Tag Archive for: Edwardstone

Edwardstone in top trim as Champion Chase date awaits

Alan King is keen to let Edwardstone “do the talking” as he prepares to take on old foe Jonbon and red-hot favourite El Fabiolo in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Having saddled the currently sidelined Energumene to claim back-to-back victories in the day two feature, Willie Mullins will have high hopes of making it a hat-trick with El Fabiolo, who won the Arkle at last season’s Festival and is six from six over fences overall.

The horse rated his biggest threat is Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon, who has won four of his five starts since finishing best of the rest behind El Fabiolo 12 months ago, but was turned over at prohibitive odds by Elixir De Nutz in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham in late January.

Edwardstone, winner of the 2022 Arkle for Alan King, was no match for Jonbon in either the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham or when defending his crown in the Tingle Creek at Sandown earlier in the season, but bounced back to winning ways with a brilliant display in last month’s Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

While respectful of the opposition, King, who won the 2007 Champion Chase with Voy Por Ustedes, feels his charge is as good as he ever was at the age of 10 and is looking forward to the challenge.

“He’s absolutely fine, he did his last bit of strong work yesterday and schooled this morning, all seems well,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“Most of the hard work is done, he’ll have a little breeze at the weekend but nothing too strenuous.

“Touch wood we’ve had a beautiful, clear preparation. He’s not been overly-raced and he’s certainly working as well as he’s ever done, so we’re happy.

“No disrespect to the horses we beat at Newbury, but this is a different ball game. I have great respect for the two favourites and we’ll just let Edwardstone do the talking.”

El Fabiolo winning at Leopardstown's Dublin Racing Festival
El Fabiolo winning at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival (Niall Carson/PA)

El Fabiolo, Jonbon and Edwardstone are three of eight horses still in contention for the Champion Chase following the confirmation stage.

Mullins is also set to saddle Gentleman De Mee, with Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness – runner-up to Energumene in last year’s renewal – also set to make the trip from Ireland.

Jonbon’s Clarence House conqueror Elixir De Nutz (Joe Tizzard), Boothill (Harry Fry) and Funambule Sivola (Venetia Williams) complete the octet.

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Cannon convinced Edwardstone can make Champion Chase impact

Tom Cannon is confident Edwardstone can play a major role in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase if reproducing his resurgent Game Spirit heroics at the Cheltenham Festival.

Alan King’s star chaser bounced back to his very best to produce a blistering front-running display at Newbury earlier this month, a victory that gave the Barbury Castle handler his second win in the Grade Two event alongside Sceau Royal.

It was Edwardstone’s first triumph since the 2022 Tingle Creek and having snapped a six-race losing run, the 10-year-old is now the general 8-1 third-favourite for the Champion Chase behind Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo and regular adversary Jonbon.

Cannon said: “He must have put himself right in the mix. Hopefully he will be a bit closer to Jonbon given a change of tactics and anything more than that is a bonus, I think.

“If he turns up in the same form as he did at Newbury, we know he acts round Cheltenham so we keep our fingers crossed to get there in A1 condition and anything after that is in the lap of the gods.”

Edwardstone gave Cannon one of the biggest days of his career when waltzing to Arkle glory at the Festival in 2022, but there was disappointment 12 months later when sent off 15-8 second-favourite for the Champion Chase, tailing home in fifth and beaten 64 lengths by an imperious Energumene.

However, the jockey feels Edwardstone is heading for his second bite of the Champion Chase cherry in much better form and has been extremely encouraged by the feel his partner has given him throughout the current campaign.

Jockey Tom Cannon after winning the Arkle aboard Edwardstone in 2022
Jockey Tom Cannon after winning the Arkle aboard Edwardstone in 2022 (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He probably wasn’t going into it in as good a form as he is this year, last year. So if he can continue the form he is in now, hopefully he will be thereabouts,” continued Cannon.

“He’s been a different horse since he has come back in this year. The first race at Cheltenham in the Shloer Chase he felt back to himself and the couple of times he had run at Cheltenham the season before he had never really picked the bridle up.

“In the Shloer, he picked the bridle up and pulled my arms off like he used to and then obviously ran very well in the Tingle Creek. Two-mile-four wasn’t to his liking at Kempton, but back to two miles at Newbury seemed to suit him, so you have to look forward to it (the Champion Chase).

“If we can get into a nice rhythm, then the best horse will win at the end of the day.”

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Edwardstone roars back to form in Game Spirit

Edwardstone cruised to victory in the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

The 11-10 favourite under Tom Cannon, Alan King’s gelding made all of the running in the four-runner Grade Two.

His significant lead looked to lessen slightly with half of the race completed, but the gap soon widened again and was further increased when Boothill fell in the home straight.

Amarillo Sky did not finish either, leaving Funambule Sivola to trail home as the only other finisher some 40 lengths behind.

Edwardstone was a very comfortable winner
Edwardstone was a very comfortable winner (Adam Davy/PA)

King said: “It’s been the plan for some time (to make the running. I thought after Kempton when we disappointed him over two and a half (miles) and kept bringing him back, we would come here and pop out and try that.

“He was racing within himself and I think Tom was happy and able to get a breather in coming to cross-fence and away he went again. It has given me an awful lot of satisfaction.”

Edwardstone was notching his first victory since landing the 2022 Tingle Creek Chase and Coral responded to his sparkling success by cutting him to 8-1 from 14s for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

King confirmed that race would be next, saying: “Jonbon and El Fabiolo are the main horses but I think we will be taking them on – I certainly won’t be going to the Ryanair.

“As long as he comes out of this all right, he will go for the Queen Mother and I have huge respect for both Jonbon and El Fabiolo. Jonbon has beaten us twice this season and Willie’s horse looked awfully good last week.

“It’s exciting and I think we’re in the mix now, hopefully. Those tactics worked today but might not be the thing to do at Cheltenham, but we will worry about that nearer the time.”

King credited a return to ways of the past for the upturn in Edwardstone’s fortunes.

The Barbury Castle handler explained that his string were now working three times up the hill at home, a return to the schedule the likes of Voy Por Ustedes and My Way De Solzen would adhere to prior to big-race assignments.

King added: “I think it’s the best mine have been all season. I was lying there on holiday a few weeks ago after a few of mine hadn’t been running terribly well and I was thinking ‘what the hell is wrong’.

“I know I haven’t got the firepower I used to have, but bad horses used to win and that wasn’t happening.

“We’ve only been doing two and we trained plenty of winners doing two up the hill, but not as many as we used to and a lot of horses were finishing second and I just felt that from the back of the last, they weren’t finishing the way they used to.

“We’ve drilled these horses the last few weeks. It’s how I used to do it. Voy Por and My Way all used to do three.

“I think the results are speaking for themselves. Let’s hope it continues.”

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Edwardstone aiming to show winning Spirit at Newbury

Edwardstone bids to get his season back on track in the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

Winner of the Arkle at Cheltenham and the Tingle Creek at Sandown two years ago, Alan King’s stable star kicked off this season by chasing home the Nicky Henderson-trained Jonbon in successive races.

As a result, Edwardstone was stepped up in trip for last month’s Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, but faded tamely after racing keenly and came home a well beaten last of four finishers.

King believes the decision to hold up the 10-year-old in a bid to conserve his stamina may have backfired and he is looking forward to seeing him return to two miles on Saturday, albeit in testing conditions.

Alan King (right) with Edwardstone and his connections
Alan King (right) with Edwardstone and his connections (Steven Paston/PA)

“All is well, he seemed to come out of that run (at Kempton) in good form and he’s done plenty of work since,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“I need to get him out and the ground is the same for all of them. He’s got form on heavy ground, I’m not saying he’s at his best on it, but he has gone on it and I’m very keen to run him.

“Kempton was disappointing and we don’t really know why, whether we disappointed him by taking him back, I’m not sure, but I’m inclined to put a line through that and we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”

Edwardstone is entered in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival but King added: “I’m not even thinking about Cheltenham, I want to get Saturday out of the way and then we’ll see.”

His biggest threat this weekend appears to be Boothill, who won a couple of lucrative handicaps at Ascot in the autumn before falling as favourite for Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase over the Christmas period.

Trainer Harry Fry has been pleased with his nine-year-old since, but will check on the ground before confirming his participation on Saturday.

He said: “He seems in good form with himself, he was thankfully none the worse for his fall and has schooled well since.

“It was obviously frustrating at Kempton, but we get to go again and this has always really been the plan. We are just mindful though that conditions could be testing enough, so we’ll just see when we get there how it’s riding and go from there.

“We took him out earlier in the season on heavy ground at Sandown in the Tingle Creek, so that’s the only slight reservation I have.

“He’s got form on soft, but heavy is a different ballgame.”

The Venetia Williams-trained Funambule Sivola is out to secure a third successive victory in this Grade Two contest, but will need to bounce back from a disappointing run of form.

With Calico and Editeur Du Gite declared non-runners, the field is completed by Joe Tizzard’s Amarillo Sky, who makes his first competitive appearance since finishing fourth in last year’s Clarence House.

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Cannon backing Edwardstone to shine over longer trip

Tom Cannon is optimistic the step up in trip will help Edwardstone return to winning ways in Saturday’s Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.

In two outings this season over two miles, Alan King’s charge has been no match for Jonbon but he did get appreciably closer to him in the Tingle Creek than on his seasonal reappearance in the Shloer Chase.

Saturday will be the 10-year-old’s first run over two and a half miles since a hurdles effort back in April 2021, but Cannon feels it is the right move.

“I think it is a logical move, as Edwardstone is not getting younger and now is as good a time as ever to step him up in trip,” he said.

Tom Cannon with Edwardstone having won the Arkle in 2022
Tom Cannon with Edwardstone having won the Arkle in 2022 (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Although he has not run over this distance over fences, he ran well over two and a half miles over hurdles when he was third at Aintree (in 2021).

“We are going back to slightly calmer waters having run in the Tingle Creek last time, but there are still some good horses in this race.

“It is still a competitive race, so he will have to be at his best to win.

“All his best runs have been around Sandown and he definitely improved for the run at Cheltenham in the Tingle Creek.

“I was more than happy with his run. It was as good a run as he had put in for a long time.”

Cannon went on: “He felt back to his best and, fingers crossed, he can continue that form going forwards.

“He has not been over-raced and he has been well managed throughout his career, which has been a big help.

“He had a jump last Thursday at home and he jumped very well, so there is no problem in that department. He seemed fresh and very well, so I couldn’t be happier with him.”

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Edwardstone set for step up in trip

Alan King has identified the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton as a possible next port of call for Edwardstone following his admirable defence of the Tingle Creek on Saturday.

The nine-year-old was a brilliant winner of the Sandown showpiece last season and returned to the Esher track to defend his crown over the weekend.

Edwardstone had plenty on his plate as he looked to turn the tables on Jonbon following their clash in last month’s Shloer Chase at Cheltenham – and while he again came off second best, he did at least close the gap on Nicky Henderson’s star chaser.

King immediately ruled out an appearance over three miles in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, but the Barbury Castle handler is keen to step his charge up in trip on his next start.

Alan King (right) with Edwardstone and his connections
Alan King (right) with Edwardstone and his connections (Steven Paston/PA)

“He ran very well and has come out of it well and we’ll probably look to step him up to two-and-a-half in the new year,” he said.

“He’s definitely not going for the King George, but there is the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January. We’ll have a look at that and, whether he goes there or not, I think his next run will be over two-and-a-half, as it will give us an idea what we’re doing with him.”

With the Queen Mother Champion Chase already shaping up to be a straight shootout between Jonbon and his formidable Irish rival El Fabiolo, the Ryanair Chase could end up being Edwardstone’s Cheltenham Festival target if he can prove his stamina in the meantime.

King added: “You’ve obviously got Jonbon and the horse in Ireland and you wouldn’t really look forward to taking those two on.”

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King wary of Jonbon threat to Edwardstone’s title

Edwardstone returns to the scene of some of his finest triumphs to defend his Betfair Tingle Creek Chase crown on Saturday.

Alan King’s nine-year-old has won on this card for the past two seasons, securing his first Grade One when picking up the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase in 2021 before returning 12 months ago to take home first prize in the feature event of Sandown’s pre-Christmas meeting in emphatic style.

That nine-length success over Greaneteen is the last time Edwardstone has got his head in front, with four subsequent outings bringing little to cheer about.

However, having blown away the cobwebs behind Jonbon in the Shloer Chase, he will now bid to continue his Sandown love affair, with King confirming his Peterborough Chase declaration at Huntingdon on Sunday is only a back-up plan in case wet weather curtails the action in Esher.

The trainer said: “He goes to Sandown and I only put him in at Huntingdon in case Sandown is abandoned. They have got a lot of rain coming in there tomorrow and it is possible.

“He’s going there and the horse is going to have to do the talking now.”

King had previously seen Voy Por Ustedes finish second in both 2006 and 2007 and then saddled Kumbeshwar to chase home Sprinter Sacre in 2012 before finally getting his hands on the Tingle Creek trophy 12 months ago, but he admits Edwardstone faces a stiff task defending his crown against Jonbon.

Edwardstone in action at Cheltenham
Edwardstone in action at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

He added: “Of course it’s (nice) to go there (as defending champion) but we didn’t have Jonbon to contend with last year.”

Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra was back in third when defending his Shloer Chase crown at Cheltenham and now has to bounce back to the form that saw him down Altior in December 2020 and also finish runner-up in the Champion Chase the following spring.

Meanwhile, Harry Fry had suggested Boothill would wait for the Clarence House Chase at his beloved Ascot for his return to deep waters, but a rethink sees him take another crack at Jonbon on the back of two taking victories this term that justify leaving handicap company.

The eight-year-old was eight lengths adrift of Jonbon when second in last season’s Henry VIII and Fry said: “I think he deserves another go in Grade One company again.

“On ratings, he’s got a bit to find with the likes of Jonbon, and on the form of the Henry VIII last year, but he seems in great order with himself and you’ve got to be in it to stand any chance of winning it.”

Haddex Des Obeaux is the lowest rated of the field on official figures but was an ultra-progressive performer last term and was in contention to make a winning return at Cheltenham last month before falling at the last with the race in the balance.

He now faces an acid test of his ability, thrust into Grade One company, but Gary Moore hopes there is still more to be seen from the likeable six-year-old.

“It’s a massive day for him and if he can do himself justice, then I would be very happy about it,” said Moore.

Haddex Des Obeaux is upped in class at Sandown on Saturday
Haddex Des Obeaux is upped in class at Sandown on Saturday (Nigel French/PA)

“I’m fully aware it is not going to be easy for him but he does love soft ground and jumping, so he’s got that on his side, as far as I’m concerned.

“He will have 100 per cent come on for his outing at Cheltenham and he can only improve.

“I go there with an open mind and if you aren’t in them, you can’t win them. If we run into place money, then so be it.”

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2024 Tingle Creek Chase Trends

Run over 2m the Betfair-sponsored Tingle Creek Chase will be staged this year at Sandown Park racecourse on 3rd December and is always seen as a good guide to the Queen Mother Champion Chase run at the Cheltenham Festival later in the season – with Master Minded (2008), Moscow Flyer (2004), Sprinter Sacre (2012), Sire de Grugy (2013), Dodging Bullets (2014) and Altior (2018) the last horses to do the Tingle Creek/Champion Chase double in the same season.

Paul Nicholls has won the Tingle Creek a massive 12 times, while in 2023 the Nicky Henderson-trained Jonbon won the prize.

Here at Geegeez, we take a look back at recent winners and gives you the key Tingle Creek trends to look out for ahead of the 2024 renewal.

Recent Tingle Creek Winners

2023 - JONBON (30/100 fav)
2022 – EDWARDSTONE (5/1)
2021 – GREANETEEN (12/1)
2020 - POLITOLOGUE (11/8 fav)
2019 – DEFI DU SEUIL (2/1 fav)
2018 – ALTIOR (8/13 fav)
2017 – POLITOLOGUE (7/2)
2016 – UN DE SCEAUX (5/4 fav)
2015 – SIRE DE GRUGY (10/3)
2014 – DODGING BULLETS (9/1)
2013 – SIRE DE GRUGY (7/4 jfav)
2012 – SPRINTER SACRE (4/11 fav)
2011 – SIZING EUROPE (11/8 fav)
2010 – MASTER MINDED (10/11 fav)
2009 – TWIST MAGIC (9/4)
2008 – MASTER MINDED (4/7 fav)
2007 – TWIST MAGIC (5/1)
2006 – KAUTO STAR (4/9 fav)
2005 – KAUTO STAR (5/2 jfav)
2004 – MOSCOW FLYER (2/1)
2003 – MOSCOW FLYER (6/4 fav)
2002 – CENKOS (6/1)

Tingle Creek Chase Trends

21/22 – Aged 9 or younger
20/22 – Returned 6/1 or shorter in the betting
19/22 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
19/22 – Had won a Grade One chase before
18/22 – Had won at least 4 times over fences before
17/22 – Aged between 5-8 years-old
16/22 – Placed favourites
16/22 – French bred
16/22 – Officially rated 165 or higher
15/22 – Returned 5/2 or shorter in the betting
14/22 – Winning distance – 3 lengths or more
14/22 – Raced within the last 4 weeks
14/22 – Had won a chase race at Sandown before
14/22 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
13/22 – Won last time out
11/22 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (12 wins in total)
6/22 - Won by a past winner
6/22 – Won the Queen Mother Champion Chase (Altior, Dodging Bullets, Sire de Grugy, Sprinter Sacre – Master Minded & Moscow Flyer) at the Cheltenham Festival later that season
The average winning SP in the last 22 years is 11/4

Note: The 2010 renewal was staged at Cheltenham







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Wait and see for King on Edwardstone plans

Alan King will wait until later in the week before making a final decision on whether Edwardstone will defend his Tingle Creek crown on Saturday, or step up in trip for Sunday’s Peterborough Chase.

The nine-year-old secured a third Grade One with an impressive victory in the Tingle Creek at Sandown 12 months ago, but is winless in four starts since.

He was no match for Nicky Henderson’s Tingle Creek favourite Jonbon on his reappearance in last month’s Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, leading to suggestions Edwardstone is now in need of a more searching test of stamina.

King has the option of stepping his stable star up to two and a half mile for the first time over fences in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, but plans are up in the air at this stage.

Alan King (right) with Edwardstone and his connections
Alan King (right) with Edwardstone and his connections (Steven Paston/PA)

“I’ve no idea where he’s going,” King said on Tuesday.

“He’ll work tomorrow and I’ll speak to the owners on Thursday. I need to see what the weather is like, Huntingdon is currently waterlogged, so I really don’t know.

“It depends on the ground and everything and I need to see what the owners want to do as well.

“He scoped today, he’ll work tomorrow and then we’ll see.”

Edwardstone also holds an entry over three miles in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

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King contemplating next step for Edwardstone

Alan King was pleased to “erase the memory” of Edwardstone’s no-show in the Champion Chase in March when chasing home Jonbon in the Shloer Chase on Sunday.

King now has to decide, with the help of connections, whether to take on Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon again in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on December 9 or step him up in trip for the Peterborough Chase the following day.

King has been musing for some time now that Edwardstone may need further than two miles to be seen at his best.

He said on his website, www.alankingracing.co.uk: ”I thought it was a smashing run, and it was such a relief to see Edwardstone erase the memory of last March.

“Cheltenham is still a mystery, but we can now look forward and it is a case of deciding whether to have a rematch with Jonbon when we defend our Tingle Creek crown on December 9 or wait 24 hours so we can step him up to two and a half miles for the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.”

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Edwardstone ‘ready to go’ for Cheltenham return

Tom Cannon cannot wait to be reunited with Edwardstone when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.

Alan King’s nine-year-old has shared many memorable days with the rider, none more so than their decisive Arkle victory at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022.

Last season included another Grade One success, this time in the Tingle Creek, and the bay was beaten just a head in the Clarence House in January.

There was no repeat Cheltenham Festival success as Edwardstone posted an uncharacteristic performance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but Cannon is happy to draw a line through that run as the duo return to the same track at the weekend.

He said: “Edwardstone has been good at home. I schooled him on Monday, and I schooled him last Monday as well. He seems very fresh and well in himself and I’m looking forward to Sunday.

Tom Cannon and Edwardstone after Cheltenham Festival victory
Tom Cannon and Edwardstone after Cheltenham Festival victory (Nigel French/PA)

“It is going to be a good race, but he doesn’t have any easy races now with the level he is at. He was meant to run in this race last season, but the ground was on the quicker side so he swerved it. He won first time out last year and he will be ready to go and do his best.

“He enjoyed it on Monday when I gave him a jump and he is a pleasure to have around and be involved with. He is a magnificent horse, not just to sit on but to look at as well.

“You get some horses that are good that might be small, but when you get on top of him it is like riding a horse into battle. He is a big strong brute of a horse that has got all the power in the right places.”

The Shloer Chase is run over a trip of two miles, Edwardstone’s usual trip, but there are discussions about stepping up in distance at a later point in the season and Cannon believes connections may find this outing helpful in making that decision.

“His pedigree suggests he will get further, and he ran further than two miles over hurdles and ran well. On his day he is a very quick two-miler which he showed in the Tingle Creek last season,” Cannon said.

Edwardstone returning after winning the Arkle
Edwardstone returning after winning the Arkle (Steven Paston/PA)

“He probably wasn’t at his best after that, but we will see how we go in the race on Sunday and go from there.

“As he is getting bit older now, and with a few younger horses coming through, it might give us options if we go up further in trip.

“This is a case of testing the water with him and it is a nice place to go. I’m sure this will answer a few questions about where he will go for the rest of the season.”

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Edwardstone looks to be finished for the season

Edwardstone is unlikely to run again this season, as Alan King attempts to find the reason for his lacklustre display in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Impressive winner of the Arkle last season, the nine-year-old had suffered a stop-start preparation due to unusually quick ground conditions this term.

While sent off the 15-8 second-favourite to avenge his defeat by the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene in the Clarence House Chase, which had been rerouted from Ascot to Cheltenham, he was never travelling with much fluency and finished fifth, some 64 lengths behind Mullins’ star.

Unseasonably quick autumn ground meant Edwardstone was not seen until December, where he duly romped to a nine-length win in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

Long odds-on for the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas, he unseated Tom Cannon early on and, having suffered a setback after going down a head in the Clarence House, King was naturally disappointed with his latest effort.

“He’s perfectly sound after it,” said King. “We are obviously going to be running a few checks in the next week or so, but certainly there was no repeat of the lameness he had last time.

“At the moment there’s nothing more to add, really.

“We might find something. We have lots of things to do, but at the moment I haven’t go any answers. He’s fine in himself. He was fine the next morning.

“Of course we are disappointed, because I’d been so pleased with his preparation, but whatever it was, I knew we were beat after two fences. He just wasn’t travelling.”

King was not looking to blame the easy ground for defeat and will give Edwardstone all the time he needs to recover.

He added: “I don’t want to blame the ground because he’s won well on that ground before, so I don’t think it was that. I wouldn’t have thought he would run again this season.”

The Barbury Castle handler is keen to get a better run into the Champion Chase next season and added: “I would have thought the plan will be the same next year. Let’s just hope we can get him started better next year. It has been a stop-start season.

“It has not been a disaster, we have still got a Tingle Creek to our credit, so they can’t take that off him.

“But it has not been an easy year – we’ve never got into a total rhythm with him because of the ground and the weather, but there we are. These things happen. I’ve been at it a long time to understand nothing is straightforward.”

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Energumene among nine left in Champion Chase

Defending champion Energumene heads nine confirmations for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old claimed the first prize with a bloodless victory on a wet second day of the Festival 12 months ago and followed that up with further easy triumphs at both the Punchestown Festival and on his reappearance at Cork in December.

However, although still disputing favouritism for the second-day feature, he returns to Prestbury Park with a point to prove having finished third when appearing at the track in the rearranged Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials Day.

It was Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite and last year’s Arkle hero Edwardstone that fought out a thrilling finish on that occasion, with the former making nearly all to give Niall Houlihan a first Grade One success as a jockey.

Both feature amongst the confirmations, with Alan King’s charge the general 7-4 joint-favourite with the bookmakers to turn the tables.

As well as Energumene, Mullins could be represented by Blue Lord and Gentleman De Mee who have both picked up Grade Ones over two miles this term.

Blue Lord struck at Leopardstown in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase over Christmas to throw himself into the Champion Chase picture, but was no match for his stablemate at the Dublin Racing Festival when Danny Mullins bounced out Gentleman De Mee and sauntered to a seven-length victory.

Gentleman De Mee ridden by jockey Danny Mullins on their way to winning the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase
Gentleman De Mee ridden by jockey Danny Mullins on their way to winning the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

That was the second time he had scored at Grade One level having also claimed the scalp of Edwardstone in the Maghull Novices’ Chase last April.

Funambule Sivola chased home Energumene for the silver medal 12 months ago and returned to form by winning the Game Spirit last month, while Nube Negra (Dan Skelton) and Greaneteen (Paul Nicholls) finished second and fourth respectively in the race behind Put The Kettle On in 2021 and will return for another crack at the race having missed out in 2022.

The list is completed by Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness with stablemate Coeur Sublime and Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi the only two not confirmed from the 11 left standing at the previous scratching stage.

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Favour And Fortune will be given Champion Bumper option

Alan King will take a patient approach with Favour And Fortune, who remained unbeaten after taking a Warwick bumper with ease on Saturday.

The five-year-old Soldier Of Fortune gelding followed up his impressive Southwell debut success with a seven-and-a-half-length defeat of Alright Dai and could potentially head to the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

Running in the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings, he looked a smart performer under Tom Bellamy and King will consider him for the big National Hunt Flat race on March 15.

“Favour and Fortune will have an entry at Cheltenham and if he didn’t go there, he’d go to Aintree,” said King.

“He is a horse we like a lot. He ran well at Warwick. He is festival bound, but we don’t know where. We will definitely put him in the Champion Bumper.”

Meanwhile, Messire Des Obeaux, who rolled back the years when also scoring at Warwick in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase on the same card, has taken his race well.

The 11-year-old, making his first start for 385 days, had a neck to spare over Knight In Dubai, staying on strongly in the closing stages.

King will be in no rush with him, however. He said: “Messire Des Obeaux will tell me when he’s ready.

“He always takes a wee bit of time to get over a run, so I will just see what there is. Obviously, he needs the weather to change as well. The ground has gone for the minute.

“It was a nice race to win the other day, so there is no panic. Even in his younger days, he always took a few weeks to get over his runs. He puts a lot into it.”

Speaking at Hereford on Wednesday afternoon, King reported Arkle Trophy winner Edwardstone has recovered from a minor setback and is still well on course for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, for which he remains Coral’s 13-8 joint-favourite with Energumene for the March 15 Cheltenham feature.

“Edwardstone is all good,” said King. “He will go back into strong work next week.”

Edwardstone, winner of six of his 11 starts over fences, just failed to catch Editeur Du Gite in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham last month, but King feels that he may have been suffering from a bruised foot during that race.

He added: “He was very lame the next morning, so whether he was feeling it even then. I thought after the last he’d go away and win.

“I was surprised, because usually he finishes a race so well. Look, we’ll see, but he’s fine again anyway.”

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Roving Reports: The Going’s Hard in Places

After a month of sand action, it's been good these past couple of weeks to get out and about, and it does feel as if spring is just around the corner now, writes David Massey.

Having said that, I write this as we've just endured another week of frost and fog; although, thankfully, we've only lost a couple of fixtures to the weather, and it looks like relenting completely in time for Newbury and Warwick this weekend. Warwick will be my stop-off, but for the time being here's the latest update on where I've been.

Cheltenham's nine-race card saw me in attendance to do paddock notes and pick up some pointers for the Festival; and I can tell you that of all those I saw, Edwardstone was the one I thought would come on most for the run. The trainer seemed happy enough afterwards, too, and he's the one to beat in the Champion Chase for me.

After the weekend's action from Dublin, this looks one of the most open Festivals for many a year. Normally, about this sort of time, you're formulating ideas about the likely ones for the Grade 1 contests but, Constitution Hill aside, I do think plenty of the other races are up in the air to varying degrees. That can only be a good thing, right?

Anyway, I digress. February is officially Bookmaker Holiday month and plenty from around here disappear off to foreign climes for a few weeks, coming back refreshed in time for the Festival. It means that I'm stepping into the breach for much of the month to work places I wouldn't normally, and that started off with Fakenham last week.

I've extolled the virtues of Fakenham in many an article over the years and, once again, it didn't disappoint. I worked the rail for S&D and it was steady, if smallish, business all afternoon. That's the beauty of Fakenham, everyone has a bet, even if it's just a couple of quid, as they all have their favourites that run at the track. Whilst the days of Cool Roxy are behind us now, there are still the course specialists around, and you can guarantee there will be money for them.

Speaking of money flying around the ring, a certain trainer could be seen backing his Dev Of Tara before the first and we copped for a monkey's worth of it at 4-1, only to watch the price collapse before our eyes. It duly won pulling a bus, and that rather set the tone for the day. We couldn't get them off Ben Buie in the next - I think literally every member of the partnership that owned him was there - and him winning actually left us short on cash for the rest of the day. Three of the next four favourites winning did not help our cause, but Cloudy Wednesday was barely backed (it was a Thursday, after all) and ensured the day wasn't a total write-off. I went to buy some lemon drizzle and a couple of sausage rolls from the home-made cake stall at the end of the day to make things complete. Fakenham's that sort of a place. You really should go. [Hear hear, Ed.]

Saturday saw an early start (up at half six, lovely) to get to Sandown to work for MT Racing. Normally you don't have to go so early but on Saturdays the pick time - when you decide where you'll stand and bet for the day - is earlier than it is in the week, and at Sandown it's 90 minutes before the first race. That means an 11.05 kick-off. Needless to say it is quiet early on, and an odds-on jolly in the first doesn't help us. I take a £100 forecast on the jolly to beat the second-in at 7-4, which seems a very fair price to me. Other than that, business is very slow, but we assume it'll improve as the day goes on.

We are wrong, very wrong. The rugby on at Twickenham later in the afternoon has killed it stone dead. I have never seen Sandown so quiet on a Saturday. That winning £100 bet on the forecast is the biggest bet I'll take all day. Actually that's not true - he had the whole £275 back on Twinjets in the next, and that gets beat, but that's it. A Saturday at the biggest meeting, on the front row, and we don't take 300 bets all day. The results are irrelevant as we aren't taking enough. At the end of the day we've just about covered the expenses. A 14-hour day, if you include travel time, for nowt. Surely things will be better at Hereford tomorrow?

A later start means I'm not up at the crack of dawn, but it's a good job we always leave plenty of time as around ten miles outside of Hereford, we encounter what appears to be some sort of protest. Tractors are blocking the road, about 20 of them, on a go slow. We're crawling along at 9mph and do so for about three miles. Thankfully, from our point of view, they turn off and we can continue our journey without further delay.

When we get to Hereford, the sun is out and it looks a bit busier than Sandown did. It's very much a family day. Boys with footballs, girls doing cartwheels. That sort of a day. It means we'll take money but it won't be big money. Still, if you take enough you can work with it, so we are hopeful. Again.

For the second day, it's misplaced hope. It turns out many are just here for the sunshine and a day out. A few back the first winner, Amidnightstar, trained by James Evans, at 40-1 with us. James was the first person I bumped into on arrival at the track. He could have let me know. Anyway, that's a winning race to start with, but it'll just about be the only one, with the next four winners all well backed.

I've got an Irish lad, here with his family, betting with me, having about £80 a race on. He asks for some 15-2 Lily Glitters despite it being 13-2 on my board but as he's been betting with me all afternoon, his loyalty is rewarded and I lay him £60 ew. He's delighted when it wins and as a thank you he gives me a score for a drink when he picks up. I like this guy. I split the twenty with Martin, who is working with me today, as that's the fair thing to do.

We bet without the odds-on jolly in the last but what money we take is for the winner Out Of Focus, so that's no good either. For the second day this weekend, we've just about covered the expenses at the end of the day. A total of 550 miles, ten hours on the road, for a grand profit of around a bullseye. Let's see if Warwick on Saturday and Southwell on Sunday prove any better...

- DM

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