable exploits have brought him just two victories in 17 career attempts.

Nolan added: “It’s awfully frustrating, because he only has two wins under his belt.

“He won a maiden hurdle and got a high rating; he won a beginners chase and got a high rating – and so far he can’t win a handicap.

“When you’re 10lb or a stone short of the top level – I’m not saying it’s a struggle, because he never runs a bad race, but it’s frustrating with a horse like him that you’ve only won two races.

“He definitely needs a trip, but I don’t think he needs the ground as heavy as we once thought – I think that’s why he runs so well in Cheltenham, because the ground is never as bottomless as it is here in Ireland.

“Please God there’ll be something for him. We’ll keep trying and see if we can improve him a length or two.”

Discorama makes seasonal bow in Galway feature

Paul Nolan’s star chaser Discorama begins a new campaign at Galway on Wednesday.

The seven-year-old was last seen finishing third in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March – his third placed finish at the Cheltenham Festival, having previously filled the runner-up spot in both the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle and in the National Hunt Chase.

Nolan is looking forward to seeing Discorama make his seasonal reappearance under Bryan Cooper in the Ryans Cleaning, Disinfecting, Waste Disposal And Recycling Chase, with a tilt at Grand National glory at Aintree on the radar for next spring.

Nolan said: “He’s in good shape. We haven’t been able to give him a gallop on grass just yet as the ground has been too good, but he’s as fit as we can get him at home and we’re looking forward to getting him started.

“I always think the day you start making plans is the day it goes wrong, so we’ll just see how he performs on the track and make plans as we go along.

“He could end up in the English National and you’d be looking at races like the Welsh National, too – all those big, staying handicap chases really, but we’ll see how we go.”

Discorama heads a field of five runners declared for Wednesday’s Galway feature, with Noel Meade saddling Dream Conti in a bid to win the race for a fourth time in the last five years.

He is one of two runners for Gigginstown House Stud along with Gordon Elliott’s Milan Native, while the Tom Mullins-trained Court Maid and Forza Milan from James Nash’s yard complete the quintet.