Tag Archive for: Manifesto Novices’ Chase

Nick Kent on verge of breakthrough success with Erne River

Nick Kent will saddle his first Grade One runner when unbeaten chaser Erne River takes his chance in the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree on Thursday.

The gelding has run twice over fences and was victorious on both occasions, taking a competitive Doncaster novice by six lengths in January and then going on to score again when a 13-length winner at Wetherby the following month.

The Wetherby outing took place on soft ground that later deteriorated into heavy – conditions Kent felt did not suit his seven-year-old and thus made his decisive win all the more impressive.

“We’re excited, of course, it’s our first Grade One runner,” said the Lincolnshire-based trainer.

“All I can say is he’s really well, he came out of Wetherby really well. We felt he deserved a chance in a race like this, showing what he’d shown already, so we’ll give it a go and see if he’s up to it.

“He ran really well at Doncaster, it’s a flat galloping track again at Aintree. The ground was against him at Wetherby, I felt, he doesn’t feel the best on softer ground and the better ground seemed to suit him, but then again you couldn’t argue with how he ran at Wetherby.

“He galloped to the line. Charlie (Hammond, jockey) was really happy with him and said every time he gave him a squeeze he kept finding (more).”

The form of the Doncaster race was boosted at Ayr last week when Dan Skelton’s Beakstown, beaten six lengths by Erne River, went on to score in the Listed Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase.

“The form’s looking good, it’s a big ask going into a Grade One but let’s see,” said Kent.

“He’s improved so quickly, he seems to have progressed very quickly. He did have three runs in point to points in Ireland, I know it’s not the same but it’s still experience over fences.

Erne River during his hurdling career
Erne River during his hurdling career (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s got his own way of jumping, he can get a bit low at the odd one but he’s quite an intelligent horse, he’s quite clever.

“We’ll just have to hope it all holds together on the day – it’s exciting, nerve-wracking, but exciting.”

Colin Tizzard will be represented by The Widdow Maker and War Lord, the latter of whom was a creditable fourth behind Edwardstone in the Arkle at Cheltenham.

A 50-1 chance at the Festival, the performance was a significant step forward for the grey and assistant trainer Joe Tizzard is hoping a return to a two-and-a-half-mile trip will see him at his best.

“It was cracking run in the Arkle and he just got a bit outpaced at a crucial time and stayed on again really strongly,” he said.

War Lord (left) in action at Lingfield
War Lord (left) in action at Lingfield (Steven Paston/PA)

“It has always been the plan to step him back up to two and a half at Aintree. He won’t mind the ground. It looks like a lovely race for him to be honest and hopefully he will be very competitive in it.

“On the ratings he has a tiny bit to find, but not a great deal. He’s not far away and that two and a half at Aintree will be right up his street.”

Millers Bank is another of the seven-strong field and arrives on Merseyside after finishing second to Pic D’orhy in the Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton in February.

The bay produced an assured round of jumping in the race, putting behind him two prior runs where he made errors when travelling competitively and unseated his jockey.

“He’s very well, he’s come out of Kempton in good shape and this has always been part of the plan,” said Hales.

Alex Hales' Millers Bank
Alex Hales’ Millers Bank (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s obviously got to improve again and it will be a competitive race, but we’re really looking forward to running him.”

Millers Bank was an 11-length winner on his chasing debut at Huntingdon but jumped a little too carefully on occasion during his following two runs and seemed to stutter upon landing and thus unbalance his rider.

“His first run at Huntingdon was absolutely brilliant, at Newbury he just took a little time to warm up to it, he was a bit novicey and I think he was the same at Cheltenham really. He just didn’t quite get his landing gear out quick enough,” said Hales.

“He did jump well at Kempton, that was the main thing, it was nice to get a clear run with him and hopefully he can build on that.”

“It’s very exciting and it’s just great to have a runner in a Grade One.”

Pic D’orhy will cross paths again with Millers Bank, as Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old searches for a first Grade One success.

“I’ve had this race in mind all season for Pic D’orhy who is best on a flat track like Aintree on nice ground,” the Ditcheat trainer told Betfair.

“We were never going to Cheltenham with him and probably shouldn’t have taken him to Sandown. He is exciting and looked smart when winning last time at Kempton which was his best performance over fences.

“He has won two Grade Two chases and it would be nice to win a Grade One.”

Rachael Blackmore and Gin On Lime somehow kept their partnership intact to win at Cheltenham in November
Rachael Blackmore and Gin On Lime somehow kept their partnership intact to win at Cheltenham in November (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The Irish have a sole runner through the Henry de Bromhead-trained Gin On Lime – last seen snatching victory from the jaws of defeat when scrambling to her feet and claiming a Cheltenham novice match race from My Drogo in November.

Milton Harris’ Jacamar, who finished fourth to Do Your Job in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase at Ayr on Saturday, was declared a non runner.

The Shunter still thriving as Manifesto test awaits

The Shunter continues to thrive and surprise trainer Emmet Mullins as he nears his next big-race assignment at Aintree.

The prolific eight-year-old steps into Grade One company in Thursday’s SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase, having already landed a huge pot for connections in last month’s Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Shunter bagged a £100,000 bonus with that victory, which came after he had put himself in line for it when taking Kelso’s Morebattle Hurdle 12 days earlier.

He had already won a big prize at Cheltenham in November, in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, after moving to Mullins’ County Carlow yard last summer from previous trainer John Clifford.

As The Shunter prepares for his next major challenge in Britain, Mullins reports him to be taking his exertions remarkably well.

“Yes, you wouldn’t know at home (he’s been so busy),” he said.

“He’s thriving at the moment – he looks in great order, and heavier than he did going to Kelso before the journey started.”

The Shunter has proved hugely adaptable as well as durable – winning over both hurdles and fences, at trips varying between two miles and two miles and five furlongs and on both soft and good ground.

“We haven’t come across anything like him (before) – nor did we think (to start with) he was as good as he is,” added Mullins.

The Shunter and Jordan Gainford clear the last at Cheltenham
The Shunter and Jordan Gainford clear the last at Cheltenham (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“He just keeps improving. I would argue his most impressive performance was his last run at Cheltenham.

“Hurdles or fences – either is not too much of an issue. Arguably he could be a bit better over hurdles.

“But I’d say his ideal conditions are two and half miles on nice ground – and after that hurdles or fences, we don’t really mind.

“He just seems to be in such a rich vein of form.”

The Shunter has improved three stones in nine months for Mullins, and must therefore venture out of handicap company to take on a field of Britain’s top novices.

Mullins added: “He doesn’t show a whole lot at home – and he doesn’t actually do a whole lot of work at home.

“So, I’m only seeing what everyone else is seeing on the track – and I’m happy enough to do that.

“I’m not going to force his hand at home. If he doesn’t want to show it to me, that’s OK.

“I can wait like everyone else to see him (do it on the track). Once he keeps winning, I’m happy.

“We’ve got our big handicap pots out of him – and he’s kind of gone up too far up in the handicap to be flying that route (any more).

“He keeps surprising us. Our handicap mark says we should be there – we’re probably stretching a bit going straight into Grade One company.

“But he owes us nothing – and whatever he can do is a bonus from here.”

Nicky Henderson is expecting a big run out of Fusil Raffles
Nicky Henderson is expecting a big run out of Fusil Raffles (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Leading the home defence against The Shunter is the Nicky Henderson-trained Fusil Raffles, second to stablemate Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Henderson said: “This is his trip, I’m pretty sure.

“He ran a great race at Cheltenham. Envoi Allen helped us a fair bit by declining to come round all the way, and did leave the door open, but you’ve got to be there to take your chance when you’re offered it.

“Chantry House beat Fusil Raffles, but ‘Fusil’ is very good in his own right – and over two and a half, this is the place for him.”

Paul Nicholls is equally hopeful about the chance of Hitman, who arrives on Merseyside a fresh horse after missing Cheltenham.

The Ditcheat trainer said in his Betfair blog: “He’s a proper young chaser who was still travelling strongly when he came down in the Grade One Scilly Isles at Sandown and then enjoyed a nice, confidence-boosting victory at Newbury early in March.

“As he’s only just five and lacks experience, we decided to bypass Cheltenham and wait for this race over a trip of two and a half miles – which is ideal.”

Umbrigado (left) gets up on the line at Newbury
Umbrigado (left) gets up on the line at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The David Pipe-trained Umbrigado has won the last three of his four outings over fences, most recently the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.

Pipe said: “He was very good the last day at Newbury – and although this will be different, with a small but select field, the track and trip should suit him, and he definitely deserves to go there.

“He ran well the time before last at Wetherby and he showed that he stays two and a half miles last time at Newbury on better ground. He seems to be much better over a fence.

“We decided not to go to Cheltenham with him, because it was close enough after Newbury. His owners (John White and Anne Underhill) have had great success at both Cheltenham and Aintree, but we opted for Aintree because he ran well enough there before.

“He has always been a horse we thought a lot of, and the last two performances have demonstrated that. He is going to have to improve again, but he seems to be on an upward curve.”

Adagio has been a star for David Pipe this season
Adagio has been a star for David Pipe this season (David Davies/PA)

Pipe also has a leading contender for Grade One honours in the shape of Triumph Hurdle runner-up Adagio.

Already a winner at the top level in Chepstow’s Finale Hurdle, the four-year-old proved best of the British runners in the juvenile championship – and faces five rivals in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

Pipe said: “He was perhaps a little bit of a forgotten horse in the Triumph, but he ran an absolute cracker.

“He has won around Cheltenham, and a quick track like Warwick, so I think he is versatile regarding ground and track.

“I wasn’t sure at the start whether he would be good enough to be up to Triumph Hurdle standard, but he has proved me wrong by the performances at Chepstow and at Cheltenham.”

The one to beat, however, could be Monmiral – who like Hitman did not run at Cheltenham.

Monmiral has been saved for Aintree
Monmiral has been saved for Aintree (David Davies/PA)

The French import is unbeaten in three starts for Nicholls, who said: “He’s a good example of my belief that everything in the season shouldn’t revolve around Cheltenham. We don’t buy and train horses just for the Festival.

“We don’t have to take horses there – we were not tempted by the Triumph Hurdle, and it was always the plan that Monmiral would head instead to Aintree after he won impressively on both starts for us.

“The form of his latest success at Haydock has been well and truly franked by the second and the third. While he has only ever raced on soft ground, I feel that good to soft on Thursday will be fine for him.”