Connections of the huge Hillcrest are eyeing either a return to Cheltenham for the Classic Novices’ Hurdle on Trials Day on January 29 or the River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster on the same day for his next run.
Having made light work of his opposition in a Listed contest at the Prestbury Park track on New Year’s Day, trainer Henry Daly is conscious that he does not ask too much of the seven-year-old, who is unbeaten in three novice hurdles this season.
The massive horse – nicknamed Rodney – earned Cheltenham Festival quotes after seeing off Nicky Henderson’s highly-touted I Am Maximus in the extended two-and-a-half-mile Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
“Hillcrest is absolutely fine after the race – no problem at all,” said Daly. “What he is going to do next is a very leading question.
“There is an ongoing debate as to what the next plan is. There is the race at Cheltenham on the 29th, similar to the race he ran in the other day, a two-and-a-half-mile Listed race. There is also the same race on the same day – the River Don, a three-mile novice hurdle.
“Quite honestly, it is a bit of a toss-up and there is also the possibility of not running in either of those races.
“He wants nice ground. Good to soft would be fine. He won his bumper in good to soft at Doncaster and handles it perfectly well. It is not an issue. It was the same at Aintree first time this year.
“He is a big boy and like most of those, they don’t take a whole lot of hammer, so we are very conscious of that and we are trying to do the best thing without making a balls of it, really. Such is a trainer’s lot!”
Hillcrest, who runs in the colours of the late British billionaire Trevor Hemmings, stands at 18 hands (around 6ft to the shoulder), and barely came out of a canter at Cheltenham last time.
That win earned him quotes of 16-1 for both the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with Coral but Daly says he is not leaning one way or the other.
He admitted: “I keep being told to think ‘Cheltenham’ for him. It is an interesting conundrum, being told to think things.
“It is pretty obvious the Festival has to be on the radar, doesn’t it? But it is not the be-all and end-all.
“When you start leaning, you tend to fall. Therefore it is better to be vertical and keep it that way.”
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Richard Spencer has high hopes for Wonderwall after his convincing victory in the Betting Better With Sky Bet Maiden Hurdle at Doncaster.
The six-year-old is a bumper winner and looked a likely victor on his hurdles debut at Newbury before blundering at the final flight and eventually finishing second.
This time there were no such errors and the bay travelled with complete ease to comfortably prevail under James Bowen at odds of 6-4.
Spencer has the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in mind for the gelding, a horse he regards as the best jumping prospect in his dual-purpose Newmarket yard.
“We’ve always thought he’d be a horse for the Ballymore,” he said.
“We’d like to run before if we could. There’s (Cheltenham Festival) Trials Day and there’s the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon, but the plan has been Cheltenham for a long time.
“He’s going to be a better horse when he jumps a fence, he just respects a fence better than a hurdle because he’s got so much ability.
“He’s a very good horse. He’s the best jumper we’ve got, we haven’t got many but he’d work with a lot of good Flat horses as well.
“He’s got a lot of natural speed, he’s stays, he’s a very good horse.
“We were gutted he got beat the first time but at the end of the day, he’s had the experience and it’s going to stand him in good stead and if we can get another run into him, that would be great.”
Moriko De Vassy (9-4) looked a horse of great promise when landing the Betting Better With Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle for Aidan Coleman and Tom Symonds.
The five-year-old was a bumper winner last term and took his hurdles debut by 30 lengths in November, but fell when contesting a novice contest at Huntingdon last month.
Burdened with a 7lb penalty for his previous success, the gelding overcame a final fence error and a lost shoe to produce an impressive late burst of speed and deny Fergal O’Brien’s Great Heart’Jac by a neck on the line.
“We’ve done lots of work with his jumping,” Symonds said.
“At Huntingdon it was frustrating because he just turned to see Mr (Nicky) Henderson’s horse, Balco Coastal, who’s obviously franked the form, and he said ‘what the hell are you doing there?’ and forgot there was a hurdle in front of him.
“It’s slightly arrogant, here he hit the front, looked at the hurdle and just put down.
“He might (have an entry at Cheltenham) but we will take our time with him.”
Erne River made light work of his chasing debut when cruising to an impressive six-length win in the Sky Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase for Charlie Hammond and Nick Kent.
The 5-1 chance kept himself out of trouble as three runners either fell or were brought down and found himself clear of the field approaching the last fence, which he jumped well to cross the line unchallenged.
“We know he’s a very good horse and the two wins last year (over hurdles) were a bonus because I didn’t think he was quick enough for a hurdles race and he proved us totally wrong!” said Kent.
“He oozes chaser and that’s why we’ve gone chasing quicker than normal and we’re really, really pleased.
“He’s a bit more relaxed as he’d been a bit keen in his races last year, but we’ve worked on that at home, he was great there.”
William Maggs’ career in the saddle got off to the best possible start as he enjoyed a winner on his first ride under rules.
The 16-year-old has pony racing experience and rides for Donald McCain alongside his twin brother Charlie, who began his professional career for the trainer at Southwell on Sunday.
Riding the McCain-trained Bird On The Wire in the first division of the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Hurdle, a race specifically for conditional or amateur jockeys, Maggs steered the 8-1 shot to a four-and-a-quarter-length victory over 50-1 chance Ribeye.
“What an amazing start, that’s my first ride under rules,” the jockey said.
“I’ve ridden in pony races since I was about 11 or 12 and picked up two winners from 24 rides.
“It’s nice to open the account under rules like this.
“I was travelling from the outside as the horses turned in and as I came down to three out, I switched him down the outside and he just picked up from there and kept on galloping.”
Of bagging a first winner before his twin brother, Maggs added: “I won’t rub it in too much!”
Division two of the same race went the way of Manintheshadows, ridden to success by AJ O’Neill for his father Jonjo.
A 9-1 chance, the chestnut recorded a five-length triumph to claim his second career victory.
“It’s fantastic, he’s a great little horse who tries so hard,” the jockey said.
“He just keeps galloping once he gets into his nice rhythm, he finds his happy spot and keeps going from there.
“I’m really enjoying the riding at the minute and I’m lucky enough to be having a lucky streak, but in the future my heart is quite set on training, so hopefully that will come into fruition over time.”
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Top Ville Ben is heading for Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase after his pleasing run in the Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day.
The Phil Kirby-trained gelding won the Wetherby race in 2019 and was travelling with every chance when bidding to regain his title, before being stopped in his tracks by the falling Empire Steel four fences from home.
The hindrance allowed eventual winner Good Boy Bobby to surge clear of the bay, who rallied but was beaten a total of 10 and a half lengths in third when he crossed the line.
The Sky Bet Chase on January 29 is next on the agenda for the 10-year-old, with Kirby pleased with his Wetherby performance and his resilience after the obstruction.
“He’s really well, the plan is most likely to go to the Sky Bet Chase at the end of the month at Doncaster,” he said.
“He ran really well at Wetherby, I don’t know if it (being hampered) would have made a difference with the result, but he did well to get back upsides.
“If he hadn’t have been stopped he would have probably ended up in front at some point and we don’t know what would have happened then, do we?
“I was pleased, I thought it was a good run really and he looked liked he was coming back to himself, so hopefully sooner or later we’ll have him back to where he was.”
The Grand National remains an option for Top Ville Ben, who appeared to take instantly to the famous fences in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December before seeming to misjudge one entirely and falling.
“I thought he jumped really well, he jumped like a horse that loved it,” Kirby said.
“He is capable of doing that over a hurdle and just because it was a National fence, I don’t think that makes any difference.
“It’s just him, sometimes he doesn’t look where he’s going but he’ll have to learn!
“It’s (the Grand National) not a definite but it’s something we’ll keep an eye on, we’ll see how he gets on at Doncaster and he’ll be getting an entry anyway.”
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Doncaster’s Lightning Novices’ Chase could be next on the agenda for Do Your Job following his creditable effort in defeat at Kempton over the festive period.
Runner-up to My Drogo and Belfast Banter in Grade Two and Grade One novice hurdles in the spring, Michael Scudamore’s stable star made a successful start to his chasing career at Warwick in November.
The eight-year-old fell at the eighth fence when stepped up in class for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, but bounced back to finish second to Edwardstone in the Wayward Lad last week.
With Scudamore keen to avoid a rematch with the winner, who is seemingly bound for the Kingmaker at Warwick, Do Your Job could instead bid for Grade Two honours at Doncaster on January 29.
Reflecting on his Kempton performance, the trainer said: “I was very pleased. He jumped well and travelled well and did everything right, he was just beaten by a better horse on the day.
“The main objective was a clear round really and maybe if we hadn’t fallen at Sandown we might have pressed on a bit more and made it more of a staying race.
“The most important thing was to get a clear round under his belt and get some more experience over fences for him.
“I think we’ll stick to novice races while we can and we might look to the race at Doncaster. That is what we have pencilled in at the moment, anyway.
“It would certainly be Plan A to try and avoid Edwardstone and I was very pleased to read he was going to go for the Kingmaker. Hopefully they stick to that plan!”
While Do Your Job looks set to remain in novice company on his next start, Scudamore admitted is considering a step into the handicap arena for the Grand Annual at Cheltenham – a race he won with Next Sensation in 2015.
He added: “I’m sure he’ll have an entry in that. He also ran very well at Aintree last year, so there’s that to consider as well.
“He looks like a horse that could have the right sort of profile for a Grand Annual and we’ll see nearer the time.
“In some ways it might make more sense to go for a handicap now, but as we saw at Kempton some of these novice events don’t have a lot of runners in them and there’s some decent prize-money on offer, so it seems silly to pass them over when you’ve only got one chance to run in them really.”
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Zambella made virtually every yard of the running in the hands of Sam Twiston-Davies to impressively scoop the feature Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase at Doncaster.
Trained by the jockey’s father Nigel Twiston-Davies, the evens favourite produced some electric jumping on Town Moor as she landed the fifth Listed success of her career and sauntered home an eased down 15-lengths clear of plucky runner-up Crossgalesfamegame.
It was the perfect way for the six-year-old to follow up her equally taking victory at Aintree earlier this month and earn quotes of 10-1 for the Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Twiston-Davies snr was ecstatic with the performance saying: “She’s a really good horse. That’s five of these Listed races she’s won now and I’m delighted with her, she’s done really well.
“It’ll be one more run then back to Cheltenham. I’m a long way from home so not a clue where, but there’s plenty of time to have a look and figure something out.”
Galah (evens favourite) hunted down the front-running Pump It Up late on to open her account in the Download The At The Races App Fillies’ Juvenile Maiden Hurdle.
It was a fine ride from Mitchell Bastyan and winning handler Milton Harris was delighted with Galah’s pilot.
He said: “Mitch has given her a good ride, I said to him be patient, patient, patient and she was always going to get there after the last.
“She probably wasn’t as impressive as at Cheltenham last time. She’s better than what she has shown today.
“She’s coped with a bit of cut but she’s not the biggest and would benefit from better ground.”
Harris also highlighted his intention to return to Town Moor next month, before a possible tilt at the Cheltenham Festival in the spring.
“There’s a juvenile fillies’ Listed race back at Doncaster (on January 28) for her next.
“I’m not convinced of the strength in depth of the juveniles this year and she might just make up into a Boodles contender, but at the moment I’ll keep her to her own sex, because I think she’s probably one of the best juvenile fillies in the country right now,” he said.
There was a double on the day for Paul Nicholls who scored with Gala Du Corton in the Free Tips Daily On attheraces.com Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle and with Thyme Whyte, who opened his fences account in the attheraces.com Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Gala Du Corton (11-2) took advantage of the favourite, Sacre Pierre, coming down at the last to canter home in splendid isolation when making a winning handicap bow in the opener, while Bryony Frost stalked long-time leader Nero Rock all the way up the Town Moor straight aboard Thyme Whyte (85-40 favourite), before cruising clear to record a bloodless success after the last.
However, Nicholls was denied a treble when Kalooki (9-2) edged out Cat Tiger in the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Handicap Chase.
In a thrilling finish, Philip Hobbs’ charge took over after the last, only to be headed by the David Maxwell-ridden runner-up, before then reasserting his supremacy in the shadow of the post.
However, there was a sting in the tail for winning rider Tom O’Brien, who picked up a two-day ban (January 12 and 13) for using his whip without giving his mount time to respond after jumping the final fence.
Surrey Quest (11-1) brought up an across-the-card double for owners Surrey Racing, after Gran Luna’s win at Newbury, when following up his victory at Leicester to take the British EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle in the hands of Nathan Brennan.
The son of Milan, who is unbeaten over hurdles, has thrived following wind surgery and provided the 7lb claimer with his first winner of the season.
“It’s been a long time coming and was well needed, but thanks to the boss and the owners for having the faith in me to put me up on such a nice ride,” the jockey told Sky Sports Racing.
“I probably hit the front a little early on him, but he was jumping and travelling and I didn’t want to disappoint him.
“He’s still a bit of a baby, but he’ll come on a ton for that run and he’s a really nice horse.”
Knight Salute maintained his 100 per cent record over jumps when completing a four-timer in the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster.
The Milton Harris-trained three-year-old followed up his latest success in a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham with a gutsy display in what looked a very competitive race at the same level.
Porticello, the 6-4 favourite, set out to make all the running but his jumping needs improvement while Paddy Brennan kept Knight Salute towards the rear of a sedate pace in the early stages.
Knight Salute (4-1) moved into contention when the tempo quickened in the straight with three flights left and pulled clear after jumping the last to score by three-quarters of a length from Porticello. Impulsive One was a neck away third.
Knight Salute was cut to 12-1 from 20-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Betfair and Paddy Power.
“It was harder today, the ground was deeper, I was committed down to the last I needed to wing it, I did, but he’s good,” said Brennan.
“It’s a £60,000 race thanks to the sponsors, a great bit of placement by Milton and a lovely race to win on a Saturday.”
As for what is next Brennan said: “It’s hard to say, we’ll let him do the talking on the track, It’s only going to get harder, but he’s earned enough money today to help towards Santa Clause.
“Milton’s doing well, he really believed in him. He rang me three times to tell me he was going to win”.
Owner Mark Adams added: “Everyone keeps putting a question mark over him, but what more can the horse have done. Every race you put in front of him, he runs well and he always gives a bit more each time.
“The Triumph is always the dream, any race at Cheltenham is a dream. Today was the big test to see where we go and after that run, why wouldn’t we!”
Harris said: “I’m delighted he’s answered the questions about the ground there. I’m not saying he loved it but he’s coped with it.
“He worked all over the horse that finished third today at Cheltenham (Galah) earlier in the week and I was very confident he would give his running and I told Paddy he would win.
“We’ll have to see what the handicapper does now, if he’s mid-130s then I was thinking maybe the Fred Winter, but there’s nothing to be frightened of at this stage.
“Obviously there might be a few smart ones still to come out, we might even have one or two ourselves, but you’d say he’s the best horse this side of the water so far. We’ll draw breath now, watch the race back and take a look in the new year.
“It’s great for the owners who are brilliant people and have been very loyal to me.”
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Threeunderthrufive made it three out of four over fences as the improving youngster obliged for favourite backers in the bet365 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.
Having avenged his sole chasing defeat when scoring at Cheltenham last month, he continued his education over the larger obstacles with a taking display on Town Moor in the three-runner Grade Two.
Although not at his most fluent in the early stages of the race, Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old warmed to the task as the race went on, taking over from long-time leader Fantastikas on the run to three out.
The race was soon over as a contest, with the favourite just having to navigate the final two fences to bring up a hat-trick.
Although not blown away by the performance, winning rider Adrian Heskin was keen to point out the son of Shantou is getting better with every run.
He said: “They take a bit of jumping round here and his mind gets idle very quickly. He just drifts off and puts in the odd average jump.
“He’s never going to be overly impressive but he always gets the job done. He’s a very unassuming horse and we’ve never got to the bottom of him, but he put the race to bed after three out and was always winning.”
The win continued a fine start to the season for winning owners, The McNeill Family and their racing manager Iain Turner suggested a hunt for further Graded honours could be on the cards in the New Year.
He said: “He’s due a break now as he’s been on the go for some time, so we’ll get to the new year and then either look at the race at the valuable Lingfield race at the end of January or the Reynoldstown at Ascot.
“The original plan was to go to the Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas or the Welsh National, but with the covid situation and us wanting Adrian to ride it didn’t really work out, so this was almost a last-minute thought, but it fell nicely into place.”
When talking of targets for the spring, Turner said: “I think he’s a bit quicker than people give him credit for.
“People much cleverer than me have mentioned that his time at Cheltenham last time compares favourably so you never know, three miles in a testing Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase might suit him and if its 50/50 we might prefer to go for that one so Adrian can ride.
“But if all the good ones do go there then we might have no option to go up in trip for the National Hunt Chase!”
Ben Pauling landed the opening bet365 Novices’ Hurdle when his Mucho Mas (5-1) dug deep to see off Oliver Greenall’s Ask The Doc, who was three-quarters of a length in arrears.
The five-year-old, who was a bumper winner at Wincanton last Christmas, took a huge step up on his hurdling bow at Aintree, disputing the lead for the majority before sticking on gamely to hold off the closers.
It was a welcome winner for jockey Kielan Woods who was having just his third ride back in the saddle following a spell on the side-lines.
Pam Sly’s Xcitations (7-1) stayed on best to get back on track in the bet365 HandicapChase.
Sent off favourite at Fakenham last time out the six-year-old was bitterly disappointing, but was on top at the finish this time to hunt down Fanzio and outsider Dakota Moirette (125-1).
Sly said. “He never got in a rhythm at Fakenham, it was a disaster from the start.
“We schooled him the other day and first time he wasn’t good, so we schooled him again and again and third time he was perfect!”.
That was the second cause for celebration of the weekend for the Cambridgeshire-based handler, who saw her Huntingdon bumper winner Special Cadeaux sell for £220,000 on Friday night.
The three-year-old son of Nathaniel, who was sent off favourite at Sly’s local track when landing a gamble last month, has crossed the channel to join Willie Mullins.
“We’ve had a few tears, but we’re glad he’s going to a good home” said the trainer.
Two For Gold dug in gamely to take the closing bet365 Handicap Steeple Chase for Kim Bailey and rider David Bass.
Bass said: “He’s a fantastic horse and he’s been brilliant for us. He didn’t do a lot in front, but that’s just him, when one comes to him he loves a battle, he’s just a real character.
“The girl at home Ebony, who rides him every day assured me he was in good form and he’s a real favourite. On his day he’s a very good horse, he’s only a 1lb higher than when winning a very good handicap at Warwick last season and it’s a credit to the yard.”
There was another thrilling finish in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle where Tommy’s Oscar followed up his 10-length Haydock success to make it back-to-back victories, bringing to an end Geromino’s three-race winning run in the process.
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Milton Harris feels Knight Salute has improved at home as the unbeaten three-year-old heads for the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday.
Wins at Sedgefield and Kempton were followed up by a smooth success in Grade Two company at Cheltenham’s November meeting, meaning he brings the strongest form into the contest.
Taking him on are Gary Moore’s French import Porticello, winner of a Listed event at Wetherby on his British debut, and Dan Skelton’s Too Friendly, who has been victorious in his two starts over hurdles to date.
“You don’t have that many choices with a good juvenile when you’ve already won a Grade Two, so you have to carry a penalty,” said Harris.
“I’ve seen some people knocking the form of the juveniles this year, not just him, but what I would say is I’m sure people were knocking Katchit at this time of year when he was winning similar races and he didn’t turn out too bad.
“All he can do is keep winning and I’m convinced he’s improved at home since Cheltenham.
“We’ll know after this where we are going – it will either be the Fred Winter (Boodles), the Triumph or the pub!
“I’ve still got a couple of juveniles to come out yet and they’d be on a par with him. Our strike-rate might have dipped a bit in recent weeks, but we’re not a big yard, we’d only have 45 in training at any one time.
“Gary Moore’s is favourite and he beat one of mine (Genuflex) at Wetherby by four lengths. I’d like to think this lad is four lengths better than him.”
Magistrato was fourth behind Knight Salute at Cheltenham, but Paul Nicholls believes the Doncaster conditions and a pull in the weights could help to reverse that form.
He told Betfair: “He found the ground at Cheltenham quicker than ideal last time when he finished fourth, beaten less than three lengths, behind Knight Salute. He led on the home turn there and was only headed in the last half-furlong.
“Magistrato will be much happier with cut in the ground at Doncaster and now gets a handy 5lb from Knight Salute and Porticello on a galloping track that should play to his strengths.”
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Milton Harris is favouring an outing at Doncaster on Saturday with Knight Salute – despite giving him an alternative entry at Cheltenham.
Bought out of Andrew Balding’s yard for the relatively modest sum of 14,000 guineas in July, the son of Sir Percy has since won three times over hurdles.
Knight Salute completed his hat-trick with a Grade Two win at Cheltenham last month and has the option of returning to Prestbury Park for another JCB Triumph Trial.
But while a final decision will not be made until later in the week, Harris is leaning towards the Grade Two bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle on Town Moor.
He said: “We’ve entered Knight Salute in both races, as have a lot of other people.
“If you’re asking me where we’re going to go, the answer is I don’t know. We’re forecast a wet week and I don’t know he won’t go on slow ground, but we don’t know he does either.
“I’ll talk to the owners and see. Our preference is Doncaster as he’d carry a 5lb penalty in a £60,000 race and at Cheltenham he’d carry a 7lb penalty in a £25,000 race.
“I’d say we’re likely to go to Doncaster, but all the options will be kept open.”
Knight Salute’s potential rivals at Doncaster include Gary Moore’s Wetherby scorer Porticello, Dan Skelton’s dual winner Too Friendly and Impulsive One from Nicky Henderson’s yard.
The latter was thoroughly impressive on his first two starts over obstacles, but was no match for Knight Salute at Kempton in October.
The other Grade Two run on Doncaster’s Saturday card is the bet365 December Novices’ Chase.
The three-mile contest could see the Paul Nicholls-trained Threeunderthrufive and Kim Bailey’s Does He Know renew rivalry after finishing first and second at Cheltenham four weeks ago.
Warren Greatrex’s Emitom is also one of seven entries.
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The Newest One did his bit to uphold family honour by securing his second victory of the season at Doncaster on Friday.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained six-year-old is a half-brother to the Naunton handler’s former stable star The New One, who won 20 races and earned over £1million during an illustrious career.
His younger sibling will never match those achievements, but showed he has inherited at least some of the family ability with a clear-cut success on Town Moor.
A winner on his reappearance at Newton Abbot before finishing second at Warwick three weeks ago, The Newest One was a 15-8 chance for the Eden Farm Hulleys Novices’ Handicap Chase under Zac Baker.
While two of his three rivals failed to finish, and his jumping was not always foot-perfect, there was plenty to like about the way he saw off 11-10 favourite Huntsmans Jog by eight and a half lengths.
Baker, who steered The New One to victory in the 2017 Welsh Champion Hurdle, told Sky Sports Racing: “I’m delighted. I was a little bit worried he wasn’t as fluent today with his jumping, but to be fair to him, every time we got in tight or missed a fence he was straight back there.
“I had quite a bit left in the tank. Maybe he’s a bit better than he’s showing.
“He’s quite a genuine little chap. He’s never going to be as good as his namesake, but he’s a good-looking horse and I definitely think the further he goes the better.
“Races like the Welsh National, Midlands National and Scottish National would be ideal for him.”
Lyrical Genius narrowly maintained his unbeaten record in the Cadbury Flake 99 Novices’ Hurdle.
A point-to-point winner in the spring, the Milan gelding made a winning debut for Charlie Longsdon in a bumper at Warwick in September.
Sean Quinlan’s mount was a 7-2 chance for his hurdling bow and after a stirring duel with Godrevy Point, the judge confirmed he had come out on top by a short head.
“He’s a lovely youngster. He was a never a bumper horse, but he won a bumper from the front and Brian Hughes said afterwards ‘this is not his game at all’ – he was very green,” said Longsdon.
“He’s a three-mile chaser and we will not push hard this season. We’ll probably step up to three miles at some stage.”
Lyrical Genius was a second winner on the afternoon for Quinlan, who had earlier guided John Mackie’s Barton Knoll to win the ICD Members Handicap Chase for the second year in succession.
In another pulsating finish, the 11-8 favourite just managed to repel the late thrust of Dino Velvet by a short head.
The Mel Rowley-trained Ginger Du Val (11-2) made all in the Kelly’s Ice Cream Handicap Hurdle under a fine ride by amateur Ben Bromley, while Dan Skelton teamed up with 7lb claimer Tristan Durrell to claim the Walls Classic Century Of Ice Cream Handicap Hurdle with 13-2 chance Starsky.
Several fences were omitted in the concluding Eeazy Combo Handicap Chase due to low sun and it was Gary Hanmer’s Sir Tivo (5-1) who outspeeded his rivals in the straight to score under Robbie Dunne.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/2.63962610-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-11-26 16:06:402021-11-26 16:06:40The Newest One strikes at Doncaster
Milton Harris is targeting the Bet365 Summit Hurdle at Doncaster next month for exciting juvenile Knight Salute.
Unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, the Sir Percy three-year-old landed the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier this month and is now being primed for the extended two-mile Grade Two event on December 11.
As short as 14-1 with Sky Bet for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Warminster trainer insists he “wouldn’t swap mine for anything”.
Harris said on Tuesday: “Knight Salute schooled this morning. He has improved since Cheltenham.
“He is not sexy in terms that he is a big, strong beast like the ones that Paul Nicholls can buy for three hundred grand – he is not one of these lovely big horses – but he is efficient. He is very quick hurdler and he has got a turn of foot.
“I would imagine that is the route, but I am not convinced we won’t go on a bit of soft ground. Whether he wants winter ground at Lingfield is another matter.
“Doncaster doesn’t generally get bad ground. There will likely be four or five runners, there will be Gary Moore’s horse probably (Porticello), but Gary’s horse beat my horse, Genuflex, by three and three-quarter lengths in the Listed Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby and if that’s as good as he is, I wouldn’t be too scared, as Knight Salute is better than Genuflex.
“But, of course, in Gary’s defence, his looks a big, raw horse.
“You need a bit of luck in life and if you are John McEnroe and unlucky enough to be born in the same era as Bjorn Borg…so, is Knight Salute a good juvenile? I don’t know. He could be the best in just an OK year.
“There are, of course, the Irish horses, but Paul says he hasn’t got anything better than the one that finished fourth at Cheltenham (Magistrato). Dan (Skelton) has a couple, and his Too Friendly is all right, but listen, I wouldn’t swap mine for anything at this moment in time, anyway.”
Before that, the in-form Harris is looking forward to another busy weekend, with the lightly-raced Danny Whizzbang having his first run for the yard since transferring from Nicholls.
Harris said: “We run Danny Whizzbang in the Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy) at Newbury. He worked well this morning and the plan is to run unless something goes wrong.
“I’ve got a lovely bumper horse called Knowwhentoholdem, who won at Newton Abbot last month, and he will run somewhere at the weekend, and Jacamar will have his second start over fences. It’s nice to be back in this position.”
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/2.63701585-1-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-11-23 13:09:112021-11-23 13:09:11Summit bid on the horizon for Knight Salute
Ralph Beckett’s Vesela sprang a surprise to take Listed honours at Doncaster in the British EBF Gillies Fillies’ Stakes.
The Juddmonte three-year-old was the winner of a maiden on the same track as a juvenile, and has since stepped up to black-type class with creditable efforts in this season’s Abingdon, Lyric and Upavon Stakes.
She was only eighth in the Galtres at York last time, but bounced back on Town Moor to prevail by three-quarters of a length at 22-1 – from the staying-on Something Enticing.
Beckett said: “I got it wrong with her really – she got rolled over in the Lyric at York and she ran well in the Upavon at Salisbury.
“We ran her back quickly in the Galtres – which was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it, but leaving her alone and running her here was a good idea as it turns out.”
Winning jockey Rob Hornby added: “I was just trying to keep her in a rhythm throughout – it was very hard work (on soft ground) out there.
“Not many horses were going to make up a lot of ground. But I was in front too soon – she did well to keep battling all the way to the line, because it was a lonely enough place for her and she stuck at it well.”
The Virgin Bet Handicap went to a second successive 22-1 shot – and another bouncing back from a below-par run, William Haggas’ Boosala.
The four-year-old was 11th of 12 in the Bengough Stakes at Ascot last time, but returned to form as the middle leg of trebles for jockey Tom Marquand and Haggas.
Boosala raced in mid-division and took the lead a furlong from home, before crossing the line a length and a quarter ahead of Young Fire.
“He was against some former Group One horses, but he’s really bounced out of Ascot well,” said Marquand.
“William had him good and ready, and just told me to ride him with patience and stay relaxed so I got him to enjoy it.
“I tried to leave it as late as I could to produce him – you really notice the wind when you’re in behind them and you come out into it. It does hit you.
“It was a really nice performance and it’s nice to have him back on track, because he promised plenty early on.”
Haggas added: “He’s had a few issues and he was too fresh at Ascot – the ground was very soft, and he ran himself into the ground.
“He’s always been a nice horse. He’s had a few issues, but he’s over them now.
“Our enthusiasm for him fell by the wayside after Ascot, but he’s done well today.”
Mick Channon’s Wonderful World was a winning 5-2 favourite in the opening Virgin Bet Nursery Handicap, by a length and a quarter under Marquand – who completed his treble on Haggas’ odds-on chance Hebrides in division two of the Virgin Bet Cock O’The North EBF Maiden Stakes.
Division one of the same race also went to Haggas – with Shadwell debutante Kidwah, at 4-1 under Jim Crowley.
John Butler’s Farhan cut through what appeared a typically competitive field to land the Virgin Bet November Handicap on the final day of the 2021 Flat season at Doncaster.
The three-year-old, runner-up four times this season – including his last three starts – was a well-supported 9-2 favourite under Hollie Doyle on Town Moor.
Farhan surged up the centre of the track and raced alone inside the final furlong to pull away and triumph by a length and three-quarters from Calling The Wind.
“It unfolded pretty well,” said Doyle.
“I jumped well from a bad draw (17 of 23) – it was one of the those races where you’re in or you’re out, so I had to ride him in there, straight and tight the whole way.
“He dropped the bridle, and we went a good gallop. I managed to latch on to (Jamie) Spencer (on the runner-up) – and who better to follow into a race?
“I got a nice lead through and I could have got there a bit later to be honest – he’s pricked his ears and run around in front.”
It made no difference, because Farhan had plenty in hand from the foot of the weights.
Doyle added: “I got there too easily really. He’s got no weight on him today, and I’m sure his mark is going to change dramatically after that – he’s very progressive.
“I rode him early on in his career, and he was a bit of a boyo, a bit of a playboy, but he’s really come to hand.
“Johnny (Butler) filled me with confidence. It was a great training performance, and today was his day.
“I knew what he was capable of. In these handicaps you need a bit of luck, because they can be quite messy and you need things to go your way – but I was on the best horse today.”
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/2.63559721-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-11-06 15:56:452021-11-06 15:56:45Farhan too good in November Handicap
Andrew Balding’s King’s Lynn capped a successful season with a Listed win at Doncaster in the Virgin Bet Wentworth Stakes.
The four-year-old, owned and bred by the Queen, was previously victorious at the same level in the Achilles Stakes at Haydock in May, and was beaten only a length last time out in the Group Three Bengough Stakes at Ascot.
That form saw him start as the 4-1 favourite on Town Moor, a price he justified when battling all the way to the line under David Probert to prevail by a head from Magical Spirit.
“He’s a lovely horse – I managed to get him to sit behind the pace and the wind early on,” said the winning jockey.
“He’s travelled smoothly, and when I did commit to him a furlong and a half down, the second horse was going with me – and he’s battled all the way to the line. The ground has definitely helped him.
“It really was a strong headwind, and the second (placed) horse has drifted left and put me under pressure. He can wander around a little bit but under the conditions today, (but) I think he’s won well.
“He’s actually been running very consistently throughout and had a real good run at Ascot the last day, so we knew he was coming here in good form.”
There was early drama in the race as Jouska unseated Rob Hornby – before then running loose and chasing home the leading duo, causing the runner-up to drift slightly towards the rail.
“There was a little bit happening, but he’s had a clear passage,” Balding said of his winner.
“It’s great to have won a Listed race with him under a penalty – he’s a high-class horse, and I’m thrilled for his owner and his jockey.
“He’s tough and he likes it here. It’s funny that he’s had a great season, bar two very bad runs at Newbury – he under-performed (there) both times, and I don’t know why that is because I wouldn’t have thought there would be that much difference between Newbury and here.
“Everyone who trains for the Queen loves having winners for her, and it’s a special feeling to win a Listed race for the second time this year with this horse.”
The stewards looked into the incident which led to Jouska’s departure, after clipping heels, and suspended Magical Spirit’s jockey Kevin Stott for 10 days for careless riding. He is stood down on November 20, and from November 22 to December 1.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/2.63558402-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-11-06 15:03:332021-11-06 18:10:08King’s Lynn on top in Wentworth Stakes
Trainer Charlie Fellowes is keen on the chances of the lightly-raced Mr Curiosity in the Virgin Bet November Handicap at Doncaster.
The four-year-old son of Frankel, owned by Anthony Oppenheimer, heads to Town Moor on the back of a cosy victory at Redcar three weeks ago.
The gelding has had six starts since making a belated debut in April, so is relatively unexposed as he takes on seasoned handicappers on Saturday.
“He’s a lovely horse. He won very nicely last time out – although that was a considerably weaker race than this,” said Fellowes.
“I think Doncaster will really suit him – a big, galloping track. He’ll love the soft ground. He stays all day, and I hope there is still plenty to come from him.
“He’s got a good draw (in stall six), and I think we go there with a lively chance.”
Rhythmic Intent was runner-up in this race 12 months ago, and was a winner over an extended mile and three-quarters at the South Yorkshire venue in September.
He did not perform to his best back over the course and distance last month, but trainer Stuart Williams believes it is best to ignore that effort.
“He ran a good race in this race last year. Obviously, he didn’t run well the other day, but I don’t think a small field suits him very much these days,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“I’m very happy with him – I’m happy with the draw (seven), and he should appreciate the ground. I’m hopeful of a good run.”
Sam Cooke was well-beaten when favourite for this race 12 months ago, but trainer Ralph Beckett felt a wide draw ruined his chances that day.
The five-year-old has a more favourable stall (13) this time, and arrives at Doncaster in prime condition.
“His last two runs have been the best two of his life – he started favourite for this race last year, and the wide draw kiboshed his chances,” said Beckett.
“He saw too much daylight and was keen, but I’m hoping we can plenty of cover for him on Saturday and that he runs his race.”
Tim Easterby has had a tremendous season and has two good chances in Wells Farhh Go and Dark Jedi.
Wells Farhh Go is a dual Group-race winner, whose career has been interrupted by injury. His only previous attempt in a handicap was in the Ebor in 2019.
“Wells Farhh has only run in one handicap before. He’s off a good mark and he seems in good form. Hopefully he’ll run well,” said William Easterby, assistant to his father.
“The ground has been heavy the last twice he’s run. It hasn’t suited him, so we’ll have to see.
“Dark Jedi has been running well all year and was only beaten a neck by Aaaddeey over this course and distance last month.
“He’s been a great horse for us. He’s a grand horse and ran a good race at Doncaster the last time. He was just beaten by one. Hopefully he’ll have a good chance – he should go well.”
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