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Karl Philippe seeking to extend O’Brien’s fine season

Karl Philippe bids to provide Fergal O’Brien with another big-race victory in the EBF Final at Sandown.

The Gloucestershire-based trainer is enjoying an excellent campaign, highlighted by the Grade Two triumphs of Hurricane Harvey, Silver Hallmark and Alaphilippe.

Before saddling likely Pertemps Final favourite Imperial Alcazar at next week’s Cheltenham Festival, O’Brien is first out to strike Grade Three gold on Saturday with Karl Philippe – who made it third time lucky over hurdles with a 10-length success at Exeter last month.

O’Brien said: “I hope he goes there with a good chance. He’s in good form.

“He was placed in his first two hurdles over two miles – and as soon as we stepped him up in trip and rode him a bit more forward, he proved the shorter trip was the problem.

“We’re looking forward to running him on Saturday and seeing how he gets on.

“It’s very competitive, but we’ll go there and take our chance.”

David Pipe saddles top-weight Martinhal, who beat Karl Philippe by half a length in January and followed up last time.

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“He’s won his last two, and the step up in trip should suit,” said the Pond House trainer.

“Like a lot of these horses, all his form has been on softer ground.

“It’s difficult to win a race like this off top-weight, but we’re hoping he has an each-way chance.”

Nicky Henderson has two contenders Captain Morgs and Patroclus, while Colin Tizzard’s Striking A Pose and Sam Barton from Emma Lavelle’s yard also feature.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Rainyday Woman sets the standard in the first of two Listed races on the card – the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

The daughter of Kayf Tara bolted up on her debut for the Ditcheat handler at Stratford in November, before following up in Listed company at Huntingdon the following month.

“She has done nothing but please since she joined us in the summer, winning stylishly at Stratford before following up in a Listed mares’ bumper at Huntingdon just before Christmas,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“Rainyday Woman has a 4lb penalty in a hot looking race, and any further rain at Sandown would be in her favour.”

Rainyday Woman is re-opposed by Kim Bailey’s Huntingdon runner-up Flirtatious Girl, while the dangers include Henderson’s Tweed Skirt.

Listed honours are also up for grabs in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Novices’ Handicap Chase – a race which has been switched to Sandown from the Cheltenham Festival.

High Up In The Air has won his last five races for Gary Moore, who said: “This is a massive jump up in class.

“He just needed that first run over fences at the start of the season, while he loves soft ground and was well handicapped.

“He is a very good jumper, and that has helped him. He has won here before, but that was over shorter, and I think the extra few furlongs will suit him.”

Evan Williams is looking forward to saddling Annsam, who was slapped with a 12lb rise for a 42-length win at Ludlow in December.

“He’s a raw horse. The handicapper absolutely hoofed him up for winning a bad race last time, (but) I’d be pretty keen to give it a crack,” said the Welsh trainer.

“He went up 12lb for winning what in effect was a ‘nothing’ race, having a school round.

“The handicapper is right 99 per cent of the time, so I hope he is right.

“Annsam is a nice horse, (but) he’s a raw horse.”

Leoncavallo heads Pipe’s bid to uphold Imperial tradition

David Pipe is double-handed in a bid to extend his family’s excellent record in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown.

His father Martin saddled six winners of the traditional feature on the Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival, while David himself has struck gold on three occasions since.

Sponsors Paddy Power are this year offering a £50,000 bonus if the winner can follow up in any race at Cheltenham next week, a double which has been achieved on just three occasions since the incentive has been up for grabs – and all by horses trained at the Pipes’ Pond House yard.

Pipe senior saddled Olympian to win the Imperial Cup-Coral Cup double in 1993, while five years later Blowing Wind followed up success at Sandown with victory in the County Hurdle.

Blowing Wind and Tony McCoy after winning at Cheltenham
Blowing Wind and Tony McCoy after winning at Cheltenham (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Gaspara landed the bonus pot for David Pipe in 2007 by winning what is now the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.

This year he fires a twin assault, with Leoncavallo of particular interest on what is his first competitive appearance since finishing sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October.

“Leoncavallo has done very well on the Flat for us, and has had a break since the Cesarewitch,” said Pipe.

“He’s in good form and won’t mind the (good to soft) ground. Hopefully he’s got a decent each-way chance.

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“He’s got some good form in two-mile handicaps, and it looks an open contest on Saturday.

“He’ll be left in at Cheltenham, and we’ll see what happens this weekend.”

The nine-year-old is joined by stablemate Eamon An Cnoic, who won over the course and distance last month before filling the runner-up spot at Chepstow a week later.

Pipe added: “He’s 10 years old and is not getting any younger.

“He’s got decent form round Sandown. He would probably prefer softer ground, but takes his chance.”

Natural History impressed at Plumpton
Natural History impressed at Plumpton (PA)

The likely favourite for the £50,000 contest is Natural History, but trainer Gary Moore is far from confident about his chances.

The Nathaniel gelding claimed the notable scalp of Moore’s Champion Hurdle hope Goshen on the Flat in October, when trained by Andrew Balding and owned by the Queen, before changing hands for 105,000 guineas later that month.

He was beaten on his first two hurdling starts, but bolted up on his handicap debut at Plumpton recently – and is 16lb higher in the weights as a result.

When told his charge was the clear favourite for the Imperial Cup, Moore said: “I think it’s total madness.

“He’s gone up 16lb for a winning a small race at Plumpton. He probably went into it well handicapped, but he’s come out of it badly handicapped as far as I’m concerned.

“I think it will be a tough ask for him on only his fourth run over hurdles. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be backing him at 3-1 anyway.”

Langer Dan is well fancied for the formidable combination of Dan and Harry Skelton.

Dan Skelton said: “Langer Dan ran well at Market Rasen the last day and is probably one of those horses that as a second-season hurdler, going from juveniles and novices, has just taken a while to find his feet.

“I think Sandown will really suit him, because he wants a stiff finish and he didn’t have that at Market Rasen. I’m not saying he is going to win, but he goes there in good health and should run well.”

Miranda is one of three runners for Paul Nicholls
Miranda is one of three runners for Paul Nicholls (David Davies/PA)

Paul Nicholls saddles top-weight Miranda, as well as Diego Du Charmil and Malaya, winner of the race two years ago.

He told Betfair: “Miranda looked very good when winning a Grade Two mares’ hurdle at Doncaster at the end of January but keeps going up in the weights, so the 7lb claim of Angus Cheleda will certainly help. I expect her to run another solid race.

“Diego Du Charmil is talented and versatile, and did a lovely piece of work at Wincanton last week. He goes well fresh and is in good order.

“I have to admit Malaya was a bit disappointing last time at Ascot, where I felt the step up in trip would be in her favour. But after watching her that day, I am not convinced that is the case.

“While Malaya can be a bit in and out, she won this race two years ago, so we know the track suits her well – and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her bounce back to form.”

Natural looking to make History at Sandown

Ante-post favourite Natural History is one of 15 horses declared for the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The prestigious handicap hurdle is the traditional feature the Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival and another competitive field has assembled for this year’s renewal.

Natural History, who carried the colours of the Queen when trained on the Flat by Andrew Balding, was a beaten favourite on his first two hurdling starts for Gary Moore.

However, the Nathaniel gelding made a mockery of an opening mark of 116 when bolting up on his handicap debut at Plumpton a couple of weeks ago and he is strongly fancied to follow up, despite a hefty rise in the weights.

Natural History’s closest rival in the betting is Dan Skelton’s Langer Dan, while Paul Nicholls saddles top-weight Miranda, as well as Diego Du Charmil and Malaya, winner of the race two year’s ago.

Martin Pipe and his son David have won the Imperial Cup on nine occasions between them and the Pond House team again have a couple of interesting contenders in Leoncavallo and Eamon An Cnoic.

Leoncavallo has not been seen in competitive action since finishing sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October, while Eamon An Cnoic won over the course and distance just last month.

Mick Maestro (Nick Kent) and Highway One O Two (Chris Gordon) are also in the mix.

Grade Three honours are also up for grabs in the European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.

Pipe’s Martinhal, who is on a hat-trick following successive wins at Exeter, heads a field of 18 runners.

Nicky Henderson has a couple of major players in Captain Morgs and Patroclus, as does Nigel Twiston-Davies, with The Mick Preston and Beauport both declared.

The Nicholls-trained Rainyday Woman tops 18 declared for the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race.

The six-year-old must concede weight all round in her bid to double her Listed tally, having already impressed at this level at Huntingdon on her latest outing.

The dangers include Henderson’s Tweed Skirt and Alan King’s Finest View.

Natural History impresses at Plumpton

Natural History could be bound for Sandown’s Imperial Cup after a resounding success in the R.A.B.I./Joan Collinson Memorial Handicap Hurdle for Gary Moore and son Jamie at Plumpton.

Joining stablemate Goshen as a horse with a big target later in the month, the former smart Flat performer looked right at home on the drying ground as he kicked 15 lengths clear of Mystic Dreamer.

He might not have that class edge of Champion Hurdle prospect Goshen, but Moore had to admit that off a mark of 116 the 8-13 favourite – who holds a County Hurdle engagement at Cheltenham – was not badly treated for this first run in a handicap.

The trainer explained: “This has opened things up because we now know soft conditions are not essential for him.

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“I’d like to think that must be a very good horse (Lucky One, trainer Paul Nicholls) that beat us 20 lengths at Wincanton, and now let’s see what the handicapper does.

“I’m easy about where he runs next, but the owner is quite ambitious and would like to have a crack at the Imperial Cup. He’ll need a substantial rise if he’s to get into it, and to be honest I won’t be crying if he doesn’t.”

Andy Irvine enjoyed a birthday winner after Dylanseoghan held on in a desperate finish to the Howden Sport And Equine Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase.

Under Page Fuller the veteran resisted What A Moment and the strong-finishing Tzar De L’elfe by a short head and a neck, and the winning jockey said: “Coming into the last I wasn’t sure that I was on a stride, but he winged it and was a lot happier back on good ground.

“You never know how the long-distance chases here are going to pan out, but he stayed on all the way up the straight. I’m delighted for Andy.”

Irvine was equally thrilled, and commented of the 12-1 winner: “I think a combination of a change of headgear and the better ground helped him. He got stuck in the mud last time.”

The drying ground played to the strengths of Fairway Freddy (7-2) who apart from one minor error put in a superb round of jumping to land the horseracingbetting.co.uk Handicap Chase by four and a quarter lengths from Flaminger.

His trainer Nick Gifford said: “He loves this ground and has won three times on good/good to firm. This is his cup of tea, and he was so well at home I’m not surprised he’s won like that.”

Ayr Of Elegance (100-30 favourite) landed some good bets to come home a cosy winner of the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Mares’ Handicap Hurdle for trainer David Jeffreys and jockey Kielan Woods.

Woods said: “When we tried cheek pieces it didn’t work, but she ran off the end of the gallop the other day and she never does that, so we knew she was super well.”

The market told the story in the Call Star Spirts On 08000 521 321 Handicap Hurdle as 13-8 favourite Midnight Aurora gained an effortless 12-length success over First Assembly and One For Dunstan.

Goshen in top shape following brilliant Kingwell return

Gary Moore is counting down the days to the Unibet Champion Hurdle after Goshen returned to form in some style with a wide-margin victory in the Kingwell Hurdle.

The five-year-old accounted for Coral Hurdle and International Hurdle scorer Song For Someone by 22 lengths, as he blitzed the opposition at Wincanton on Saturday.

There is less than three weeks to the two-mile showpiece at the Cheltenham Festival, in which Goshen will bid to erase the frustration of his dramatic final-flight exit in the Triumph Hurdle last year when he had the race at his mercy.

“He’s come out of his race very well,” said West Sussex-based Moore on Wednesday.

“We’ll just do what we do and hopefully keep him on track for Cheltenham.

“I’ve done nothing with him. He’s just gone out for a jog around the place and nice easy exercise. He’s taking it all well and seems in good order. I’m very pleased with him.”

Stablemate Fifty Ball could well have booked his place at the Festival too, after beating all bar Soaring Glory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Sunday.

The six-year-old put up a career-best performance in the one of the most competitive handicap hurdles on the calendar.

Moore has to decide which of his three entries – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and County Hurdle – Fifty Ball will take up.

“It would have been better if he’d have won, but he could not do any more than run the race of his life,” he said.

“I did expect him to run a big race, but I didn’t know if he was up to that company. He was just beaten by maybe a better horse on the day.

“He’s in a couple of novices and he’s in a handicap at Cheltenham. He could well end up there, but I don’t know which race at the moment.”

Betfair Hurdle Trends

Staged at Newbury racecourse the Betfair Hurdle is a Grade Three contest run over 2m 1/2f in February each year. First run in 1963, the race is always a hotly-contested race, while some punters might know the even better as either the Tote Gold Trophy or the totesport Trophy, being that’s what the race was called before Betfair took over the sponsorship in 2012.

Despite more obvious Champion Hurdle trials on offer during the season the race has thrown up two horses – Persian War and Make A Stand – that went onto glory at the Cheltenham Festival in the Champion Hurdle later that season, while the 2013 hero - My Tent Or Yours - went onto be second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The 2003 winner, Spirit Leader, went onto land the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the following month, while in 2017 the Nigel Twiston-Davis-trained Ballyandy won the race before running fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. More recently in 2018, Kalashinkov won this before running second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

In 2019, we saw the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Al Dancer win the race under jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, while last year the Paul Nicholls camp were successful with a 33/1 shot – Pic D’Orhy.

Here at GEEGEEZ, we look back at recent winners of the race and highlights the key stats ahead of the 2021 renewal – this year staged on Sunday 21st February.

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Recent Betfair Hurdle Winners

2020 – PIC D’ORHY (33/1)
2019 - AL DANCER (5/2 fav)
2018 – KALASHINKOV (8/1 co-fav)
2017 – BALLYANDY (3/1 fav)
2016 – AGRAPART (16/1)
2015 – VIOLET DANCER (20/1)
2014 – SPLASH OF GINGE (33/1)
2013 – MY TENT OR YOURS (5/1 fav)
2012 – ZARKANDAR (11/4 fav)
2011 – RECESSION PROOF (12/1)
2010 – GET ME OUT OF HERE (6/1)
2009 – No race
2008 – WINGMAN (14/1)
2007 – HEATHCOTE (50/1)
2006 – No race
2005 – ESSEX (4/1 fav)
2004 – GEOS (16/1)
2003 – SPIRIT LEADER (14/1)
2002 – COPELAND (13/2)
2001 – LANDING LIGHT (4/1 fav)

Betfair Hurdle Betting Trends

18/18 – Carried 11-8 or less in weight
17/18 – Aged 7 or younger
16/18 – Rated 130 or higher
15/18 – Won between 2-4 times over hurdles in the UK/IRE before
15/18 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
15/18 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
15/18 – Aged either 5 or 6 years-old
14/18 – Came from the first 7 in the betting
14/18 – Went onto run at that season’s Cheltenham Festival
13/18 – Winning distance – 3 lengths or less
13/18 – Placed favourites
10/18 – Carried 10-9 or less in weight
9/18 – Came from the top 5 in the betting
9/18 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/18 – Irish bred
8/18 – Won last time out
8/18 – Aged 5 years-old (including 8 of last 14)
7/18 – Winning favourites
4/18 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
3/18 – Trained by Nicky Henderson (has won the race 5 times in all)
3/18 – Trained by Gary Moore
3/18 – Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies (3 of the last 7)
2/18 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (2 of the last 9)
2/18  - Raced at Leopardstown last time out
2/18 – Owned by JP McManus
1/18 – Went onto win the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival that season (Spirit Leader 2003)
23 of the last 24 winners have been aged 7 or younger
The average winning SP in the last 18 runnings is 14/1

 

 

 

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Goshen roars back into Champion Hurdle picture

Goshen reignited his Champion Hurdle claims with an impressive victory in the Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Out of luck after falling at the final flight with the Triumph Hurdle at his mercy 12 months ago, Gary Moore’s five-year-old blew the opposition away with a devastating display as he returned to his best form of last season.

He settled well for Jamie Moore, who allowed Navajo Pass to give him a lead until the business end of the race.

Kicking on after jumping three from home, the 100-30 victor quickly put daylight between himself and his rivals.

Song For Someone, the 11-10 favourite, appeared to struggle to compete with the early pace, but came through to finish a never-nearer second – 22 lengths behind the easy winner. Navajo Pass was third.

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Goshen was cut to 5-1 from 16-1 for the Champion Hurdle with Paddy Power, and to the same price with Coral from 20-1.

Moore senior said: “I was very pleased, over the moon.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I had him in a good place and fair play to Jamie. He told me when he worked him on Tuesday he would win.

“I was just hoping he would do what he has done today.

“It has to be the Champion Hurdle next. It has always been the target since last year. We’re hoping we can go there with every chance.

“Hopefully there’s a little bit of improvement to come from him.

“He settled lovely today. He doesn’t have to make the running, He just wants his own space.”

Jamie Moore suffered heartbreak with Goshen at Cheltenham last year
Jamie Moore suffered heartbreak with Goshen at Cheltenham last year (Simon Cooper/PA)

Equally thrilled was the winning jockey, who said: “It was a very rewarding performance. Just pleased to get him somewhere near his best for dad and the owners.

“We wouldn’t have run him if we didn’t think he was right. His last bit of work on Tuesday was very good and we’ve been happy with him. We wanted to go to Sandown a couple of weeks ago and it was called off. It’s good we’ve got a run into him.

“Dad has tried a different training regime with the horse and it’s worked. The horse has enjoyed it and we’ve got him fit in different ways.”

The jockey knows more still might be needed at Cheltenham, however.

“We’re going to look forward to the Champion Hurdle, but it’s going to be no easy task,” he said.

“Epatante didn’t run great at Kempton, but it shows horses aren’t machines. Goshen came back today and she could come back at Cheltenham.

“We’re going to wait and hope he’s in good form on the day.”

Sherwood confident Sevarano can sparkle in Reynoldstown

Oliver Sherwood is optimistic about the chances of Sevarano in the Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot.

With ante-post principals The Big Breakaway and If The Cap Fits notable defectors at Thursday’s declaration stage, Sherwood believes his representative has a “favourite’s chance” of landing Saturday’s Grade Two contest.

“I’m guessing one or two maybe didn’t want to run and leave their Cheltenham behind, whereas our horse isn’t even entered at Cheltenham and purposely wasn’t going to go there,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.

A talented hurdler last season, Sevarano looks likely to scale even greater heights over fences, having won two of his first three starts this season.

He could finish only fourth on his latest appearance at Newbury in December, but Sherwood has a valid excuse.

He added: “It was unfortunate what happened at Newbury. He slipped into the first fence, and it unnerved him, but he schooled super on Thursday morning and is in a really good place.

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“This is the time to step up in trip – I’ve been dying to do it – and he handled this sort of ground over hurdles last year. He’s a big, strong boy now as an eight-year-old – and I’m sure he’ll handle it.

“I’m very happy with him, and he doesn’t get a penalty for his two wins this season because they were handicaps.

“I think he’s going there with a favourite’s chance.”

A six-strong field is headed by the Fergal O’Brien-trained Hurricane Harvey, who must shoulder a 5lb penalty for winning the Grade Two December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster last time out.

“He’s having to carry a penalty, which isn’t ideal, but there aren’t many options for him,” said O’Brien.

“There was a novice handicap at Doncaster next week, but again he’d be giving weight away.

“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It was great to win a Grade Two with him, but it makes the rest of the season tougher. Having said that, you’d take a Grade Two every time.

“It’s a rich man’s problem, as they say.”

David Pipe’s Remastered faces a step up in class after winning his first two starts over fences at Carlisle and Wetherby.

Trainer David Pipe saddles Remastered on the Reynoldstown
Trainer David Pipe saddles Remastered on the Reynoldstown (David Davies/PA)

Pipe said: “He’s got a bit to find on official ratings, but he likes soft ground, three miles around Ascot will be ideal – and he jumps well.

“It was a decent enough race that he won first time over fences at Carlisle, and then it was just a two-horse race he won at Wetherby, but he deserves to take his chance and has conditions to suit.”

Full Back is in a similar boat after winning at Plumpton and Exeter for Gary Moore, who said: “Hopefully he goes very well. He wouldn’t want too much more rain, he just doesn’t like it too heavy. I know he won in heavier ground, but he’s got away with it a bit.

“He’s in a good place, and this has always been the target, so hopefully he can give a good account of himself.”

Demachine (Kerry Lee) and Kalooki (Philip Hobbs) complete the line-up.

Kingwell looming as next appearance for Goshen

Goshen and Song For Someone could both be rerouted to the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton following the abandonment of the hurdle races at Sandown on Saturday.

The Gary Moore-trained Goshen was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart when disappointing as the hot favourite for the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, a race won by Tom Symonds’ stable star Song For Someone.

The pair looked set to renew rivalry in the Listed Contenders Hurdle this weekend – and while the weather has scuppered those plans, the rematch may only be delayed rather than cancelled, with both trainers identifying the Kingwell Hurdle on February 20 as a possible alternative.

Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season's Triumph Hurdle
Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season’s Triumph Hurdle (Simon Cooper/PA)

Moore said: “It’s disappointing we won’t be going to Sandown, but the ground must be bad for them to call the hurdle races off this early.

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“It’s been a nightmare of a season for him (Goshen) really.

“The Kingwell Hurdle has got to be the next option, then if that doesn’t happen, you’re looking at the National Spirit at Fontwell the following Sunday (February 28).

“Fontwell wouldn’t be perfect as it’s getting close to Cheltenham, but I want to find out if he’s good enough to go to Cheltenham, more than anything. I can’t really go to Cheltenham off the back of what he’s done this season, but I might have to.

“He’s had no season really, but I am very happy with him at the moment.”

Song For Someone won the rescheduled Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton last season and has continued in the same vein this term, winning the Coral Hurdle at Ascot prior to his narrow victory over Silver Streak at Cheltenham.

Like Moore, Symonds is keen to get another run into his charge ahead of a possible bid for Champion Hurdle glory in March.

Song For Someone is making his mark this season
Song For Someone is making his mark this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We had three options – the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, which we avoided, the Contenders at Sandown, which has been taken out of our hands and the next one on the list is the Kingwell,” said the Herefordshire-based trainer.

“I’ve just been discussing it with the owners and there are only four races left for him to run in this season, really – you’ve got the Kingwell, the National Spirit, the Champion Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle.

“We’ll probably take in two of those, if all goes well and he’s well.

“It’s annoying he can’t go to Sandown, but I’d rather ring the owners with bad news about the ground than the horse.”

Asked whether Song For Someone could head straight to the Champion Hurdle, Symonds added: “It’s a possibility, but we were hoping to run him somewhere again beforehand.

“We don’t want to wait for Aintree and then the ground comes up firm. I know it’s unlikely that would be the case.

“We’ll just have to see what happens over the next couple of weeks. It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Nassalam on course for Cheltenham’s Triumph Trial

Nassalam is to put his Festival credentials on the line in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham this month.

The four-year-old lost his unbeaten record in Britain when runner-up to Adagio in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday, but trainer Gary Moore was delighted with the performance and the way Nassalam has taken the race.

The French import was sent off evens favourite for the Grade One after two wide-margin victories against vastly inferior opposition at Fontwell – and he just fell narrowly short on his steep rise in class.

“He’s come out of the race very well indeed. I’m very pleased the way he’s come out of it,” said his West Sussex trainer.

“It was a massive step up to what he’d done. The ground would have been quick enough for us. I think we’d be a bit better on softer ground.

“When they go round Chepstow in three minutes 56 seconds it’s not heavy ground, and our horse is probably more suited to heavy ground.

“It’s all a learning curve. It’s the first time he’s a been in a battle. He never raced on the Flat, and his wins have been uncompetitive.

“I was delighted. He just got beat by a better horse on the day.

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“He’ll probably go for the Trial at Cheltenham (on January 30) as long as the ground is soft.”

Moore reports his Champion Hurdle hope Goshen, meanwhile, on course for Sandown next month.

Goshen was found to have a fibrillating heart when last of 10 in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, on his first run back over jumps since coming down at the final flight when holding a big lead in the Triumph in March.

“He’s on target for Sandown (Contenders’ Hurdle on February 6), very much so,” said Moore.

Goshen is likely to be back in action at Sandown next month
Goshen is likely to be back in action at Sandown next month (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“His work is good. I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”

Goshen is owned by Steven Packham, whose colours could be carried by Fifty Ball in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month.

The six-year-old is on a hat-trick after winning the last two of his four starts at Ascot and Sandown since he joined the Moore stable from France.

“He goes for the Betfair Hurdle. That will be his next run,” said the trainer.

Trainer Gary Moore is happy with Goshen ahead of his intended reappearance at Sandown
Trainer Gary Moore is happy with Goshen ahead of his intended reappearance at Sandown (Simon Cooper/PA)

“He was impressive at Sandown. I’m not sure how the race has turned out, but I know his previous run at Ascot was quite good.”

Benatar may line up next in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 23 – depending how the field for the two-mile one-furlong Grade One takes shape at the five-day confirmation stage.

There were just 12 initial entries, and Moore would consider running the nine-year-old if he had a fair chance of picking up some prize money.

Benatar (near side) is a possible for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot
Benatar (near side) is a possible for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot (Steve Parsons/PA)

Benatar was a very encouraging third in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month, on his first start since January 2019.

“I will see what the five-day entries are like for the Clarence House,” said Moore.

“If he’s got a chance of nicking third or fourth prize he might run there. If not I’ll save him for something else.”

“We’ll look at the five-day stage and see what’s in it.

“It might cut up. Generally these two-mile races are cutting up.”

Moore eager to assess Nassalam’s Grade One credentials

Gary Moore is delighted to have a second chance with Nassalam in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday.

The four-year-old gelding would have missed the Grade One contest had it been run when originally planned over Christmas as he was under a cloud.

The meeting was abandoned but was rescheduled, subject to an 8am inspection, giving Nassalam the opportunity to show just how good he is.

The French import has won his two starts for Moore, both at Fontwell, by 59 and 49 lengths. The opposition may have been moderate, but Nassalam could not have been more impressive.

Moore is as keen as anyone to see how the horse fares against much better rivals.

“He wasn’t right when it was meant to be run,” the West Sussex trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“With the Irish not being able to come over, he might have a decent chance, hopefully.

“He’s quite a big horse and strong as well with a fantastic mind. He’s very straightforward to train.

“He is just a very nice horse. Hopefully they will be able to run on Saturday so we can see how good he is.”

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Adagio has made a good start to his hurdling career with two victories and a second from three starts.

His trainer David Pipe is just hoping he can cope with the likely heavy ground.

“He’s done well this season. He might not want the ground as easy as it what it will probably will be, but he goes there with a good chance, hopefully,” said the Nicholashayne handler.

Adagio clears the last to win at Cheltenham and now tries his hand at Grade One level at Chepstow
Adagio clears the last to win at Cheltenham and now tries his hand at Grade One level at Chepstow (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Fergal O’Brien is happy to give Elham Valley his chance in a Grade One after making a successful hurdling debut at Sandown last month.

The Cheltenham trainer has been happy with the horse in the meantime and has no concerns about the ground.

“He had his Sandown form franked as the horse of Gary Moore’s (Hudson De Grugy) has come out and won since,” said O’Brien.

“It wasn’t until speaking to you boys (press) that we thought about this race but, having spoken to both Paddy (Brennan) and the owners, we know he will love the ground and track, so we decided to give it a go.

“He is a lovely little horse and is a joy to do anything with. He loves his jumping and we schooled him on Thursday and he was electric from one side to the other.

“Where he will finish I don’t know, but we will let him take his chance and he will give it his best.”

Paul Nicholls has a fascinating runner in Houx Gris, who is being pitched at a high level on his first start in the UK.

The four-year-old won at the second attempt over hurdles in France for Sylvain Dehez begore joining the Ditcheat handler.

Paul Nicholls gives Haux Gris his UK debut in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow
Paul Nicholls gives Houx Gris his UK debut in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

“He is an interesting recruit from France who has been pleasing us since he arrived early last month. We bought him at the sales early in November shortly after winning at Auteuil,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I don’t normally run newcomers so quickly, but he settled in straight away and has adapted beautifully to our routine.

“He is working great, seems to be improving and looks to be a smart juvenile. I really like what I see and just hope he has acclimatised enough to give a good account of himself.”

Trainer Tom George is hoping Bannister gets the chance to run at Chepstow
Trainer Tom George is hoping Bannister gets the chance to run at Chepstow (Simon Cooper/PA)

Bannister’s last two starts have been in France, but he is back running close to home. He has also been declared for the opening juvenile hurdle at Kempton, but trainer Tom George would prefer to run him at the Welsh track.

“The plan is to go Chepstow if it’s on,” said the Slad handler.

“He’s picked up some nice prize money in France. He’s very much a novice chaser for next season, but he has been running well in France on his last couple of runs.”

Goshen given Contenders Hurdle target at Sandown

Gary Moore has his sights on Sandown in February for Goshen after withdrawing the four-year-old from the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at the final declaration stage.

The West Sussex handler felt the Kempton Grade One would come too soon for Goshen, who was found to have a fibrillating heart when disappointing in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The four-year-old was the hot favourite on his first appearance over obstacles since his final-flight mishap in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but trailed home last of the 10 runners, after which the heart issue was discovered.

Moore is now looking at the Contenders Hurdle at the Esher track on February 6.

“He’s fine, but he’s not ready to run at Kempton,” he said.

“Sandown in February is where he’s going next.”

Goshen ‘absolutely fine’ following International disappointment

Gary Moore remains hopeful Goshen can still prove himself a top-class performer after he was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart following his disappointing effort in Saturday’s International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The four-year-old was the hot favourite on his first appearance over obstacles since his heartbreaking final-flight mishap in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but trailed home last of the 10 runners, after which the heart issue was discovered.

Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme, Moore said: “He’s absolutely fine. He ate up last night and has been out for an hour this morning – he seems quite happy.

“My vet is coming in to check him out. I’ve been training a long time and this is the third or fourth time that it’s happened to me.

“I think you just give them a bit of time. You wouldn’t know there was a problem this morning.”

While the heart problem was likely the chief reason for Goshen’s below-par performance, Moore also feels he also hindered by an interrupted preparation, a change of tactics and the fact three of the eight hurdles were omitted.

He added: “It was a mess of a race. The first two hurdles were gone and the horse was over-racing. There was a lot of disappointment yesterday, but we learnt one thing – don’t restrain the horse, let him use his stride and let him get on with it.

“I think he gets claustrophobic and doesn’t want to be right amongst horses – he doesn’t like being crowded. We tried to hold him up and it was the wrong thing to do.

“We’ll take it a day at a time. He didn’t have a great preparation going into Saturday – he’s had niggly problems all the way through. I think he might have needed the race – it was like his first run of the season as far as I’m concerned.

“I’ll see how he is in the next few days and how this heart issue is, but we won’t write him off for the season, definitely not.

“He’s very special and has his own way of doing things.”

Nassalam set Grade One assignment after Fontwell cruise

Nassalam is set to go for Grade One honours in the Finale Junior Hurdle at Chepstow later this month after confirming the impression of his debut display in Britain with a second wide-margin success at Fontwell.

Appropriately running in the One More For The Moore’s Juvenile Hurdle, the Gary Moore-trained three-year-old never gave those who were tempted by a price of 1-12 an anxious moment as he sauntered to victory.

Nassalam had won by 59 lengths on his first start for the West Sussex-based handler, also on this course, since his move from Guillaume Macaire in France.

This was just as impressive as he staked a big claim for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, for which he is a general 14-1 chance.

Holding a narrow lead from the outset, Jamie Moore gradually increased the tempo and the pressure on the opposition.

Nassalam’s jumping was slick, although he did jump slightly to the left. He pulled away at the business end to score by 49 lengths from 200-1 shot Zellerate.

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The winning trainer said: “I’m very pleased. As long as he got round he had nothing to beat, but it was very straightforward. It’s not the way to make the running, but he kept it simple.

“He’ll run in the Finale at Chepstow just after Christmas. That’s where he goes next.”

Trainer Gary Moore was delighted with the winning performance of Nassalam at Fontwell
Trainer Gary Moore was delighted with the winning performance of Nassalam at Fontwell (Simon Cooper/PA)

The winning rider was also impressed with the performance.

“The last day I was coming back from an injury and I thought we had a good chance and today I thought I’d just enjoy it. These are the horses you want to be riding,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s jumped brilliant. I’m grinning. I really like this horse. I know the opposition wasn’t the best, but it’s just the way he does it. It’s all very easy for him.

“When he schools at home the first couple of hurdles he’s exuberant. I said to dad he’s improved since his last run. He’s got a lot fresher at home.

Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last
Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He felt on top of the world today. He’s a lovely little horse – he’s like a baby Sire (De Grugy) with the face on him.

“He hasn’t beaten much so far, but they can only win. I gave him a squeeze after the last and there was plenty there.

“You can’t compare him with Goshen, but he’s another nice horse we’ve got hopefully. He’s had two nice runs so we can step him up in grade now and see what he can do then.”

Moore senior reports Goshen – who had last season’s Triumph Hurdle at his mercy before his heartbreaking exit at the final flight – to be on course for the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham following a pleasing workout on Tuesday.

Joshua Moore riding Bridle Loanan
Joshua Moore riding Bridle Loanan (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He worked today. All good. I was very pleased with him,” he said.

“At the moment he’s going to Cheltenham, definitely.”

The Moore stable completed a Fontwell double when Bridle Loanan (3-1 favourite) took the Thank You To The Cisswood Team Handicap Chase in the hands of Joshua Moore.

Call Off The Dogs (9-2) then made it a hat-trick when giving Jamie Moore a brace in the Christmas Offers At Champagne Piaff Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

Nassalam impresses in Fontwell stroll

Nassalam confirmed the impression of his debut success in Britain with a second wide-margin success at Fontwell.

Appropriately running in the One More For The Moore’s Juvenile Hurdle, the Gary Moore-trained three-year-old never gave those who were tempted by a price of 1-12 an anxious moment as he sauntered to victory.

Nassalam had won by 59 lengths on his first start for the West Sussex-based handler, also on this course, since his move from Guillaume Macaire in France.

This was just as impressive as he staked a big claim for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, for which he is a general 14-1 chance.

Holding a narrow lead from the outset, Jamie Moore gradually increased the tempo and the pressure on the opposition.

Nassalam’s jumping was slick, although he did jump slightly to the left. He pulled away at the business end to score by 49 lengths from 200-1 shot Zellerate.

The winning rider was impressed with the performance.

“The last day I was coming back from an injury and I thought we had a good chance and today I thought I’d just enjoy it. These are the horses you want to be riding,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s jumped brilliant. I’m grinning. I really like this horse. I know the opposition wasn’t the best, but it’s just the way he does it. It’s all very easy for him.

“When he schools at home the first couple of hurdles he’s exuberant. I said to dad he’s improved since his last run. He’s got a lot fresher at home.

Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last
Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He felt on top of the world today. He’s a lovely little horse – he’s like a baby Sire (De Grugy) with the face on him.

“He hasn’t beaten much so far, but they can only win. I gave him a squeeze after the last and there was plenty there.

“You can’t compare him with Goshen, but he’s another nice horse we’ve got hopefully. He’s had two nice runs so we can step him up in grade now and see what he can do then.”