Eldorado Allen foils Hitman to grab Haldon gold

Eldorado Allen downed Hitman to come out on top in the closing stages of the Betway Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.

Second in the Arkle to Shishkin last season, the seven-year-old was sent off a 9-2 chance to make a winning return to action for a Colin Tizzard stable that continues to prove it is well and truly over the ailments of last season.

He looked booked for minor honours at best once again though, as Harry Cobden cruised into the lead on the Paul Nicholls-trained Hitman.

Also making his reappearance and having his first outing since a wind operation, the five-year-old looked sure to collect, jumping clear at the third-last.

With last year’s winner Greaneteen dropping away after threatening briefly, Eldorado Allen then emerged as the only threat to Hitman.

A big leap at the last seemed to have done enough for Hitman as he went over a length clear, but as the 11-10 favourite began to tire and lean towards the rail, Brendan Powell pulled the grey out for one last lunge and it was enough to beat the 11-10 favourite by a length.

The winner was given a 40-1 quote by Betfair for the Ryanair Chase, but Coral were more impressed and went 25-1 for the same race.

Tizzard and Powell had teamed up to win Sunday’s Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle with Fiddlerontheroof, and assistant trainer Joe Tizzard was delighted to keep the momentum going.

He said: “He didn’t travel all that well early on and Brendan said he was virtually flat out.

“It turned into a proper slog. It was good on the horse that he stuck his head out really well and has proved he will get a bit further now. We thought going to Aintree over two and a half miles last season would have been ideal, but he just ran a bit flat.

All smiles for connections of Eldorado Allen
All smiles for connections of Eldorado Allen (PA)

“He was second in an Arkle and off 151 you had to fancy him. He beat the right horse in my opinion. I think the right two fought it out so it was a solid performance.

“They were needing their runs the first half of October, but they have just started to hit their straps now and it proves they are in rude health with themselves.

“To go and win with Fiddlerontheroof and this one now is just what the yard needed. It puts it all to rest a little from what has been going on over the last 12 months.

“It is nice for us and good for the owners who have supported us all the way through. However well they run it is all about winners and we have got in the habit of having big winners and that is how we want to continue.”

On plans, Tizzard added: “We will probably be looking at going a bit further now. He has won over hurdles and first time out over fences last year so he does go well fresh. We’ve not really got any plans so we will have to plot a path.

“Quite possibly the Peterborough Chase could be a race we look at as he has put himself in that sort of bracket. He could be a Ryanair horse as we get further down the line.”

Paul Nicholls could run both Greaneteen and Hitman in the Tingle Creek
Paul Nicholls could run both Greaneteen and Hitman in the Tingle Creek (Adam Davy/PA)

As for Hitman and Greaneteen, Nicholls said: “Hitman has just got to stick his head down and gallop to the line, but that will come with experience. Every time he has won, he has won hard on the bridle.

“He has never had to get in a battle with those battle-hardened horses and stick his head down to the line, but that will come. He has a lot of potential. I hate getting beat, but I’m thrilled he ran so well.

“Greaneteen did exactly what I thought he would do and blew up, but we will now get him tuned up for the Tingle Creek. That was his prep for that today and I’ve left loads to work on and that will take the freshness out of him.

“I will not be afraid to go to the Tingle Creek with Hitman as you are a bit in no man’s land. He is rated 151 and he might as well go in those better races than in a handicap. You want to run him in those better races as somewhere along the line he will pick one up.”

Nicholls mounts dual assault on Haldon Gold Cup

Paul Nicholls holds an extremely strong hand with Greaneteen and Hitman as he looks to win a fourth Betway Haldon Gold Cup in the last seven years.

Nicholls has used Tuesday’s Grade Two handicap at Exeter as a starting point for plenty of his good two-mile chasers down the years, with none other than Kauto Star – who was beaten into second by Monkerhostin in 2005 – among a host of quality horses to have run in the race.

Greaneteen was successful 12 months ago – but since he went on to go close in the Champion Chase and then beat Altior at Sandown, he is now 17lb higher in the weights. The Tingle Creek is his big early aim at the start of December.

“Greaneteen won the race last year, and we’d planned that for a little while,” said Nicholls.

“He progressed really well throughout the season – he was only beaten a couple of lengths in the Champion Chase and then won the Grade One at Sandown at the end of the season, beating Altior.

“He’s now rated 168 – which is a bit different from this time last year. He’s in good shape.

“I’ve always used this race as a bit of a stepping stone to the Tingle Creek with the better horses. Politologue and Kauto Star ran in this before going on to Sandown. There’s nothing much else for them before the Tingle Creek.

“He always needs a run for him to compete at the very highest level. He’s always a bit fresh and keen first time, so he needs a run (to knock that out of him), and this is the perfect race.”

Nicholls has never been afraid of running his Grade One winners in handicaps, and thinks it is valid route.

“I don’t know why others don’t run Grade One winners in handicaps – but with him, there aren’t many options for a run before the Tingle Creek,” he added.

“Cheltenham (Shloer Chase) is close enough, and this is great timing to the Tingle Creek.

“To run in a Tingle Creek you’ve got to be bang on it. Frodon showed we can get horses to win Grade Ones first time out. But this lad is different – he needs a run to take the freshness out of him.

“It’s a limited handicap, so he’s nicely in – and at the end of the day, he’s not going for a day out. He’ll run well, but it’s a huge test at the weights.”

Nicholls has made no secret of the regard in which he holds Hitman, who maybe did not quite reach the expected heights last season and has since had a breathing operation.

Hitman is expected to develop into a top-class chaser this season
Hitman is expected to develop into a top-class chaser this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“It wasn’t anything major – we thought his palate just needed sorting. It wasn’t a big problem – it was why he ran in a tongue tie last year,” said Nicholls.

“He’s got the right profile as a second-season novice and he’s getting 17lb off Greaneteen, so it’s a nice starting point for him as well.

“He’s fit and well, and I hope he’ll run very well. It’s a slightly shorter trip than he was running over last season – but he’s not short of speed, (and) it’s nearly two and a quarter miles.

“You could argue the last day at Aintree two and a half miles was just far enough for him. But he’s a stronger horse now, and the trip should be fine.”

While Hitman holds an entry in this month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, a good run at Exeter could put him in the Tingle Creek frame.

“At the moment he’s got 17lb to find with the top horse, so he’s got to improve,” said Nicholls.

“He wants to be winning this if he’s going for the Tingle Creek, but this will tell us a lot about where we go afterwards. It will be very informative.

“From the back end of last season, this has been his target, and he’s hopefully ready for the task.

“He’s in the Paddy Power, but it’s an early closer and it’s just an option – it’s never been a target. He could stand on a stone in the morning, and you need other options.

“I feel he’ll be running in the better two-mile races later in the season, but you need a horse that stays well in the good two-mile races. He might want three miles later on, we’ll see.”

Last year’s runner-up Moonlighter, Eldorado Allen, King D’argent and Zanza complete the field.

Tizzard double fuels Festival hopes

A short-priced double in spring-like conditions at Exeter fuelled hopes that Colin Tizzard’s yard is returning to form just in time Cheltenham next week.

Tizzard’s Dorset stable has struggled for much of the season, but smooth victories from Killer Kane and Amarillo Sky – both under Harry Cobden – confirmed the green shoots of recovery which have been in evidence of late.

Killer Kane was sent off 5-6 favourite for the Get Daily Tips At Maiden Hurdle, dominating the final mile to come home five and a half lengths clear from Our Surprise.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard sees the winner as a future chaser, and said: “He’s a lovely big baby who wasn’t doing a lot in front, but quickened up nicely for one tiny smack.

“Everything he does over hurdles is a bonus.”

Cobden added: “He’s very big and raw – and the couple of times I asked him to put in an extra stride, he did. I think he’s going to be a staying type. He wants two and a half now, and will need three miles when he gets a bit older.”

Two of the yard’s highest-profile Festival contenders are WellChild Gold Cup pair Native River and Lostintranslation.

Tizzard gave an upbeat report on both.

He said of 2018 winner Native River: “He came out of his last race (victory in the Cotswold Chase) really well and has enjoyed a little break.

“The rain that’s forecast in the next few days will definitely help him.”

Lostintranslation was third in last year’s Gold Cup but has failed to rediscover that form in three starts this season.

Tizzard said: “Lostintranslation looks a lot fitter than he did at Newbury (a distant fifth in the Denman Chase) and scoped clean after the race.

“We have not given up hope of getting him back to where we were with him on Gold Cup day last year.”

Amarillo Sky could be named the winner of the Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap Hurdle some way out, as Cobden confidently let the 5-2 favourite go about his business and stretch seven lengths clear of Steady Away.

“I thought his novice hurdle form was OK, and he got stuck in the mud at Huntingdon,” said Tizzard.

“He loved that better ground, and is a beautiful young horse who is at the right end of the handicap.”

Nico de Boinville was successful with his only ride of the day when 6-4 joint-favourite Valsheda won the opening Watch Racing TV In Stunning HD Novices’ Hurdle for Nicky Henderson.

After the combination had come home four lengths clear of Johnny B, De Boinville said: “He’s a big, raw horse with so much potential.

“Doncaster (distant second on debut) was part of the learning curve, and I was keen to get him back upsides Party Fuzz. We’re looking forward to getting him over fences.”

Run To Milan was a popular locally-trained winner, taking control up the straight in the Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Under Alan Johns, the bottom weight and 4-1 joint-favourite pulled 12 lengths clear of Larkbarrow Lad, and trainer Victor Dartnall said: “He was a good horse until getting injured on his first run over fences at Uttoxeter.

“He’d beaten Lalor in a bumper at Wincanton, and still has few miles on the clock.

“He came back at Fakenham, where he made a mistake and overreached, dragging two shoes off. This ground was perfect, but he wouldn’t want it any quicker than good.”

There was a 40-1 shock in the Watch On Racing TV Handicap Chase when Bonanza Sam made virtually all under conditional Alexander Thorne to beat Writteninthesand by two and a quarter lengths.

Oscar back on winning form with Exeter verdict

Wilde About Oscar returned to form with a bang to take the Listed spoils in the Bet At Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter.

The Dan Skelton-trained gelding had looked a smart recruit when winning both his novice hurdles in the autumn, only to come unstuck in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury when stepped up to Grade One company.

The six-year-old got back on track with a dominant display under an enterprising ride by Harry Skelton.

Leading before the second flight, Wilde About Oscar (16-5) was far too strong for The Glancing Queen and crossed the line seven and a half lengths clear of the evens favourite.

The winning trainer said: “I’m really happy with him. At Newbury he hit four out and just stopped – whether he had a dead leg or something, I’ll just never know.

“Other than at Newbury, he’s having a really smart career and today he showed he could handle tough conditions.

“He jumped very well, just a little out to his left sometimes. It was his first time going right-handed, so I’m not too bothered about that.

“It was confirmation we are back on track and that we’ve got a really nice horse.

“Going up in trip to two and a half (miles) is no issue. I’m very happy with him. I always thought he was a good horse. I’ve never lost faith, (he had) just one funny run.

“The form of today’s race was very good. The mare (The Glancing Queen) is good and we’ve had to give her 7lb.”

Wilde About Oscar was cut to 25-1 from 40-1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham with Paddy Power, but whether he takes up that engagement has yet to be decided.

“I’ve spoken to Mike (Newbould) his owner. We’re yet to decide what we’re going to do with him,” said Skelton.

“We’re not going to put him under pressure. We’ll give him a week and see how he is.”

Brinkley earned a quote of 16-1 for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham with Paddy Power after running out a game winner of the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Series Qualifier.

The David Pipe-trained grey was never too far off the pace before taking closer order in the straight.

Leading before the final flight, Brinkley (100-30) kept on strongly to deny Tommy Rapper by three and a quarter lengths.

“He has qualified for the Pertemps Final now, but I need to sit and have a chat with the owners (to see) if they want to go there or look at something else,” said Pipe.

“If it was like this ground you would have to take a chance, but if it was good to soft ground you might miss it.”

That success gave Pipe and Scudamore a double after Martinhal (4-1) struck gold in the British Stallion Studs EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

The six-year-old staged a game front-running performance as he backed up a course success five weeks ago to hold Solwara One by a head.

“It was a lovely performance and he is a horse we have always liked. He disappointed after his first two runs over hurdles as he never really finished his races, but the wind operation has helped him,” said the Nicholashayne trainer.

“To me he is a three-miler, but he never finished those first two races, so we dropped him back to two miles and one furlong here last time and stepped him back up a little bit further today.” 

Karl Philippe had found Martinhal half a length too good on his latest start, but made no mistake as he got off the mark over jumps in the second division of the novice hurdle.

Fergal O’Brien’s six-year-old also made all the running with Paddy Brennan able to dictate affairs. The 6-4 favourite ran the opposition into the ground, coming home 10 lengths clear of Sheldon, with a further 14 lengths to One Fer Mamma in third.

“He definitely deserved that. We decided to be more positive on him today and the step up in trip has helped him as well,” said O’Brien.

“The step up in trip looked ideal for him and he loves that ground.”

Karl Philippe will now head to Sandown for the EBF Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

“The thinking is to go for the EBF Final now at Sandown. It’s a race we won a few years ago with Barney Dwan, so hopefully he can follow in his hoofprints.” the Cheltenham trainer added.

Inspection at Warwick but hopes high for Monday action

Warwick’s big rearranged meeting on Monday looks set to beat the weather, despite an inspection being called for 3pm on Sunday.

The card scheduled for Saturday was called off on Friday, but plans were in place to move the whole fixture and it looks a wise decision.

Clerk of the course Jane Hedley said: “It’s Baltic this (Saturday) morning so we definitely took the right decision.

“We’re going to have an inspection at 3pm tomorrow, we’ll start lifting the covers tomorrow morning, they may as well stay in place the rest of today.

“Temperatures are set to get to the heady heights of 1C tonight before getting to four or five Sunday. Then a band of rain comes through and it gets milder still, up to about 10C by Monday lunchtime.

“A lot of the areas that are covered are raceable already, it’s just some of the bare patches and some areas in the back straight that were never going to come round.

“I think we’ll be in a good place by tomorrow afternoon and a better one by Monday – it’s amazing how mild it’s going to be and it’s amazing the job the frost covers have done. I wouldn’t be as confident without them.”

Exeter’s meeting on Sunday faces an 8.30am inspection.

Clerk of the course Dan Cooper tweeted: “Every reason to keep looking at @ExeterRaces conditions based on the forecast for lows into Saturday morning.

“However, we are -1 this evening and temperatures need to improve, some suggestion it will. The time frozen places take to defrost remains a risk. Inspection 8:30am Sun.”

Tuesday’s meeting at Carlisle faces a 3pm inspection on Monday due to a frozen track, while Catterick’s fixture, moved from Monday to Tuesday, has no inspection planned as yet with temperatures due to rise.

Sedgefield abandoned – after four inspections

Sedgefield was forced to abandon Monday’s meeting after a fourth inspection of the course – which took place at 12.30pm, the initial scheduled time of the first race.

Hopes rose for much of the morning that temperatures would increase sufficiently to allow the seven-race card to go ahead, having dipped to -2C overnight.

But they never did so, as the winter sun faded and cloud cover moved back in – with frost still in the ground.

After an initial inspection on Sunday afternoon, the announcement of another at 8.30am – put back to 10am – and then two more, the abandonment was finally confirmed on Sedgefield’s official Twitter feed.

It read: “Unfortunately racing today is abandoned.”

Clerk of the course Michael Naughton said: “The stewards took everything into account, and it was just the odd patches that were still frozen. It wasn’t worth taking the risk for safety reasons.

“It had improved, and the sun is back out again. In another hour we may have been OK, but we couldn’t put it back any further and have another inspection.”

In the hours up to 12.30, it was clear several trainers were not prepared to let their horses take part – with 26 non-runners announced because of the going.

Naughton added: “It was just patches of the course that were giving us problems.

“The majority of the course was OK. There were a couple of patches where the clouds went against us. At one point cloud cover came over, and it started cooling down again. Everything that could go against us did go against us.

“There was nothing more we could do. A lot of people made the effort to get here, so we thought we’d push it to the wire if we can and see what we could do.”

There were mixed outcomes from two inspections elsewhere on Monday morning, for Wednesday’s racing.

Exeter’s card was abandoned because of waterlogging, after 17mm of rain since Sunday morning.

Warwick may yet go ahead, however, as standing water receded – but the meeting will be subject to a second check at 2pm on Tuesday, with further rain forecast.

In Ireland, Tuesday’s meeting at Limerick has been called off because of waterlogging.

There will be an inspection on Tuesday morning for Thursday’s card at Wincanton, where there is standing water and further rain forecast on heavy ground.

Sedgefield faces fourth inspection

Sedgefield’s meeting on Monday hinges on a fourth inspection at the track – at 12.30pm, which was initially the scheduled time of the opening race.

The course passed an initial check on Sunday afternoon, as frozen conditions began to improve, with a second inspection announced for 830am on Monday.

That was put back by an hour and a half, however, in the hope that temperatures would continue to rise – having dipped to minus 2C overnight.

The course was still not raceable, though, and it was announced a further inspection must take place at 11.30am.

That too was inconclusive, and a Tweet on Sedgefield’s official feed read: “We’re doing everything we can to help our fixture go ahead so we’ll be having a further inspection at 12.30pm.”

The ground is described as heavy for the scheduled seven-race card.

There were mixed outcomes from two inspections elsewhere on Monday morning, for Wednesday’s racing.

Exeter’s card was abandoned because of waterlogging, after 17mm of rain since Sunday morning.

Warwick may yet go ahead, however, as standing water receded – but the meeting will be subject to a second check at 2pm on Tuesday, with further rain forecast.

In Ireland, Tuesday’s meeting at Limerick is off because of waterlogging.

There will be an inspection on Tuesday morning for Thursday’s card at Wincanton, where there is standing water and further rain forecast on heavy ground.

Sedgefield waits on mid-morning inspection

Sedgefield’s meeting on Monday hinges on a 10am inspection.

The course passed an initial check on Sunday afternoon, as frozen conditions began to improve, with a second inspection announced for 830am on Monday.

That was put back by an hour and a half, however, in the hope that temperatures will continue to rise – having dipped to minus 2C overnight.

A Tweet from the course read: “Inspection has been pushed to 10am. Temperatures are set to rise above 0 before 9am”.

The going is described as heavy for the scheduled seven-race card.

There were mixed outcomes from two inspections elsewhere on Monday morning, for Wednesday’s racing.

Exeter’s card was abandoned because of waterlogging, after 17mm of rain since Sunday morning.

Warwick may yet go ahead, however, as standing water receded – but the meeting will be subject to a second check at 2pm on Tuesday, with further rain forecast.

In Ireland, Tuesday’s meeting at Limerick is off because of waterlogging.

Bear Ghylls conquers Exeter

Bear Ghylls gave his supporters a couple of minor scares before maintaining his unbeaten record in the MansionBet’s Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Hurdle at Exeter.

Nicky Martin’s exciting six-year-old made mistakes at two of the last three obstacles, but it had no bearing on the result as he ran out a decisive winner.

Matt Griffiths had Bear Ghylls just off the pace set by course specialist Trans Express but he was going so well he had a share of the lead four out.

Bear Ghylls (10-11 favourite) was soon in front and controlling the race, despite being untidy at the last third last and the final flight.

He ran on strongly to the line to score by five lengths from Stormy Flight. Elysian Flame was a head away in third place.

“There’s always pressure when they’re unbeaten. I’m absolutely delighted,” said his Somerset trainer Martin.

“He’s very green still. The problem is he jumps foot perfect at home but on the racecourse he doesn’t seem to respect the hurdles very well.

“He’s only had four runs and first time in a handicap, so it’s very good.

“We’ll probably try to find a Graded race rather than a handicap, which was the original idea. Then obviously Cheltenham was abandoned on the first (of January) which is where he was meant to go.

“We’ll just make sure he comes out of the race all right and have a look at something in a month’s time.”

Crossley Tender (11-2) won for the second time at Exeter and the fourth in all this season with a decent staying display in the MansionBet Bet 10 Get 20 Handicap Chase.

Paul Henderson’s eight-year-old made his stamina tell by coming through to lead at the final fence and galloping on strongly to beat Samuel Jackson by six and a half lengths.

“I think the ground was a little bit quicker than the last time he ran, and I think that suits him better,” said the Hampshire trainer.

“The horse is very well and is in a rich vein of form.

“He had a bad back last year, but we didn’t know until he ran really badly one day and didn’t jump at all well.

“Now we know we have a girl (Georgia) who looks at his back, and so we keep on top of it. We have a back lady who comes in, and she showed her how to treat it. That’s made all the difference.

“He’s a good jumper but he just wasn’t quite there – but he’s much better now.

“I’ve not had a look at the race programme. We’ll see how he goes. He’s maintained his form and he hardly blew when he came back in.”

There was a power cut shortly after that race, and the clerk of the scales reported the riders were unable to weigh in – but the stewards were satisfied the correct weight had been carried throughout and confirmed the placing of all finishers. The two later contests went ahead as planned.

David Pipe and Tom Scudamore, fresh from their Grade One success with Adagio in the Finale Juvenile at Chepstow on Saturday, had earlier continued the good work with Martinhal (100-30) in the MansionBet Faller Insurance Maiden Hurdle.

The six-year-old, having his first run since undergoing wind surgery, got off the mark over jumps with a game win by half a length from Karl Philippe.

Sunday inspection called ahead of Exeter card

Exeter clerk of the course Daniel Cooper is optimistic of Sunday’s meeting going ahead after the track passed an inspection on Saturday.

Officials had planned a 4pm check as the course was reported to be frozen in places and unraceable on Friday afternoon.

However, that check was brought forward and with the track now raceable following a considerable improvement, Cooper will hold an 8am precautionary inspection on raceday morning due to the threat of another overnight frost.

He said: “We are currently raceable. We have gone out earlier than planned as it just gives people a better idea of where we are and temperatures are currently hovering around 2C or 3C.

“I am a bit nervous about the overnight forecast with the temperature due to drop again, but I’d say we probably have a 60 per cent chance of racing.

“I’m optimistic with the frost covers we have got down, but we will have a precautionary inspection.”

A full programme of racing in Britain went ahead on Saturday after National Hunt meetings at Chepstow, Kempton and Wincanton all survived morning inspections.

Sunday’s meeting at Naas will not take place though, with track unfit for racing due to frost.

The fixture, which is highlighted by the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle, has been rescheduled for Wednesday.

Exeter frozen off

Friday’s meeting at Exeter has been called off due to a frozen track.

An initial inspection was held at 9.30am and while the frost sheets deployed on the track had done their job, officials were concerned by a slow rise in temperature, forcing another check.

That 10.30am inspection showed there had not been sufficient improvement in conditions, with the track tweeting: “Unfortunately, we have not passed this morning’s second inspection. New Year’s Day Racing at Exeter has been abandoned.”

Musselburgh is the only jumps meeting to go ahead after it passed an 8am precautionary check. The card scheduled for Cheltenham had already been cancelled earlier in the week.

Saturday’s Cork card will also need a morning inspection, with officials planning to assess conditions at 8am.

An Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board statement said: “Due to the risk of frost overnight, there will be an 8am precautionary inspection at Cork tomorrow morning ahead of the fixture scheduled to take place on Saturday.

“Following a dry 24 hours the ground at Cork is now soft to heavy and the forecast is mainly dry and cold.”

The Big Breakaway meets with Exeter defeat

The Big Breakaway met with a shock defeat in the Download The tote Placepot App Novices’ Chase at Exeter as he had no answer to Bold Plan.

Colin Tizzard’s The Big Breakaway was the prohibitive 2-9 favourite having made a seamless transition to chasing at Cheltenham first time out this season.

Sent to Exeter for more experience before stepping up in class, with the bonus of picking up the best part of £20,000 into the bargain, Robbie Power was having to drive him into several early fences.

Lethargic at times, Sean Bowen was able to stealthily stalk the favourite on Bold Plan – winner of a good prize over hurdles at Haydock just over a year ago – and he always looked likely to have too much pace in the straight.

When The Big Breakaway got in tight to the last, Bold Plan jumped into an advantage and had no trouble in running out a length and a half winner to break a rather lean spell for his trainer Evan Williams.

Betfair eased The Big Breakaway out to 14-1 from 8s for the three-mile novice chase at Cheltenham, while the winner was introduced into the betting for the Marsh Chase at 33-1 by Paddy Power.

Williams – who quickly followed up with a Grade Two strike at Sandown courtesy of the impressive Star Gate – said of the winner: “We were taking on the second horse on our terms really as I don’t think he’s a two-and-a-half-miler.

“Strictly speaking it was a muddle of a race, but our little fella does have a good turn of foot while the second horse is more of a galloper.

“I don’t really see him as a graded horse, but in saying that he did win a very good handicap at Haydock over hurdles.

“I think with our horse he’s very good on his day, but his days are very in and out is what I’ll say. When he’s good, he’s very good.”

Fiddlerontheroof sees off Silver Hallmark for first victory over fences

Fiddlerontheroof put up an ultra-game display to open his account over fences at Exeter.

Winner of the Grade One Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle in January, Fiddlerontheroof had been beaten on his chasing debut by If The Cap Fits at Ffos Las last month, but he learnt plenty from that experience.

Robbie Power set a steady pace as he attempted to make all the running in the Racing TV HD On sky 426 Beginners’ Chase over two miles and three furlongs and he put in a good round of jumping.

Market rival Sporting John was expected to be the big danger, but he was a big disappointment and was out of contention from the third-last fence.

It was left to the Fergal O’Brien-trained Silver Hallmark to put it up to Fiddleronthehoof (11-10) and he took a narrow lead two out. There was nothing between the pair at the last, but Colin Tizzard’s charge found extra on the run-in to score by a head.

“He put his Ffos Las experience to good use,” said Tizzard.

“He’s a good, solid horse. I think we’ll see him over three miles before too long, but he got the job done.

“It’s just nice to see. Whether he needs to go up (in trip) now, I don’t know.

“The ground is only just good at the moment. In the winter we do know he handles the heavy as well. He’s a strong horse so it’s good going forward.”

He added: “They need to have three or four weeks off. We don’t want to empty him out before Cheltenham, but there are good races coming up before then.

“I suppose we’ll be looking at the one around Kempton (Kauto Star Novices’ Chase). That’s only a month on.

“It’s just nice to see him win and we can sit down and think about it in a day or two.”

Fiddlerontheroof is 25-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Betway and was cut to that price from 33-1 with Paddy Power. Coral gave him a quotes of 20-1 for the Marsh and also the RSA Chase.

Tizzard and Power were completing a double after the win by Ofalltheginjoints (85-40 favourite) in the limited handicap chase.

Greaneteen is Haldon hero as Nicholls and Cobden dominate at Exeter

Greaneteen joined an illustrious list of Paul Nicholls-trained runners to land the Haldon Gold Cup after forming the feature leg of a four-timer for the Ditcheat handler and jockey Harry Cobden at Exeter.

Fourth in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the six-year-old made the perfect return as he gave Nicholls a seventh victory in the race he has won with the likes of Azertyuiop, Flagship Uberalles and Politologue.

Racing mid-division for much of the extended two-mile-one-furlong prize, the well-supported 15-8 favourite moved effortlessly into contention before going off in pursuit of long-time leader Moonlighter down the home straight.

After making a small mistake at the second-last it looked like the advantage was with Moonlighter, only for the Chris Giles-owned winner to gained a second wind and get up almost on the line and score by a neck.

Nicholls said: “Jumping the second-last he made half a mistake and half blew up. Harry said he then filled his lungs and stayed on strongly. I’d say he would improve for the run a bit.

“The great thing was he settled for the first time – last year he was keen in his races. Harry was well impressed. He said he has loads of boot for two miles and jumps well but said he would be better eventually over two and a half.

“Apart from two out, when he needed one, his jumping was good, and he had to dig deep. He got a little bit unlucky in the Grand Annual and that taught him a lot, funnily enough. I think he will keep going forward.”

Greaneteen will now be pitched in at Grade One level for the first time in Tingle Creek at Sandown on December 5, for which he was cut to 6-1 by Betfair and Ladbrokes.

Nicholls said: “He is going to go up a bit and when you go up to the 160s you are just as well running in graded races than in handicaps to be honest, and I suspect that (Tingle Creek) is where we will go.

“He will have to take another step forwards, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.”

Grade One company is also likely to beckon for Enrilo, who made his second start over fences a winning one under Cobden in the Kate Brook Novices’ Chase.

Nicholls said of the 4-6 winner: “He is a nice horse that is still learning. He didn’t have that many runs over hurdles. He was still a little bit green in front, but he has got a nice engine.

“I just said to his owners we will probably head off to the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (at Kempton) on Boxing Day.”

The 11-times champion trainer plans to explore big-race race options for Bravemansgame (8-11) following his 11-length victory in the Kennford Novices’ Hurdle.

Nicholls said: “He is a big, progressive horse that will keep going forward and is a chaser in the making. I’m thrilled with him.

“He is a horse you could run in a Challow Hurdle. I wouldn’t be afraid of doing that. He is well capable of running in graded races with novices.”

Flash Collonges (10-1) got the ball rolling for Nicholls and Cobden when springing something of a surprise on his debut in division one of the Kenn Novices’ Hurdle.

Nicholls said: “That was a pleasant surprise. I thought if he finished fifth or sixth today then he would improve tenfold for the run.

“When he gets his act together and polishes up he will be all right.”

Bobhopeornohope (17-2) showed a tenacious attitude to rally back after being headed late on to land the opening division of the extended two-mile-five prize by a length and three-quarters.

Trainer Kim Bailey said: “I said to the owners after he jumped the first this horse is pulling too hard and he can’t possibly survive at this pace.

“He has toughed it out really well. I thought he was going to run a good race and finish second.”

Jersey Bean (11-2) gave Oliver Sherwood his first winner at the Devon track in more than five years when following up his recent Newton Abbot success in the Harcombe Handicap Chase.

Winning rider Brendan Powell said: “Oliver said he had come on lots for his first run and he ground it out well last time.

“He jumped good today and kept on gamely. I think he just outstayed them.”

Greaneteen bids to become Nicholls’ next Haldon hero

Greaneteen bids to provide Paul Nicholls with a seventh victory in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.

It is 22 years since the Ditcheat handler first claimed the Grade Two prize with Lake Kariba (1998) – since when he has added to his tally with Flagship Uberalles (1999), Azertyuiop (2004), Tchico Polos (2010), Vibrato Valtat (2015) and Politologue (2017).

Flagship Uberalles, Azertyuiop and Politologue all feature on the roll of honour for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, with Flagship Uberalles and Politologue also claiming victory in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

Nicholls is hoping Greaneteen, who won his first three starts over fences last season before finishing fourth in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in March, can earn himself a shot at the top level with a successful reappearance on Tuesday.

Nicholls said: “He’s had this as his target since he came in, and we’re looking forward to him running.

“He appears in good shape, and we’re hopeful of a good run.”

Esprit Du Large makes his seasonal reappearance
Esprit Du Large makes his seasonal reappearance (Mark Kerton/PA)

Ben Pauling’s Global Citizen and the Evan Williams-trained Esprit Du Large both run for the first time since contesting the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in the spring. Global Citizen finished fourth, while Esprit Du Large fell two fences from home.

“This is a race we thought might suit. It’s competitive, but we’ll give it a go,” said Williams.

“It’s a starting point, and you’ve got to start somewhere. It was either go up to Carlisle on Sunday and start on deep ground, or go down to Exeter and start on a less taxing surface, so we thought we’d go down there.

“I think the majority of the horses in the race are in the same type of boat – it’s all about who has improved and who hasn’t. This will tell us where everyone is.

“The only place to find out if we’ve improved is on the race track. We’ll soon know where we are.”

Mick Channon’s Glen Forsa has not been seen in competitive action since finishing third in a Newbury handicap chase 12 months ago.

Channon said: “He’s in great heart, and we’re very hopeful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very hot race, but he couldn’t be in better nick.

“He had a little setback after Newbury – but his preparation for this race has gone well, and I’m very pleased with him.

“He’s been very consistent in what he’s done, so we’ll see what happens.”

The weights are headed by Bun Doran, whose trainer Tom George has won the race on three occasions – twice with the popular God’s Own and once with Sir Valentino.

Dan Skelton’s Not That Fuisse and Marracudja, Colin Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos, the David Brace-trained Pink Eyed Pedro and Moonlighter from Nick Williams’ yard complete the line-up.