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Bailey shuts down King George clamour for Imperial Aura

Kim Bailey has ruled out supplementing impressive Ascot winner Imperial Aura for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

A winner at the Cheltenham Festival in a handicap in March, Imperial Aura handled the step into Grade Two company with aplomb, beating Itchy Feet by five lengths last weekend.

Already favourite for the Ryanair Chase in March, there was talk in some quarters that Bailey might be tempted to roll the dice over three miles – but that is not on the current agenda.

Kempton’s Silviniaco Conti Chase in January, won by Frodon last season, or the Ascot Chase in February instead appear to be his potential stepping stones to Cheltenham.

“His season’s target is the Ryanair, and that’s what he’ll be geared up to,” said Bailey.

“He’ll either run at Kempton or Ascot next, but the King George is not part of that equation.”

Flow shakes off ground concerns to come home First

First Flow cast aside ground fears and resumed his progression with a tenacious success in the Coral Hurst Park Handicap Chase.

Having rattled up a hat-trick over fences at the end of last term, the eight-year-old gelding picked up where he left off to complete doubles for Kim Bailey and David Bass.

Despite making plenty of mistakes throughout the two-mile-one-furlong prize, the 3-1 shot met the last on a good stride before knuckling down to defeat recent course scorer Amoola Gold by a neck.

Bailey said: “I’m staggered really. David Bass and I were trawling through the programme book half way through this afternoon to find somewhere else to go, as he wants heavy ground and (David) said he won’t be able to jump out of this. He just can’t jump at speed.

“How has he managed to win that, as he has jumped appallingly the whole way round and all he has done is stay. Quite honestly I didn’t think he had an earthly chance today, and neither did David Bass.

“I’m thrilled for his owner Tony Solomons. He is my longest serving owner – he has been with me every year, bar my second season – and he is just a fantastic man and deserves every winner he gets. I think the only fence he jumped properly was the last. It was horrendous to watch, but that’s him as he is an oddball.

“He has got no right to be as good as he is, but that is his fourth win on the trot. He is an extraordinary horse.”

Imperial Aura got the ball rolling for Bailey and Bass with victory in the Grade Two Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase.

Imperial rule for Kim Bailey ace at Ascot

Imperial Aura advertised his claims for further Cheltenham Festival glory with a decisive victory in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot.

Stepping up to Grade Two company from Listed level, Kim Bailey’s charge – a winner at the showpiece meeting in March last year – put in an almost foot-perfect round of jumping to cruise home by five lengths at the 13-8 favourite.

Bryony Frost was eager to set the gallop aboard Black Corton in the two-mile-five-furlong contest – but David Bass had Imperial Aura on their heels and had just edged in front before Frost was unseated with eight fences still to jump.

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While Real Steel briefly hit the front at one stage, Imperial Aura always looked to be in control and barring a slightly haphazard leap at the penultimate obstacle, Bailey’s runner never looked likely to be beaten.

Itchy Feet looked under pressure with three to jump, but stayed on to snatch second, with Real Steel a further two and a half lengths back in third.

The Imperial Racing-owned winner Aura is now as low as 7-1 with Paddy Power for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in March, with Coral going 8-1.

Bailey said: “I was really pleased with the horse and what a fantastic ride. He took the race to them, and he had to. We knew he would stay and he is just a very progressive horse. He had improved at home, we knew that.

“You have to have a go and today was the right race. I’m really pleased he is going forwards and the Ryanair is now where we head, I suppose.

Imperial Aura produced some magnificent leaps on his way to victory at Ascot
Imperial Aura produced some magnificent leaps on his way to victory at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“His jumping as always (is what really pleased me). Those downhill fences were electric to watch. He fired them in and by taking them on it made it so much better from his point of view, as you look at it and at one stage Harry Cobden was sitting hard-held beside him (on Real Steel).

“He kept on pushing and pushing and the wheels started to fall off everybody else.”

He went on: “I don’t know where we go (next). He will probably have one run between now and Cheltenham. I thought we would get today done with and from the result of today we knew where we were going. He was either a Ryanair horse or we were going for something completely different.

“I’m not going to go that far that quickly (and try turn him into a Gold Cup horse), but he will certainly get further. He ran over three miles last season and Pym beat him, but the two were racing for a long time and he showed his inexperience.

“This is the most progressive horse I’ve had for a long time – he has never stopped improving and that’s the important thing.

“It is lovely to have horses good enough to be here, but without owners we are not here and it is important they get the credit they deserve.”

Bailey looking to Vinndication for Ladbrokes Trophy triumph

Kim Bailey believes Vinndication is capable of filling a glaring omission on his CV by giving him a first victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday week.

The Andoversford handler, speaking in front of the media at Tuesday’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gallops morning at the track, hinted the Grade Three prize is likely to be the next target for the eight-year-old – who found only Cyrname too strong on his return in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby.

Having won a Grand National, Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle, Bailey has only placed in the Grade Three heat – with Mr Frisk and Docklands Express finishing third in 1989 and 1991 respectively.

Newtide (right) and Vinndication schooled at Newbury
Newtide (right) and Vinndication schooled at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Bailey said: “I won’t make a decision until next week (over Vinndication’s participation). I think if all things go to plan next week, you are more likely to see him here. He is an out-and-out stayer, so three and a quarter miles is no problem.

“I think I’ve only had two or three runners in it. I had Mr Frisk placed in it and another horse called Man O’Magic finish sixth in it. Docklands Express was also third in it.

“I’ve yet to win it. It’s a lovely race to win and it would be great on my CV.”

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Although Vinndication was not foot perfect in a schooling session alongside Grade Two-winning stablemate Newtide at Newbury, Bailey believes it will have taken some of the freshness out of him and sharpened him up.

He added: “I wanted to school him today as when I brought him here two years ago to school, he wasn’t very good.

“He was very fresh today, and I was desperate to get a school in today to see how he reacted.

“By the last fence he got himself sorted out – he took the first two miles outside the wings.

“We will school him between now and then at home and make a decision after the weekend on where we go.”

Two For Gold, right, is rated no better than a 50/50 chance to line up in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA Images)
Two For Gold (right) is rated no better than a 50/50 chance to line up in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA Images)

Bailey could also be represented in the race by Two For Gold, who has the option of Newcastle’s Listed Betfair Rehearsal Chase on the same day.

He said: “I would think it is 50/50 he runs. When we make the entry for the Rehearsal Chase, we will see the two races and see where we are.

“He definitely fits the profile, but it would be nicer if he was a year older.

“It’s a big ask for him to go from two and a half miles at Wetherby to three and a quarter miles around here, because he hasn’t been that trip before.”

Tom George believes Grade One-winning hurdler Black Op will have no issues racing beyond three miles for the first time in the handicap feature.

George said: “He had a nice run up at Carlisle in an intermediate chase there. He wasn’t ready that day – that would have put him spot on hopefully.

“He won’t have any problems with the trip. He loves a big, flat track. He has got a good weight, and this has been the plan for quite a while with him.

“In the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton (last December), we should have maybe in hindsight made a bit more use of him as he was only beaten a short distance in the end. I can’t see stamina being a problem.

“He hasn’t done that much chasing for an older horse, but he seems to be going the right way.”

Ben Pauling is confident he has Kildisart, another in action at the gallops event, exactly where he wants him on his return to fences – having finished third in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his reappearance.

“We went to Wetherby as a bit of a prep race – and he ran a mighty race, to be honest, against some good hurdlers,” said Pauling.

“He will come on for that run, and he came out of the race very well. It was nice to see him just stride on today.

“He was very relaxed – and Holly (Osborne), who rides him every day, said when he got upsides, he just locked on. That was job done for him.

“He does seem to be getting better with age. I think he is in as good a place as he can be to come here in 10 days and give it his all.”

Kim Bailey excited at what the future holds for Does He Know

Does He Know could bid to give trainer Kim Bailey his first Grade One winner in 25 years after continuing his flying start to the season with victory in the feature prize at Cheltenham on Friday.

The five-year-old took another step forward to claim the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by three lengths under David Bass.

An outing in next month’s Challow Hurdle at Newbury is now under consideration for Does He Know, according to Bailey – whose last top-level triumph came with Master Oats in the 1995 Gold Cup.

Bailey said of the 11-8 shot: “David said afterwards he thought it was a better performance than last time.

“He is a bit buzzy and a bit of an old fruitcake walking around the paddock and it is probably quite a good thing we haven’t got big crowds here at the moment.

“He was very settled in the race and buzzy when he came back in again. He is an extraordinary horse. He is a very athletic and likeable horse.

“We will possibly aim at something like the Challow Hurdle later on.”

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Harry Skelton and Protektorat clear the last for victory at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)
Harry Skelton and Protektorat clear the last for victory at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dan Skelton will continue to adopt a patient approach with Protektorat, who maintained his unbeaten record over fences when running out a 17-length winner of the SSS Super Alloys Supports Racing Welfare Novices’ Chase.

The Alcester handler said of the 6-5 scorer: “You can’t take anything away from his jumping and performance on the day. He has proven himself around Cheltenham now which is a big test for any horse.

“We have taken our time with him so far and it would be foolish to rip the protective layer off now.”

Equally delighted with the performance of Protektorat, who was introduced at 16-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March with Coral and 25-1 for the same race by Betfair, was part-owner John Hales.

“That was class,” said Hales.

“We can look forward to bigger things one day, but not too soon. He has all the stamina in the world – and speed – and if you have got those two you can’t get better than that.”

Paul Nicholls plans to step Magic Saint (100-30) back up in class after laying his Cheltenham ghost to rest at the fourth attempt in the Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase.

The Ditcheat handler said: “That was just the job. I’d imagine he will have to step up in grade now.

“Two miles obviously suits him well and he puts winning a race around Cheltenham to bed.

“We could look at something like the Desert Orchid at Kempton, but we haven’t really got a set plan.”

There was a sting in the tail for winning jockey Bryan Carver who picked up a two-day whip ban.

Paul O’Brien celebrated his first Cheltenham winner aboard the Charlie Longsdon-trained Castle Robin (13-2), who prevailed by a length and a half in the Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Longsdon said: “Paul said he was almost crying. He deserved it. He rides a lot of our horses. He is a good lad who puts the hours in to get results like today.

“After he won at Carlisle we hoped 119 was quite a generous mark as we thought he was a better horse than that.

“He is only a novice still and he has a long way to go before we have some smart targets.”

Allmankind dazzles on fencing debut at Warwick

Allmankind put in a perfect round of jumping to make a winning debut over fences with a stylish front-running success at Warwick.

Trainer Dan Skelton saw his decision to switch last season’s Triumph Hurdle third – who filled the same spot on his return to action over hurdles at Cheltenham last month – to fences immediately vindicated in the in the Stan Mellor Memorial Novices’ Chase.

Quickly getting into a good rhythm out in front, Allmankind attacked his fences with plenty of zest before cruising home 13 lengths clear of runner-up Zanza, to form the opening leg of a double for Skelton and his brother Harry.

The Alcester handler said of the even-money favourite: “He had schooled OK at home. His technique and commitment was good, but he just got up to the jump and popped it rather than being exuberant.

“I’d done a load of work with him before Cheltenham, but perhaps he wasn’t that fit. I said to Tom Messenger (assistant) when they got down to the start this horse will be keen today as he looked like he was more on it.

“I was a bit undecided whether to run him on the ground, but I spoke to Tim Gredley (co-owner) last night and he said they are there to compete so credit goes to him. I was honestly delighted with him and I couldn’t expect to see better.

“We will go to the Henry VIII next at Sandown. Here and Sandown are both good jumping tests. Let’s just get on with it and see where we are.”

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Owners Gill Duckworth and Pat Dry left the track in good spirits after Accordingtogino (5-1) completed the Skelton brace when responding well to first-time cheekpieces in the Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Chase.

Duckworth said: “It was so exciting and I’m absolutely thrilled. We came here with zero expectations. He went to Lingfield 15 days ago and he wasn’t very good at all.

“When Harry put him out in front today we said let’s have our moment of glory in front, but he never stopped.”

Having worked with the likes of Altior and Buveur D’Air during his time as assistant to Nicky Henderson, trainer Toby Lawes celebrated a first winner in his own name after Kannapolis (100-30) struck gold by nine lengths in the Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.

The 28-year-old said: “This means such a huge amount to me and the team at home who have done such a fantastic job and have been very patient.

“It’s great for the team and Andrew Wates whose yard we are in and he is a shareholder in this horse as well.

“It’s a great weight off my mind and hopefully we can keep kicking on.”

Nico de Boinville made his fleeting visit to the course a winning one aboard Bothwell Bridge, who went one better than his two bumper efforts with a facile success in the racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle.

De Boinville said of the Nicky Henderson-trained 30-100 shot: “We wanted to take a bit of a lead to give him some education – the race fell apart and I was left out in front but he jumped for fun.

“He is forward enough though he did take a bit of a blow jumping the last, that’s why I rode him out at the end.”

Flirtatious Girl maintained Kim Bailey’s recent run of good form on her debut in division one of the British EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, which the 2-1 favourite claimed by a length and a half.

Bailey said: “She was very green, but is as tough as old boots. I’m really pleased as they are not the luckiest of owners so it is great to start off with a nice win.

“Something like the Listed bumper at Huntingdon could be next.”

Bailey rules Imperial Aura out of Paddy Power

Kim Bailey has ruled Imperial Aura out of both the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Ladbrokes Trophy.

Imperial Aura was a leading fancy for the big handicap at Cheltenham after his emphatic win at in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on Sunday – but Bailey feels next week’s race will come too soon.

The Gloucestershire trainer has announced he will not run Imperial Aura in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on November 28 either. He does, however, have a couple of races in mind for the exciting seven-year-old – who ended the last campaign with victory in the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Bailey wrote on his website: “The weights for the Ladbroke Chase came out yesterday. We have three entries – Imperial Aura, who will not run, while Vinndication and Two For Gold will remain in the race for the foreseeable future so that we can asses how they have come out of the respective races last weekend.

“Imperial Aura will not be running in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham next weekend. It is too soon after his stunning win last Sunday at Carlisle.

“There are other races for him that might suit – Ascot on the 21st of November, the Chanelle Pharma Chase, and then there is the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on December 6.”

Bailey sets sights on Gold Cup as long-term Vinndication target

Kim Bailey plans to work back from an outing in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup with Vinndication.

The Andoversford handler believes the seven-year-old is capable of competing against the best staying chasers on a regular basis, after finding only Cyrname too strong on his return in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.

Although Vinndication – a general 40-1 shot for the prestigious Grade One at the Cheltenham Festival in March – needs to take another step forward on official ratings, Bailey is confident he can make the required progression.

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Bailey said: “I was delighted with his run at Wetherby. He slipped into the first fence, and it took a while to get his jumping back, but I was very happy with the horse.

“The ground wasn’t ideal up there, because it was pretty soft, but it confirmed in my mind that he is good enough to run in a Gold Cup – and I think we will be working back from that.

“Wetherby is two long straights with two tight bends. It is only just three miles, and all he was doing was finishing to good effect, so the Gold Cup trip of three and a quarter miles will be much more his distance.”

Kim Bailey was impressed with Cyrname who denied Vinndication a winning return at Wetherby on Saturday (Simon Cooper/PA Images)
Kim Bailey was impressed with Cyrname, who denied Vinndication a winning return at Wetherby on Saturday (Simon Cooper/PA Images)

While delighted with Vinndication’s seasonal bow, Bailey had plenty of admiration for his Wetherby conqueror Cyrname – who was claiming his first victory since defeating Altior in a Grade Two at Ascot last November.

He added: “It was a very good performance by Cyrname, and I take my hat off to him.

“It was a brave shout by Paul Nicholls to do what he did, but that is why he has been champion trainer so many times.”

Bailey, who won the Gold Cup in 1995 with Master Oats, has not ruled out returning to handicap company with Vinndication for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury later this month.

He added: “He will have entries in all the big races like the King George, but I  would say that the Betfair Chase at Haydock might just come too soon.

“He is in the Ladbrokes Trophy, and that could be an option, but I’m not saying he is going there for definite. It will be interesting to see how the handicapper assesses it.”

Twiston-Davies back in form with Huntingdon treble

Sam Twiston-Davies emphatically ended a 36-ride losing streak with a Huntingdon treble, completed by Innisfree Lad in the MansionBet Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle.

Having endured a day to forget at Wetherby 24 hours earlier, during which Ballyoptic pulled up in the feature Charlie Hall Chase, Twiston-Davies enjoyed the perfect confidence-booster at the Cambridgeshire track.

He said: “It’s a fairly crazy game. You go 36 rides without a winner, and you start to think ‘what you are doing – are you doing it wrong?’.

“It shows, though, on a day like today when you are on the best horses to have a plan and stick with it.”

Innisfree Lad had a slice of good fortune when scoring at the course 19 days ago, but the eight-year-old needed no such luck this time round – cruising home 18 lengths clear of Shantou Sunset, for Twiston-Davies and trainer Tom Symonds.

The winning jockey said of the 4-1 favourite: “I think the faster pace and softer ground suited him more than some of the others.

“I just tried to copy what Brian Hughes did last time, by keeping him wide. He jumped nicely.”

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A step up to Grade One company may be next for Orchestral Rain, who gave Twiston-Davies and trainer Dr Richard Newland the second of their two winners together – by 10 lengths as 2-1 favourite in the MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Juvenile Hurdle.

Newland said: “He had to do a lot of the donkey work but he has done that well.

“I think he has progressed a lot from his last run, and I thought that at home because he is now getting the hang of it. He is probably better going the other way [left-handed].

“We will see what the handicapper does, but we might go for something like the Finale at Chepstow because I think the testing ground will suit him.”

Even-money favourite Chef De Troupe got the ball rolling for Twiston-Davies and Newland, following up his recent Perth success by two lengths in the Download The MansionBet App Claiming Hurdle.

Newland said: “He is a nice horse with lots of ability – but he got a fair hike for winning last time, so we thought this was a good option.

“He will go back into handicaps now, because no one came forward to claim him.”

Espoir De Romay formed the opening leg of an across-the-card double for trainer Kim Bailey – with an impressive two-and-a-half-length success on his debut over fences in the Watch And Bet At MansionBet Novices’ Chase.

Bailey, who was also on target with rising star Imperial Aura at Carlisle, said: “He is a nice horse and at the end of it he will have learnt a bit today. (Jockey) Ciaran (Gethings) was very impressed with him.

“He had a good season last year and he was one I was looking forward to, because he has been good over fences at home. He will be a better horse on softer ground.

“Like all these novices, I think he will need a little bit more experience before raising our sights.”

Perfect Myth (6-4) went one better than on her previous visit to the track when making her first start over an extended two miles three a winning one, by five lengths in the mansionbet.com Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Bryony Frost, rider of the Neil-King trained winner, said : “The step up in trip has helped her today. I got caught in a bit of traffic last time, but she jumped beautifully today – and once I came round the final bend, she hit top gear.

“The wind op she had has helped make her believe in herself, and she is turning into a really nice mare now.”

Imperial Aura is impressive in Colin Parker Memorial

Kim Bailey admits he has some thinking to do over future targets after Imperial Aura made a faultless return to action in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

A winner at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Imperial Aura was sent off 7-4 favourite in a strong field of six well-regarded horses.

David Bass was happy to take a lead for the first two miles, with Sam Brown and Black Op keen to get on with things.

As the field turned into the straight, Imperial Aura moved upsides, and some spectacular leaps took him to the lead – which he was not to relinquish as he powered up the hill to beat Windsor Avenue by two and a half lengths, with Sam Brown losing little in defeat in third carrying a penalty.

The victory means Imperial Aura will pick up a penalty for this month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham – for which he is 6-1 joint-favourite, and would almost certainly be top weight, leaving Bailey with a big decision to make.

“He was very impressive, and I’m absolutely delighted with him,” he said.

“Hopefully he’s going to improve for the race as well, so we’ve got lots to think about.

“The weights for the Paddy Power come out on Tuesday – but he’ll get a penalty, so I have to sit and think where we’ll go.

“We ran him over three miles last year, so I have no issue at all about stepping him up to three miles.

“When I was watching it I couldn’t believe it when he came back on the bridle four out – I’m really pleased. I’m also pleased for Ian Robinson (of Imperial Racing syndicate, who own Imperial Aura) – because he’s a big part of the yard, so it’s great to have a good horse for them.”

Earlier Rose Dobbin enjoyed a nice double on the card – with Le Cheval Noir (9-1) in the Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Hurdle and Rath An Iuir (7-2) in the Gordon Richards Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Both were ridden by Conor O’Farrell.

Imperial Aura aiming to build on Festival success

Cheltenham Festival winner Imperial Aura is one of six runners declared for Sunday’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

The two-and-a-half-mile Listed contest has an illustrious roll of honour, with subsequent Grand National hero Many Clouds (2014), the top-class Waiting Patiently (2017) and last year’s Betfair Chase scorer Lostintranslation among the recent winners.

This year’s renewal promises to be as informative as ever, with Kim Bailey’s Imperial Aura the top-rated runner on his first start since winning the novices’ handicap chase at Prestbury Park in March.

“He’s in good form and ready to go,” said Bailey.

“He’s in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham (November 14), but we’ll see how he goes on Sunday before deciding what we do.

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“He’s in good shape.”

The Olly Murphy-trained Brewin’upastorm had a less favourable experience at Cheltenham last season, unseating Richard Johnson four fences from home in the Arkle Trophy.

The Milan gelding made a successful start to his chasing career at this venue last October and Murphy is looking forward to his return to action in Cumbria on Sunday.

Murphy said: “He’s in good form and will handle the ground fine – probably some of his best form is on soft ground.

“It’s very much a race to try to get his confidence back, as he obviously didn’t have a great time of it at Cheltenham and gave himself a bit of a fright.

“I’m really looking forward to running him and it looks a good starting point for the year. If he ran well, I thought we might look at something like the Peterborough Chase.”

Black Op has not been seen since filling the runner-up spot behind Slate House in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day of last year, with the outbreak of coronavirus putting paid to planned runs at the spring Festivals at Aintree and Punchestown.

Trainer Tom George said: “It will be good to get him back on track as he hasn’t run since last Christmas. We purposely missed Cheltenham, waiting for Aintree and Punchestown with him, and we ended up missing them all.

“This is a good starting point for him. The target is the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and he needs to have a run before then, so we thought this race would put him right for that.

“He’s in good form and we’re happy with him, but this is a stepping-stone.”

Anthony Honeyball’s Sam Brown, the Brian Ellison-trained Windsor Avenue and Ardlethen from Dan Skelton’s yard complete the quality sextet.

Racing Insights, 31st October 2020

Matt standing in for Chris again. Friday's race went largely as anticipated, though the winner - flagged here yesterday - was a rotten price in the end! Lezardrieux made him battle and Lucky Lodge came home fourth, almost completing a trifecta from four horses in the summary (the other was sent off at 66/1 and ran like it).

We'll crack on with Saturday.

It's a terrific day of racing where the jumpers really come to the fore, and the awesome TJ Combo report is the free feature.

Meanwhile, the six free races are...

  • 12.32 Ayr
  • 14.40 Newmarket
  • 15.35 Down Royal
  • 15.40 Ascot
  • 15.50 Newmarket
  • 17.30 Wolverhampton

I've set up the Course 5 Year view on the TJ Combo report and, because there is so much good racing, I've gone with an ultra-demanding IV of 2, meaning a trainer/jockey pairing must win at least twice as often as the average at the tracks in question. That narrows things down to a workable number.

 

Let's take them in order, starting with the Nicky Richards/Brian Hughes combo and their 41% hit rate at Ayr in the last five years. Clicking on the row shows today's qualifier and clicking the little 'up arrow' to the left of the trainer name reveals the historical qualifiers:

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There are more qualifiers than I'm showing in the above, but we can clearly see that a lot of these winners have occurred recently: five from eight in 2020 alone. However, note that Castle Rushen was beaten in a bumper here in March. Having looked at the race I'd say he's a very good chance to win (duh) and his price is about right. About right is not a value proposition to me, so I'll let him go.

Next is the hot Bailey/Bass team, who combine for two runners at Wetherby. Vinndication is a classy chap but he's in deep tomorrow, against Cyrname and co, and - again - his price is tight enough; in fact, it's a bit on the skinny side for my tastes.

But their other runner, Hes No Trouble, has a case to be made for him beyond the TJ Combo angle.

Below I've highlighted my Report Angles (the red '3' and accompany trio of rows) and QT Angle (the blue '1' and accompanying row). These tell me that Bailey/Bass are in great recent form as well as having great long-term course form; and I also note that Bailey is one of my trainers to mark up with runners on their first start after a wind op (see the W1 by the horse's name).

Also note the t1 - first time tongue tie - which implies this fellow has been struggling quite badly with his breathing.

Looking at his form, it might also be he's been struggling with distance and ground: after a win on a similarly flat track over a similar trip on similar ground and off a similar mark he was then beaten over half a mile further, on softer ground and in higher grade.

This is still a Class 3 race but he gets a shorter distance and faster turf; and of course he gets the wind tweaks. There's enough there to make 10/1 look big enough for all that it's a competitive race with plenty of other (shorter priced) options.

And I was able to make a value case for the McCain/Hughes partnership's Ayr runner, Goobinator, too.

This time it is because, rightly or wrongly, I want to be against 5/2 ish second choice, Calva D'Auge. The form of that one's wins has worked out terribly (note the 'Then What?' section on the right hand side) - the only winner from 39 subsequent starters from the Wincanton victory was... himself next time out; and there have been no winners from 19 from that Plumpton run since.

Of course,  it's a new season and Calva has a heavy ground score but he's making the market for me.

Similar to Bailey and Bass, Goobinator represents strong recent TJ form as well as longer term TJ track form, as can be seen from my Report Angles in the image below.

Their other runner goes in the 'newcomers' bumper, in which - as the name suggests - none of the field has run before. Not for me, thanks.

And the final contender from my strict TJ Combo shortlist is the Mark Johnston/PJ McDonald pairing at Newmarket. They saddle Reams Of Love, a nursery handicap debutant in a field full of unexposed types. We can see that both trainer and jockey have a great track record, together and individually: that's perhaps because Newmarket favours front-runners and most of Johnston's are ridden from the front.

Although it's far from assured, with so many yet to established a pattern to their preferred run style, what we do know is that the Johnston horse has led in both starts to date. He'll make a bold bid under a jockey that rides the course very well.

Summary

Even deploying a seriously demanding Impact Value parameter of 2 on the Trainer Jockey Combo report, I still get plenty with which to work. A number of these look degrees of interesting at the prices. I will be backing Hes No Trouble for small stakes each way at around 11/1, and may have a small win bet on Reams Of Love, too, the 13/2 in a place (BOG if you can get it with 365) feeling like a sliver on the generous side (and, in this case, it really is no more than a feeling).

Nicholls chooses Wetherby for Cyrname

Cyrname is set to face nine rivals in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The highest-rated chaser in Britain – following his victory over Altior at Ascot last November – the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old subsequently disappointed when a hot favourite for the King George at Kempton before suffering a heavy fall in February’s Ascot Chase.

With coronavirus travel complications prompting connections to shelve plans to run in this weekend’s Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal, it was a straight choice on Saturday between a trip to Wetherby or giving away lumps of weight in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot.

It was confirmed on Thursday morning that Cyrname would appear in West Yorkshire for what will be his first start on a left-handed track since finishing fourth at Aintree in the spring of 2018.

Kim Bailey faced the same choice with Vinndication, and has also elected to head for Wetherby instead of bidding for back-to-back wins in the Sodexo Gold Cup.

The Vinnie Roe gelding was last seen finishing a close fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March – and Bailey has revealed the decision to run in the Charlie Hall was made after speaking with Nicholls about plans for Cyrname on Wednesday.

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Speaking on a Zoom call hosted by Great British Racing, Bailey said: “I was in communication with Paul Nicholls yesterday and he was very good by coming back to me last night. I have to say, he is excellent in communicating his plans with fellow trainers.

“I decided overnight that I’d take the bull by the horns and take him on. I have a very high opinion of Vinndication and really and truly I need to find out if my opinion of him is vindicated!

“We’ve got to look at where we’re going to go from Saturday onwards. A bold showing from him would take him away from handicaps in the future, and a bad run from him would take him back into handicaps.

“The easy option would have been to go to Ascot, but I hope this horse is ready to step and now is the time to go and do it – especially when Cyrname probably doesn’t have the world’s greatest record going left-handed.

“I have to go in there saying I think Cyrname is potentially vulnerable. It’s difficult to suggest a horse rated so far ahead of us is vulnerable, but he had a hard race at Ascot last season (against Altior) and it took him a while to get over it.

“This is the most competitive Charlie Hall I’ve seen in a long time and it’s going to be a good horse who wins the race.

“Cyrname is going to have to be at his best to win, I think, and we’re going to give it our best shot to try to beat him.”

Last year’s Charlie Hall hero Ballyoptic returns to defend his crown for Nigel Twiston-Davies, while Brian Ellison’s 2018 winner Definitly Red is also in contention.

Jedd O’Keeffe saddles stable star Sam Spinner, and Warren Greatrex fires a couple of bullets in Keeper Hill and La Bague Au Roi. Harriet Graham’s Aye Right, the Mick Channon-trained Mister Whitaker and Saint Xavier from Richard Hobson’s yard complete the field.

Aye Right is bidding to become the first Scottish-trained winner of the Charlie Hall since High Edge Grey in 1988, and Graham said: “The form of his second at Kelso last time was given a proper boost with the winner Nuts Well winning the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on Sunday.

“We were delighted he came so close, to be honest, as the trip was on the short side and it was all part of the programme to get him to the Charlie Hall.

“He is a horse that is just coming to his best. He wasn’t disgraced when fifth in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham back in March and this has been his early target since the summer.”

Lisnagar Oscar reappears at Wetherby
Lisnagar Oscar reappears at Wetherby (Simon Cooper/PA)

Last season’s surprise Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar tops nine runners declared for the bet365 Hurdle – better known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle.

Rebecca Curtis’ charge will concede upwards of 6lb to the rest of the field – including Colin Tizzard’s Copperhead, Noel Kelly’s Irish raider Decor Irlandais and the Twiston-Davies-trained Wholestone.

Next Destination is a fascinating contender on his debut for the Nicholls yard, having been off the track since beating Delta Work in a Grade One novice hurdle at the 2018 Punchestown Festival for Willie Mullins.

Cheltenham back in business behind closed doors

Action on the track lived up to expectations as racing returned to Cheltenham on Friday – but there was a very different scene and feeling at the home of jumping to the one that prevailed in March.

Gone were the roars from the crowds synonymous with sending runners on their way and greeting winners back – with the only noise to be heard in the near-empty stands being that of hooves pounding the turf and jockeys encouraging extra from their mounts.

Racing behind closed doors has been the new normal since the resumption of the sport on June 1. However, for Cheltenham it was a first taste of such an experience, having staged the Festival in front of a crowd on all four days of the showpiece meeting during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials were keen to get things right, something Ian Renton, Jockey Club Cheltenham and South West regional director, believes was achieved.

He said: “It is an extraordinary amount of work to put on a racing-behind-closed-doors day at somewhere as large as Cheltenham. The team here have done a magnificent job. I think we will always be under a degree of scrutiny, but we want to do things as well as we can and we are operating under Government guidelines in exactly the same way we were at the Festival.

“We’ve a temporary weighing room to house 48 of the jockeys, so they can all be socially distanced, as well as the original weighing room.

“We’ve divided the owners into two restaurants, so they are all socially distanced, and there are a ridiculous amount of barriers to ensure there is two-metre distance between the green and amber zone to ensure it is the safest possible environment we can produce.”

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Jockeys make their way out to the paddock at Cheltenham
Jockeys make their way out to the paddock at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Though the official crowd figure will be recorded as zero with no paying spectators coming through the turnstiles, around a couple of hundred owners were able to enjoy the action, which Renton feels was equally as important as racing resuming at the course.

He added: “The feedback from owners has been very positive. They are delighted to be back on a racecourse and are very happy with what we have tried to give them.

“It’s certainly something we are going to have to live with for the next couple of meetings, with an attendance nothing more than what we have now.

“I think the team have done a magnificent job in trying to create a little bit of atmosphere and ensure the owners’ experience is good and we are a Covid-safe venue in what is a new venture for us all.”

Kim Bailey has enjoyed many memorable Cheltenham moments over the years, and he praised the work put in at the course after securing the privilege of striking gold in the first race back, following the victory of Does He Know.

Does He Know (left) was the first winner as racing returned to Cheltenham
Does He Know (left) was the first winner as racing returned to Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Bailey said: “I put my suit on this morning and it still had the Cheltenham badge from the Friday (of the Festival), so I took that off thinking we are in a new world.

“It’s great to be back here with the first winner. The racecourse has been fantastic and have looked after the owners very well. You can see from this lot a winner is a winner – everybody dreams to be standing here, even if they can’t go in the paddock.”

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson, who was on the scoresheet with Fusil Raffles, felt the service on offer for owners was exceptional.

Henderson said: “From the owners’ perspective and with no crowd at all, at least the owners can come and see their horses run. I think they have done it fantastically.

“They’ve really pushed the boat out and they’ve looked after them enormously, which we appreciate because they are the bread and butter of the game as far as we are concerned.

Fusil Raffles gave Nicky Henderson a winner on the first day back for Cheltenham
Fusil Raffles gave Nicky Henderson a winner on the first day back for Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“It is well organised and very slick and all the owners would echo my thoughts.

“We know what the circumstances are and it is going to be bizarre. It’s still Cheltenham, with or without a crowd.”

Robbie Power enjoyed arguably his finest victory when steering Sizing John to Gold Cup glory in 2017, and he was another only too pleased to be racing following the victory of the Gordon Elliott-trained Galvin, who could easily be one of those back for a big target in the spring.

Power said: “Of course it is different, but we are just very lucky to be racing and it is very important that we do the right things to keep this great sport going.

“That is what we have got to do and hopefully somewhere in the near future, sooner rather than later, we can get the crowds back.”

Bailey strikes first as Does He Know takes Cheltenham curtain-raiser

Locally-based trainer Kim Bailey was delighted to claim the first race of the new season at Cheltenham with the impressive Does He Know.

The Andoversford handler has his string in excellent form at this early stage of the campaign, with this his seventh winner in the last seven days.

Runner-up on his first two starts over hurdles last autumn, Does He Know had made a successful return from a lengthy absence at Ludlow last month and was a 9-1 shot for what looked a warm renewal of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Ridden confidently by David Bass, the five-year-old powered up the famous hill to score by almost five lengths from Midnight River.

Bailey said: “After he ran his second race last season, I said to the owners I didn’t want to run him again because I think he’s a very nice horse and I wanted him to have time.

“The idea of bringing him back to run in the first week of May didn’t happen, and I was thrilled with him today.

“I’ve always had a high opinion of him. He is very much a chaser, having won a point-to-point as a four-year-old – and with a bit of luck, he will get better as time goes on.

“We will see how he comes out of the race, but I’m not in a great rush. He will be better over three miles, I think.”

Galvin (right) on his way to victory at Cheltenham
Galvin (right) on his way to victory at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)
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Irish raider Galvin strengthened his claims for the National Hunt Chase at next year’s Festival with a wide-margin success in the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Novices’ Chase.

Runner-up in the novices’ handicap chase at the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds last season, Gordon Elliott’s charge had since won each of his three starts over fences, including a Grade Three at Tipperary this month.

Stepping up to three miles for the first time, the 2-1 favourite jumped well in the main under Robbie Power and looked better the further he went – passing the post with seven lengths in hand over Soldier Of Love.

Paddy Power make Galvin the 7-1 favourite (from 10-1) for the National Hunt Chase, which Elliott had previously identified as a target.

“I suppose he was entitled to do that. He was fit coming in here and he has got the rating on his run at the Festival last season,” said the winning jockey.

“He hit a few flat spots, but once I gave him a squeeze every time he came back on the bridle.

“The step up in trip (in the National Hunt Chase) will bring about a little bit more improvement. I think he stays all day and I think Gordon has the right target for him in March.

“After that, the Irish Grand National would be right up his street.”

Fusil Raffles won again at Cheltenham
Fusil Raffles won again at Cheltenham (Steven Paston/PA)

Fusil Raffles stamped his class on the Two Farmers Crisps Novices’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s high-class hurdler hade made a winning start to his career over fences at Uttoxeter last month and was the 4-5 favourite to make it two from two under Daryl Jacob.

His challengers were not too far behind jumping the second fence from home, but Fusil Raffles was accurate at both of the remaining obstacles and was ultimately well on top as he passed the post nine and a half lengths to the good.

Henderson said: “He was good there. I was pretty keen to run him over two and a half tomorrow. I’m still very keen to move him to two and a half, as that is where I think he will finish up. He was great. He travelled and he was too quick for them. His jumping was super slick.

“He is not the biggest horse in the world, but he has got more scope than it looks. He is back to somewhere where he was. Remember when he won the Adonis, then won at Punchestown and was a Grade One horse? Then things just went a bit AWOL last season.

“Uttoxeter did him the world of good and he looked the real deal today. He has got the speed to win over two and he will get two and a half, so options are open.

“It’s Simon Munir’s birthday tomorrow and as I’ve no runners for him that’s his birthday present.”

Dan (left) and Harry Skelton enjoyed a winner at Cheltenham
Dan (left) and Harry Skelton enjoyed a winner at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Faivoir justified cramped odds in the Catesby Estates Maiden Hurdle for Dan and Harry Skelton.

With Champagnesuperover and Pipesmoker significant non-runners, dual bumper winner Faivoir was a 4-11 shot to go one better than when runner-up at Uttoxeter a few weeks ago, and was not fully extended to beat Art Approval by five and a half lengths.

Trainer Dan Skelton said: “He’s a nice horse. He won two bumpers and I’d say he was half-fit when he went to Uttoxeter as he took me by surprise. He is not the bulkiest horse in the world and doesn’t carry tons of flesh, so you think he is fitter than he is.

“The race behind him today didn’t materialise into much competition, but take nothing away from him, he was very impressive.

“I think we can improve his jumping and a faster-run race will obviously suit him.

“We won’t chuck him in the deep end – I’ll probably find him a race under a penalty and slowly step forward.”