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Clondaw Castle gives Tom George another big Kempton success

Tom George landed the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton for a third time as Clondaw Castle relished the step up in trip.

Having his first try over three miles, the nine-year-old was being rewarded for a string of consistent efforts.

Fourth in the Arkle as a novice, he was second in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree earlier in the season.

George had been keen to step him up in trip – but must have wondered if he had done the right thing when Richard Johnson and Mellow Ben set a brisk early gallop that looked sure to find out any rivals with stamina doubts.

With half a mile to run the pace was beginning to falter, but Jamie Moore made sure that was not for long as he took over on Erick Le Rouge.

He led at the second-last but Johnathan Burke had still to ask for everything on Clondaw Castle (17-2) who ran right through the line, coming away to win well by two lengths.

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Last year’s winner Mister Malarky was third, with Romain De Senam fourth. George enjoyed earlier successes in the race through the popular Nacarat, who struck twice, in 2009 and 2012.

George said: “I’m delighted. Jonathan Burke said they were going so quick that he could not have been any closer early on. They went a fair gallop around there. He had to sit tight and wait his moment, but once they started coming back to him, he knew he was always under control.

“He was probably a bit unlucky in the Peterborough Chase when he made a mistake or was almost brought down coming down the hill. The ground was very soft that day, but this is his ground today – a flat track over three miles, this is his optimum conditions.

“He was off 154 today, so that puts him into graded class which I’ve always thought he was. He is in at Cheltenham, but in the back of my mind, I’ve always had it that he will go from here (Kempton) to Aintree for the Bowl.

“He is capable of doing what Nacarat did, to be honest It depends what else turns up, but he will be a fresh horse. Nacarat won this and then won the Grade One there. He will keep on improving over three miles and has had a good long break before this. He should be off a mark of 160 by then and I think handicaps are out of the equation.

“I think the key is a nice, flat track and quick ground. I think he was a bit unfortunate not to have won the Old Roan Chase first time out this season when he was probably out in front a bit too long. He is still learning and hasn’t had that much racing.”

He added: “This race has been a special race for us. Nacarat won it twice and Double Shuffle was second in it twice, so we’ve had some good days here. It is important they keep the track as well, as you need good tracks where you get better ground, rather than keep going around on deep ground all winter.

“The season has been a frustrating one. There has been about five or six different factors and you put them all together and it becomes quite a big thing – a lot of bad ground and badly handicapped horses. I haven’t been concerned and we’ve sat tight.

Tom George has an affinity for Kempton
Tom George has an affinity for Kempton (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I’ve had two winners today and a big winner at Warwick on Friday, so the big thing is to sit tight when things aren’t happening and wait your moment, and hopefully everyone will be rewarded. From now until May is probably the biggest part of the season with lots of good races everywhere.

“I have got a lot of young horses and there is plenty to look forward to.”

The Colin Tizzard-trained Mister Malarky, meanwhile, looks set to take his chance in the Grand National.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “He has run well today. With a lot of weight on his back, he has run a blinder. He has bounced off the ground. Harry (Kimber) got a really good start on him, which was important, and then he’s run his race. So, I’m pleased with him.

“I think we will go to the Grand National after that. I think it will convince everybody to have a crack at it on a bit of spring ground. We’ll probably swerve Cheltenham and go straight there.”

Cape Gentleman conquers Dovecote rivals

Emmet Mullins will ponder his Cheltenham Festival options for Cape Gentleman, after he showed plenty of grit in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill Jr to battle back and deny Calico in a thrilling finish to the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton.

The five-year-old, who landed the Irish Cesarewitch on his last Flat outing before making a winning hurdling debut at Punchestown, blotted his copybook on his second outing in this sphere when pulled up over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown earlier this month.

However, dropping back to two miles suited the Champs Elysees gelding, who injected some speed into a modest early pace and went to the front with over half a mile to run.

Calico loomed large before a tardy leap at the penultimate flight briefly halted his momentum. However, he jumped the last better and headed Cape Gentleman (5-2) on the run to the line, only for O’Neill Jr’s mount to find extra reserves.

His stamina kicked in and the partnership ultimately denied Calico by three-quarters of a length. Lunar Sovereign was a further seven and a half lengths back in third.

The winning jockey said: “I thought Harry (Cobden) might just give me a go at the last as Calico has a lot of Flat form, but I didn’t want to be a sitting duck. He has battled hard. He won a Cheltenham trial today and he’d be entitled to go to Cheltenham.

“It was a very good training performance. He has only had the two runs, but he ran poorly the last day, so that’s why he dropped back in trip, which helped him.

“He loved the (good) ground and was very straightforward today. He battled hard after the last and I’m delighted with his performance.

“Emmet said he was in good form at home. I suppose they can have blips every now and again and the considerable drop back in trip definitely helped.

“As for Cheltenham, I’m not sure he is in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he is in the Albert Bartlett and the Ballymore, and it looks like the Ballymore would be an obvious one.”

Pendil domination continues for Nicholls

The Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton has been the Paul Nicholls benefit over the years, having been won by the likes of top-class chasers Frodon and Cyrname.

This renewal was no exception, as Tamaroc Du Mathan gave the master trainer an 11th success in the extended two-and-a-half-mile event.

The six-year-old, who scored at Wincanton on his chasing bow in November before chasing home Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase in December, returned to Kempton to go one better.

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The four-runner event may not have been the strongest renewal, but the even-money favourite never looked in any danger once Harry Cobden asked him to quicken off a steady pace from the final turn.

Though jumping overly big at the last two, he showed plenty of zest and was not stopping at the line, having three and three-quarter lengths to spare from Ga Law, with Coole Cody, who helped set the pace, fading into third, a further 12 lengths back.

While he holds an entry in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival, Nicholls is eyeing Aintree, feeling that he lacked a little experience.

Nichols said: “I’m very pleased. We were hopeful that was the right for him. It was the first time he’s won over two and a half (miles), but he got the trip nicely, jumps well and it is good ground. Perfect.

“He has plenty of scope and he surprised Harry (at the last). He came out of his hands. He thought he’d probably get in a bit closer, but it shows he had plenty of energy left. That’s why he’s a novice. It was only his third run over fences and he is still learning. He is so full of enthusiasm, but he has just got to get his act together a bit, but it is just one of those things.

“I suspect he will go to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase or at Ayr the week after for the Future Champions Novices’ Chase over two and a half. I don’t see him going to Cheltenham.”

The Ditcheat handler added: “This was always the perfect race to aim him for. There was nothing else to run him in, really. Those two races (at Aintree and Ayr) would be ideal for him and we will step up in class next year. He’s not exactly well handicapped.

“I think this fella could progress. He is the sort of horse who you’d definitely look at for the likes of the Silviniaco Conte Chase next year over two and half. He’s a young horse and could progress. If you have good horses below the radar that won’t necessarily be going to Cheltenham, then this is a great race for those type of horses.

“I could have run Hitman today if the ground had been a lot easier, but I was worried the ground might have been a bit too fast for him – but this race slots in for those type of horses who are not going to run at Cheltenham.”

Hometown hero for Edmunds and Gethings

The Cheltenham Festival may be on the lips of every racing fan at present, but jockey Ciaran Gethings and trainer Stuart Edmunds are looking a little further ahead to Aintree’s Grand National meeting, after Hometown Boy took the Close Brothers Asset Finance Handicap Hurdle at Kempton with plenty to spare.

Making his seasonal debut after 350 days on the sidelines, the six-year-old was always up with the pace and made stealthy progress turning in before being asked to inject the pace with half a mile to run.

His hurdling was efficient and a good leap at the last two saw the 11-1 shot power clear of Ecco to draw three and a quarter lengths clear, with 11-4 favourite Gunsight Ridge struggling to get involved, a similar distance back in third.

Connections have had to be patient with Hometown Boy, who broke his duck over hurdles at Market Rasen in December 2019, and while Gethings was concerned about the lack of a run, his fears were for nought.

Gethings said: “We have always liked him from the word go. He hadn’t run for 11 months and while we thought he might not lack fitness, he might run a bit fresh and a bit keen which he can be.

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“Looking back on his form, we really fancied him. Stuart’s horse are a little bit in and out this season and it is hard to get a gauge on them, but he felt great today and he did it well.

“He wasn’t beaten far by Espoir De Romay at Warwick (in November 2019) so the form is there.

“He was ready to run at the Chepstow meeting at the start of the year, but it was just too quick for him. He then had a little setback and he is very hard on himself. But he is back on track and will make a lovely chaser.”

He added: “He has a very big stride for not a big horse and jumps fantastic. I think stepping up to three miles will suit him as well. He has a couple of options at Aintree and will go for either a two-and-a-half-miler on the first day, or the three-miler on Grand National Day.

“Aintree will be right up his street.”

Paul Nicholls claimed a double on the card after the victory of Tamaroc Du Mathan in the Pendil Novices’ Chase, when My Way (4-1 joint-favourite) produced a game front-running display to take the Close Brothers Motor Finance Handicap Chase in the hands of Harry Cobden.

The seven-year-old had landed a maiden hurdle at Stratford in October, but had been luckless in 12 previous starts over fences.

Yet the fitting of first-time blinkers appeared to galvanise Nicholls’ inmate, who had previously been beaten over 14 lengths at Chepstow, and he led his nine rivals a merry dance, despite tiring near the line, as Awake At Midnight closed to within two and a quarter lengths under Richard Johnson.

Nicholls felt a sense of relief afterwards, and said: “He has been a long time winning a chase. He has threatened to, but I thought the fitting of blinkers might concentrate his mind today.

“A flat track over two and a half miles was all right for him today. If we had not won with him today, we would really have been in trouble. Thirteenth time lucky, I guess!

“He is actually a novice over fences, so you could perhaps run him in novice handicap later on, but my immediate plan was to put him in at Cheltenham – which, with his rating, he is bound to get balloted out – and then come here to Kempton on the Saturday for the consolation chase over two-mile-five.

“I only entered him at Cheltenham to get balloted out and then come here, so that would be a good plan. He would not want to be running at Cheltenham in his own right.”

George duo out to enhance yard’s proud record in Kempton’s big handicap

Tom George has two lively contenders in Clondaw Castle and Double Shuffle as he bids to continue his fine record in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton.

Nacarat won for George in 2009 and 2012, and he has gone close on other occasions – most notably with Double Shuffle, who was runner-up in 2017 and 2019.

The Cotswolds trainer does not usually run two horses in the same race but is going against the grain on Saturday, because both deserve their chance.

“It’s a race we’ve done well in,” he said.

Trainer Tom George has a fine record in Saturday's feature handicap at Kempton
Trainer Tom George has a fine record in Saturday’s feature handicap at Kempton (PA)

“Those two horses both need to take their chance in it, although it’s not ideal running them against each other.”

This will be Double Shuffle’s fourth run in the race in its various guises, at a venue where he was also second in the King George VI Chase in 2017 and a course-and-distance winner just last month.

“Double Shuffle loves the track and likes good ground, and has run well in it before,” added George.

“He’s been struggling over the last year running on the wrong tracks on the wrong ground, wrong everything – and the handicapper hasn’t given him a chance – but I like to think he retains plenty of ability, and he’s in good form.

George believes the step up to three miles will suit Clondaw Castle.

“He’s ready for a step up to three miles. It’s what we’ve been waiting for, and this is a good opportunity to do it,” he said.

“He’s got plenty of pace. He was placed in an Arkle, but at the end of the day he’s going to be a stayer, so we should hopefully see plenty of progression stepped up in trip.”

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Cap Du Nord is among the opposition, having run third in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster – where his trainer Christian Williams felt the three miles in testing conditions just found him out.

“I think the ground will be perfect, and he’s acted round the track before,” said Williams.

Cap Du Nord is expected to be suited by the ground and trip at Kempton
Cap Du Nord is expected to be suited by the ground and trip at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He made a mistake at the second last at Doncaster, but I still think he’d have finished third – I just think he got outstayed by two more experienced horses, who were proper stayers.

“I think he jumped and travelled well in the race, but the ground just zapped him. It was great to be involved in a race like that and finish in the first four.

“This has been the plan since.”

Connections of Slate House are hoping the nine-year-old can return to the form that brought him Grade One success in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over the course and distance on Boxing Day 2019.

“He is a Grade One winner around the track,” said Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father Colin.

“He ran a nice race over two and a half at Wincanton last time, and that just put him right for it hopefully. It is a competitive race – but I think it is the right race for him.

“Things haven’t quite gone to plan for him this season – and although he didn’t run badly at Wincanton last time, he is not the easiest horse to keep right, so we were a bit held up in the early part of the season with him.

“His next target has been this since Wincanton – and although it was probably a couple of weeks longer than what he needed, it was the right race to aim for.”

Black Corton bids to go one better than 12 months ago, when he was beaten two lengths by the Tizzard-trained Mister Malarkey.

“I’ve been waiting for this better ground for Black Corton – who had been working nicely with Secret Investor, gutsy winner of the Denman Chase last Sunday,” trainer Paul Nicholls told Betfair.

Black Corton will have to defy top weight in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase
Black Corton will have to defy top weight in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase (Julian Herbert/PA)

“I’ve left him alone in the worst of the winter, while the going was heavy everywhere, and he is ready to go again.

“Although Black Corton doesn’t get any help from the handicapper, it’s encouraging that he ran tidily in this race last year and always goes well fresh. He is ready and could go very well.”

The Ditcheat handler also saddles Southfield Stone, who was second in the Grade Two novice chase on this card last year.

“He won an all-weather bumper at Kempton the other day, has also won over hurdles at the track and all his best performances have come on good ground,” he said.

“As he has never run over more than two and a half miles, he is now stepping into the unknown over three miles for the first time. But I’ve always felt he would stay this far, particularly round this flat track on good ground. So there are plenty of plus points.”

Alan King is hoping Talkischeap can confirm his place in the Randox Grand National.

“I’ve got to run him – he hasn’t had a chase run since this race last year,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“He needs a bit of practice, and we need to run him in this to qualify for Aintree.

“I think whatever he does he’ll improve for it. He has had the two runs on the all-weather – and they have certainly brought him on – but I’m just hoping for a good, solid run and then we can head towards Aintree.”

Chris Gordon expects Mellow Ben to run a good race
Chris Gordon expects Mellow Ben to run a good race (John Walton/PA)

Mellow Ben has run creditably in defeat several times at Kempton, and his trainer Chris Gordon believes that will stand him in good stead.

“He seems in very good form at home,” he said.

“He’s got some good form round there to make a good case for him.

“I think the ground will suit him. I’m looking forward to him running a decent race.”

Ga Law in ‘great order’ for Pendil assignment

Jamie Snowden is in optimistic mood for Ga Law’s return to action in the Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

The Sinndar gelding provided his trainer with a first victory at graded level when readily beating two rivals in the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November.

A drop in trip and a rise in class for the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown a month later ultimately proved too much, but Snowden feels his stable star has a good chance of getting back on the winning trail in Saturday’s Grade Two contest.

“He had a bit of a break and a quiet month after the Henry VIII, but he’s back in and in top shape and goes to Kempton in great order,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.

“He’s obviously got to carry a 5lb penalty for his Grade Two win at Wincanton, and his weight-for-age is diminishing as the months progress, so he’s got to keep improving – but he’s in good order, and we go there with every chance.

“Kempton is not too dissimilar to Wincanton, and I think going back up to two-and-a-half will help.

“In the Henry VIII he was just taken off his feet slightly, but he was only beaten just over 10 lengths and wasn’t disgraced.”

Ga Law’s biggest threat appears to be the Paul Nicholls-trained Tamaroc Du Mathan, last seen filling the runner-up spot behind Arkle favourite Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton in December.

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Nicholls told Betfair: “He made quite an impression on his chasing debut at Wincanton, where he jumped for fun and readily pulled clear in the closing stages.

“I thought he then ran really well when runner up to Shishkin at Kempton over Christmas. I’ve been waiting for better ground for Tamaroc Du Mathan ever since, and everything looks set for another big run from him.”

Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody (Evan Williams) and Son Of Camas (Nicky Henderson) are the other hopefuls.

Nicholls also has a leading contender for the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, in the hat-trick seeking Atholl Street.

The Trevor Hemmings-owned six-year-old has earned the step up to Grade Two level, following a pair of facile wins at Taunton.

“He is another of mine that loves decent ground, so I have saved him for this race since he hacked up at Taunton early in December,” Nicholls added.

“That was his second impressive win at the Somerset track, and he fully deserves a step up in class.

“While he still holds an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a good run at Kempton is more likely to book his ticket for Aintree.”

Chief among Atholl Street’s rivals is Calico, who is trained by Nicholls’ former assistant Dan Skelton.

A high-class performer on the Flat in Germany, the five-year-old made a successful hurdling debut for his new connections at Ludlow.

Skelton said: “I’m really happy with him and I think the track will suit him.

“He has got high-class form on the Flat. He should be able to go at the pace they are likely to go in this race.

“It is a big step from his win at Ludlow, but I feel he can compete at this level – and he has performed well on better ground in the past.”

Emmet Mullins saddles Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman, who needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Alan King is hoping Son Of Red can earn himself a shot at the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

“I don’t know whether he’ll be up to this, but he needs a third run to qualify for the Fred Winter (Boodles),” said the Barbury Castle trainer.

“He has to have a third run by Sunday, so that’s why he’s running.

“I think he’s done well for his break. Whether he’s quite up to this level, I don’t know, but we have to go somewhere with him.”

Lunar Sovereign (Fergal O’Brien), Mackenberg (Donald McCain) and Pyramid Place (Milton Harris) complete the field.

Tritonic aiming to enhance Triumph Hurdle claims at Kempton

Royal Ascot runner-up Tritonic bids to earn himself a ticket to the Cheltenham Festival with victory in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.

The son of Sea The Moon was beaten just half a length by Highland Chief in the Golden Gates Handicap at the showpiece meeting in June, before going on to run at Listed and Group-race level.

Having been gelded during the autumn, Tritonic made a successful start to his jumping career at Ascot last month and will be a hot favourite to follow up in Grade Two company this weekend.

“We’ve been very happy with him and everything has gone well since Ascot. He’s worked away well and schooled well,” said King.

“He’ll learn plenty again on Saturday. This isn’t the be-all and end-all – it’s to hopefully get him spot-on for Cheltenham.

“It will be a sharp test for him.”

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The Barbury Castle handler has saddled four previous winners of the Adonis, with his 2005 scorer Penzance going on to strike Festival gold in the JCB Triumph Hurdle the following month.

At a general 8-1, Tritonic is the shortest-priced British-trained runner in the ante-post market for this year’s Triumph.

Alan King has high hopes for Tritonic
Alan King has high hopes for Tritonic (David Davies/PA)

King added: “I’ve trained him totally different to the others, to be honest, in that the others all started much earlier over hurdles.

“This horse had a proper holiday at the end of the last Flat season.

“He’s the best of them on his Flat mark by some way, but they all came into this race with a fair bit more experience than he’s got.”

Tritonic renews rivalry with the Gary Moore-trained Casa Loupi, who was only a length behind when runner-up at Ascot last month.

Moore said: “He gave a good account of himself on his first run over hurdles. I don’t think it will be quite so easy this time. I think he got an easy lead.

“He’s come out of it very well. Whether he’ll come on or not, I don’t know. He was pretty fit from the Flat, so I don’t think there’s a lot of improvement fitness wise.

“Whether a bit sharper track will suit him, we’ll see.”

Jane Williams saddles Honneur D’Ajonc, while dual winner Margaret’s Legacy is an interesting contender from France and Paso Doble makes his jumping bow for Paul Nicholls.

Paso Doble makes his debut for Paul Nicholls
Paso Doble makes his debut for Paul Nicholls (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He is a promising recruit from Ireland, where he won twice on the Flat for Jim Bolger as a three-year-old,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I’ve given him a bit of time since he was gelded and he may well be one for the future.

“To find out for sure, we are are going down the route we took with Zarkandar in this race some years ago.

“If Paso Doble happens to win at Kempton, then he will head for the Triumph at Cheltenham. If he doesn’t, then we will keep him for next season.”

Full steam ahead for Cap Du Nord and Kempton

It is “all systems go” for Cap Du Nord ahead of the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

A winner at Newbury earlier this season, the eight-year-old has subsequently chased home possible Gold Cup contender Royale Pagaille at Kempton over Christmas and then finished a creditable third in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

Trainer Christian Williams feels conditions back at Kempton will suit him much better this weekend and he is excited to be running in a major handicap with a favourite’s chance.

“It’s all systems go and we’re excited. Better ground could be the key to him, we’ll see this weekend,” said Williams.

“We took him to Cheltenham (on Monday) with Potters Corner for a school over the cross-country fences and he went well. It will be a quiet week now before Kempton.”

Reflecting on his Doncaster effort in soft ground, Williams said: “We probably could have gone for an easier race somewhere, but we wanted to be involved in a real nice race.

“We’re up to 142 now so we’ve got to go for the nice races, but it’s great to be involved in them. I could probably find a race midweek that he could go and win, but we want to be involved on the big days as it helps raise the profile of the yard.

“It’s good experience for Jack (Tudor) to be riding in these types of races.”

Mister Malarky on course to defend Kempton title

Last year’s winner and runner-up Mister Malarky and Black Corton are on course to do battle again in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton.

Colin Tizzard’s Mister Malarky landed another big pot at Ascot in December, but was a distant seventh most recently in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

Paul Nicholls’ Black Corton, due to top the weights as he did 12 months ago, will need to bounce back on Saturday after a rare disappointing run last time out when he was pulled up at Cheltenham in December.

Aso, second at Warwick recently, Cap Du Nord, third in the Sky Bet, and Kempton specialist Double Shuffle are also among the 19 remaining possibles.

There should be Cheltenham clues elsewhere on the card, with Alan King’s Tritonic entered in both the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle and the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.

A classy performer on the level, he made a winning debut over hurdles at Ascot.

Also in the Dovecote is Nicholls’ Atholl Street, Dan Skelton’s Calico and Emmett Mullins’ Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman.

There are 16 possibles in the Adonis – with Nicky Henderson’s Heross Du Seuil, a Kempton winner over Christmas, and Jane Williams’ Honneur D’Ajonc, a late faller when leading in the same race, due to face each other once more.

Adding intrigue is the French challenger Margaret’s Legacy – while Skelton could run John Locke, useful on the Flat for Ralph Beckett.

Hitman, Ga Law, Messire Des Obeaux and Coole Cody are among seven in the Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase.

Delight for King as Royal Pretender returns to winning ways

Alan King was delighted to see Royal Pretender claim a first career victory on the latest ‘jumpers’ bumper’ card at Kempton on Thursday.

Having shaped with promise on his first two starts over hurdles at Chepstow and Ascot in the autumn, the five-year-old was all the rage to make it third time lucky at Doncaster last month, but was ultimately well beaten in third place.

Switching to an artificial surface for division two of the vbet.co.uk ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race, Royal Pretender was an 11-2 chance in the hands of Tom Bellamy and showed a willing attitude to get up and beat Quiana by a neck.

King said: “I’m very happy. He’s been a progressive horse and just got completely stuck in the ground at Doncaster last time. He never travelled at all and was never once on the bridle, so he actually did well to finish third in the end.

“That was much more like it today and he’ll go back hurdling when the ground improves.”

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There was a surprise result in division one of the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest, with Colin Tizzard’s 25-1 shot Floy Joy finishing with a flourish under Jonjo O’Neill Jnr to deny 5-2 favourite Dorking Lad by a head.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “We’re chuffed to bits with him.

“The horse actually ran all right in a couple of bumpers. He was getting balloted out left, right and centre in novice hurdles and there’s a bit of a backlog in that division.

Floy Joy (right) provided Colin Tizzard with another winner
Floy Joy (right) provided Colin Tizzard with another winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We were keen to give him a run, so we let him take his chance today and it worked out lovely.

“I wouldn’t say I thought he’d win, but I thought he’d be competitive.”

The victory continues the recent revival in of the Tizzard team’s fortunes following a difficult winter.

“As I said over the weekend and last week, we think we’ve got the horses back right, but the proof is in the pudding,” Tizzard added.

“It’s lovely that they’re all going and running well. Hopefully we can keep going strong until the end of the season now.”

The Warren Greatrex-trained Young Lieutenant (20-1) was an authoritative winner of the Download The VBet App ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race, with Gavin Sheehan the winning rider.

“We were waiting to go chasing with him, but a few meetings were off and we said we’d go back hurdling once the ground gets a bit better and maybe go chasing from May onwards,” said Greatrex.

“We thought this race today was a nice opportunity to get him out and it’s great he’s won again – that’s two from three this season now.

“He’s not the easiest to train as he hasn’t got the best feet and has had wind issues, but when he’s on-song he’s a fair horse.”

Elsewhere on the card Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden teamed up to land the Play Golden Shot At VBet Mares’ ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race with Tomorrow Mystery (4-1).

Balco Coastal makes an impression at Kempton

With Newbury at the mercy of the weather, Nicky Henderson might be prevented from adding to his enviable tally in the Betfair Hurdle – but he kept the Seven Barrows machine ticking over courtesy of a useful-looking prospect in Balco Coastal at Kempton’s jumpers’ bumper fixture.

Balco Coastal started a well-supported 5-4 shot as he launched a double for the trainer and jockey Nico de Boinville.

In bitterly cold conditions the former point-to-pointer took apart his rivals to gallop home unchallenged in the first division of the vbet.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, passing the post 17 lengths clear of Get Sky High.

Balco Coastal (right) impressed at Kempton
Balco Coastal (right) impressed at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Henderson, who is now in a dilemma over whether to go hurdling with his winner, said. He explained: “He’s a lovely horse, but he doesn’t do that at home!

“I just got frustrated and didn’t want to run him on heavy ground. He was second in a point-to-point to Gentlemansgame, who just the other day was second in a Grade One at Leopardstown so suddenly that form looked quite smart.

“We are in a bit of a dilemma now because I was about to go novice hurdling with him, but I would suggest I might put that out of the window for now as it looks to me – I haven’t talked to his owner Mark Blandford yet – but I would be thinking he ought to stay a novice for next season.”

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De Boinville said: “I haven’t ridden on the all-weather course here for a while and have learned as much as the horse. He’s sure to stay two and a half miles and will love good to soft on turf.”

On 5-2 favourite Hooper in the Gamble Responsibly With Vbet ‘Jumpers Bumper’ National Hunt Flat Race, De Boinville rode his luck behind horses until straightening for home. His mount had settled beautifully and readily picked up to grab long-time leader Confirmation Bias.

Hooper (left) completed a double for Nico de Boinville
Hooper (left) completed a double for Nico de Boinville (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The jockey reported: “He was lovely there, the way he settled and I felt more comfortable on him as I knew he had plenty of gears from his Flat speed for the finish.”

The combination were denied a treble in the Play 5Up For Free At Vbet Jumpers Bumper when Mengli Khan was grabbed late by Earlofthecotswolds (3-1).

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained winner had been difficult to win with, and his rider Sam Twiston-Davies said: “He’s quite pacey at home, but it’s been hard to get his head in front. I’m delighted with that.”

The Emma Lavelle-trained Bricklagger had no public form and went off an unconsidered 66-1 shot, but he proved more than a match for his foes in division two of the vet.co.uk Standard Open NH Flat Race.

Under Adam Wedge the chestnut stayed on resolutely to go past the green Season In The Sun and then hold fellow outsider Grosvenor Court and Phillipstown Ellen.

Bricklagger got Emma Lavelle and Adam Wedge on the scoresheet
Bricklagger got Emma Lavelle and Adam Wedge on the scoresheet (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lavelle said: “He did it well and I’m very pleased. He’s bred to be a Flat horse, and what’s happened today has opened things up for him.”

As could be expected from a mare by Presenting, Aggy With It greatly enjoyed moving on the all-weather on return from a mid-season break for Dan and Harry Skelton.

A dual novice hurdle winner in October and November, the seven-year-old arrived hard on the steel approaching the final furlong of the Bet Better With Vbet Jumpers Bumper and cruised to a length-and-three-quarters triumph over the promising Timberman, who was demoted to third in favour of Fontana Ellissi following a stewards’ inquiry.

“She came here to have a leg stretch,” said Harry Skelton of the 7-1 winner.

“She wants a bit of nice ground when we take her back over hurdles. She’ll come on for this, as she’s been quiet through the winter.”

Ecco, on whom Harry Cobden replaced Lorcan Williams, was a well-supported 5-2 favourite for the Follow @vbet-uk On Twitter Jumpers Bumper and cruised into contention, although in the end the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old had to be ridden right out to repel the game Commanche Red.

Cobden admitted: “Turning into the straight I was right at home, but it took him longer to see off the other horse than I thought it would.”

There have been many upsets in the jumper-bumper arena and Billy’s Angel posted another at 33-1 in the Best Odds Guaranteed At Vbet National Hunt Flat Race, reeling in long-time leader Lantiern for trainer Amy Murphy and jockey Jack Quinlan.

Taunton off as freeze takes toll

Taunton’s meeting was abandoned after an early-morning inspection on Tuesday – leaving a second successive blank day in the British jump racing calendar.

As the freeze takes hold, Taunton’s card was called off before 7am.

A Tweet on Taunton’s official account read: “Racing today has been abandoned. Temps overnight down to – 3C. Course frozen with no prospect/forecast of temps rising above 0C until around 1pm with a high of +1C”

Market Rasen’s meeting was abandoned after an inspection the previous afternoon – but there will be a jumpers’ bumper card at Kempton on Tuesday, after that course passed a morning inspection called because of forecast overnight snow.

Southwell’s all-weather evening Flat fixture is also set to go ahead.

Doncaster’s meeting on Thursday will, however, not take place after the course failed inspection on Tuesday morning – with snow on the track.

Wednesday’s National Hunt card at Ludlow was also abandoned following an inspection on Tuesday morning.

Thursday’s fixture at Ffos Las is also in some doubt, needing to pass an 8.30am precautionary inspection on Wednesday.

A tweet from the course said: “In view of updated weather forecast, we will hold a precautionary inspection at 8.30am tomorrow to assess impact of overnight temps ahead of racing on Thursday. Forecast -2 overnight & early morning, up to -4/-5 inland. We hope our coastal location will help with milder airflow.”

Prince Of Arran ready for his Saudi warm-up at Kempton

Prince Of Arran will warm up for his international mission in Saudi Arabia later this month by contesting the Unibet Conditions Stakes at Kempton.

Charlie Fellowes’ globe-trotting stable star was last seen finishing third in the Melbourne Cup in November – the third time he has been placed in the Flemington showpiece, having been third in 2018 and second in 2019.

Prince Of Arran will soon be on his travels again, with the Turf Handicap on the Saudi Cup undercard next on his agenda, but he will first attempt to bag a fourth victory at Kempton on Saturday evening.

Fellowes said: “Saudi Arabia is obviously the number one goal, and he goes there in two weeks’ time, but this looks like a good place for him to have a warm-up.

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“He’s fit and ready to rock and roll. He will improve for the race, but he loves Kempton – and this race suits perfectly.

“I’m surprised I’ve never run him over two miles at Kempton before – it’s probably his optimum trip, around his favourite track.

“It will be interesting to see how he gets on. Rainbow Dreamer is a nice horse for us to have in the race, because he’ll make us work and might even beat us.

“We need to go and have a nice run to bring him on fitness-wise ahead of Saudi.”

Alan King’s Rainbow Dreamer is bidding for back-to-back victories in this All-Weather Championships Fast-Track Qualifier – and may have a fitness edge, following recent placed efforts at Newcastle and Wolverhampton.

King also runs Scarlet Dragon, while Roger Teal is excited to saddle Ocean Wind – who has won three of his four starts on the Flat and makes his first appearance since scoring at Doncaster in October.

“Ocean Wind is as ready as we can get him at home, although I suspect he will come on a bit for the run – win, lose or draw,” said Teal.

“He surprises us nearly every time he goes to the track, and we don’t know where the ceiling is for him yet.

“If he was to win at the weekend, we would very much consider the Marathon race on All-Weather Championships Finals Day (at Lingfield), because I think he has quite a few strings to his bow.

“Initially, we were thinking of taking him to Saudi Arabia, but he did not make the cut.”

Richard Fahey’s Furzig completes the field.

Winning start for Tritonic delights King

Alan King feels there is plenty more to come from JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Tritonic following his winning debut over hurdle, with Kempton next on the agenda.

A top-class Flat handicapper in the summer, the Sea The Moon gelding finished second at Royal Ascot in the inaugural Golden Gates Handicap and was also runn-up in the Listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton.

Sent off favourite at Ascot on Saturday, he was made to pull out all the stops by Gary Moore’s Casa Loupi with the pair 18 lengths clear.

Tritonic will now either run in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle against his own age group on February 27, or take on his elders in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle on the same card at the Sunbury track.

“I was obviously very pleased with him, he was only just ready to start back on Saturday as he was gelded and had a proper break at the end of the Flat season,” said King, whose runner is a best-priced 14-1 for Cheltenham.

“I just felt if he was going to get to the Triumph then he needed two runs beforehand, so this is a good starting point and he’s come out of it fine.

“I would think we’ll go to Kempton next for either the Adonis or the Dovecote. We’ll put him in both and have a look.”

The Barbury Castle trainer added: “The front two finished a long way clear of another decent horse. I must admit jumping the last I did think we were booked for second – I was still thinking it was a satisfactory debut, but then he dug in and got there in the end.

“I’d like to think there’s a lot of improvement to come from him. There’ll have to be, but I do think there is.

“He’s been to the big handicaps on the Flat so that will stand him in good stead and he’ll be a lot sharper for the run.”

Mighty Gurkha and Zamaani head Kempton conditions heat

Mighty Gurkha and Zamaani set the standard in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Conditions Stakes – the latest fast-track qualifier at Kempton on Monday.

Both Archie Watson’s Mighty Gurkha and Simon and Ed Crisford’s Zamaani boast official ratings in excess of 100.

Mighty Gurkha provided Hollie Doyle with a first Breeders’ Cup ride in November, while Zamaani was second in Redcar’s Two Year Old Trophy.

The pair met last month with Mighty Gurkha taking second and Zamaani fourth in a blanket finish at Wolverhampton.

Mark Johnston’s Bravado puts his unbeaten record on the line having stretched it to three last time out, while David Evans runs Rohaan, second to Bravado recently.

“Rohaan was a bit unfortunate last time out. It was a misjudged race – the jockey thought he would do what he did before (he had gone from last to first in his previous three races), but it was a better quality of race and the horse had more weight on his back. He did all his work in the last furlong,” said Evans.

“Monday should tell us where we stand with him. I thought the way he won at Newcastle, albeit from a rating of 55, was encouraging. Then he did it well the time after that and has continued to improve.

“He has a bit to find on the ratings with a couple of them, but if he is going to go for the final, he has to take his chance in a race like this.”