Tag Archive for: Huntingdon

Wonderwall to tune up for Cheltenham in Sidney Banks

Richard Spencer’s smart prospect Wonderwall will put his Cheltenham Festival aspirations on the line in the Ballymore Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon on February 10.

Seventh in the Champion Bumper in March, he opened his account at the second time of asking over hurdles at Doncaster in fine style.

Spencer had mooted the possibility of heading to Cheltenham on Trials Day with the six-year-old, but feels the timing of the Huntingdon race is more beneficial.

“The Sidney Banks is where Wonderwall is going next. We will run him there and then, all being well, it will be on to the Ballymore,” said Spencer.

“We had both the Sidney Banks and the Ballymore trial at Cheltenham on our mind after Doncaster.

“We just felt it would probably be better for the horse to give him a couple more weeks and go for Huntingdon as it is then a nice time frame on to the Ballymore. It just spaces his races out a little bit better.

“We want to try to give him as much chance to turn up at the Festival in top form instead of rushing him back quickly to run in the trial at Cheltenham.

“Hopefully, he can take another step forward at Huntingdon and we can then bring him to Cheltenham in tip-top shape.”

Kotmask sparks Festival dreams with Huntingdon victory

Kotmask dug deep to cling on to victory in the Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle at Huntingdon.

Trained by Gary Moore and ridden by his son Jamie, Kotmask was having just his second British outing having won by 12 lengths on his debut for the yard at Fontwell last month.

Sent off the 6-5 favourite, Moore was quick to seize the initiative, with Genuflex the only rival to try to take him on in front.

The pair had a couple of lengths in hand over the rest of the field turning for home, but Genuflex was starting to feel the pinch, allowing Kotmask to move into a clear lead with two hurdles to jump.

However, Collingham was making strides on the far side, challenging at the final obstacle before appearing to shade the lead on the run to the line.

But Kotmask was extremely game in the finish, just edging back in front in the shadow of the post to claim a head verdict, with Genuflex plugging on for third.

Paddy Power offer 25-1 about Kotmask for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

A moment to savour for connections of Kotmask
A moment to savour for connections of Kotmask (PA)

Owner Gary Robinson said: “I got a little worried coming to the finish, but he is a great horse with a lovely temperament. He has done well for us today and I’m really pleased.

“He did a good job at Fontwell when he ran out an easy winner. I was a little bit worried about the ground being much harder, but he has done it and a win is a win.

“I’d love to see him at Cheltenham in March and hopefully he will be there. Whether that is the Triumph Hurdle or the Fred Winter (the Boodles), it would be great. I think more so at the moment it would be the Fred Winter.

“This is the second horse I’ve had with Gary as I bought a horse called Yorksea and he has been doing OK and he came second at Cheltenham. To win at Cheltenham is the ultimate dream and it doesn’t matter what the race is.”

Kotmask and Genuflex were locked in battle
Kotmask and Genuflex were locked in battle (Tim Goode/PA)

While Robinson is keen to go to Cheltenham, his rider was more cautious.

Moore said: “He showed a lot of guts and that was only his third ever start. He jumps well – he takes a little bit too long in the air but that will get ironed out in due course.

“I don’t know where we go next as I don’t know what dad has got planned for him. I don’t worry about Fred Winters and Triumphs as there are plenty of other races.

“There are handicaps at Ascot and Newbury at the end of the season and they are other options for us.”

The Moore team made it a double in the closing Racing TV “Newcomers” National Hunt Flat Race as Odin’s Quest (15-8) prevailed by two and three-quarter lengths, giving the winning jockey his 50th success of the campaign.

Holly Hartingo was an impressive scorer
Holly Hartingo was an impressive scorer (Tim Goode/PA)

Holly Hartingo (10-11 favourite) made it two wins in as many starts for Alastair Ralph in the Racing TV Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Successful at Ludlow last month, Jonathan Burke’s mount cruised home by five lengths from Hillfinch.

Jack Martin secured the first win of his career aboard the Philip Hobbs-trainer Alberic (5-4 favourite) in the Racing TV Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, while Freres D’Armes (4-5) was another for favourite-backers in the EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.

Alberic was a first winner for Jack Martin
Alberic was a first winner for Jack Martin (Tim Goode/PA)

Martin said: “It is amazing and brilliant. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.

“I knew he was favourite and a lot of people said ‘don’t let pressure get to your head and ride your race’. I probably would have liked to have been handier and I should have been.

“Where I was he was happy and he travelled away. He wanted a bit of daylight turning in and he got that today and stuck his head out to the line which is the main thing.

“This is my fourth season with the guv’nor (Philip Hobbs). I’ve been an amateur for three seasons and my dad Paul was an ex-professional jockey.

“I was based in Ireland, but I didn’t get much. I went to Philip Hobbs and I spoke to my cousin Brian Hughes and he said, ‘keep your head down and keep grafting’.

“This is a dream come true and hopefully I will get plenty more before the end of the season.”

Freddy Fanatapan (100-30) was another market leader to strike gold in the Racing TV Handicap Chase, but Our Power (11-4) proved too good for Dorking Lad, the favourite for the Racing TV Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

First Flow returns to winning ways in Peterborough prize

First Flow ground out a determined victory in the Fitzdares Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

A Grade One winner in last season’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot, Kim Bailey’s charge went on to finish sixth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and at Punchestown in the spring.

Stepping up to two and a half miles on his seasonal reappearance, First Flow was a 12-1 shot in the hands of David Bass, but bounced back to form in fine style.

Allmankind and Funambule Sivola battled it out for the lead for much of the way, with the latter winning that particular fight.

But Bailey’s inmate followed Funambule Sivola into the straight before taking over, kicking four and a half lengths clear on the run-in.

Bailey said: “That was great. I’m pleased for Tony Solomons as he is my longest-serving owner.

“It is extraordinary. He (First Flow) is a freak of nature. I got him as a four-year-old and he has been a freak from day one, but that is what makes good horses.

“This race was never on the horizon as he was going to go to Sandown, but when they started watering there I thought it would be crazy for him as he is a horse that wants soft ground.

“I had an argument with my jockey (David Bass) all week. He was convinced he wasn’t going to stay and I was convinced he would stay today.

“Watching First Flow has never been a spectacle and I hate every moment as he crashes through every fence – he has got no respect for anything!

“He is a complete freak of nature and an oddball in every sense of the word.”

On future plans, he added: “I jokingly said this will open up options. There aren’t many to go to, but it does help a little bit.

“I would definitely think he would go back for the Clarence House Chase now and he might get his ground there.”

Jacob thoughts with Matt Griffiths in Huntingdon victory

Daryl Jacob was among the jockeys rallying round Matt Griffiths on a sombre day in the weighing room at Huntingdon on Tuesday.

Griffiths, 31, was on Monday evening described as in a stable but critical condition in intensive car after being involved in a fatal road accident on Sunday.

He was travelling along a road near Exford, a village on Exmoor, when the crash happened and was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol for treatment.

Griffiths partnered Dashel Drasher to success in the Grade One Ascot Chase in February for trainer Jeremy Scott, who has been his biggest supporter. It was the culmination of a three-race winning streak at Ascot for the pair, who beat Master Tommytucker by two lengths.

Matt Griffiths and Dashel Drasher (left) in Grade One-winning action at Ascot
Matt Griffiths and Dashel Drasher (left) in Grade One-winning action at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Jacob spoke after steering the Nicky Henderson-trained Impulsive One to a 10-length victory in the Huntingdon Season Opener Juvenile Hurdle.

He said: “It’s not about the racing today. Matt Griffiths is the one we should be concerned about – it is tough in the weighing room today.

“Matt is a great friend and a real character. It just brings it home and brings you back to reality. I just wish him and his family all the best. It has shocked the weighing room and we are all thinking of him.

“He is a real fighter and grafter and a real hard worker. All of us in the weighing room are thinking about Matt and his family. Our condolences also go out to the family of the person who passed away.”

Brian Hughes has Matt Griffiths in his thoughts
Brian Hughes has Matt Griffiths in his thoughts (Mike Egerton/PA)

Former champion jockey Brian Hughes echoed the thoughts of Jacob after winning the Welcome Back To Huntingdon Racecourse Handicap Chase aboard Larch Hill for Adam Pogson.

He said: “It is shocking to hear and I’m very sorry for Matt and his family and the family of the poor man who lost his life.

“Matt is a great lad and a great jockey and is just a really nice fellow. He is still fighting and fingers crossed he pulls through.”

Copper Coin realises long-term ambition for Scudamore team

Copper Coin delivered the bravest of victories in Huntingdon’s John Bigg “Oxo” Handicap Chase – a race of “massive significance” to trainer and jockey Michael and Tom Scudamore.

The brothers have long dreamt of joining forces to win the race which bears the name of their grandfather Michael’s 1959 Grand National winner – and despite trailing the field for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, Copper Coin had read the romantics’ script as well.

The Scudamores, sons of multiple champion jockey Peter, were capping a memorable weekend too – following their exploits on Saturday at Kelso, where Tom rode Grand National favourite Cloth Cap to a decisive Listed victory and Michael’s Do Your Job was second in a Grade Two novice hurdle.

The success which meant most, though, was reserved for Huntingdon – the culmination of years of hopes and more recently months of planning with the lightly-raced eight-year-old.

“It’s obviously not the biggest race in the world for a lot of people – especially with the week after next round the corner (at the Cheltenham Festival),” said Herefordshire trainer Scudamore, after Copper Coin’s 7-1 victory by a tenacious half-length.

“But obviously, from a family point of view, it’s a race of massive significance to us.

“Tom and I have just been saying it’s a race we’ve wanted to win ever since I’ve had my licence – 10, 15 years or so.”

Copper Coin was cast adrift of the eight-strong field at one stage, and still last as they turned for home – but Scudamore gradually made up ground before challenging at the last and seeing off Risk And Roll close home.

“He’s a wonderful horse anyway – he’s got such character, always causing havoc when he’s out and about being ridden,” Scudamore added.

“He’ll definitely have a big picture on the wall from now, I imagine!

“I’ve never had anything quite right to come for (this race). (But) it’s something we’ve had in our minds for some time with this horse, and it’s amazing it’s all come together really.”

The trainer could hardly be confident mid-race, but he still had faith both horse and jockey were not done with.

“He’s obviously had to be really brave today,” he added.

“The horse has had plenty of problems – he hasn’t had a lot of races in his life, and there have been a lot of gaps between them.

“He was bred by the owners as well. So to get his first win, and do it in a race like this, is just great for everyone.

Tom Scudamore has a favourite's chance in the Grand National after his weekend success on Cloth Cap
Tom Scudamore has a favourite’s chance in the Grand National after his weekend success on Cloth Cap (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Tom is riding exceptionally well, and has done for a number of years.

“I think he’s riding as well as anybody out there at the moment.

“He’s proven it again today.”

He had to challenge from the most unpromising of positions, however.

“It didn’t look likely early, and he was just a little bit sticky,” said Scudamore.

“But Tom just never moved on him, rode him with loads of confidence – and that’s shown at the end.

“With a circuit to go, he was a bit sticky again at the one after the ditch – and he dropped off the back by four and a half lengths.

“You thought then ‘it’s a long way back from here’.

“But Tom never panicked, and every time he did just ask a little bit more, the horse responded.

“Then turning for home, you just thought ‘he could go and run a nice race here and be third, fourth or fifth’. Actually, with the lay-off he’d had, you’d probably take that.

“But when he was bang there after the last, and the guts he had to show up the run-in, all credit to the horse.”

Copper Coin has had just nine career starts, and this was his second over fences.

Scudamore said: “He’s had his issues and injuries and things, and he was just unbelievably brave to really stick his neck out and get his nose in front when it really mattered.

“It’s obviously extra special to team up (here) – and we’re very, very proud to have got it right today.”

Double delight for title-chasing Skelton at Huntingdon

Harry Skelton kept up the pressure on Brian Hughes in the race for the jockeys’ title with a double for brother Dan on Go Steady and Antunes at Huntingdon on Thursday.

Skelton knows that in order to threaten the championship won for the first time by Hughes last season he will have to rely largely on his home stable remaining in cracking form.

But he stressed the importance of obtaining increased support from outside yards, saying: “The winners are coming really well, touch wood, and I will keep tipping away, even though it is going to be difficult.

“Brian gets a lot of rides, but our horses are in great form. I just need a few extra winners from outside to keep the pressure on.”

On 100-30 shot Go Steady in the Mansionbet’s Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase, Skelton was rewarded for his perseverance as he reeled in Rob The Getaway.

He said: “He’s going the right way. He was a bit unfortunate at Fontwell when he landed on a ditch and unseated Bridget (Andrews). He’s a horse that likes to get the sun on his back, and I hope he’ll continue to progress.”

Skelton spent the latter part of the Mansionbet’s Bet 10 Get 20 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase in isolation on 9-4 chance Antunes, who completely dominated the contest after the departure of 6-4 favourite Timetochill.

Fable gave her supporters an anxious moment when losing ground halfway down the back stretch in the mares’ maiden hurdle, but Nico de Boinville remained patient on the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old who came through to outpoint Juniper and long time leader Lady Of The Night.

The even-money favourite will according to her rider appreciate a further step up in trip on a more galloping track.

He said: “The track rode a bit tighter than on her run at Wincanton and the ground was dead and tacky. She struggled to hold her position going down the back but she’s really gutsy, and when I asked her away she went, showing a fighting spirit.”

Gavin Sheehan had to content himself with second on Juniper in that race – but the jockey had earlier connected with Brave Seasca flooring 11-10 shot Interconnected in the Mansionbet’s Watch And Bet Novices’ Hurdle.

Sheehan said: “I was impressed with the way he jumped. He got in a bit tight to a couple, but then winged the flights in the back and got a flier at the second-last, after which I always thought I was going to win.

“His form had worked out and I think that long term he’s a rangy, scopey chaser in the making.”

Liam Harrison needs just two more winners to see his claim reduced to 5lb after the battling success of No No Juliet in the mansionbet.com Mares’ Handicap Chase.

The 5-2 winner grabbed Ellens Way approaching the last and stayed on in determined fashion to score by a length and three-quarters, with The Toojumpa just a neck further away.

The jockey said: “Her Wetherby run was not long off the back of her previous race, so she’d been given a bit more time between races. She was a bit cold early in the race today, but really warmed to the task as the race progressed.”

Malina Ocarina posted a 20-1 shock when coming home three and a half lengths clear of Great Hall for Gary Hanmer and Charlie Todd in the Mansionbet’s Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle.

Jumps courses on weather watch as cold snap bites

Jumps tracks are bracing themselves for another week of inspections and abandonments due to the continuing cold snap.

Sunday’s card at Musselburgh survived a morning inspection, but fixtures remain under threat in the coming week.

A poor weather forecast has prompted Plumpton to call an inspection at 8am on Monday to determined prospects for that day’s card.

Light snow is forecast with temperatures down to -2C overnight and not expected to rise above freezing.

Frost sheets were deployed on landings, take offs and vulnerable areas on Friday.

The prospect of a sharp frost on Sunday night has forced Carlisle to hold a precautionary inspection at 8am on Monday ahead of the same day’s meeting.

There is currently no problem with waterlogging, but there is a chance of snow on Monday.

Taunton are to inspect at noon on Monday to assess prospects for Tuesday’s card.

The course was free from frost on Sunday morning, but it is set to get colder overnight with temperatures forecast to drop to -2C on Sunday and -4C on Monday night. Daytime temperatures will struggle to get above freezing.

An precautionary inspection is also set for Market Rasen at noon on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s fixture due to the potential risk of snow and frost.

Wednesday’s meeting at Fontwell has been abandoned following an inspection on Sunday afternoon.

The course was found to be waterlogged in places and unraceable.

An inspection is set for Huntingdon at 4pm on Monday ahead of Thursday’s programme as the course is waterlogged.

The Alconbury brook has burst its banks and areas of the home straight are flooded.

Friday’s jumps card at Kempton is also in doubt due to the lake bend being waterlogged.

Officials are expecting up to 25 millimetres from a mixture of rain, sleet and snow. Minimum temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday could go down to -5C, with a maximum temperature of +2C.

Huntingdon double on Happy Diva agenda

Happy Diva has her sights set on winning this month’s Pertemps Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Huntingdon for a second time.

Kerry Lee’s talented mare defeated Magic Of Light to take the Listed contest over two and a half miles in 2019, having finished second the previous year.

“She’s in great form. She’s on target for the Lady Protectress at Huntingdon at the end of the month,” said the Herefordshire trainer.

Happy Diva was third to My Old Gold in a Listed race at Carlisle on her latest start at the end of November, two weeks after falling at the second-last when disputing fourth place in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

The 10-year-old had won that race too in 2019.

“She was unlucky at Cheltenham, unfortunately – (but) such is life,” said Lee.

“She’s quite all right, and she will be going there (to Huntingdon on January 29), all things being well.”

Huntingdon forced to abandon Friday card due to flooding

Friday’s meeting at Huntingdon is the latest fixture to fall foul of the weather due to waterlogging.

The Alconbury brook which borders the course has burst its banks. A precautionary inspection for 4pm on Thursday was initially called just before 8am, but not long after 11am it became apparent racing would not be possible.

Clerk of the course Jack Pryor said: “Unfortunately the brook has burst its banks and as a result the meeting cannot go ahead as the course is flooded.

“The brook bursting is quite a regular occurrence as we are on a flood plain.”

Pryor is also clerk of the course at Market Rasen, who are due to race on Saturday and as yet no problems are anticipated.

“It’s not too bad there. I’ve called it soft, heavy in places this (Thursday) morning, but rain is forecast so it could deteriorate a little bit,” said Pryor.

“At the minute we’ve no concerns.”

Thursday’s North Yorkshire Grand National meeting at Catterick had to be abandoned due to snow.

Officials called a precautionary inspection for 7.30am due to the threat of snow overnight, and clerk of the course Fiona Needham arrived to a wintry scene.

With snow continuing to fall, Needham had no option but to call off proceedings at around 6.30am.

She said: “The snow came in the small hours, I think. We had a covering when I got here just after 5.30am and I was thinking ‘if this turned to sleet, it might go’. Unfortunately, as I went to walk the course, the snow just got heavier and heavier.

“It became obvious the snow wasn’t going anywhere. It’s disappointing, but it is what it is.”

The are no worries at Warwick ahead of the Classic Chase meeting on Saturday.

Clerk of the course Jane Hedley said: “Based on the current forecast we’ve no concerns.

“We’re soft heavy in places at the minute and we’re expecting a bit more rain or maybe sleet, but nothing that should lie – we don’t think.

“Friday is dry, but we are due some rain on raceday, which is annoying more than anything so there’s every chance we could have heavy ground. But it’s not forecast in volumes that concern us.”

Lingfield’s National Hunt meeting on Monday has been called off following a Thursday inspection.

The situation was bleaker still ahead of Newcastle’s meeting on January 20, where the course was partially frozen, waterlogged and under snow. A noon inspection was called, with the inevitable outcome confirmed shortly afterwards.

Both meetings have been rearranged to be run as ‘Jumpers Bumpers’ cards.

Rainyday Woman impresses in Huntingdon victory

Rainyday Woman proved a cut above her rivals in the Fitzdares Club Adores Henrietta Knight Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race to form the highlight of a Huntingdon double for Paul Nicholls.

Having made a winning debut for the 11-times champion trainer at Stratford last month, the imposing five-year-old had little problem in following up, running out a decisive winner of the Listed prize.

Prominently-ridden throughout, the 7-2 joint-favourite galloped on strongly all the way to the line under Nicholls’ daughter, Megan, before scoring by three and a half lengths.

Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “Megan felt like she had improved from Stratford and it looked like she had at home.

“I think the fact she is a big, strong mare in those conditions suited well as she stays very well.

“Meg was a bit concerned she did a fraction too much for the first mile, but I’d say she has a good level of ability.”

Rainyday Woman is likely to wait until next season before having her attentions switched to hurdles, according to Derham.

He added: “I suspect we will stick to bumpers for this season. You could either go to the Listed bumper at Sandown or the Grade Two at Aintree for girls.

“She will be one to really look forward to in mares’ novice hurdles next season.”

Silent Revolution completed a brace for both Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden after landing the Fitzdares Wishes Everyone A Merry Christmas Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race by a short head.

Derham said of the 11-10 favourite: “He is a nice horse, but he wouldn’t want the ground that deep.

“He got done for a bit of toe turning in, but he showed a fantastic attitude for a young horse to stay on like that and get back up.”

Premiumaccess and Harry Cobden clear the last
Premiumaccess and Harry Cobden clear the last (Tim Goode/PA)

Grade One-winning rider Cobden got off the mark aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained Premiumaccess, who opened his account under rules in the Google The Fitzdares Club Right Now Novices’ Handicap Chase, which the 17-2 shot claimed by a length.

Cobden said: “Last night I thought he would win as I schooled him the other week at the Tizzards.

“He has always shown he is a nice horse and he does work well, but he jumps exceptionally well.

“I thought today if he didn’t win off 110 I didn’t know anything about racing.”

Eclair De Guye and Bryony Frost clear the last before going on to win the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase
Eclair De Guye and Bryony Frost clear the last before going on to win the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

Bryony Frost and Lucy Wadham struck gold together for the second time in three days following the nine-and-a-half-length victory secured by Eclair De Guye (6-1) in the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase.

Frost said: “He took a bit of time to warm up, but down the back he really started to jump.

“He made some good ground then and over the last mile he really started to operate.

“I enjoyed trying to work out what the best thing to do with him was and get him on my side.”

On the link up with Wadham, she added: “Leighton Aspell helped me loads with the first couple of rides and as he has now retired Lucy wanted a jockey.

“Her owners seemed to like me, thankfully, and the relationship has started to build.

“She is brilliant to work with.”

Zhiguli and Niall Houlihan (right) on the way to winning the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)
Zhiguli and Niall Houlihan (right) on the way to winning the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

Niall Houlihan received an early Christmas present when eclipsing his previous best seasonal total of seven winners with a four-length victory aboard Zhiguli (5-2) in the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle.

Houlihan said of the Gary Moore-trained winner: “That’s eight winners for the season, which is great.

“There was no set target – just to ride as many winners as I could. I’m just happy to have beaten last year’s total.”

Morrison targeting Listed honours with Miss Austen

Fresh from picking up a big prize with Not So Sleepy last Saturday, Hughie Morrison has his sights set on Tuesday’s Fitzdares Club Adores Henrietta Knight Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Huntingdon with Miss Austen.

While her two outings to date were almost a year apart, she was due to run at the Grand National meeting before the pandemic struck.

She was last seen winning by almost 10 lengths at Ludlow in January and Morrison is hunting for black type.

“We were always aiming for Aintree with her, but of course it never happened,” he said.

“So we reconvened, we were thinking of going to Cheltenham or Huntingdon, but she had a slight niggle so we decided to wait for this.

“She’s got a great temperament and a really good little engine, I think she’s a decent mare. We’re hopeful she can get some black type.”

Michael Scudamore also enjoyed a good weekend with Nada To Prada picking up a Listed prize at Haydock and he is chasing another with Karlie, who won a point-to-point before scoring on her Rules debut on fast ground at Taunton.

Scudamore said: “She won her point on soft ground, but coped with quicker ground well at Taunton so she’s versatile that way.

“It’s hard to know what she achieved at Taunton, but she quickened up and did it in a nice fashion.

“Obviously she’ll have to step up again on that, but she’s fit and well and raring to go.”

Kim Bailey’s Flirtatious Girl is one of the more inexperienced runners in the field having had just the one run, but she did win at Warwick.

“The form hasn’t particularly worked out very well, but I think she’s improved since she ran,” said Bailey.

“It’s a very tough race, so if she’s in the first three I shall be delighted.

“She won on good ground on her debut, but I can’t see why she wouldn’t handle it softer.”

Fergal O’Brien runs both All Clenched Up and Blue Sans, while Alan King’s Nina The Terrier is another likely to be well fancied having won her only outing to date.

Disappointment for Huntingdon as Peterborough Chase card abandoned

The meeting scheduled for Huntingdon on Sunday has been abandoned due to waterlogging.

The fixture was due to stage the Peterborough Chase, but following 24 millimetres of rain on Thursday and Friday the Alconbury brook burst its banks and areas of both the track and racecourse facilities were left flooded, with no possibility of improvement before Sunday.

The Grade Two Peterborough had attracted a strong field, including Ann Hamilton’s Old Roan winner Nuts Well and the Nicky Henderson-trained pair of Top Notch and Mister Fisher.

A similar situation in 2017 saw the race moved to Taunton.

Henderson lining up dual assault on Peterborough prize

Nicky Henderson is likely to be double-handed with Top Notch and Mister Fisher in Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon – as long as the ground does not turn soft.

Henderson, who is just one behind Henrietta Knight’s record of eight wins in the Grade Two event, holds a soft spot for Top Notch, who is responsible for two of his victories in the race.

However, in Mister Fisher, who is three years younger at six, he could face a very stern opponent from inside his own stable.

“Top Notch is a real friend, he’s been with us for years and everybody loves him,” said Henderson, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“We have had to stop and tinker with his palate which does take three to four weeks out of your prep, which does just worry me as I would like to have been out a bit earlier than this.

“It did hold us up. He’s done plenty, his weight is good and it’s an ideal race for him – two and a half miles around Huntingdon is great.

“Mister Fisher is pretty likely to join him if the ground is anywhere near good.

“Unfortunately he got stuck in the mud in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham the other day.

“I could wait for the Caspian Caviar (at Cheltenham) next week, but if Huntingdon was genuinely good – I dare not wait another week as he has to have good ground – he would join him, which might make things more complicated for Top Notch.”

Rouge Vif needs sound surface at Sandown

Harry Whittington is keeping an eye on the Sandown weather as he prepares Rouge Vif to take on Altior in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior has been the dominant force in the two-mile division for the last few seasons, save last term when an attempt to step up in trip left its mark on the 10-year-old as he was limited to just two starts.

In contrast, Rouge Vif was twice a winner in the 2019/20 campaign and finished third in the Arkle, boosting his mark to 156 – a perch from which he triumphed with ease on his return at Cheltenham in October.

A subsequent run in last month’s Shloer Chase back at Prestbury Park was scuppered by testing ground, and Whittington believes a sound surface at the Esher venue is crucial to Rouge Vif’s chances.

He said: “Rouge Vif is in great form and firmly on course for the Tingle Creek Chase on Saturday.

“We would obviously rather have our conditions, given we are taking on the likes of Altior, so better ground will be important to him. I think if the ground remains as it is, we would be hopeful of a good run.

“If Sandown got plenty of rain then that would put his participation in doubt, but at the moment he is a definite runner if the weather holds – and it is something we are really looking forward to.

“These are the races you dream about running in. To have a horse capable of running in a big Grade One like the Tingle Creek against a horse of Altior’s calibre is hugely exciting. Hopefully, we don’t get too much rain, and it should be a very exciting race.”

Simply The Betts has the option of running at Huntingdon for Whittington
Simply The Betts has the option of running at Huntingdon for Whittington (Tim Goode/PA)

On what could be a big weekend for Whittington and owners Kate and Andrew Brooks, Simply The Betts is also entered in Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

The seven-year-old, who was a Festival winner back in March, finished sixth on his return in the Paddy Power Gold Cup back at Cheltenham last month – and he could yet return to that venue in preference to Sunday’s Grade Two contest.

Whittington added: “He’s in great form and has come out of his last race fine. He’s also in the Caspian Caviar at Cheltenham on December 12, and no decision about where he runs will be made until later in the week. Wherever he runs, I think he’ll run very well.”

Hamilton hoping Nuts Well can shine in Peterborough prize

Nuts Well is among 14 entries for Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

Trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton and owned by her husband Ian, the nine-year-old has won five of his last six races.

He beat Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Aye Right on his seasonal reappearance and followed up in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, which has produced its fair share of subsequent winners.

“The Old Roan hasn’t worked out so bad, has it?” said Ian Hamilton.

“He’s been all right since, but he has a hell of a weight to carry this weekend.

“Hopefully they won’t all show up, he’s in good fettle so we’ll just have to hope for the best.

“Two or three that were behind us at Aintree have come out and won, and that is always nice to see.

“He’d have a little chance I would think. I suppose one worry is that he carried 11st 7lb at Aintree, he’ll have something similar on Sunday but Danny (McMenamin) won’t be able to claim 3lb as this is a Graded race and with the Covid changes, they are already carrying an extra 3lb.

“I think this might be a bit better race than Aintree, but we’ll see how we get on.

“After Harriet’s (Graham) horse (Aye Right) ran so well in the Ladbrokes Trophy, it would be great if we could go south and do something similar – Harriet is just a young lass compared to us though! It was magic watching, giving the winner all the weight too. She trains not far from us, so we were delighted.”

Top Notch won the race at Taunton three years ago
Top Notch won the race at Taunton three years ago (Julian Herbert/PA)

Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch is chasing a third victory in the race, having won a rearranged version at Taunton in 2017 and reclaimed the Grade Two prize back at its rightful home 12 months ago.

Top Notch has not been seen since finishing third to Frodon in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January. Henderson could also run Mister Fisher.

Paul Nicholls has entered Dolos, while Nigel Twiston-Davies has given Al Dancer the option.

Bun Doran, Mercian Prince, Simply The Betts and Fanion D’Estruval are all in the mix too.