Star Gate’s Challow challenge as Williams eyes another Grade One

Evan Williams is still on a high following Silver Streak’s maiden Grade One win on Boxing Day – and he is chasing another top-level success with Star Gate in the Mansionbet Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

The youngest runner in Tuesday’s line-up – he does not turn five until New Year’s Day – brings an unbeaten record into the contest, having won his only point-to-point, a maiden hurdle at Chepstow and scored a very impressive success in a Grade Two at Sandown last time out.

“It might be asking a bit much to win another!” said Williams.

“He handles soft ground, we know that, but he’s only a four-year-old – although he turns five at the end of the week.

“I didn’t envisage giving him such a busy campaign if I’m honest – it definitely wasn’t on my radar.

“But the horse is fresh and well, he’s come out of Sandown well – and this is probably the only place we could go in reality.

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“I didn’t want to drop down in trip for the Tolworth (at Sandown on Saturday) and I didn’t fancy running him somewhere with a penalty in a Grade Two, having won one of those already.

“It’s a very hot race, very deep, and it will be very difficult to win.”

Kim Bailey’s Does He Know failed to win in two outings over timber last season but is three from three this time around, with one of those a Grade Two at Cheltenham last time out.

All his wins have come on a decent surface, though, and Bailey is unsure how he will handle softer ground, with the meeting subject to precautionary inspection at 8.30am due to the threat of frost.

David Bass gets a great leap out of Does He Know on their way to winning at Cheltenham
David Bass gets a great leap out of Does He Know on their way to winning at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s pleased us enormously with what he has done so far, but this is a big step up and we need to find out whether he is a March Cheltenham horse or not,” said the Andoversford trainer.

“He deserves to be running in a race like this, anyway.

“I don’t know about the ground (being softer). I had him entered at (nearby) Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but that will be heavy – we’ve got a covering of snow this morning. Fingers crossed, he will handle it.”

Paul Nicholls is another trainer with a Grade One already in the bag over Christmas, having won an incredible 12th King George with Frodon.

He runs Bravemansgame, very impressive at Exeter and Newbury the last twice.

“I think the world of Bravemansgame who has a big future and won so impressively at this track a month ago over this trip,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“He has matured and strengthened, continues to please at home – and I’m hopeful the soft ground at Newbury will not be a problem for him.”

Alan King’s The Glancing Queen has twice run well in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and made a winning start to life over hurdles at Warwick last month.

“The Glancing Queen was very impressive at Warwick and enjoyed the experience, which was what we wanted, so we now look forward to seeing how she shapes up in grade,” King told his website.

Dan Skelton’s Wilde About Oscar and the Sophie Leech-trained Enfant Roi complete the classy field.