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My Sister Sarah makes Kempton raid worthwhile

It is rare for Willie Mullins to send a runner from Ireland to the British mainland on a Monday, much less to Kempton Park.

So punters duly noted My Sister Sarah, who produced a faultless display in the hands of Nico de Boinville to land the feature on the card, the five-runner Listed Racing TV Mares’ Hurdle Race.

The 10-11 favourite was much too good, sealing the deal with a superb leap at the last to score by seven lengths from Dragon Bones (6-4) after taking it up approaching the penultimate fence.

Tenth in the Irish Cesarewitch last time, the seven-year-old relished the dry conditions.

Willie Mullins was on the mark at Kempton
Willie Mullins was on the mark at Kempton (Niall Carson/PA)

“She gained her confidence throughout the race. She was a slightly classier horse,” said the winning rider.

Mullins added from his Closutton base: “We’ll try to keep her to mares’ races over that kind of trip and perhaps we’ll look to Leopardstown at Christmas next while keeping an eye on the English programme as well.

“I’d imagine the Mares’ Hurdle (at Cheltenham) will be her main target in the spring at this stage.”

Fergal O’Brien is in fine form and the yard had a four-timer on the day, including a Kempton double with Gortroe Joe and Timberman, both ridden by 3lb claimer Liam Harrison.

Gortroe Joe (11-4) put a frustrating run of near misses behind him when landing the racingtv.com Handicap Chase.

Patient tactics appeared to work, although Harrison needed to wake the nine-year-old up with a circuit to run. Gortroe Joe eventually warmed to the task and the partnership were in command at the final fence, with a decent leap helping secure an 11-length success from Broken Quest.

Harrison said: “He was a bit cold on me today and usually he is very enthusiastic, but they went off a very good gallop and the lack of jumping wouldn’t have helped him.

“They went a very good gallop and he went to sleep on me a little bit and I had to give him a wake-up call. He is a joy to ride and he wears his heart on his sleeve every time.”

Harrison then closed out the O’Brien double when Timberman (2-1 favourite) benefited from a truly-run Join Racing TV Now Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle.

The pace was strong in the two-mile heat and the field were well strung out at the end, with the winner having five lengths to spare over Paso Doble.

Harrison said: “Fergal has had a four-timer and that tells you all you need to know – he is a fantastic trainer and I am lucky to be riding for him.

“We went a very good gallop and Donald McCain’s horse (See The Sea) has been tearing up track records, and a race run like that suited him as he was able to pick up the pieces. I was impressed. He wasn’t stopping at the line.

“He is maybe quirky and needs things to fall his way, but Fergus Gregory gave him a lovely ride at Cheltenham last time to set him up for today.”

The Ben Pauling yard is in good form and Not At Present added to the haul when taking the Wise Betting @racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle in the hands of 5lb claimer Luca Morgan.

The 9-2 chance’s three-quarters-of-a-length success from Vaziani was his third success in four starts and Pauling is hopeful the six-year-old will soon go chasing.

He said: “I keep threatening to go chasing with him. He doesn’t really respect the hurdles. He will be a better chaser. He has been busy enough now and at some point he will have to have a break and come back in the spring.

“This was the plan. I suppose we may try to find somewhere a bit better. He is not short of speed, but I’m not sure he will get in something like the Lanzarote Hurdle.”

Call Of The Wild (1-3 favourite) showed plenty of guts to get the better of Petrossian in the three-runner EBF Stallions ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle in the hands of Tom Cannon.

The only four-year-old in the field, he was forced to make the running and despite being headed over the last, stayed on nicely to break his hurdling duck at the second attempt.

None of the trio wanted to make the running and they took an age to get into a canter, and while far from fluent at a couple of hurdles, Call Of The Wild made the best of his way home to score by two and a quarter lengths.

Cannon said: “Before the race I was hoping the (Paul) Nicholls horse (Petrossian) would make the running, but I spoke to Harry (Cobden) and it wasn’t, and then I thought Tom Scudamore and Hartnoll Hero might go on, but he wasn’t, either.

“We had a bit of experience, and he was actually fine making the running in front. He got the job done at the end of the day and hopefully he can go on for that.”

There was more drama in the other three-runner race on the card, the Racing TV Novices’ Steeple Chase, when Sebastopol and jockey Aidan Coleman, who was upsides at the last, suffered a crashing fall. Fortunately, both eventually got to their feet.

The Dan Skelton-trained Rockstar Ronnie (13-8 joint-favourite) and jockey Bridget Andrews were the beneficiaries, going on to beat Atholl Street by 13 lengths.

Andrews said: “No one likes to see that, but we got lucky. It was a shame that a few fences were taken out because of the shadows as jumping is an asset to him, but he jumped fantastic.

“He was not as fresh today. We know we need to give him a bit longer between runs, but he is a brilliant jumper and needs quick ground. He may have a little break now when the rain comes.”

Doddiethegreat romps to victory on hurdling debut

Doddiethegreat made an impressive start to the campaign as he cantered home by 22 lengths in the Watch RacingTV With Free Trial Now Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, the five-year-old runs in the Honeysuckle colours of owner Kenny Alexander.

He is named after Scottish rugby union great Doddie Weir, who is suffering from motor neurone disease and has set up his own charity to help others in the same situation.

The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation aims to raise funds to aid research into MND, and Alexander has donated everything Doddiethegreat earns to the charity – adding just over £4,000 to the pot when he triumphed as the 1-3 favourite in the hands of Nico de Boinville on his hurdling debut.

The Nicky Henderson-trained runner was a bit keen in the early stages and showed his inexperience on what was just his third outing, but nevertheless his performance impressed Alexander’s racing manager Peter Molony.

“We were very pleased with the performance considering he pulled so hard – he was very fresh,” he said.

“He’s obviously got a pretty serious engine and it’s great for Doddie Weir’s foundation.

“Kenny has only met Doddie once, but he was very impressed when he met him, so he decided to do this.”

Molony reported Doddiethegreat to have sustained a cut during the race, but is hoping for a swift recovery.

He added: “We have one slight worry as the horse came back with quite a nasty cut. Hopefully he’ll be fine.

“He’s very exciting. I would think in a more strongly-run race he’ll jump better and settle better.

“Nicky has been very positive about him since he came back from his summer break, so fingers crossed the cut won’t be too bad and he’ll be OK.”

Royal makes victorious return with Kempton Listed strike

Sceau Royal capped a memorable weekend for Alan King when coming out well on top against Silver Streak in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Hurdle at Kempton.

Just over 24 hours on from cheering home Trueshan at Ascot on Champions Day and seeing Senior Citizen win a decent pot at Market Rasen, stable stalwart Sceau Royal showed he is still going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Evan Williams’ Silver Streak was sent off the 4-6 favourite attempting to win the race for the third year in succession.

Having also won the Christmas Hurdle at the track, Silver Streak looked sure to be difficult to beat but his jumping was a little rusty, continually giving away ground at his obstacles.

On the other hand, Sceau Royal (7-4) jumped slickly, with Daryl Jacob happy to take up the running just before the last flight and he sprinted clear to win by three and a half lengths.

“That was lovely. We had the option of going back for the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las which he won last year or going for this,” said King.

“He was rated a lot higher over hurdles this year than he was last year and I thought this was the right place to come and get him started rather than carrying top weight yesterday.

“I thought he would run very well but come on for it a bit. It was a good starting point. He has just been a superstar. He always travels well through his races.

“The Queen Mother (Champion Chase) last year was very hard to take (badly hampered when going well). I don’t think I’ve ever left a racecourse as disappointed as I did that day and that might have been his big chance – but we have regrouped and he has been fine.

“He has been an absolute legend year after year and hopefully there is a bit more in him yet.”

Alan King has enjoyed a memorable weekend
Alan King has enjoyed a memorable weekend (Mike Egerton/PA)

A return to Wincanton to defend his Elite Hurdle title is now on the cards.

“I’d imagine we would go back for the Elite now and go from there,” said King.

“Over fences I would only go left-handed as he does go left. I know he won the Henry VIII a few years ago, but he is better left-handed over fences.

“We will just duck and dive with him.”

Williams was philosophical in defeat, saying: “He was beaten by a very good horse and we have so much respect for the winner and Alan’s horses are in very good form. There are no excuses.

“We will go to the Fighting Fifth (at Newcastle) now. Some days you are not disappointed about getting beaten as you get beaten by the right horse and he is not going to win them all. The winner is a very good horse.

“We will be all right – good horses get beat. We didn’t jump well today. He didn’t jump the first or second. I thought we would pick up turning in and go and win the race but he didn’t.”

‘Utter superstar’ Prince Of Arran bows out at Kempton

Charlie Fellowes went through a multitude of emotions on a roller-coaster day at Kempton that saw him register a first domestic Group-race success with Eve Lodge and retire his long-time stable star Prince Of Arran in the very next contest.

Eve Lodge gave the Newmarket handler his landmark triumph in the Group Three Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Sirenia Stakes to add to the Group Three races he has won aboard, including with Prince Of Arran, as well as having several Listed races to his credit.

Prince Of Arran put up a solid performance in the Unibet September Stakes won by the William Haggas-trained Hamish – but Fellowes felt the time was right to bring the curtain down on his career, after the authorities in Australia informed him the eight-year-old would not be permitted to run in the Melbourne Cup for a fourth time.

“An amazing day. It was quite apt Prince Of Arran was here on a day I got my first domestic Group winner,” said Fellowes.

“It’s been a long time coming and we’ve gone so close on so many occasions, including with Prince Of Arran, and for it to happen with him here was fantastic. A special day. One I will never forget.”

Prince Of Arran won more than £2million in prize-money, mainly thanks to his placed efforts in the last three runnings of the Melbourne Cup.

Fellowes added: “The plan had been to run him in the Melbourne Cup and retire him after that. This was going to be his last year racing whatever.

“The run today was very good for him. It’s as good as he’s run in this race.

“He ran well up to form and it was lovely to see him much better than he was at Ascot in he spring. If we’d been allowed to go to Australia we’d have gone, but now that’s off the cards there’s not much else here for him now.

“We retire a sound and happy horse and he’ll have a fantastic retirement wherever that may be.

“For someone at this stage of my career with a horse like him, some of the days I’ve had have been so special.

“He’s won over £2m in prize-money, we’ve travelled all around the world with him and he’s been an utter superstar. I can’t thank his owners enough or the many people in our yard who have had such an impact on his career.”

For connections of Hamish, it was sheer delight after the five-year-old bounced back impressively after 442 days out through injury to lower the colours of Hukum, the 30-100 favourite, by a neck.

Maureen Haggas, assistant trainer to her husband, said: “I didn’t think we’d beat Hukum, I must say. He was fit and well, but has obviously been off the track for a long time and was a bit fresh and gassy today.

“It’s been a real big team effort to get him back. Laura Thomas did all his treatment and rehab for his tendon injury with the vet Jeremy Swan, and Andrew Tinkler has ridden him a lot at home.

“He’s a talented horse. He had great form as a three-year-old and ran a really good race in the Hardwicke last year, where unfortunately he picked up his tendon injury.

“It was great for the family to get a Group winner. He needs soft ground and we ran him today as we needed to get out and give him a race as he was ready to go.

“It’s a kind surface here – we couldn’t run him at York in the Ebor as it was too fast. He needs rain so he will run where it rains. We aim at the stayers’ race on Champions Day at Ascot and work back from that.”

Fellowes, meanwhile, can look to the future with Eve Lodge after she justified his faith with an authoritative success.

Always prominent in the hands of Jim Crowley, the 16-1 chance galloped on strongly to beat the staying-on Wings Of War by a length.

The daughter of Ardad made amends for being beaten at odds on last time at Yarmouth, but she can now be excused that as the horse that beat her, Romantic Time, landed the Group Three Dick Poole Stakes at Salisbury on Thursday.

Fellowes said: “She’s a filly I’ve always liked and we were disappointed at Ascot, but the ground was so bad. We went away deflated and then went to Yarmouth and thought she was a penalty kick. She got beaten and we were slightly scratching our heads that maybe she’s not as good as I thought she was, but the winner has gone and won a Group Three on Thursday.

“Suddenly that race looked pretty good and I was feeling a lot more confident. I knew she would love the track and the surface and we had a ripper of a draw.

“I’m delighted with that. She’s a nice filly and has got a brilliant attitude.

“She’s a good-sized filly and I have no doubt she will train on next year.

“Annoyingly, she’s not in the Cheveley Park. I’ll speak to the owners and we’ll decide where the next move is for her, but she’s in a few sales races which could be tempting. We’ll see where we go.”

Hukum gunning for Group Three hat-trick

Hukum is reported to be in good health again as he bids to win a third Group Three race in a row in the Unibet September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday.

The four-year-old colt has looked good with victories in the John Smith’s Silver Cup at York and the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury on his last two starts.

Trainer Owen Burrows was thinking of running him in France until the horse gave an unsatisfactory scope last week. Hukum has been fine this week, persuading connections to return the four-year-old to the fray.

“Touch wood, he seems grand. It’s a nice spot again for him so fingers crossed,” said the Lambourn handler.

“We were looking at a Group Two in France last week and he had his normal scopes before and there was a little bit of mucus there. It didn’t grow any infection, but we didn’t want to be take him over there like that. In hindsight, it may have done us a favour.

“It wasn’t meant to be and this was coming a week or so later. We were lucky he didn’t get any infection so he didn’t need any antibiotics.

“I’ve been pleased with him this week so we thought we’d have a go.”

Charlie Fellowes is hoping he has Prince Of Arran back to his best for his third crack at this race, having finished third in the last two years.

Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Prince Of Arran
Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Prince Of Arran (Simon Cooper/PA)

“Prince Of Arran is in great form. Jamie Spencer rode him last week and said he felt a completely different horse to the one he rode in the spring. He seems in a much happier place mentally,” said the Newmarket handler.

“He just needed time to get over his runs in Australia as they took a lot out of him. He likes Kempton, but hates it when there is no pace in the race. It looks like there will be some pace as hopefully Archie’s (Watson) horse (Outbox) will go forward and give the race a decent gallop.

“If they go a nice gallop, he will run a nice race as he seems in good form and he loves Kempton.”

Hamish finally has his first run since June 2020, having been sidelined through injury.

Trainer William Haggas withdrew the five-year-old from the Ebor at York two weeks ago as the ground was too quick.

“I wanted try to win the Ebor with him, but unfortunately the ground wasn’t right for him. I could have run him if I wanted to, but we want to look after him,” he said.

“It was a tendon injury that he picked up, but he has had a clear run now. The conditions here will be suitable and I just want to get a run into him now.

“I think he is in pretty good shape considering he has been off for a long time. It was a good run he put up in last year’s Hardwicke Stakes from a moderate position and he came home well that day, while his three-year-old form stacks up nicely.”

Hugo Palmer feels the hat-trick-seeking Hierarchy has plenty going for him in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Sirenia Stakes.

The Mehmas colt successfully followed up his winning debut at Wolverhampton with victory in a novice event at Salisbury.

Palmer said: “His heart is in the right place and he seems to be improving as a two-year-old. He is showing the general public what he can do in the afternoon opposed to showing it in the morning, as he definitely saves his best for racing.

“He handles the surface, has a nice a draw and has got the momentum behind him.

“He is very much a two-year-old and though I’m not saying he will not make it at three, he would need to grow and develop.”

David Loughnane expects Fearless Angel to appreciate the step up in trip judging by her staying-on fifth over five furlongs in a Listed event at Newbury.

“She has done everything right since she has come to us. She was unlucky not to get a bit of black type last time,” said the Shropshire handler.

“She was a fraction slow away and she didn’t get into stride straight away, so she had to sit and suffer but she hit the line strongly.

“I think the all-weather will suit her and six furlongs won’t be a problem. We are hopeful of a good run.”

Prince Of Arran up for latest September challenge

Charlie Fellowes reports Prince Of Arran to be coming back to his best ahead of the Unibet September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday.

The Newmarket trainer felt the eight-year-old was not himself earlier in the campaign, but all is well now and a fourth successive trip to Australia could be on the cards should be put up a good show in the Group Three over a mile and a half.

Prince Of Arran has finished third in the last two runnings of the September Stakes and has been placed in the Melbourne Cup for the last three years.

“He is September Stakes-bound on Saturday. I think the race last year really left a mark on him,” Fellowes told Sky Sports Racing.

“He ran two huge races in Australia and didn’t win either of them. He was bitterly unlucky both times and it’s taken him a long time to get over that. He was not the same horse in the spring. You could see mentally he wasn’t in the right place, so we’ve given him the time.

“I didn’t know if, at eight years old, he’d had enough, but we’ve prepared him for this race with a view of going to Australia and every piece of work he’s got better and better.

“Jamie Spencer rode him on Saturday having not ridden him since the spring, and he couldn’t believe the difference in him. He said he felt like a two-year-old again – he worked brilliantly. He’s a much happier horse and more enthusiastic. It’s maybe this time of year he blossoms.

“He loves Kempton. It looks like a decent race, but he’s a very good horse round there and I’d just like to see him run well. If he runs well then all options are open going forward.”

John Leeper set to return at either Kempton or Longchamp

John Leeper is set to return to action at the weekend in either the Unibet September Stakes at Kempton or the Prix du Prince d’Orange at ParisLongchamp.

The September Stakes is over a mile and a half on Saturday, with the French race over a mile and a quarter on Sunday.

The three-year-old colt, named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father, John, is on course to run for the first time in nine weeks in one of the two races.

The beautifully-bred son of Frankel out of six-times Group One-winning mare Snow Fairy was given a break after finishing third to Euchen Glen in the Listed Gala Stakes at Sandown in early July.

“Things weren’t right after Sandown. We weren’t happy with him and as a result of that he went and had a holiday. He was turned out for a month,” said the Newmarket handler.

“He’s come back and we’ve been very pleased with him and he seems much happier.

“He won’t have a penalty for winning a Listed race, so as long as he remains healthy and well, we’ll take him to Kempton or there’s a chance he might go to France on Sunday for the Group Three over a mile and a quarter.”

Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes
Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes (Martin Rickett/PA)

After winning at Newcastle and Newmarket in the spring, John Leeper was fancied for the Cazoo Derby but the race did not work out and he was well-beaten behind Adayar.

The nine entries for the September Stakes are headed by the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum, winner of Group Three races at York and Newbury on his last two starts.

Saeed bin Suroor has the in-form Passion And Glory, who completed a hat-trick in the Group Three Glorious Stakes at Goodwood, while Charlie Fellowes’ Prince Of Arran could try to better his two third placed efforts in the last two runnings of this race.

The possibles are completed by Brunnera, Fox Tal, Hamish, Outbox and Palavecino.

John Leeper set to return in September Stakes

John Leeper is likely to attempt to get back on track in the Unibet September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday.

The three-year-old colt, named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father, John, is on course for the Group Three contest over a mile and a half.

The beautifully-bred son of Frankel out of six-times Group One-winning mare Snow Fairy was given a break after finishing third to Euchen Glen in the Listed Gala Stakes at Sandown in early July.

“Things weren’t right after Sandown. We weren’t happy with him and as a result of that he went and had a holiday. He was turned out for a month,” said the Newmarket handler.

“He’s come back and we’ve been very pleased with him. He seems much happier and this is the race we chose for his comeback.

“He seems to like the all-weather. There’s still the uncertainty of the trip, but at this time of year it’s the right kind of level without carrying a penalty for winning a Listed race, so we’re more than likely, as long as he remains healthy and well, going to take him there.”

After winning at Newcastle and Newmarket in the spring, John Leeper was fancied for the Cazoo Derby, but the race did not work out and he was well-beaten behind Adayar.

Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes
Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes (Martin Rickett/PA)

The nine entries for the September Stakes are headed by the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum, winner of Group Three races at York and Newbury on his last two starts.

Saeed bin Suroor has the in-form Passion And Glory, who completed a hat-trick in the Group Three Glorious Stakes at Goodwood, while Charlie Fellowes’ Prince Of Arran could try to better his two third-placed efforts in the last two runnings of this race.

The possibles are completed by Brunnera, Fox Tal, Hamish, Outbox and Palavecino.

Wednesday’s evening fixtures brought forward to avoid England clash

Wednesday’s evening fixtures at Bath and Kempton have been switched to earlier starts to avoid clashing with England’s Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark.

The crunch clash at Wembley kicks off at 8pm, with Bath initially scheduled to race until 8.35pm and Kempton’s last contest programmed for 8.50pm.

However, following applications from the owners of both tracks, Arena Racing Company and Jockey Club Racecourses respectively, both cards will now be completed before the game kicks off, with Bath’s last race at 7.35pm and Kempton’s closer at 7.45pm.

Harry Kane was England's hero in Rome on Saturday night
Harry Kane was England’s hero in Rome on Saturday night (Marco Iacobucci/PA)

A statement from the British Horseracing Authority said: “Having received applications from both the Jockey Club and Arena Racing Company, the BHA has approved the alteration of race times at both Kempton Park and Bath on Wednesday evening to avoid a clash with England’s Euro 2020 semi-final match against Denmark.

“We wish Gareth Southgate and the England team the best of luck.”

Fergal O’Brien celebrating maiden century of winners

Fergal O’Brien already has his mind set on a second century of winners next season, after reaching the three-figure landmark for the first time in the final week of the jumps campaign.

Fittingly, it was Oscar Rose who gave O’Brien that all-important 100th winner at Kempton on Monday evening, as the mare had opened O’Brien’s account from his new base at Ravenswell Farm, near Cheltenham, at Southwell in October 2019.

“One hundred winners in any season is pretty phenomenal, so the fact we lost two months (due to Covid-19 pandeminc) early doors as well makes it all the more special,” he said.

“It’s a great achievement by everyone in the yard. You need everyone to be pulling in the right direction and the last year and a half since we’ve been at Ravenswell we’ve had great people there.

“I put it all down to Ravenswell because it’s a fantastic place to train and we were very lucky to find it.

“It was a big gamble by my landlords Rupert and Nicki Lowe. They invested a lot of money in the facilities, but it’s paid dividends. It’s working very well. It’s a fantastic place to train and everyone likes being here.”

O’Brien recalled the day he bought Oscar Rose for £14,000 as a four-year-old at Doncaster in May 2015.

“We bought her as a store horse,” he went on.

“She was our very first runner out of Ravenswell Farm and our first winner from there. We followed the builders in. There were 10 stables up and she went there at the end of that August from a pre-training yard and then she ran at Southwell. Brief Ambition won the same day and he was our second runner.

Oscar Rose has been a star for Fergal O'Brien
Oscar Rose has been a star for Fergal O’Brien (Richard Sellers/PA)

“We hit the ground running and, touch wood, we’ve kept going forward ever since.

“We’ve just got to keep going on and reproduce next year. We have to do it the same again. We’re looking forward to that challenge.

“We’ve got to go back to the sales and buy some new horses and replace some of the ones that have done their job and need to move on to new homes. You can’t stand still in this job.

“We’re very privileged to be able to do what we do and I feel so lucky to be involved in jump racing.”

Switch Hitter on target in Plate prize

Switch Hitter was prominent throughout and held on with great determination to win the Virgin Bet Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle at Kempton.

Bryony Frost had Paul Nicholls’ lightly-raced six-year-old right up with a steady pace almost from the outset, alongside Vive Le Roi.

It proved another canny ride round this track from Frost as Switch Hitter saw off Breffniboy after the last to win by a neck at 11-2 – with favourite Nightboattoclyro having to settle for third, another five lengths back, unable to bridge the gap in the straight after being held up in pursuit of a four-timer this season.

Switch Hitter was returning from a near three-month break, having been well-beaten on his handicap debut over course and distance on Boxing Day.

He was winning for the second time in only five career starts under rules, in this competitive feature race.

The £22,000 contest was a consolation race for those runners that missed the cut at the Cheltenham Festival, and Nicholls was full of praise for the concept.

He said: “It’s brilliant that they have races like this, with nice prize money, for horses that weren’t able to go to Cheltenham.

“I can’t really say enough about the value of these consolation races – he was balloted out of the Coral Cup.

“He will make a lovely chaser next year. He’s a point to point winner and will jump fences.

“There’s a novice chase here in May that could be on the agenda as he wants good ground, but he could firstly go to Sandown where there’s a two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle on the last day of the season.”

Pasvolsky keeps Chris Gordon smiling at Kempton

Chris Gordon completed an across-the-card double when Pasvolsky stayed on too strongly for Straw Fan Jack in the Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton.

Gordon was elated that minutes earlier his Reallyradical had provided 93-year-old owner Betty Chantler with her first ever winner in the handicap chase at Fontwell.

He said: “While I’m delighted that Pasvolsky has won here, what can you say about Betty, experiencing her first winner into her nineties?

“We came here thinking we might be in the four, because it looked a competitive little race – but the way he’s won, I have to hope he hasn’t blown his handicap mark.

“The plan was to go on for the Final at Sandown, but we’ll have to see.”

The Virgin Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase turned into a battle between the only two hold-up horses in the field, with Onthefrontfoot beating fellow 6-1 shot Eskendash by a length under Jonathan Burke.

The jockey was full of praise for the Donald McCain-trained winner, and said: “He can operate, and it was quite a thrill once he’d negotiated the first three.

“He’s a horse that knows his limits, and his run at Ludlow was a massive education for him. He enjoys his racing and jumping, and is a typical Donald McCain type.”

Domaine De L’Isle demonstrated how much he has benefited from an operation by wind specialist Ben Brain when he landed the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase for Sean Curran.

Since completing a hat-trick over fences last season, the 14-1 winner had spent his time in racing’s wilderness – but under an inspired ride from Kevin Brogan, he came through to take charge over the final two fences.

Splitting Manofthemountain and Falco Blitz two out, the eight-year-old stayed on strongly to score by five lengths from the former – with Smarty Wild the same distance back in third.

Curran said: “I’d heard a lot of good things about Kevin, and he’s given the horse a super ride. Before today, he’d never met me or even seen me.

“I came here hoping for a competitive run, but the speed they went turned it into more of a two-and-three-quarter-miler, and when I saw where he was turning in, I knew he would pick them up.”

Looking back to his winner’s voyage on a downward spiral this season, Curran added: “He couldn’t lay up with them in the Paddy Power, and on his latest start David Bass said his wind was rotten.

“It’s thanks to Ben Brain, who operated and did a great job, and also the part played by my own vet Peter Thurloe. It really has been an all-round team effort getting him back.”

Future plans for Domaine De L’Isle are fluid, and Curran said: “All I was thinking about was getting him through today. I need to go home and have a look at the programme book.”

The course of the Virgin Bet Free Bets For Winners Novices’ Hurdle changed dramatically when Get Prepared took a horrible fall three out and brought down Press Your Luck.

That left Jeremy Pass in front, chased by Champagne Mystery (5-2) – but after the former hung left on the run-in, his rival took command to score by a length-and-a-quarter for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville.

The winning jockey said: “He was on a bit of a recovery mission after his fall in the Cheltenham race (Caspian Caviar Gold Cup).

“He showed the ability is there, and knuckled down all the way to the line. His jumping was amiss over fences, but it will come back.”

The Virgin Bet Free Bets For Winners Handicap Chase saw Peur De Rien foil a gamble on Big Difference.

The Oliver Sherwood-trained winner gave Burke the second leg of a double.

Explaining why the 11-2 winner has an “up and down” profile, Sherwood said: “He was a Tim Syder horse, but had breathing issues – and Ben Brain did an operation I’d never heard of, which was all or nothing, and it paid off.

“This horse panics when things go wrong, and can go from hero to zero.

“But he’s a joy to have anything to do with, and I think Tim might take him back now. Jonny said he needs three miles, and would be just as happy on bigger tracks.”

Marracudja completes Kempton walkover

Marracudja secured the easiest £15,640 of his life in the opening Virgin Bet Silver Bowl Handicap Chase at Kempton.

The extended two-and-a-half-mile heat was conceived as a consolation race for those balloted out of Cheltenham handicaps, but a reduced number of entries at this year’s Festival meant only Marracudja was eliminated at the meeting.

Dan Skelton’s 10-year-old was therefore the horse to qualify for the race, with Bridget Andrews getting the leg up for his required canter down the course.

Marracudja had only to walk to the furlong marker and canter back past the winning post to take home the first prize.

Andrews said: “I’ve only ever once before been involved in a walkover, which was at Warwick, and it’s a strange situation when you go to the furlong marker and canter back over the line – especially because this horse was very full of himself and he’s not the easiest.”

Kempton clerk of the course Barney Clifford added: “Since I started clerking here in 1999, this is only the second walkover. The first was in 2002 – it was a chase on the October Sunday meeting brought about by fast ground.”

Marracudja had not secured a first prize since December 2019, when he was an impressive winner of the Castleford Chase at Wetherby, before going on to finish third in the Grade One Clarence House Chase a month later.

My Way Or The Highway In Kempton Handicap

Any live racing on Saturday is going to be an anti-climax after Cheltenham but there is still some pretty good racing on offer. The Midlands Grand National will be the big betting heat of the day but as usual it’s going to be a guessing game as to which horses will last out stamina wise. I’m going to play it slightly safe this week and look at the 3.15 at Kempton (also live on ITV4), a class 3 handicap chase over two and a half miles.

As usual, all the information and tools used below are available with Geegeez Gold – click here to get your first 30 days of Gold for just £1.

Pace

It’s fairly widely known that the Kempton chase course tends to favour those ridden nearer the pace, but how much of an advantage is there?

The majority of winners here are ridden prominently, as are the majority of the placed horses. However it is front runners who have the best win percentage. Leaders have achieved a win percentage of 20%, just ahead of prominent racers who have a 16.13% win ratio. These figures fall steadily the further back in the field a horse is ridden and it’s a pretty similar story as far as the place percentages go, although mid division performs slightly better than prominent this time around. Front runners once again have the best performance and hold up performers once again have the worst performance.

Both front runners and prominent racers have been profitable to back blindly for win purposes in these conditions, prominent racers were more profitable than front runners though with an impressive win PL of 26.13. Front runners have the best IV though of 1.7, ahead of 1.37 for prominent, 1 for mid division and 0.4 for held up.

The above data suggests that in general here, the closer you are to the pace the better. Racing prominently or even in mid division isn’t a huge negative but being held up should certainly be considered a negative, it’s going to be difficult to come from off the pace unless they go really hard up front here.

Pace Map

Here is the pace map for this race, courtesy of the pace tab:

It’s possible we’ll see a contested speed here with Mellow Ben and Princeton Royale likely to dispute the early pace. The former has led on his last three starts, all in bigger fields than this, so it seems highly likely he’ll be sent to the front early. The latter had led on all five starts this season until last time out where he tracked the pace.

It’s also worth noting that My Way has gone from the front on four of his last five starts. He was held up three starts ago which is why the above pace map only considers him to be a prominent racer (the pace map takes an average of the number of runs selected, in this case it is four runs).

So for a relatively small field there is a fair amount of pace in there. It won’t necessarily mean there is a burn up but it should ensure nothing gets a very easy lead.

If it does prove difficult to come from off the pace again here that could inconvenience Domaine De L’Isle and also the well fancied Smarty Wild who are likely to be the most patiently ridden pair in the field.

Instant Expert

Let’s take a look at the Instant Expert in these sorts of conditions for win purposes.

Sorted by odds order, we see that the first few runners in the betting have a a fairly solid profile, from a superficial look. Outsiders Manofthemountain and Domaine De L’Isle also have data going for them.

Manofthemountain has a strong record on good ground, his only chase defeat coming when 4th at Cheltenham over further (the 3rd won his next two starts). The distance is a question mark for him though, as is his well being after being pulled up last time out.

Domaine De L’Isle seems better over this trip than further and has a good record in this sort of field size but he seems better on slightly slower ground and his form this season isn’t up to it.

My Way and Smarty Wild all have nice profiles in Instant Expert it seems. My Way has won over course and distance on good ground which certainly scores him some points. Smarty Wild is another course and distance winner which gives him some advantages in Instant Expert. He’s slightly unproven on this ground but four of his five wins came on good to soft ground so it’s unlikely he’ll be inconvenienced by good, good to soft in places.

The Runners

A quick rundown of each runner’s chances, sorted by from shortest price to longest price according to the early betting.

My Way

Made all over course and distance last time out with first time blinkers added to his usual tongue tie. He’s been pretty consistent throughout the season with generally more aggressive riding tactics employed this season. His two wins have come on his two runs that have come close to this distance on good ground, his defeats have come over 3m+ or on heavy ground.

The team of Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost have an excellent record at Kempton in the past five years. They have a 33.33% strike rate and a place percentage of 60%.

He’s got a good record on this ground at this sort of trip, he took well to the blinkers last time and it’s possible a 9lb rise underestimates him if connections have finally found the key.

Falco Blitz

Another comfortable last time out winner but he’s previously failed to win here at Kempton in two starts. He may have finished 2nd here two starts ago and he has won right handed in the past but given he has often jumped left it’s debateable if this course suits him that well.

The winner of the race in which he was 2nd at Kempton almost went in again on his next start and he’s definitely amongst the best handicapped runners in this race with plenty of improvement left to come but that tendency to jump left could leave him vulnerable here.

Smarty Wild

Smarty Wild is fairly versatile regarding underfoot conditions but possible doesn’t enjoy extremes too much. He won over course and distance two starts ago and the 3rd came out and won a handicap on his next run. He went up 7lbs for that win but has been dropped 1lb after finishing 5th last time out.

He’s often patiently ridden, although was sensibly given a more prominent ride when winning here. If he’s held up again he could find himself poorly placed, even with a decent pace on offer.

Mellow Ben

A good ground lover (all four career wins have come on good ground) who has done most of his winning at Fontwell. He has good form elsewhere though, his run three starts ago at Newbury would give him an excellent chance here.

The 2nd and 9th won next time out, the 10th and 11th won shortly after and the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 8th all finished at least 4th next time out. That’s a pretty strong piece of form in the context of this race. He’s more exposed than the market leaders and hasn’t run nearly as well on his most recent couple of starts but those runs both came over 3m so this drop in trip should suit. A record of zero wins from six career runs at Kempton doesn’t inspire confidence though.

Vinnie The Hoddie

A faster ground specialist whose only two wins came on good and he finished 2nd on his only run on good to firm. His record when completing on good or faster reads 12142. He wasn’t in good form last time out but that was on good to soft in a listed handicap and this represents a drop in grade.

His previous run is more relevant in the context of this race (a class 3 handicap on good ground) and although he ran respectably, he’ll probably need to improve to win this.

He’s been off 121 days which is a risk but his trainer Oliver Sherwood does have a good record with fresh runners in handicaps. An A/E of 1.19 with handicap runners off a 60+ day break and an IV of 1.89 is very respectable.

Whatswrongwithyou

Ran respectably over course and distance a year ago but has only run once since and that was when unseating at the first in November. A further 113 day absence is definitely a concern. The majority of his wins have come on softer ground which is another worry and he’s clearly the stable second string behind Falco Blitz so enough to put most off him.

Manofthemountain

All his 4 wins have come over further and this drop in trip is perhaps an attempt to spark some life into him after he was pulled up last time out at Newbury. He was 4th in a good race at Cheltenham in October but he was beaten 53 lengths. If he could return to his Bangor form from September he’d have a chance but he’s still 5lbs higher and looks opposable.

Domaine De L’Isle

Hasn’t run well since January 2020 but has been given a wind op after his last run so there is a chance we see a better performance here. Just over a year ago he was completing a hat trick and he’s 3lbs lower here so isn’t handicapped out of things. His three wins in the UK have come on soft or heavy and his well-being has to be taken on trust.

Princeton Royale

The complete outsider and easy to understand why. He’s beaten three rivals home in his last four starts. Eight of his nine wins have come on good ground so this will clearly suit but his poor run has included runs on better ground so it hasn’t just been the ground bothering him. Difficult to see him bouncing back in this.

Verdict

An open contest and one in which Mellow Ben and Vinnie The Hoddie can outrun their odds without winning.

Preference though, unoriginally, is for MY WAY who probably isn’t quite the most progressive in the field but he’s one of a few that could be ahead of their mark still and he seems to have absolutely everything in his favour here. Both his wins have come when making all so other pace options are a slight concern but he’s finished runner up with contrasting rides so can run well however he is ridden.

Hollie Doyle hits fabulous five-timer at Kempton

Hollie Doyle dominated at Kempton on Wednesday evening as she rode a spectacular 2,522-1 five-timer.

It was the second five-timer of Doyle’s career after she became the first female rider to complete the feat at Windsor last August, but the jockey also put an extra feather in her cap by landing five successive races at the Sunbury venue.

She kicked off with victory aboard Tony Carroll’s Della Mare (15-8 favourite) in the second division of the Unibet New Instant Roulette Classified Stakes, before triumphing aboard the Archie Watson-trained Laos (7-2) in the Unibet Casino Deposit £10 Get £40 Bonus Novice Stakes.

Highland Avenue (4-9 favourite) then provided the highlight of her five-timer with an impressive verdict in the ‘Road To The Kentucky Derby’ Conditions Stakes for trainer Charlie Appleby.

Doyle then steered home two more winners for Carroll in Sir Titan (14-1) in the Try Our New Price Boosts At Unibet Handicap and Madrinho (8-1), who claimed the Try Our New Super Boosts At Unibet Handicap before teaming up with favourite Chinese Whisperer in the closing event.

Sent off a 5-2 chance, Chinese Whisperer looked like he could help Doyle set a new benchmark as he was still in front in the final furlong, but Merweb swept through on the inside as Doyle’s mount dropped back to fourth – foiling her bid for another slice of history.

Doyle said: “It’s amazing. I thought I had a few good chances on paper tonight, I thought Laos would run well and he did it really nicely.

“Then I had Highland Avenue for Charlie Appleby – he’s a beautifully-bred horse and I think he has got a big future ahead of him.

“It’s great to do this so early in the year. It’s all about building on last year really – I’ll just keep trying my best and doing as well as I can.”

Doyle is currently second behind Richard Kingscote in the all-weather jockeys’ championship and she added: “I think I’ve got quite a gap to make up with Richard, but I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens.”