Tag Archive for: Elite Hurdle

Sceau Royal out on his own as three-time Elite hero

Sceau Royal became the first horse to win the Unibet Elite Hurdle for a third time when scooting home in the Grade Two at Wincanton.

Alan King’s admirable performer scampered clear on the run-in to add this year’s renewal to his previous wins in 2016 and 12 months ago.

The 4-5 favourite crossed the line five and a half lengths to the good from Teqany in the hands of Daryl Jacob, his task having been made easier by the late withdrawal of Goshen – for whom the ground was too quick.

Sole Pretender took the six runners along in the early stages, with Christopher Wood and Teqany close up. Sceau Royal was always travelling well and took closer order before leading at the final flight and winning as he liked.

King said: “He does all the talking. I don’t have to say much – I think he is a superstar. He has won it as a four year-old, eight-year-old and nine-year-old. I said ‘what the hell was I doing in between?’ – but I was novice chasing.

“He is as good as ever, and I’m convinced he is slightly better. His homework is much better than it was two years ago. We know how to train him now, and he is in such a great place.

“Daryl said he couldn’t have gone any quicker early on, but the one thing he does do is get the trip well. I’ve been saying for two years we will go two and a half with him, but I don’t think we will do that.”

Looking at future targets, King added: “We will speak to Anthony Bromley (racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede), but one thing we won’t do is go right-handed with him over a fence – today he has gone a little bit left, but you can get away with that over hurdles.

“The Fighting Fifth and International at Cheltenham are possible.”

King had earlier enjoyed a one-two when Wynn House (100-30) made a winning return to action, getting the better of stablemate Hotter Than Hell by three-quarters of a length in the Richard Barber Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle under Tom Cannon.

Trainer Alan King had a double on the card at Wincanton
Trainer Alan King had a double on the card at Wincanton (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’ve always thought she was very good. She seems to have grown a fair bit and developed through the summer,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“She probably wants to go up in trip, because the extended two miles five around here on good ground is sharp enough, but she has seen it out well.”

Jordan Nailor enjoyed the biggest success of his career when springing a 40-1 surprise on Rocco in the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase.

The 3lb-claiming conditional brought Nigel Twiston-Davies’ winner through to lead at the second-last fence.

The eight-year-old saw off the challenge of Potterman by two and a quarter lengths to confine King’s charge to runner-up spot in this race for the second successive year.

The first two drew six lengths clear of Hurricane Harvey, with the latter’s fellow joint-favourite Cap Du Nord fourth. There was a sad postscript to the race when it was confirmed Storm Home suffered a fatal fall at the second last.

Of Rocco’s victory, Nailor said: “I had a nice winner over hurdles last season, but to come back early in the season and have another big winner means a lot.

“I’ve ridden in the race a few times, and the thing I’ve learnt is you have to go quick early to get a nice position – otherwise you get shuffled back, but he got the position we wanted and he jumped fantastic, which really helped.

“He had a light enough weight on his back, and the ground was good – which is what he wants. It’s a good jumping test around here, and he jumps brilliantly, so everything panned out brilliantly.

“The Grade Three (handicap at Sandown in March, on Beauport) was my first big winner, so that meant a lot. But this is a race I’ve ridden in a few times – and I thought I’d love to win it and I have now, so there are no complaints.

“He is a bit in and out, but when he performs like that he is a nice horse. This is my first winner since dislocating my thumb in September, so it is good to get a winner like this.”

Jockey Charlie Hammond also had his best win to date when scoring on Captain Tom Cat in the Grade Two John Romans Park Homes ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase.

The 6-4 chance, trained by Richard Newland, put in a good round of jumping and got the better of the odds-on favourite Mick Pastor by two and a quarter lengths.

Hammond said: “That’s by far my biggest winner. I won the Sefton last year, but to come here and win a Grade Two is lovely. The boss (Newland) has been good to put me up today, so things are going well.

“We missed the odd one down the back but we were almost between strides and I was just trying to quicken up then. He has been very clever and got me out of trouble – and over the last three when I needed him, he was really good.

“It was a lovely jumping performance, and he stayed it out well, and that is probably won us the race. He is a big athletic sort that was a cheap buy, but the boss has done a real good job with him.”

Belfast Banter poised to join the Elite at Wincanton

Peter Fahey is expecting a big run from Belfast Banter in the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.

The six-year-old, a winner at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals in the spring, is on a retrieval mission after taking a tumble on his latest start at Listowel six weeks ago.

Belfast Banter was in the process of running a big race when he came down at the final flight in a handicap hurdle won by Dysart Diamond.

“He seems in very good form. He’s fresh and well and it looks like the ground is going to be in his favour. It’s going to be pretty dry there so we’re hoping for a very big run,” said Fahey, whose charge is likely to clash with Sceau Royal and Goshen at the Somerset venue.

“He was a bit sore the day after his fall at Listowel, but he’s come out of it fine. He’s schooled well at home. Everything seems fine. He was going to run a big race that day.”

The County Kildare trainer has warned Royal Kahala will not take up her engagement in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on Sunday if the ground is not suitable.

“Everything is going well. She’s done her last bit of work and she worked well. My concern is she won’t run unless the ground is plenty slow, which looks unlikely at the moment, but we’ll see how the way things are,” he said.

“She has the Grabel Hurdle in Punchestown as an option the following weekend. She’ll have a couple of entries, but if the ground is right on Sunday she is very forward for her run.”

Royal Kahala won her first two starts over hurdles last season and was second in the Grade Three Solerina Hurdle at Fairyhouse before finishing in midfield in the Grade Two Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Sceau Royal and Goshen top Elite field

Sceau Royal and Goshen are among eight entries for the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Winner of Saturday’s Grade Two 12 months ago, the versatile Sceau Royal showed he is every bit as good as ever when winning at Kempton on his reappearance recently.

With little rain forecast this week, Alan King’s nine-year-old will have enhanced prospects of winning the race for a third time – having done so for the first time back in 2016.

Gary Moore could hardly have his string in better form, so he will be hoping for a better start to this season from Goshen.

Last year, he was repeatedly held up until reappearing at Cheltenham in December when he was disappointing – but he did win the Kingwell Hurdle on his next outing, over the same course and distance as this weekend’s race. He was subsequently well beaten by Honeysuckle in two further outings.

An intriguing entry is last year’s County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter, who went on to win a Grade One novice hurdle at the Grand National meeting.

He has since finished in midfield in the Galway Hurdle, but took a heavy fall most recently at Listowel.

Belfast Banter (noseband) came through late to win at Aintree
Belfast Banter (noseband) came through late to win at Aintree (Tim Goode/PA)

Another Irish entry is the Grimes Hurdle winner Sole Pretender, trained by Norman Lee.

Christopher Wood, Hatcher, Petrastar and last year’s second Teqany complete the list.

The 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase has attracted 22 entries.

Paul Nicholls’ Truckers Lodge is at the head of the weights – but with no rain on the horizon in Somerset, he could be a doubtful runner.

Nicholls has also entered Highland Hunter and Cat Tiger in a race he has won for three of the last four years – with Present Man twice and Give Me A Copper.

“This is the 60th year of sponsorship – and I’ve been very lucky to train some nice horses for the sponsors, Mark and Tessa Woodhouse, including Present Man who won it twice,” said Nicholls.

“It’s a race we love to win – it’s a great spectacle, and we’re all looking forward to it.

“The big problem this year is the ground. It’s good, and we’ve a dry week forecast, so the soft-ground horses are pretty much going to be ruled out.

“I’ve entered Cat Tiger, but he’s also got an option at Auteuil at the weekend, and I’ve put Truckers Lodge in because he needs a race before the Welsh National – and he loves going right-handed.

“He would probably prefer more cut in the ground, but he does have form on good. For soft-ground horses, this weekend will be a bit of an issue.

“We normally target the race, but this year it just hasn’t worked out like that. For Present Man, it was always his aim.”

Solo bids to show Elite class at Wincanton

Paul Nicholls is keeping the faith with Solo as he makes his seasonal bow in the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

The four-year-old made quite a splash on his British debut back in February, hacking up by 13 lengths in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton to add to a previous Auteuil victory for Guillaume Macaire.

Upped to Grade One company in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, Solo fell short in finishing a 10-and-a-half-length eighth – but Nicholls believes that effort can be excused and is keen to see how his charge, who has been gelded since, shapes up on his return.

He said: “He’d probably done enough in France and had never seen a track like Cheltenham before.

“Horses like Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon ran in the Triumph and finished in midfield like him. I’d put a line through Cheltenham – he’s had a nice break, he’s been gelded and has definitely improved.

“This track is much more like Kempton, where he won the Adonis. He’s schooled great and is working well – I’m very excited about him.

“We’ll stay over hurdles this year, and Saturday will tell us an awful lot.”

Sceau Royal was a winner at Ffos Las on his reappearance
Sceau Royal was a winner at Ffos Las on his reappearance (David Davies/PA)

Nicholls also fields Diego Du Charmil in Sayturday’s Grade Two heat, while 2016 victor Sceau Royal represents Alan King and arrives on the back of victory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.

Colin Tizzard’s Master Debonair is an intriguing runner, having been off the track since disappointing in his Cheltenham Festival prep back in February, with a planned Aintree outing scuppered by the cancellation of the Grand National meeting.

Brandon Castle and Teqany complete the six-strong line-up.

Grand Sancy loves a trip to Wincanton
Grand Sancy loves a trip to Wincanton (Clint Hughes/PA)

Nicholls fields Wincanton fan Grand Sancy in the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase, in which he faces just two rivals.

He has won the last two of his five outings over fences, also finishing third at Grade One level on his chasing debut, and arrives with a Listed success at Chepstow already in the bank this season.

The trainer said: “This has been the plan ever since he won at Chepstow.

“He’s a good, solid jumper who loves good ground, so I think he’s got a great chance

“He’s a novice until December 1, and the experience he had in those good races last season will stand him in good stead.

“He ran in the Elite Hurdle last year and was only just beaten – he loves Wincanton.

“He’s a good, solid jumper who loves good ground, so I think he’s got a great chance.”

Bryony Frost teams up with Present Man again
Bryony Frost teams up with Present Man again (Steve Davies/PA)

Present Man and Bryony Frost will try to repeat their victories of 2017 and 2018 in the Badger Ales Silver Trophy Chase, with Nicholls also fielding Danny Whizzbang and My Way.

The 10-year-old Present Man warmed up for this with a veterans’ chase win at Chepstow last month, when he returned from a 335-day break.

Nicholls said: “He’s only gone up 2lb for winning at Chepstow, and we went there thinking he’d need the run a little. We had that as a prep race, so he surprised us a little bit.

“He looks great. I don’t think he was ever right last season. If he runs like he did at Chepstow the other day, on his beloved course and the ground is fast, he must have a leading chance.”

While Present Man tops the weights, My Way is at the other end of the scale with Bryan Carver also taking a hand 5lb off the recent Stratford hurdles winner.

Nicholls added: “I’ve always thought the Badger Ales would be a great race for My Way. He’s a maiden over fences, but he ran some nice races last year and is on a nice little mark.

“He won well over hurdles the other day, really as a prep for this. If the ground doesn’t dry up too much, he’s definitely got a chance.”

The three-mile-one-furlong contest has drawn 15 runners, including Kim Bailey’s likely favourite and hat-trick seeker El Presente and the Harry Fry-trained Just A Sting, who was fourth in the race last year.

Goshen may head to Ascot after Elite absence

Goshen could be rerouted to Ascot later this month after a combination of unsuitable ground and an imperfect scope ruled him out of the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Trainer Gary Moore had earmarked Saturday’s Grade Two as a first outing over obstacles for Goshen since his unlucky unseating of rider Jamie Moore at the final flight when in a commanding lead in the Triumph Hurdle back in March.

Goshen has had two outings on the Flat in recent weeks. But the Wincanton ground – which is described as good, good to soft in places – and a minor health issue means the four-year-old may be seen next in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on November 21.

He said: “The ground wasn’t ideal, and everything with the horse is fine – but his scope wasn’t perfect, so we will get that right now.

“It’s nothing serious, and we’ll have a look at the Ascot Hurdle.”

Joshua Moore was due to partner Goshen at Wincanton in place of his brother Jamie, who is still recovering after fracturing his sternum and back in a fall at Fontwell in August.

Gary Moore reports his son to be progressing well – but when asked if Jamie could be fit to ride at Ascot, he added: “That will be the doctor’s decision, not mine or Jamie’s.

“He’s doing fantastically well, but you’ve got to respect a very serious injury like that.”

Goshen was one of three not declared for Wincanton’s feature race, along with Ballyandy and Song For Someone – which leaves six contenders including Paul Nicholls’ Solo, who reappears following a disappointing Cheltenham effort back in March.

A 10-length winner of the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle on his British bow at Kempton in February, Solo could finish only eighth in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.

He is the pick of stable jockey Harry Cobden, leaving Bryony Frost to team up with Nicholls’ other runner Diego Du Charmil – who was third on his return at Kempton last month.

Master Debonair was an impressive winner of an Ascot Grade Two on his third hurdles outing last term, but Colin Tizzard’s charge has been off the track since disappointing in his Festival prep run in February – with connections deciding to head straight to Aintree, which was subsequently cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sceau Royal won this race in 2016 and is back again for Alan King, with victory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las already in the bag this term.

Teqany won twice in September but was a length and a quarter behind Diego Du Charmil when fourth at Kempton, with Neil King’s Brandon Castle completing the line up.