Emma Lavelle appoints Tom Bellamy as stable jockey

Emma Lavelle is looking ahead to a bright future after appointing Tom Bellamy as her stable jockey.

The Marlborough trainer felt the time was right to have a retained rider for the first time in several years.

Having Bellamy on her side means Lavelle will have the consistency she requires after the jockey made the right impression when being successful on a spare ride.

“It’s something we’re excited about,” she said.

“It was just one of those things, he picked up a spare ride for us at Huntingdon and won on it and then won on it again. Then it just so happened Adam (Wedge) had just got injured and he started to ride a few more and it just went from there.

Tom Bellamy
Tom Bellamy (David Davies/PA)

“His style of riding suits us. He is definitely going in the right direction. He is great to work with and everyone is really pleased about it going forward.

“He comes in and rides out. We’ve got some great lads who have been riding for us, but I just wanted a bit of consistency and have someone who was able to get to know the horses well. We have some lovely horses going forward and we wanted the right person and the consistency going on top of them. It’s working well.”

The one horse in the yard Bellamy will not be riding is Paisley Park. Aidan Coleman will continue to ride the Paisley Park, who has been a stable star for the last few years.

“He (Coleman) has had a great relationship with him and so that is his only ride. Hopefully the next Paisley Park is lurking somewhere in the yard,” said Lavelle.

Lavelle has high hopes for Irish Prophecy gold run

Emma Lavelle reports Irish Prophecy to be in tip-top condition ahead of the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The Wiltshire trainer has had the long-distance handicap chase on the final day of the season in mind for several months.

Irish Prophecy was given a break after winning at Taunton in November and had a warm-up outing over hurdles in Ascot last month to step up for his assignment.

“This has been very much the plan for him since he won at Taunton,” said Lavelle.

Emma Lavelle has aimed Irish Prophecy at the bet365 Gold Cup for some time
Emma Lavelle has aimed Irish Prophecy at the bet365 Gold Cup for some time (John Walton/PA)

“He went to Ascot for a prep run over hurdles which was lovely and he ran a super race. It was just to get a run under his belt.

“He’s in great order. I think he will love the ground. The trip is an unknown, but I suppose it is for a lot of them. I’d like to think he’d run a big race.

“He doesn’t want the ground too soft, so he’s had a lovely mid-season break. His prep run at Ascot has hopefully set him up for this.”

Caroline Bailey does not think the expected quick ground will be a handicap to Crosspark, though his welter weight could be.

“He’s got top-weight so it’s going to be tough,” said the Northamptonshire trainer.

“He has run quite well on top of the ground, but he was lower in the handicap. Whether he’ll be quick enough, I don’t know, but he’s in good form and he’ll do his best.

“He’s consistent, the trip will be fine. He doesn’t have to have soft ground. It’s just the way the winter’s been. He was second in a Scottish National when I nearly pulled him out because it was too firm on quickish ground.

“He’s fit and well and he’ll take his chance.”

El Presente, who won the Badger Beers at Wincanton, bids to give trainer Kim Bailey a third win in this race after Mr Frisk (1990) and Docklands Express (1991).

“He’s fine after Ludlow – it was very much with the idea of getting him back after his break during the winter,” he said.

“It’s certainly been our view to go here after he won the Badger Beers. Whether he’s good enough is another matter, but that’s always been the plan.

“He’s got conditions in his favour on a right-handed track, so the rest of it is in the lap of the Gods.”

Potterman was runner-up to El Presente at Wincanton and has been absent since unseating his rider in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.

“He obviously hasn’t run since Newbury, but it was always the plan to give him a winter holiday,” said his trainer Alan King.

Alan King has kept Potterman fresh for the Sandown feature
Alan King has kept Potterman fresh for the Sandown feature (David Davies/PA)

“He’s back I think in very good form and I’ve always thought he’s marginally better going right-handed – some of his best form is at places like Market Rasen and Wincanton.

“He was in the Scottish National, but with the right-handed thing in mind, we thought we’d keep him back for this.

“I hope he can run well. It’s obviously the furthest he’s been, so we’ll see.”

Plan Of Attack bids to become the first Irish-trained winner since Michael Hourigan’s Church Island in 2010.

The eight-year-old is with Henry de Bromhead, who has picked up the biggest prizes at Cheltenham and Aintree this spring.

“He seemed to be going well (when falling at Cheltenham) and all I can tell you is Rachael (Blackmore) is very keen to go over and ride him. I wouldn’t be a great tipster myself, but she seems keen,” said the County Waterford handler.

“It’s three-miles-five and I suppose, like we saw with Minella Times in the National, this guy hasn’t really been tried over this kind of trip.

“We’ve always thought it might suit him and we’re hoping that we get improvement for that extra trip.”

Christian Williams is double-handed with Cap Du Nord and Kitty’s Light, whose long-term target has been this race.

“This has been the plan with Kitty’s Light since the Badger Beers,” he said.

“He’s only a baby, so we gave him a couple of runs in all-weather bumps for experience and went to Kelso then as a prep for this.

Kitty’s Light (right) is one of two runners for trainer Christian Williams
Kitty’s Light (right) is one of two runners for trainer Christian Williams (David Davies/PA)

“If you put a line through Cap Du Nord’s last run over hurdles you’d give him a chance.

“He’s run to a good level in good staying chases this year, so I’d be hopeful he’ll run well.

“He’s improved all season. He obviously pulled up at Kelso, but that can happen with chasers back over hurdles. You try to exploit their mark, but we won’t run him over hurdles again as it didn’t work for him.

“We look forward to running the pair of them.”

The Young Master, who was victorious in 2016, is one of two runners from Neil Mulholland’s stable along with Doing Fine.

“Both horses seem fine. They have both got good course and distance form,” he said.

“They have been there and done it. I’m hoping they run a good solid and respectable race, but life is getting tougher now they are getting older.”

Thyme Hill and Paisley Park set for round three

Thyme Hill and Paisley Park belatedly lock horns for a third time in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree on Saturday.

The Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill was clear-cut winner when the pair first met in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, before Emma Lavelle’s stable star turned the tables in an epic Long Walk at Ascot the following month.

The eagerly-awaited trilogy at the Cheltenham Festival was temporarily postponed after Thyme Hill was ruled out of the Stayers’ Hurdle, in which Paisley Park had to make do with an honourable third in his bid to regain his crown.

Hobbs is hoping Thyme Hill’s freshness could prove key on Merseyside this weekend.

He said: “He pulled a muscle on his right-hand side behind the saddle which meant he had to miss Cheltenham.

“He had a fairly easy week after that, but we have had plenty of time to build him back up and get him ready for Aintree.

“His last run in the Long Walk was good. It was a top end race as you would expect. Obviously he was just beaten by Paisley Park, who has run well in the Stayers’ Hurdle since and he beat the nice mare of Dan Skelton’s (Roksana).

“This was not the original plan (coming straight here) and I definitely think on his best form he would have been up there at Cheltenham.

“Whether coming here without the run there is a good thing I don’t know, but hopefully it will be.”

Lavelle feels Paisley Park is sharper than he was prior to the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

She said: “He’s all set and we’re all excited. He’s fresh and well and definitely a bit sharper, which he’ll need to be on that track.

“As ever it looks a very competitive race, but he’s in good order and we’re just hoping for some luck in running and we’ll see how we go.”

Paisley Park is out to regain winning ways
Paisley Park is out to regain winning ways (David Davies/PA)

The aforementioned Roksana returns to three miles after finishing third in the two-and-a-half-mile Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Kim Bailey believes the application of blinkers could help Vinndication improve on his sixth-placed finish in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

“He ran very well at Cheltenham. He was second of the English horses, but unfortunately there were a few Irish horses in front of them,” said the Andoversford-based trainer.

“I’m going to put a pair of blinkers on him to sharpen him up a bit.”

Nicky Henderson deliberately sidestepped Cheltenham with On The Blind Side, who was last seen finishing third behind Third Wind and Lisnagar Oscar – also in this weekend’s field – in February’s Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.

Henderson said: “He’s had a great season – he’s been very consistent, very tough and game and genuine all the way through.

“We kept him out of Cheltenham thinking Paisley Park and Thyme Hill would be taking each other on.

“Thyme Hill didn’t get to Cheltenham and he will be hard to beat, but On The Blind Side deserves a crack at a race like this.”

Paisley Park bids for fourth Grade One at Aintree

Paisley Park heads a field of 15 for the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree.

Emma Lavelle’s nine-year-old bids for a fourth Grade One triumph on Saturday, having won the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2019 and Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle in 2018 and 2020.

He arrives at Liverpool after finishing third to Flooring Porter this time in last month’s Stayers’ at Cheltenham.

His rivals include the Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill, who was just beaten by Paisley Park in the Long Walk but then missed the Cheltenham Festival.

Others in the mix include 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar and If The Cap Fits and Roksana – first and second in the last running of this race in 2019 – and Nicky Henderson’s pair of Call Mr Lord and On The Blind Side.

Henderson’s exciting young star Shishkin will face just four rivals in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase.

The seven-year-old has won all his four starts over fences so far, culminating in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.

Taking him on are Elvis Mail, Funambule Sivola, Gumball and Longhouse Sale.

The third Grade One contest on the Grand National card is the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.

Thirteen horses were initially declared on Thursday morning – but Ballybeg, trained by Kerry Lee, is a subsequent non-runner.

Of the dozen left, Henry de Bromhead’s Ballyadam bids to go one better after finishing second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The other contender from across the Irish Sea is Ronan McNally’s Dreal Deal, who goes for a seventh consecutive win, over hurdles and on the Flat. He has not run since January and missed Cheltenham because the stable was under a cloud.

Dan Skelton’s My Drogo has looked good in winning all his three starts over hurdles – while Adrimel, Lucky One and Minella Drama are among others to consider.

Paisley Park in top shape for weekend assignment

Emma Lavelle reports Paisley Park firmly on course for a likely rematch with Thyme Hill in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree.

The Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill came out on top when the pair first met in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, before Lavelle’s stable star reversed the form in an epic Long Walk at Ascot the following month.

A third clash was on the cards in last month’s Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but Thyme Hill missed the race through injury, while Paisley Park had to settle for an honourable third in his bid to regain his crown.

The pair are among 18 entries for this weekend’s Grade One contest.

Lavelle said: “Paisley Park is very much an intended runner on Saturday. He’s in good form and it’s all systems go.

“Aintree is obviously a different type of track to Cheltenham, but I’m very happy with how he is and I’m looking forward to the rematch with Thyme Hill and a few others.

“He’s won over two and a half miles at Aintree and I don’t think tracks really matter to him, to be honest.

“He’s definitely a bit sharper all round since he ran at Cheltenham, so hopefully it will work out on Saturday.”

Thyme Hill will renew rivalry with Paisley Park
Thyme Hill will renew rivalry with Paisley Park (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Tom O’Brien is booked to partner Thyme Hill following the retirement of regular rider Richard Johnson. O’Brien guided the seven-year-old to a debut success on his racecourse debut in a Worcester bumper in 2018.

Other contenders include last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar and Dan Skelton’s mare Roksana, who was narrowly beaten by If The Cap Fits – also in the mix this weekend – in the last running of this race two years ago.

The first of three Grade Ones on Randox Grand National day is the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, for which 22 horses are engaged.

The likely favourite is the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame, who was best of the British when third behind Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Ballyadam (Henry de Bromhead), Dreal Deal (Ronan McNally) and The Shunter (Emmet Mullins) are potential Irish challengers.

The brilliant Shishkin will face a maximum of eight rivals when he bids to round off a flawless campaign with victory in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s runaway Arkle winner will be doubtless be a red-hot favourite to make it four from four over fences with another top-level triumph under Nico de Boinville.

Arkle runner-up Eldorado Allen could take him on again, as could the fourth Allmankind.

Paisley primed to make Stayers’ Hurdle amends

Emma Lavelle could not be happier with Paisley Park as her stable star attempts to regain the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.

The Marlborough handler believes Paisley Park is the same shape he was in when he lifted the crown in 2019.

She feels he can erase the memory of 12 months ago when his seven-race winning run ended in bitter disappointment as he suffered a heart problem and finished seventh behind Lisnagar Oscar.

His two runs this season have been more like the old Paisley Park. He gave encouraging signs when failing by only a length and a half to give 3lb to Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Paisley Park (right) beat Thyme Hill in the Long Walk
Paisley Park (right) beat Thyme Hill in the Long Walk (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Paisley Park then turned the tables on Thyme Hill to win the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot for a second time when they met on equal terms.

“He’s done everything he needs to. He’s in really good order. Now we’ve got to bring our A game to the track on the day,” said Lavelle.

“Everything has gone as we wanted. The Cleeve did not happen, but that’s how it was. He’s had a racecourse gallop since then. He’s ticked over really well and, touch wood, he seems in good form.

“These races are always going to be competitive. It’s sad that his sparring partner of this season (Thyme Hill) isn’t going to be there, but hopefully it will all go to plan.

“The first year when he was winning and everything went to plan, it was just very smooth, very easy and just brilliant.

“Last year we had to do a bit more work with him. This year he seems like he was his first year. He’s stronger and very up much up for everything we’ve asked of him, so hopefully it will go smoothly in the race as well.”

Lisnagar Oscar was a shock winner last year
Lisnagar Oscar was a shock winner last year (Tim Goode/PA)

Lisnagar Oscar put up a career-best performance when causing a 50-1 upset 12 months ago, and the Rebecca Curtis-trained eight-year-old defends his title after finishing runner-up to Third Wind in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock last month.

Flooring Porter bridged the gap from handicaps to Group One company when winning the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle.

Gavin Cromwell’s charge made all the running and found more when challenged in the closing stages to beat The Storyteller by 12 lengths.

The latter renews rivalry and is one of three runners trained by Denise Foster, along with Fury Road and Sire Du Berlais, as she minds Cullentra House Stables in County Meath while Gordon Elliott serves his suspension.

Willie Mullins’ Bacardys plus Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge give adds further strength to the Irish challenge.

Vinndication is back over hurdles
Vinndication is back over hurdles (Tim Goode/PA)

It would be a tremendous training effort by Kim Bailey to get Vinndication to win this showpiece race.

The horse has not run over hurdles for over three years and has not raced since he picked up an injury in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.

Bailey had hoped to run the eight-year-old in the Gold Cup, but opted for the Stayers’ Hurdle as he could not get a prep run into him.

Bailey felt the lack of a recent outing cost him in the Ultima Handicap Chase when he led two out, but was caught on the run-in and eventually finished fourth last term.

He will be ridden by David Bass, who is expecting a decent show from Vinndication.

“Last year I thought he was a certainty in the Ultima, but he hadn’t run since November and we couldn’t get a racecourse gallop into him and he just got tired,” he said.

“We had a discussion and felt he was just physically finding it hard over fences.

“We gave him a school over hurdles and he seemed to really enjoy it. He’s the type who could run well in the Stayers’ as he races behind the bridle. I think that track will suit him as well.”

Bailey also runs Younevercall, while the field is completed by 2019 runner-up Sam Spinner, If The Cap Fits, Lil Rockerfeller, Main Fact and Reserve Tank.

Paisley Park heads 15 seeking Stayers’ Hurdle gold

Paisley Park will face 14 rivals when he bids to regain his crown in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.

Emma Lavelle’s stable star looked set to dominate the division for years to come when landing the Grade One contest in 2019, but was found to be suffering from a heart problem when disappointing in last year’s renewal.

However, the nine-year-old has bounced back to something like his best this season – filling the runner-up spot behind Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, before reversing that form in an epic Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Sire Du Berlais is one of three runners for Denise Foster
Sire Du Berlais is one of three runners for Denise Foster (PA)

With Thyme Hill ruled out last week, some of the biggest threats to Paisley Park hail from Ireland.

Denise Foster, who recently took over the licence from the suspended Gordon Elliott at Cullentra House, launches a three-pronged assault with Fury Road joined by dual Pertemps Final winner Sire Du Berlais and the ultra-consistent The Storyteller.

Flooring Porter had that trio in behind when springing a surprise in a Grade One at Leopardstown over the Christmas period and is also in contention for Gavin Cromwell, while Bacardys (Willie Mullins), Beacon Edge (Noel Meade) complete the raiding party.

The Rebecca Curtis-trained Lisnagar Oscar was a shock winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle 12 months ago and bids for back-to-back victories.

Kim Bailey switches Vinndication back to the smaller obstacles for the first time in over three years, with the eight-year-old having been off the track since unseating David Bass in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.

Bailey also runs Younevercall, with If The Cap Fits (Harry Fry), Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King), Main Fact (David Pipe), Reserve Tank (Colin Tizzard) and Sam Spinner (Jedd O’Keeffe) the other hopefuls.

Paisley Park tops 18 in contention for Stayers’ Hurdle prize

Paisley Park is the star name among 18 confirmations for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Following the defection of market rival Thyme Hill on Friday morning, Emma Lavelle’s stable star will be a hot favourite to regain his crown in Thursday’s Grade One showpiece, having suffered a heart problem when bidding for back-to-back victories 12 months ago.

The nine-year-old has bounced back to form this season – filling the runner-up spot behind Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, before reversing the form in a thrilling renewal of the Long Walk at Ascot the following month.

Dan Skelton has confirmed Roksana off the back of the news Thyme Hill will miss out due to injury, but is still favouring an outing in Tuesday’s Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle – a race she won in 2019.

Roksana retains a Stayers' Hurdle entry
Roksana retains a Stayers’ Hurdle entry (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Skelton said: “I wasn’t going to confirm her for the Stayers’, but when I saw the news (about Thyme Hill) I did, because it just gives us a little bit more time to consider and look at forecasts etc.

“I don’t think Thyme Hill coming out is going to make any difference, but at the same time, I have confirmed her to give ourselves the option.

“We are still leaning towards the Mares’ Hurdle as things stand.”

Denise Foster – who has taken over the licence from the suspended Gordon Elliott – has a trio of interesting contenders, with dual Pertemps Final winner Sire Du Berlais joined by The Storyteller and Fury Road.

Other potential challengers from Ireland include Gavin Cromwell’s Flooring Porter and the Willie Mullins-trained Bacardys.

Last year’s shock Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar is in the mix again for Rebecca Curtis, while Kim Bailey looks set to saddle both Vinndication and Younevercall.

Beacon Edge, Diol Ker, If The Cap Fits, Lil Rockerfeller, Main Fact, Reserve Tank, Sam Spinner and Heaven Help Us are the other hopefuls.

Grand Sancy and Capeland bid to extend Nicholls’ Newbury domination

Paul Nicholls fires a twin assault in his bid for a 10th victory in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.

It is 15 years since the Ditcheat handler first landed the prestigious handicap chase with Cornish Sett, since when he has added to his tally with the likes of Big Fella Thanks (2010), Pacha Du Polder (2013) and San Benedeto (2019).

Nicholls said: “The race fits in with the programme for horses that don’t go to Cheltenham and like nice ground, so we always like to have runners.

“It is good prize-money and a nice race to run in. I’m excited about the two I have in this year.”

The trainer’s chief contender appears to be Grand Sancy, who makes his handicap debut over fences in the hands of Bryony Frost.

An impressive winner of a Listed novice chase at Chepstow in October, the seven-year-old was disappointing when a hot favourite for the Grade Two Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton the following month and has not been seen since.

“He won impressively at Chepstow before a blip at Wincanton when he choked a little bit, and half-panicked after making a mistake on tacky ground,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“Basically his wind is fine and I’ve held him back for the spring because he can’t handle the type of deep mid-winter ground we’ve had over the past three months.

“We know Grand Sancy goes well fresh, he will relish the ground, the trip is right and his best form has been racing left-handed, so he has loads in his favour in a race we have farmed in recent times, with nine winners in 15 years.”

The other Nicholls-trained runner in a 14-strong field is top-weight Capeland, who will be ridden by Daryl Jacob.

“I’ve booked Daryl Jacob for Capeland as they got on so well together in victory two months ago at Wincanton,” the trainer added.

“While this horse can handle most types of ground, it is fair to say he is hard to place because he is on a stiff enough handicap mark.

“However, the flat nature of the course at Newbury is very much in his favour.”

David Pipe saddles Umbrigado, who is bidding to complete a hat-trick following wins at Fontwell and Wetherby since the turn of the year, while Emma Lavelle’s Killer Clown appears for the first time since scoring at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Lavelle said: “I’m really happy with him. It was a toss-up between running him here or waiting for the novices’ handicap chase at Sandown next weekend, but I know he wants nice ground and it looks like that is what we’re going to encounter at Newbury.

“He’s an improving horse and I think a lot of him, but he’s been heavily penalised for winning impressively at Kempton – he’s gone up 15lb.

“I’m looking forward to running him against more experienced rivals. His jumping has been good and hopefully he’s going the right way.”

Windsor Avenue is an interesting northern challenger for Brian Ellison.

The nine-year-old was runner-up to the top-class Imperial Aura on his first start of the season at Carlisle, and while he has failed to rediscover that form since, he is fitted with both a tongue-strap and cheekpieces for the first time this weekend.

Ellison said: “He was travelling well at Ascot last time, but he basically made a mistake and lost his confidence.

“He had his wind done last year and we’re putting a tongue-strap on him on Saturday to help him. He’s also wearing cheekpieces as he’s one of those that seems to look at other horses rather than concentrating on what he’s doing.

“Being quite honest, he looks fantastic, and I think the better ground will help him as well as he’s a horse with a lot of speed.”

Alan King’s Senior Citizen, the Nicky Henderson-trained Pistol Whipped and The Big Bite from Henry Oliver’s yard also feature.

Paisley Park raring to go as Stayers’ Hurdle date approaches

Emma Lavelle is counting down the days to Paisley Park’s bid to regain his crown in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The nine-year-old looked set to dominate the division for years to come when claiming Festival glory in 2019, but was found to be suffering from a heart problem when bidding for back-to-back victories 12 months ago.

However, Lavelle’s stable has bounced back to something like his best this season – chasing home Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, before reversing that form in a thrilling Long Walk at Ascot.

The pair are set to renew rivalry in what promises to be one of the clashes of the meeting in a fortnight’s time – and for Lavelle, the race cannot come soon enough, such is the well being of her pride and joy.

Lavelle said: “Everything is absolutely great – I wish it was next week.

“We just want to try and keep everything right. I’m really, really happy with him.”

Paisley Park is the marginal favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle at 100-30, with the Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill a 7-2 chance.

Festival may beckon Anythingforlove and Fuller after Sandown triumph

Page Fuller may be reaching for the stars at the Cheltenham Festival after landing her first Graded race success on Anythingforlove in the Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.

Described by winning trainer Jamie Snowden as “an integral part of my team”, Fuller came in for the ride on the 18-1 shot only because Gavin Sheehan was in action at Fontwell.

She made the very best of the opportunity, though, as Anythingforlove beat Sandymount Rose by two and three-quarter lengths, for a Grade Two success which may extend their association in next month’s Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Fuller, who is enjoying a stellar season after riding out her claim in October, said: “That meant so much to me – a first winner at this level and a lovely mare for her owners.

“I knew she had every chance and was delighted when Gavin had to go to Fontwell.

“It was really hard work, and I had to assume she was going to stay. She heard the others coming, and wasn’t going to be passed.

“Winners like her show we have the quality in the yard – and while Gavin’s the number one, I am so lucky to get chances like this.”

Snowden said of the winner: “She used to be a bit novicey, and we rode her wrong in the Rossington Main.

“Over this trip she found it easier, because they were going a tad slower. I would certainly take a look at the Dawn Run – and especially if it was heavy.”

Nick Gifford’s dream of winning the race run here in April in memory of his late father Josh came a step closer with the 5-1 success of Belargus, under Niall Houlihan.

The six-year-old’s resounding nine-length triumph over Grey Diamond in the Elmbridge Handicap Chase has teed him up for what Gifford sees as “limitless options”.

Some of those will be at Cheltenham, or possibly Aintree, but the Sussex trainer hopes owner JP McManus may consider the Josh Gifford Memorial Handicap Chase in April back at Sandown.

“I’ve always loved this horse,” said Gifford.

“He got done for toe at Warwick, and this is the first time he’s got his jumping together. I could see him going up in trip, and he’ll definitely get two and a half miles on good ground.

“He’s going to be under consideration with a whole lot of others (owned by McManus) for the Grand Annual and Brown Advisory Plate – while the Topham is a lovely race for him (as well).

Niall Houlihan and Belargus clear the last to win the Elmbridge Handicap Chase at Sandown
Niall Houlihan and Belargus clear the last to win the Elmbridge Handicap Chase at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“But the one I’d love to win is the Josh Gifford Memorial – which I came close to winning with Christopher Wren (for McManus seven years ago).

“Realistically we are a tiny cog in the wheel, but romantically I would dearly love to bring him back here.”

Emma Lavelle believes she has an exciting prospect for fences next season in Red Rookie, who cashed in on the final-flight mistake of market rival Pipesmoker to land the Telegraph Hill ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

The 5-2 winner eventually prevailed by almost two lengths under Tom Bellamy, from outsider Mister Watson, with favourite Pipesmoker having to settle for third.

Lavelle said: “We love this horse and have felt that since he won two bumpers – but when I took the rug off him at Lingfield (in October) I could see he was fat.

“He came there two out only to weaken through lack of fitness, and then he was poorly.

Red Rookie (middle) was only third over the last but a clear-cut winner in the end of the Telegraph Hill ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown
Red Rookie (middle) was only third over the last but a clear-cut winner in the end of the Telegraph Hill ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“After that it took a long time to get him back, but he certainly is now. I was delighted at the way he jumped and travelled on that ground, and can’t wait to go chasing with him next season.”

Lavelle and Bellamy completed a quick double when 5-2 favourite Eclair Surf won the following Littleworth Handicap Chase by three lengths.

David Pipe’s team is in form – and following Umbrigado’s triumph at Wetherby the previous day, Eamon An Cnoic made no mistake in the opening Greenwich Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

The 100-30 chance came home 20 lengths clear of Will Sting under Fergus Gillard, who said: “My horse travelled really well. He got tired but at the same time won nicely.”

Dan and Harry Skelton combined to land the Kingston Handicap Chase with 11-4 shot No Getaway – who stretched nine-and-a-half lengths clear of Doitforthevillage, with favourite Mister Murchan back in third.

Paisley Park heads straight to Cheltenham

Paisley Park will straight head to the Cheltenham Festival after trainer Emma Lavelle decided to miss the rescheduled Cleeve Hurdle at Wetherby with her stable star.

The Marlborough trainer has not entered the nine-year-old this weekend, preferring a racecourse gallop as preparation rather than running on very testing ground just six weeks before he bids to reclaim his Stayers’ Hurdle crown.

“On balancing up on what makes sense and what doesn’t, I just don’t think it makes sense to go up there and run on what will be incredibly testing ground,” said Lavelle.

“Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t as though Cheltenham wasn’t going to be testing (before it was abandoned last Saturday), but there were other reasons for wanting to go to Cheltenham.

“It would have been experience back there, having had his heart fibrillation (after last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle).

“We said if it was on we’d go (to Cheltenham). We’d have gone to Wincanton (if the race had been re-scheduled there on Thursday), but it was dubious if that was going to be on.”

Paisley Park will therefore head back to Cheltenham after just two runs this season, as runner-up in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle and then winner of Ascot’s Long Walk just before Christmas.

“We had a good discussion about it, and we all think it was the right decision to make,” added Lavelle.

“We’ll take him for a racecourse gallop somewhere to make him feel like he’s been to the races.

“It’s just frustrating. He’s mature, and we want to be going to the races with him, but there’s also a balance about going to the races with him and not bottoming him at this stage.

“What I think it will mean is it will extend our (options) hopefully the other end. I would hope we would then go on to Punchestown, Aintree or whatever.”

Ibleo doubles up with comfortable Doncaster verdict

Ibleo’s fine run of form continued as he was the game victor of the Sky Bet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase at Doncaster.

Placed second twice at the beginning of the season and then a winner at Sandown last time out, the eight-year-old has risen 15lb in the ratings this term already.

Jumping fluently throughout under Charlie Deutsch, the 6-5 favourite locked horns with The Big Bite over the last before pulling away to record a three-and-a-half-length success.

“I always look forward to riding him. He’s a brilliant jumper, he knows his job and he knows where the winning line is,” Deutsch said.

“He’s very straightforward, but fair play to Venetia (Williams, trainer) for keeping him in such good form all season.

“He’s done it very well, he’s really quick over his fences. He goes so fast and lets himself get very close as he approaches them, but he still seems to not lose any ground – he makes up ground when the others are jumping longer and higher.

“He’s got better and better as he’s got more confident.”

Sam Barton shed his maiden tag for Emma Lavelle and Adam Wedge when taking the Sporting Life EBF “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle at odds of 3-1.

The Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding finished second in a similar contest at Hereford in November and went one better this time to come home two and a quarter lengths ahead of 2-1 favourite The Edgar Wallace, with the rest of field a further 18 lengths behind.

“We were really pleased with him,” Lavelle said.

“He’s such a lovely, big horse, but he is just a big baby.

“He was a little green as you saw over the second from last, but he’s a horse that will improve with time and we hope there’s a lot more to come from him.

“The likely next step with him would be to go for the EBF final, but we absolutely hope he’d make a lovely chaser in time.

“He’s a perfect example of the Trevor Hemmings horse – he’s a big, strapping horse who we really like, we’re really pleased with him.”

Oliver Greenall’s Zalvados claimed a first victory over fences when taking the Sky Bet Britain’s Most Popular Online Bookmaker Novices’ Handicap Chase under Paddy Brennan.

The eight-year-old had finished second on four occasions, but ended his winless run with a comfortable seven-length success at a price of 18-1.

“It isn’t easy running on this ground, you need a horse to keep going,” Brennan said of the soft conditions.

“When they start pulling up early in a race it would suggest it’s really hard work, but I like riding him, he’s a challenge.

“There’s no life in the ground and the horses feel it, and feel it early, but it’s great to be racing.”

Lunar Sovereign then provided Brennan with a double when triumphing in the First Race Special On Sky Bet Tomorrow Novices’ Hurdle.

Following up a debut hurdle success at Wetherby in late December, the 9-2 shot crossed the line four and three-quarters lengths ahead of Alastair Ralph’s Jack Sharp, with 11-10 favourite Flinteur Sacre, full brother to Sprinter Sacre, well beaten in 12th.

Trainer Mark Gillard and son Theo then teamed up to take the Play ITV7 Tomorrow Novices’ Handicap Hurdle with the six-year-old Finisher (12-1), before the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Hurdle went the way of Laura Morgan’s J’Ai Froid (5-4 favourite), piloted by Max Kendrick.

Paisley Park ‘as good as ever’, says proud owner Andrew Gemmell

Andrew Gemmell is counting down the days to the Cheltenham Festival as his beloved Paisley Park prepares to line up for a third Cleeve Hurdle.

The nine-year-old has won the race for the past two seasons, using it as a springboard to the ultimate prize for horses in his division, the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Paisley Park was a hugely popular winner of the latter race in 2019 – a victory that was made particularly moving by the joy and passion shown by Gemmell, who was born blind and follows his runners via the race commentary alone.

A 2020 title defence was not successful, however, as the Emma Lavelle-trained gelding could only finish seventh when 4-6 favourite and was later found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

Thankfully Paisley Park went on to make a full recovery, as well-evidenced by his two gallant efforts this season; a runner-up spot behind Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on his first run back and a scintillating last-gasp victory over the same horse in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle in December.

Despite the limitations now imposed on owners attending the races, that performance fell at a time when connections could access the racetrack and Gemmell was thrilled to be there as his horse resumed winning ways.

“The race at Newbury, I got more nervous about that than any of the previous races,” he said in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“Obviously we didn’t know, after the difficulties with the heart, how good he’d be, but he ran such a cracking race behind Thyme Hill.

“It was just such a relief to know he was back in full order again and then to win the Long Walk was truly astonishing.

“It was really terrific, that race against Thyme Hill at Ascot.

Aidan Coleman and Paisley Park (right) on their way to reeling in Thyme Hill
Aidan Coleman and Paisley Park (right) on their way to reeling in Thyme Hill (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I think the enthusiasm was really brought to the boil by the race at Ascot, and Simon Holt’s commentary when he got him right at the end was brilliant.”

Like all parties bar a few key industry personnel, Gemmell is now unable to be on a racecourse and is resigned to following the action via the television coverage this weekend.

Victory would be an important stepping-stone to the prize connections covet the most, the retrieval of his Stayers’ Hurdle crown.

“Everything’s been going to plan, which is really exciting,” Gemmell said.

“Everyone’s been saying he’s been doing brilliant pieces of work and it’s all going well, everything’s on course.

“It’s the ideal time span, six weeks from one race (Ascot) to the other (Cleeve Hurdle), six weeks to the next (the Festival). We just can’t wait to get going again.

“I think he’s as good as ever, I just can’t wait for the big day.”

Andrew Gemmell (centre) celebrates Cheltenham Festival glory
Andrew Gemmell (centre) celebrates Cheltenham Festival glory (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Gemmell and his favourite horse have become one of the sport’s most endearing tales, and it is a team trainer Lavelle is grateful to be a part of.

“He’s created a huge interest and deservedly so, he’s a very special horse,” she said of her stable star.

“I can’t believe that I’m saying this live, but Andrew’s a pretty special bloke as well – it’s lovely to have this involvement with them.

“I think the only thing that Paisley’s disappointed about is that with Andrew not coming down, it means that he’s definitely having a reduced load of polos every day!”

Paisley Parks looks the horse to beat, and a triumph will surely elevate his owner’s Cheltenham Festival fever even further.

“It’s everything, really,” he said.

“You’ve got something really exciting and it’s at the end of the rainbow.

“I just can’t wait for it to happen again, the more we’ve gone on, the more excited I get just thinking about it.

“We could be there again and hopefully regain the title.”

Paisley Park all set for Cheltenham return

Star staying hurdler Paisley Park is among nine entries for Saturday’s Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Emma Lavelle’s stalwart got back to winning ways last time out in a thrilling finish with Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Philip Hobbs has not entered his charge this time around, but the Ascot form was boosted at the weekend when Roksana, who was third, was an easy winner.

“On paper it might not look as tough as the Long Walk, that’s true, and he’s in great order,” said Lavelle.

“What will be nice will be to go back to Cheltenham and have a nice experience after what happened at the Festival last year.

“While I’m glad there’s not going to be a massive field, I want him to have a nice experience. I certainly wouldn’t say it looks easy, though – all races at this level are difficult.

“We’ll be giving weight away, but he seems in great order and the timing of this race is absolutely perfect as we can let him down a bit after it.

“Obviously the ground looks like being testing, but we can’t do much about that. We’d love it if the forecast was a bit better and it wasn’t a real slog, but it is what it is. He loves racing, this horse.”

Main Fact has been a revelation this season
Main Fact has been a revelation this season (Tim Goode/PA)

Harry Fry’s veteran Unowhatimeanharry is among potential opponents, along with the David Pipe duo of Ramses De Teillee and Main Fact, who had his long winning run ended in the Long Walk.

Itchy Feet could return to hurdles for Olly Murphy, with Third Wind (Hughie Morrison) another possible.

Nicky Henderson’s Gold Cup runner-up Santini is among 10 contenders in the Paddy Power ’45 Sleeps To Cheltenham’ Cotswold Chase.

He has yet to win in two outings this season, at Aintree and when fifth in the King George VI Chase.

Santini (in grey) was just touched off in the Gold Cup
Santini (in grey) was just touched off in the Gold Cup (Jacob King/PA)

Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados, fourth in the King George, rates as a serious danger as does Bristol De Mai, fresh from this third win in the Betfair Chase.

One who could be out again quickly is Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki, who only won at Taunton on Saturday.

“If it poured with rain on Thursday and Friday I would be kicking myself if I hadn’t put him in the race, though it is a tentative entry,” said Nicholls.

“He is hard to place off his mark of 161 and has not got any kind of penalty in this race.

“Some of the others that are going to run in the Gold Cup might not want a slog at this stage round Cheltenham, so it could cut up.”

Rehearsal Chase winner Yorkhill, David Bridgwater’s The Conditional and a previous Gold Cup winner in Native River (Colin Tizzard) are among the entries.

Nicky Martin’s Bear Ghylls is among 14 in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, with Lecale’s Article and Wilde About Oscar in the mix.

The Pipe-trained Adagio, already a Grade One winner this season, is one of 15 in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle along with Gary Moore’s Nassalam, who was second to him at Chepstow.

Heross Du Seuil, Honneur D’Ajonc and Sage Advice ensure plenty of strength in depth.