Chatham Street Lad straight back to winning ways after Cheltenham

Chatham Street Lad had no trouble stepping up to three miles to easily win the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase at Limerick.

A creditable fourth to Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham just 10 days previously, the nine-year-old showed no ill-effects from that run.

Trainer Mick Winters thought this Grade Three heat was a good opportunity to try the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner beyond an extended two and a half miles, and so it proved when he outclassed his four rivals.

Chatham Street Lad travelled beautifully throughout, just off the pace set by Defi Bleu and Full Time Score, until Darragh O’Keeffe made his move after the third-last fence.

The even-money favourite cruised into the lead and sealed victory with a superb jump at the last, to come home 11 lengths clear of Defi Bleu. Full Time Score was 48 lengths back in third place.

“He thrived on the conditions and had more time to fiddle his jumps and I never saw Darragh so happy,” said Winters.

“He travelled over to Cheltenham fiercely well, but the ground had dried that little extra fraction for him and I was half-thinking of pulling the plug and not running him.

“I did feel he came home out of Cheltenham very well in himself and he loved these conditions today. I know you put your head on the plate a bit, but you can’t hide.

“The way he jumped there, you wouldn’t mind running him in a National on heavy ground, but I’ll leave that up to the owners.

“There is great prize-money now, like the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over in Cheltenham, and great sponsorship and the money today was outstanding.”

Winters has eyes set on Marsh assignment with Chatham Street Lad

Chatham Street Lad has the Marsh Novices’ Chase as his Cheltenham objective after connections took the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner out of his four other Festival engagements.

Trainer Michael Winters has removed the nine-year-old from the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy, the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair to concentrate solely on the the Grade One novice chase over two and a half miles.

Winters is bringing Chatham Street Lad back to his peak after giving him a break following a defeat at Fairyhouse last month.

“He’s not out of the Marsh. He’s still in that one. That’s the race the owners want to run in,” said the County Cork handler on Wednesday.

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“He had a good break and we’ve taken him to the beach today to freshen him up.

“He’d had quite a bit of racing and he slightly disappointed the last day so we thought we’d freshen him up for Cheltenham.

“He cantered on the beach and in the water and he’s had some physio. He’s thriving.

“There were a lot of small things the last day. If we are going to run a good race the next day we are going to have to be 100 per cent.

“That’s what we’re aiming for and we think he has a good chance. We’d like to see plenty of rain in England.”

Sporting John could be one of Chatham Street Lad’s rivals in the Marsh, after trainer Philip Hobbs revealed ground conditions will determine which race the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase winner will grace at the showpiece meeting.

Sporting John (right) now has a choice of two races at Cheltenham
Sporting John (right) now has a choice of two races at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hobbs took Sporting John out of the Arkle at the latest forfeit stage, but has left the JP McManus-owned six-year-old in the Marsh and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase over three miles.

“We’ve taken Sporting John out of the Arkle and he will either now run in the Marsh or what was the RSA. It will all depend on what the ground conditions are like,” said the Minehead handler.

“If the ground was very soft you would stick to two and a half in the Marsh, but if it wasn’t you would probably look at going further with him.

“It was obviously very pleasing to see him win like he did and warm to the task at Sandown, as it shows he is going in the right direction.”

Cheltenham still beckons for Chatham Street Lad

Michael Winters is still targeting the Cheltenham Festival with Chatham Street Lad, despite his defeat at Fairyhouse.

However, the Cork trainer will probably lower his sights to a handicap, possibly the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate over two miles five furlongs, rather than a Grade One.

Chatham Street Lad already holds entries in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase, having won the highly-competitive Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month over an extended two and a half miles by 15 lengths.

“We’re still heading to Cheltenham – we’re not too much taken aback,” said Winters, reflecting on the nine-year-old’s 12-length defeat in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase.

“He never got into a rhythm – the pace wasn’t right for him.

“I imagine we’ll be going for a handicap there, to be realistic. We’ll be making our mind up about what distance.

“From what he did at Cheltenham last time, we’ll be going back to that kind of trip. I’d imagine that’s where we’ll be looking.”

Winters believes Chatham Street Lad was just not at his best when going off a 7-4 favourite but managing only third to Daly Tiger on Saturday.

He will therefore have a break before preparing for Cheltenham.

“He’ll probably get a freshen-up, and we’ll have him checked out from head to toe to see that everything is right,” added Winters.

“He’s OK – but I don’t think the race went that well for him, with the pace and other little issues. He jumped a bit to the left, so we’ll have that checked out as well and make sure he’s 100 per cent.

“He’s been out in the paddock – he’s fine, but we’re going to freshen him up, check his vaccinations and give him a three-week break and we’ll be rolling on.

“He deserves a break, so we’ll be switching him off and get him swimming. He seems happy enough and he’s sound.

“He may not have been 100 per cent on the day, but he still ran a solid race.

“The thing for us is to get him back to the form he was in at Cheltenham last time. We’ve got plenty of time on our hands – two months.”

Winters still dreaming as Chatham Street Lad sits Fairyhouse test

Mick Winters is hoping Chatham Street Lad can keep the Grade One dream alive by running a massive race in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse.

The nine-year-old has already been given two entries at the Cheltenham Festival, in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase, and is quoted in the ante-post betting for two other races there.

That interest and speculation stems from Chatham Street Lad’s emphatic victory in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month.

County Cork trainer Winters reports his stable star in fine form since that outstanding performance, and primed for Saturday action.

“He looks in good order – he came home very well,” he said. “He enjoyed the change of scenery, (and) he’s moving very well.

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“The ground is obviously heavy, but Fairyhouse heavy might not be as bad as other tracks.

“We’re after a Grade One with him. He’s in good form and hopefully he’ll come back in one piece and give a good account of himself.

“He probably has to win if we are dreaming big time. He won well at Cheltenham, so you can get carried away, but there’s no reason why he wouldn’t back it up.

“The ground will be fine and safe. It’s great to have a favourite’s chance in such a race.”

Chatham Street Lad will be ridden for the first time in public by Simon Torrens, but the 5lb claimer has partnered him at Winters’ yard.

“The lad who’s riding him schooled him this year before his first race. Darragh (O’Keeffe) is not available this time, (so) it means Simon is on him.

“He gets on great with him and he’s claiming 5lb – which will help a lot.”

Winters did also give Chatham Street Lad an entry in the Sky Bet Killiney Chase at Punchestown on Sunday – when he would have faced the Envoi Allen – but that was just a precaution.

“We put him in at Punchestown just in case Fairyhouse was called off,” he said.

Opposition in a maximum 16-runner field includes Emmet Mullins’ The Shunter, who is back over fences after winning the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in November on his latest start.

Willie Mullins is two-handed with Fan De Blues and Pont Aven, while Gordon Elliott runs four – Chosen Mate, Or Jaune De Somoza, Bel Ami De Sivola and Timoteo, plus the reserve Dakota Moirette.

Joseph O’Brien is another trainer well-represented with three runners – Entoucas, Front View and Top Moon, all owned by JP McManus.

Thurles possibility for exciting Sayce Gold

Sayce Gold could make a quick reappearance in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle at Thurles on Sunday.

Trainer Michael Winters is eyeing the Listed contest over two miles for the exciting seven-year-old, who completed a four-week hat-trick when scoring by eight lengths at Cork.

That success came in a Grade Three heat over three miles, while her two earlier wins were over two-miles-seven at Thurles and in a two-mile bumper at Fairyhouse.

Winters is tempted to run the Trevor Hemmings-owned mare before Christmas, in a race won in 2018 by Irish Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle, as Sayce Gold has taken her recent exertions so well.

“She came up from the gallop, just to keep her ticking over, and her ears were pricked and she was dancing and having a slight skip and trot,” said the County Cork handler.

“I’d imagine there’s a possibility she’ll running in Thurles. It sounds very close, but she’s bouncing. We don’t have to give her any gallop, but we’ll play it by ear.

“When the ground goes against her we’ll be stepping aside because we want her for chasing next year. It would be great fun and it’s exciting to watch her jump fences at home. She is so athletic.

“I hate to put my head on the block, but the entry is going to be made and, if all is good, she might go there.”

Winters is already looking to next season when Sayce Gold switches to the bigger obstacles.

“She’ll go novice chasing next season and it probably be next October if the ground is right,” he added.