Tag Archive for: Ga Law

Ga Law set to be supplemented for Ryanair

Jamie Snowden is considering adding Ga Law to the Ryanair Chase field after his taking Cheltenham success on Trials day.

The eight-year-old finished fifth in the Festival Grade One last season, his second run at the track following victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup earlier that term.

He returned to Prestbury Park to run over the same trip in a valuable handicap on January 27, the last meeting there before the Festival, and prevailed by a length and three quarters in a pleasing performance under Gavin Sheehan.

That run has inspired connections to think about putting Ga Law forward for another run in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival, for which he will require supplementing as the entries have closed.

“I think we’ll end up supplementing him for the Ryanair,” said Snowden.

Ga Law and Gavin Sheehan after winning the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase
Ga Law and Gavin Sheehan after winning the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase (Nigel French/PA)

“He won the Paddy Power Gold Cup the previous year and he would have won the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster but he had a nasty fall at the last and that kind of derailed us a bit last season.

“He still finished fifth in the Ryanair last year but he probably wasn’t in the sort of form he’s been in this time around.

“It was nice to see him back on track winning the feature handicap on Trials day and off the back of that the Ryanair looks the right race for him.

“He won the Paddy Power on the Old course but I think he ran an even better race the other day on the New course.

“The New course, which is more of a test of stamina, perhaps suits him more than the Old course, which is more of a test of speed.

Ga Law earlier in his career at Exeter
Ga Law earlier in his career at Exeter (David Davies/PA)

“He ran well in the Ryanair last year when not in the form that he’s in now so hopefully he can go there and run a decent race.”

Snowden also provided an update on Reach For The Moon, who was bred by the late Queen and is owned by Queen Camilla and Sir Chips Keswick.

Twice placed at Royal Ascot in his days on the Flat with John and Thady Gosden, he made his hurdling debut at Sedgefield earlier this month and finished fourth when coming home lame.

Snowden said of the gelding: “He was a bit sore off the back of that first run over hurdles, we’re going to give him a moment to get over that and take him out of the Supreme Novices’.

“We’ll give him time to get over it and then come back in the spring.”

Roving Reports: “Are you sure?”

It’s 6.50am on Saturday morning, and the alarm has just bleeped its way through the first of three wake-up calls (copyright D. Thompson), writes David Massey. The other two, which will come at 6.55 and 7am, signify the start of what has become known among jumps fans as Trials Day, but the good lady is having her own trials at the moment, torn between wanting to come for a day at the races with me, and the immediate warmth and comfort of a lie-in. 

“Eh, what, errrr, what?” is the reply I get when I ask if she’s tagging along. Unsure of whether this is a yes, no or maybe, I give her another five minutes to make up her mind before she decides that yes, she’s coming along for the entertainment. I know this means I’ll be driving home tonight in silence, as her falling asleep on the way home is now the nap of the day. Quite literally. 

We’re out of the house for eight, as I have to be there for around ten due to working on the rails today. It’s the usual stop-off at the Maccies two miles from our house for breakfast and it’s the usual muck-up with the order too, as somehow they manage to put cheese on both of our bacon rolls. Now I like cheese, and I like bacon, a lot, but just not together. One of these times, they’ll get the order right. (Wrong coffees last time. More trials…) 

So, after an early start and the wrong food order, you can imagine the good lady is already in a cracking mood. I turn the radio up, which seems like a good idea. 

Driving down, we can see how the floods have receded around the Worcester area. Last time we drove this way the Avon had flooded badly, and the fields were lakes, but most of it, all bar a bit just before Strensham where there was still some low-lying water, has disappeared. Amazing how quick the ground has recovered. 

The morning call comes in from my writing colleague Rory Delargy as I drive down. Rory, as many of you will know, is working in Riyadh half the time at present. At the weekend he flies into Dublin to do the PP Podcast on a Monday with Ruby Walsh before flying back. He’s spent more miles in the air than your average Arctic Tern this winter. 

He’s also in the bad books of the good lady after forgetting the time difference between Riyadh and Nottingham the other morning, and ringing me at precisely 5.56am. I know this, because the good lady looked at her alarm clock before asking the not unreasonable question “who the f**k is ringing you at 5.56am?” I saw it was Rory, immediately realised what he’d done, and declined the call. He called back at 5.58am, which only made a bad situation worse.  

We make good time and are there for just before ten, which means I get time to say a few hellos to some fellow press and photographers. “Going to Yarmouth this year?” asks one of the snappers. He knows full well I’m not, which is why he keeps asking every time he sees me. I tell him I’m having a badge made that says “NOT GOING TO YARMOUTH” that I can point to every time he asks me. 

Anyway, the pick is made at 10.30 and I’m stood next to Pinno, so it’ll be an afternoon of him asking me questions that all end in the words “Davey Boy.” “Can we get this jolly beat, Davey Boy?” is the first of them. He’s referring to Burdett Road, who was the favourite when he asked, but they flip-flop and Sir Gino then heads the market. It’s normally slow to get going but not today: it’s lively out there, and in comes a grand on Burdett Road at 11-8. That’s followed by a £200 on Sir Gino, and clearly this is a race that’s divided opinion. As it should! We go the right way with Sir Gino and we’re off to a good start. 

The next, though, is not so good. We go 9-2 Ginny’s Destiny near the off, having not taken much for it, and I’m filled in good and proper. Bets are flying in at me, 40s and 50s, a 200 win and a 400 win. I can just about keep up. Two out I think we’ve a chance with Es Perfecto, but by the time the last comes around, it’s game over. A 3k+ payout, which not only hits your float hard, but the line to get paid out is long, and doesn’t help my business for the next. 

Here’s Tracy, one of my favourite punters. A Cheltenham member, she has a fiver on every race and if you followed her blind, you’d not go far wrong. Always cheery and smiling, she has a fiver on Ga Law for the next. A minute later, I take a 300ew at 7s the same horse and when that romps home, that’s my float done. I go and ask the boss for more money. “Try to stop laying winners, that might help.” I’ll write that down, might come in handy. 

Capodanno is a better result for us and stops the rot, but now it’s Jonbon time. I’m betting with and without the jolly, and there’s plenty want to back Nube Negra without the favourite at 4-1. I do NOT take an each-way bet on Jonbon - a first - but one lady wants £2 on him just so she can say she backed a winner. I don’t need to tell you how that went. 

I have a group of young lads and lasses not far in front of me at the off. Whilst Jonbon runs, they’re all taking Insta photos of one another with the track behind them. None of them has any interest in what's going on. When Jonbon clouts four out and raises a big “wooooh” from the crowd, it barely registers with them. Does it depress me? I’m afraid it does. 

Elixir De Nutz is all but a skinner. One person has had a tenner with me, and that’s it. When he picks his money up and informs me he actually backed the wrong horse… I tell him that, as he’s told me this information, I get to keep the winnings. For a split second I think he believed me. 

The flip side of a skinner, particularly when you’ve another odds-on jolly in the next, is that it kills business off. We’re all stood around looking at one another for much of the next half-hour. I go off to fetch some chocolate which I intend sharing with Joanne, three doors down from me, working for Ken Howells. We often share biscuits and cakes and the like and when I return, she’s deep in thought counting money. I just stand there, holding the Mars Bar, and she bursts out laughing. “What are you laughing at?” I ask. “Because I know what’s coming, and I’m trying to concentrate!” she says, and I split the Mars in half. She doesn’t refuse. 

The crowd want Paisley Park to win, of course they do, and he nearly gets up in the Cleeve. We’re glad he didn’t, but I think we’re the only ones that are. That’s saved another long payout queue. Before the last I see my good friend and fellow Derby County supporter James, who informs me the Rams are one down. And his punting has gone badly. I also know he’s all-in on the Ravens to win the Superbowl. I’m guessing he’s had better weekends. Always tomorrow. 

Gidleigh Park is actually a fair result in the last. Business picked up for it but they all wanted Antrim Coast and Johnnywho, both of whom are well beat. 

And finally, the nap gets beat, as the good lady remains wide awake for the whole of the car journey home. Derby turn it around to win 2-1. And I've backed the first winner at Kempton. The journey home always seems shorter when you’ve had a winner. Scientific fact. 

Next stop, well, maybe Sandown this weekend. See you there. Probably. 

- DM

Monday Musings: Trials and a Tribulation

In many ways, Trials Day at Cheltenham 2024 did exactly what it said on the tin, writes Tony Stafford. But for one trainer, a successful, remunerative trial early in the afternoon had become a gut-wrenching tribulation half an hour later. Jamie Snowden had hardly finished celebrating Ga Law’s sparkling return to his Paddy Power Gold Cup winning form from December 2022, when his other stable star Datsalrightgino was stricken down with a fatal fall at the ninth fence of the immediately following Cotswold Chase.

I suppose plenty of our handlers can be described as target trainers, but the ex-Army man Snowden fits that description to a tee. Both his best horses had last raced on another major day, Newbury’s Coral Gold Cup meeting early in December, each going to post for the top race with uncertainty about whether they would stay the three miles, two furlongs at the headlong gallop the former Hennessy Gold Cup routinely becomes.

Both seven-year-olds (the ideal age for that race over more than half a century) at the time, Ga Law had been up with the pace until early in the straight second time round but faded and was thus brought back to 2m4f, the distance of his Paddy Power win.

This race carried less prizemoney, but £56k was decent enough. Like the slightly richer at £70k Cotswold Chase which followed, Paddy Power was again the sponsor, the handicap offering the nod to the firm’s Cheltenham Countdown Podcast.

In the Coral Gold Cup, Datsalrightgino definitively proved his stamina with a late-running effort under Gavin Sheehan. No doubt everyone was happy enough as the partnership sat at the rear of the small field on Saturday, anticipating a similar run through to Newbury’s. Sadly, though, in the manner of sound jumpers that had previously never fallen, his lapse proved fatal.

Over the years, a win or place in the Hennessy often signalled future stardom. Most glaringly, the 1992 runner-up Jodami, carried only 10st2lb yet won the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following March. The future had seemed to open with endless possibilities for Snowden and Datsalrightgino, who won the race under 5lb more and quite easily too.

That feast or famine setback was typical of racing in general and jump racing in particular. It came at a time when Snowden had been in a great run, winning a novice hurdle at Catterick with a potential Boodles Handicap Hurdle contender on Thursday and the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown on Friday with his stable newcomer Farceur Du Large.

A race he won as a rider four times, the Grand Military had eluded him until now but this ex-Irish 10-year-old who had achieved a great deal for Noel Meade until losing his form, admittedly in major handicaps over the past year, had slipped down to a rating of 130, the upper limit for the military race.

So, while not a handicap, but almost (apart from females) a level weights affair, it has become a nice target for horses like Farceur Du Large, that can meet vastly inferior opposition on much more favourable terms – not that his 11/1 starting price reflected his history or the fact that Jamie would have been ultra-keen to win it.

There were Festival hints throughout the weekend, including the hitherto invisible juvenile champion hurdler of 2022-3, Lossiemouth. Willie Mullins finally took the wraps off her in the Grade 2 Unibet Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle winner from last March and then slightly less overwhelmingly superior at Punchestown in April, metaphorically laughed at Love Envoi to win by just over nine lengths.

Speculation naturally followed as to whether she would be offered up alongside older stable-companion State Man as opposition to Constitution Hill. The reigning champ missed Saturday’s race just as he had the re-scheduled Fighting Fifth at Sandown last month, this time for a slight training issue rather than the fear of too-testing ground.

In that race, Love Envoi had been a slightly lesser distance behind Not So Sleepy, as Lossiemouth on Saturday, but really it could have been a fair bit more. Hughie Morrison’s old Timer Not So Sleepy has put together an exceptional hurdles record over the years, often spectacularly so.

Lossiemouth was quoted as a 10/1 shot in Champion Hurdle betting, behind only last year’s one-two, State Man being at around 9/2 and Constitution Hill, naturally odds-on. If Mullins decides to go the mares’ route, Lossiemouth is similarly odds on to join six-time winner of the race Quevega.  It’s hard to call it a substitute for the biggest prize. Admittedly, Honeysuckle stepped across to it last March to avoid Nicky Henderson’s emerging star rather than attempt to complete her personal hat-trick. I think she earned that little bit of latitude and understanding for her emotional farewell to the track.

In 2022, Marie’s Rock was a surprise 18/1 winner of the mares’ race for Nicky Henderson. Amazingly, she started joint-favourite at 9/4 with Honeysuckle for last year’s race when equally surprisingly she could manage only 7th of 9. There’s no sign to suggest the nine-year-old has any less talent than before as she showed in the feature race at Doncaster yesterday, the Warfield Mares Hurdle, Grade 2.

There, our old friend Coquelicot shared the pace for much of the way but, in the straight, class told and she had to be content with fourth place and just short of 2.5k for geegez.co.uk and Anthony Honeyball. It looked for a few strides that Marie’s Rock was about to be swamped for pace by You Wear It Well, winner of last year’s Mares’ Novice Hurdle at the Festival and attempting to bring a little joy to the Jamie Snowden camp.

Her stamina was unproven before the race, but now having got close to the Henderson mare, she will have more opportunities going forward. Dropping back to 2m4f at the Festival is a given for her and equally the winner, who showed just that little too much power for her on the demanding Doncaster run-in

The Gold Cup picture didn’t really look any clearer after Saturday. With Datsalrightgino not concerned in the finish, there was a Willie Mullins winner in Capodanno, but he is officially rated 21lb inferior to reigning champ Galopin Des Champs. Capodanno will possibly aim at the shorter Ryanair Chase for the Mullins stable, but there will be several ahead of him in the pecking order even for that race.

The latest episode in the on-going tussle between staying hurdlers Paisley Park, Dashel Drasher and Champ came in the Cleeve Hurdle. All three were in with a chance on the run-in at the end of the three miles and they finished in that order in second, fourth and fifth behind Noble Yeats, the 2022 Grand National winner.

Still only a nine-year-old, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t make a winning return to Aintree after his bold show under a massive weight last year and maybe stop off on the way in the Stayers Hurdle or even the Gold Cup as he did last year.

The excitement building that second-season trainer James Owen may have a potential Festival winner in his care will have cooled after Burdett Road was well beaten by market rival Sir Gino in the JCB Triumph Trial. Ten lengths was the margin about a horse that was pinched by Nicky Henderson from under the noses of the Mullins buying team (and other Irish connections, too) after it won a juvenile race in April last year at Auteuil. It’s easy to forget just how good Nicky is with juveniles and in the Triumph Hurdle, his seven wins in the race being a record.

 - TS

Snowden able to look back with pride on efforts of Cheltenham team

Jamie Snowden had a surprisingly clear head the morning after You Wear It Well took the Jack De Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and is in no rush to make plans for the Grade Two winner.

Nine years on from the Lambourn trainer’s first Festival success with Present View, Gavin Sheehan’s mount was up there all the wa and held off Magical Zoe to score at odds of 16-1.

“She trotted out like a gazelle,” Snowden said. “She’s fantastic, still biting everyone.”

The six-year-old, who is owned by Sir Chips Keswick, could head to Fairyhouse for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final on April 9.

Snowden said: “We will see how she is before making a plan. She is obviously still in the Grade One at Fairyhouse over Easter. I put her in that a couple of weeks ago.

“That is still an option, but we’ll see how we go with her.”

He added: “We will certainly jump a fence with her before her summer holiday and see where we go next year.”

Meanwhile Ga Law, winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November before falling when looking the likely winner of Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase in January, could still run in a Grand National, albeit the Scottish version.

The fast-improving seven-year-old stayed on to finish fifth to Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase.

Ga Law could run in a Grand National after all - at Ayr
Ga Law could run in a Grand National after all – at Ayr (David Davies/PA)

“I thought it was a good run,” said Snowden. “Obviously we know he wants further than that trip, but we were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

“The Gold Cup was a silly option and the Ryanair was too short, but I think he has run to the same level of form he did in the Sky Bet Chase, which was improved form on the Paddy Power.

“I thought it was a cracking run, especially on the back of a nasty fall.

“The long-term plan will be next year’s Grand National. He stays very well, he’s just not very quick. He was outpaced all the way in the Paddy Power and stayed on up the hill.

“He has possibly run a career-best over a trip that is too short, first time up in Grade One company, so he’s run a belter to finish fifth.”

“He’s not qualified for the Grand National next month, so that is a great shame, as that would have been great for him.

“There is obviously the option of going for the Betfair Bowl at Aintree. There is the Grade Two Oaksey Chase at Sandown, which we will consider, and there is half an eye on the Scottish National as well. We have got a couple of options.”

Snowden is also looking to the future with Colonel Harry, whose brave effort to make all the running in the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso two weeks ago was scuppered when narrowly beaten by Nemean Lion.

The six-year-old had finished just behind Kerry Lee’s runner when fourth in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown and, having backed that up with victory at Newcastle, Snowden was content to see the the Grade One form hold fast.

Snowden is excited by the prospect of seeing Colonel Harry jumping fences next season
Snowden is excited by the prospect of seeing Colonel Harry jumping fences next season (Steven Paston/PA)

“It was a great run at Kelso, “ said Snowden. “That was over two miles two (furlongs). A lot of his pedigree is over two miles.

“I think he wants two miles on deep ground – I think that’s his ideal.

“It was a brave effort and it upheld the Tolworth form with Nemean Lion.

“He will be a lovely chaser for next season. We might have half a look at Aintree, depending on what the weather does, but he’s certainly one I’m looking forward to over a fence next year.”

Snowden admits Ryanair would be ‘sensible’ shout for Ga Law

Connections are still considering the best route to take with Ga Law – and whether the “sensible” option would be to run in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next week and forgo a Grand National bid this year.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup winner is also in the Boodles Gold Cup, a race which offers Ga Law a potential route to the National in that a first-four finish would secure his qualification criteria for Aintree.

He is, however, a big price for the blue riband and much shorter for the Ryanair – and the dilemma comes as Ga Law needs a top four finish over three miles for the National after falling in the Sky Bet Chase, a race he was very much in contention for at the time.

Snowden said: “If he is going to be a progressive horse in graded races next season, then this is the year to have a crack at the Grand National.

Ga Law and jockey Jonathan Burke after winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup
Ga Law and jockey Jonathan Burke after winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“But he fell at the last on his most recent start at Doncaster and even though the handicapper suggested he showed improved form over three miles, he is not qualified for the Grand National as he has not finished in the first four over three miles.

“The sensible route is to go to the Ryanair and forget about the Grand National. The Gold Cup is a seriously competitive race and we would have to run our heart out to finish fourth and if we did, it is only four weeks then until the Grand National.

“I think we confirm for the Ryanair and we confirm for the Gold Cup and we sit and wait until declarations and see what it all looks like and make a decision at the time. We have got ourselves into a tricky position, but a lovely position.”

Looking at options beyond the Ryanair, should that be the race he goes for, Snowden said: “If we went for the Ryanair, you could then have a look at one of the Grade One races at Aintree or the Grade Two Oaksey Chase at Sandown Park on the last day of the season.

“We don’t need to decide yet. We have the money in the bank from the Paddy Power and we can pay for the confirmation stage at Cheltenham and see what it looks like. We have come this far, so let’s kick the can down the road a little bit further.”

Ga Law could tackle Gold Cup before Grand National

Ga Law could bid to secure his Randox Grand National ticket by having a run in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

A faller when looking poised to win the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster, the Jamie Snowden-trained Ga Law is still not qualified for the Aintree spectacular.

The seven-year-old, who won the Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham in November, would need to finish in the first four in the Gold Cup to get into the National.

Snowden has something of a dilemma, as the seven-year-old is much better fancied for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in two weeks’ time.

Speaking at the Cheltenham handicap weights launch, Snowden said: “He won the Paddy Power here through stamina over two and a half miles.

“We were keen to go up in trip, and went to the Sky Bet Chase. He came to win the race and he fell at the last.

“He got a nasty cut on the leg that day, so has taken his time to get over that.

“We are very keen to try and qualify him for the National if we could. The handicapper put him up 2lb for the Sky Bet Chase fall, which suggests he’d shown improved form over three miles.

“It is obviously a little bit frustrating that you have to finish in the first four in order to qualify for the National, so we had him in at Kelso at the weekend over three miles. I think that might come just a little bit too soon, so we are still in the dilemma of trying to chase Shishkin home for a bit of prize-money in the Ryanair, or whether we go for Gold and try to pick up fourth and qualify for the National.”

Ga Law was a talented novice chaser whose upward trajectory was cruelly halted by a tendon injury just before the spring festivals in 2021.

A dejected Johnny Burke after Ga Law fell at Doncaster
A dejected Johnny Burke after Ga Law fell at Doncaster (Richard Sellers/PA)

That season, he won the Rising Star Novices’ Chase and was third behind Allmankind when tested at the top level in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase in December.

Back after 603 days off, he showed plenty of ability when third in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree before his win in the Paddy Power.

“As a novice chaser, he was borderline championship class,” added Snowden. “He has got form with Envoi Allen, Hitman, Allmankind, all those horses in the Henry VIII, Rising Stars’ and Pendil and the likes as a novice chaser.

“He was mixing it with the very best, but obviously had a year out and on the back of that it meant he was quite nicely handicapped going into races like the Paddy Power.

“He definitely has the ability to run in these kind of races, we just have to got to plot a route.

“I was kind of thinking he might be one for the Gold Cup next year as opposed to this year, but with the Grand National weights as they are, I think he’s nicely handicapped for that, if we can get the qualification in time.”

He added: “Michael Wainwright of Boodles, who is part-owner, wants to go for the Gold Cup, so it would be quite fitting if he ran in and won the 100th Gold Cup.”

Snowden also had news of You Wear It Well, runner-up in the Challow Hurdle before winning in great style at Sandown and on course for the Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in preference to the Albert Bartlett or Ballymore.

He said: “She is doing really well. She is a classy mare and has won three of her four novice hurdles this season and just got beat by Hermes Allen over two and a half miles. We held her up that day, but she is a quite keen going and free sort. She finished second and it was a great run.

“Had we gone forward who knows what might have happened. At Sandown we went forward with her and she won that pretty impressively. Luccia is obviously favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and we have some form lines that tie in closely with that, but she is a nice mare and we will go for that race.”

Snowden working out route to National tilt with Ga Law

Options are open for Jamie Snowden’s Ga Law as he looks to resume his path towards big spring targets.

The seven-year-old hit his stride instantly when starting the season with a second-placed run in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, after which he headed to Cheltenham to contest the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

At Prestbury Park he was a three-quarter-length winner over Mouse Morris’ French Dynamite, a performance that left him well-fancied for the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in late January.

For almost all of the race he looked worthy of his 3-1 joint-favourite status, but a fall at the last robbed him of what appeared a winning chance.

The bay sustained a few cuts as a result, but is now back in full training and could follow a number of paths to high-profile races at the peak of the season.

Ga Law winning the ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase at Wincanton Racecourse
Ga Law winning the ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase at Wincanton Racecourse (Michael Steele/PA)

The Grand National has been pencilled in for Ga Law for some time and Snowden would like to aim the bay at Kelso’s Premier Chase in preparation, but if that fixture looms too soon then the Cheltenham Festival may come into the equation.

The horse holds entries for the Ryanair, the Gold Cup and the Ultima Handicap, each one possessing both pros and cons that will have to be discussed by connections.

Snowden said: “He’s bounced out of the Doncaster race, he had a couple of cuts but thankfully they’ve all healed well and he’s back into his normal routine now.

“We’ve got various options with him, if he is going to go to the Grand National then he’s probably got to go the Premier Chase at Kelso.

“That might just come a little bit too soon, so we’ll have a look at Cheltenham as well. He’s got options in the Ryanair, the Gold Cup and maybe a handicap, but he would be carrying a fair bit of weight in the Ultima.

Ga Law with proud connections after winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup
Ga Law with proud connections after winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup (David Davies/PA)

“The Gold Cup is obviously a big step up in class, so certainly the Ryanair comes into consideration – especially with Allaho out.

“We’ll have a chat with the owners and work out a plan going forwards.”

Plenty of encouragement to take from Ga Law run despite late exit

Jamie Snowden has plenty of positives to take from Ga Law’s Sky Bet Chase run after a late fall denied him success at Doncaster on Saturday.

The seven-year-old went into the race as the 3-1 joint-favourite, a status owed in no small part to his victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November.

That win saw him carry top-weight of 12st on Town Moor for his first attempt over three miles, with Jonathan Burke in the saddle as he was at Cheltenham.

Ga Law was handling both the burden and the extended trip with aplomb when approaching the final fence level with eventual winner Cooper’s Cross, but a slightly low jump saw him brush through the fence and fall.

Both horse and rider got to their feet and as Ga Law picked up a few nicks his trainer will take stock before planning his next outing.

Ga Law winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Ga Law winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase (David Davies/PA)

“He’s OK, he was coming to either win his race or finish a very good second, which would have been a great run off that kind of welter burden for his first time over three miles,” said Snowden.

“He definitely stayed. It’s always a shame to come down at the last and nobody knows what would have happened, but he certainly would have been either first or second. It’s a great shame but it was a hell of a run under that kind of weight, we’re pleased with how he ran but of course disappointed with the result.

“He stayed well and was running a big race, we’ll just get him right and see where we are from there.

“He sustained a couple of small cuts so we will get those sorted out, get him back schooling and see where we want to go.

“We had a few plans up our sleeve had he won, but I think for now we’ll get him right, he’ll tell us how he is and we can go forward from there.”

Tea For Free chasing five-timer in Sky Bet heat

Tea For Free will look to continue a superb run of form when he lines up in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

The eight-year-old has gone from strength to strength this season, winning four consecutive handicap chases and seeing his mark rise from 105 to a current figure of 138.

That mark leaves him to carry 11st 2lb on Town Moor, but conditional rider Lilly Pinchin will claim 3lb as Tea For Free bids to make it five on the spin for trainer Charlie Longsdon.

“He’s well and in good form, we’re looking forward to seeing him go,” said Longsdon.

“It’s a step up in class but we’ll see what happens. He’s progressed, he’s massively progressed and he’s gone up nearly 30lb in the handicap but it’s a big step forward, so we’ll see.

Tea For Free and Lilly Pinchin
Tea For Free and Lilly Pinchin (Nigel French/PA)

“He’s proven at the trip, if he can cope with a quicker pace and a step up in class then that’s great, but if not we’ll just think again.

“Lilly is taking weight off and we couldn’t be happier, we’ll just keep our fingers crossed.”

Top weight is Jamie Snowden’s Ga Law, winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup and stepping up in trip for the first time.

“He’s only a young horse with very few miles on the clock and you’d like to think there’s a degree of improvement in him, and hopefully part of that improvement comes from going up in trip as well,” said Snowden.

“He’s in the Ryanair this year and we’ll certainly think along those lines depending on how he gets on.”

Kerry Lee’s Demachine will line up under Caoilin Quinn for his first run since finishing mid-division in a Cheltenham handicap chase on New Year’s Day.

Prior to that the nine-year-old was second on better ground in the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase at Newbury in November.

“He’s in good form, he was due to run at Ascot last weekend but obviously that didn’t happen,” said Lee.

Kerry Lee's Demachine
Kerry Lee’s Demachine (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’m not entirely sure he was suited to the track at Cheltenham, so we’re trying a flat track.

“I think he’ll like the better ground, it was May when he last won and the ground was good officially, it was that time of year when the ground is a bit drier than winter good.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Undersupervision landed the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster last term and returns to the same track to step down two furlongs in trip under the trainer’s son Sam.

Last seen pulled up at Newbury, the chestnut should benefit from better ground this time around.

“He didn’t really cope with the soft ground at Newbury, but we’re going back to Doncaster where he’s got form, so hopefully he’ll run really well,” Nigel Twiston-Davies told Sky Sports Racing.

Undersupervision during his hurdling career
Undersupervision during his hurdling career (Tim Goode/PA)

“He is a stayer and we’ll want a nice, strong pace hopefully. He’s definitely got an each-way chance.

“So many horses haven’t run, so they’re all there.”

Elsewhere in the race is Jonjo O’Neill’s former Coral Gold Cup winner Cloth Cap, with Nicky Henderson represented by last season’s Scilly Isles second, Mister Coffey.

The reigning champion in the race is Brian Ellison’s Windsor Avenue, who defends his title under Ross Chapman.

Christian Williams’ Cap Du Nord, third in the past two runnings, competes again, with Tom George’s Java Point, the Stuart Coltherd-trained Cooper’s Cross, Nick Alexander’s Elvis Mail and Shanty Alley from Ben Case’s yard completing the field.

Monday Musings: Anightinlambourn

When the Ben Pauling-trained mare Anightinlambourn battled bravely up the Cheltenham hill to win her third chase from her last four starts for the Ben Pauling stable, it might have been seen as an omen, writes Tony Stafford. Certainly so, that is, by two handlers (unlike Ben) who train in the Valley and who had fancied later runners on that middle Saturday of the big Paddy Power Gold Cup meeting.

The first has been a licence holder for almost four decades since the 1984-5 season and, before that, assistant to a great champion for another six of his ten years’ training apprenticeship. The other, who has had his yard in Lambourn for 11 years, has spent it honing a method where jumping-bred animals are produced and developed with the principal, nay almost single-minded, aim of turning them into high-class steeplechasers.

The first of our two heroes, as heroes they are, is Oliver Sherwood, Grand National-winning trainer, and now in his late 60’s and happily free of the malignant cancer that threatened to curtail his life last year. Now the smile is back, the drawn features are a vague, lost figment of the imagination and winners are rolling again.

From an Essex farming family, Oliver is the son of hunting enthusiast Nat and brother of Simon, General Manager and Clerk of the Course at Ludlow and, for a never-to-be-forgotten while, rider of the peerless Desert Orchid, on whom he won ten races, nine in succession before the grey fell at Aintree in their last race together.

It’s almost 25 years since such as Large Action, owned by Brian Stewart-Brown, helped Sherwood onto the top table of jump trainers alongside his fellow former Fred Winter assistant, Nicky Henderson. More recently he won the 2015 Grand National with the eight-year-old Many Clouds for his main patron, the late Trevor Hemmings, Mr Aintree in succession to Ginger McCain, Red Rum’s trainer.

Halfway between those times, a young army officer was serving in Iraq, but he emerged from that experience with a resolve. Jamie Snowden had always been interested in riding and horses. It was as a serving officer that he managed to weave a reputation as the best military rider of his era. His frequent wins at the Grand Military meeting at Sandown every March made him the ideal man to trust to build a betting bank for the Cheltenham Festival the following week.

It helped that at this point he spent time as an assistant with Paul Nicholls, who provided some of the Sandown winners and he was also a prolific winner of point-to-points.

Later he joined Henderson, a while after Charlie Longsdon had left to start training and it was for Charlie that Snowden partnered the winner of the most valuable race of his riding career. He had ridden the 10-year-old gelding Kerstino Two to three wins in succession – the horse’s first three starts after coming under Longsdon’s care – and they finished in the money the next twice.

Then, on January 6, 2007, at Sandown Park, they lined up for the £25k to the winner Ladbrokespoker.com Handicap Chase. They won by three lengths with Mr J Snowden claiming five pounds making the most of that military races experience to beat the 9/4 favourite, Preacher Boy, ridden by a certain A P McCoy. Then in turn came Noel Fehily, Tom O’Brien, Seamus Durack, Ruby Walsh, Paddy Merrigan, Daryl Jacob (claiming 3lb), and Charlie Studd. Paddy Brennan, Sam Thomas and Timmy Murphy all pulled up in completing the rollcall.

Both Longsdon and Snowden had moved on by the time Ray Tooth’s Punjabi had joined Henderson and, while he was winning his Champion Hurdle and a couple of Irish Grade 1 races, Ben Pauling and Tom Symonds had filled the role as joint-assistants.

By then, Jamie, with the serious riding just about out of his system, had set up at Folly House in Upper Lambourn. By Saturday at Cheltenham, I make it he had trained a total of 335 domestic winners, and Jamie Snowden Racing Ltd has completed the clean sweep of training winners at every UK jumps course.

Win number 335 was the most valuable prize and easily the race with the biggest prestige of his career to date. It was the £90k to the winner Paddy Power Gold Cup, the feature of the entire three days, which he took with well backed 5/1 shot Ga Law.

As befits an army man, the road to the Paddy Power was planned with (almost) military precision – he did think that maybe three weeks between a comeback after 600 days off and running back in such a big race might entail the risk of the dreaded “bounce”. Well, the only bounce was the way Ga Law jumped the formidable Cheltenham fences under Johnny Burke and they had more than enough to hold off the challengers coming up the hill.

For a six-year-old on only his ninth career start, this was an exceptional performance and the French-bred gelding, like all Jamie’s carefully sourced young horses, has a pedigree to match his ability.

Johnny Burke was also on our other equine star of the show and when I say star, I have no doubt that is exactly what Queens Gamble is destined to be. She had already shown herself to be well above average on her only previous start, also at Cheltenham at the April meeting, when I think it’s fair to say she caught her trainer slightly unawares, for as he says he never fully winds up his bumper horses on their debuts.

Queens Gamble is a daughter of Getaway from a winning mare which the owners raced with Jessica Harrington. She in turn was a daughter of Hawk Wing, favourite for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby of 2002 but second in turn to stable-mates Rock Of Gibraltar and High Chaparral, although he did win Group 1 races at two, three and four.

He didn’t produce anything like the 137-rated horse he was by the time of his retirement, but he was always slightly quirky and the fact he eventually was sent as a stallion to Korea tells its own story.

If Queens Gamble looked good last April, on Saturday the performance was even better as this is always a high class mares’ bumper. She drew easily eight lengths clear of the previous winner of the race, the unbeaten (in three) Fergal O’Brien mare Bonttay and the rest of a deep field.

As with Frankel late in Sir Henry Cecil’s career, and this year Desert Crown, the Derby winner for Sir Michael Stoute, there is no reason why Oliver Sherwood should not take charge of the best he’s had in his later years as a trainer, such is his wealth of experience and career-long success. All that’s missing really is that title!

I certainly remember calling him something in his riding days, way back in the early 1970’s. Then, the Sporting Chronicle was the northern-based racing daily in competition with the Sporting Life, the main paper in the rest of the country. Both had naps tables and I was in the Chronicle list.

Coming to the Kempton pre-Cheltenham meeting – the competition ended a few weeks later – I had a long lead in the 70-strong field, but halfway through the meeting, I thought I recognised a name of one of the winners.

The horse was called Balmer’s Combe, ridden by Oliver Sherwood. It won at 66/1 (having opened at 14’s!) and sure enough the tipster in fourth, Teddy Davis of the Chester Chronicle, had made it his nap. I only ever saw him at the big meetings and, obviously, at Chester, and it wasn’t until that May when I asked him about it.

"It was all a mistake", he said. "I was told Oliver Sherwood would have a winner that day. It was trained by Fred Winter, but then it became a non-runner. He’d picked up a spare ride on a no-hoper, trained by Richard Mitchell, so I assumed that must be the horse. There were a couple of non-runners and a few fallers, so he won!" I couldn’t hold it against Teddy who was a lovely old boy, obviously long gone; but that Sherwood!

Having expected a big run from Queens Gamble, on whom Johnny Burke didn’t need to be as vigorous as on Ga Law, I was delighted when she came up the hill clearly in a class of her own. She’s the real deal!

There was predictability about the rest of the day, notably an Irish double initiated by the well-backed Banbridge, who floated over the fences and cantered clear for Joseph O’Brien in the competitive Arkle Trial for novice chasers. Then there was a trademark gamble landed with ease by Tony Martin via Unanswered, living up to his name in a one-sided stayers’ handicap hurdle.

The Irish, as ever, are coming, but two stout Englishmen based in Lambourn will be doing their utmost to see them off this winter, in a race or two at any rate.

- TS