Tag Archive for: Milton Harris

Milton Harris withdraws appeal against decision of Licensing Committee

Milton Harris has withdrawn his appeal against the decision of the British Horseracing Authority’s Licensing Committee which ruled he is not a “fit and proper person” to hold a training licence.

The Warminster handler had his licence suspended by the BHA in November pending a hearing in January, with the BHA saying it was “a result of a breach of the conditions on his licence and related matters”.

The Licensing Committee said the concerns of the BHA surrounded “the nature and extent of MH’s admitted breaches of the conditions which already exist on his licence, which were imposed in 2018 and MH’s failure to be candid in his dealings with the BHA in respect of those breaches, particularly when the BHA was seeking to provide opportunities for MH to remedy those breaches”, “misconduct in his dealings with others, including fellow licence holder Mr Simon Earle” and “in respect of safeguarding arising out of MH’s conduct with young persons employed at his racing yard”.

Harris confirmed last week he had lodged an appeal, but the BHA said on Wednesday he had subsequently withdrawn it.

Harris, who started his training career in 2001, had a seven-year enforced absence from 2011 to 2018 due to financial issues.

Since returning to the sport he had saddled some notable winners, highlighted by Knight Salute, who claimed the 2022 Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree along with three Grade Two victories that season.

The BHA also released a statement informing that conditional jockey Dylan Kitts had been issued with a disciplinary officer exclusion order having failed to comply with an investigation into his ride on Hillsin in July last year.

A disciplinary officer exclusion order is issued “in instances where a person’s presence on premises licensed by the BHA, or association with racing’s participants, is undesirable in the interests of racing based on their conduct”.

The statement read: “The BHA can today confirm that Mr Dylan Kitts has been issued with a disciplinary officer exclusion order as a result of his failure to co-operate with an investigation. This order, which prohibits Mr Kitts from attending premises licensed by the BHA and/or associating with racing’s participants, has been issued after Mr Kitts failed to provide relevant information requested by the BHA’s integrity team as part of an ongoing investigation.

“This investigation remains ongoing and the BHA will be making no further comment at this time.”

Milton Harris to appeal decision to remove his training licence

Milton Harris is to appeal the decision of the British Horseracing Authority’s Licensing Committee to rule he is not a “fit and proper person” to hold a training licence.

The Warminster handler had his licence suspended by the BHA in November pending a hearing in January, with the BHA saying it was “a result of a breach of the conditions on his licence and related matters”.

The Licensing Committee said the concerns of the BHA surrounded “the nature and extent of MH’s admitted breaches of the conditions which already exist on his licence, which were imposed in 2018 and MH’s failure to be candid in his dealings with the BHA in respect of those breaches, particularly when the BHA was seeking to provide opportunities for MH to remedy those breaches”, “misconduct in his dealings with others, including fellow licence holder Mr Simon Earle” and “in respect of safeguarding arising out of MH’s conduct with young persons employed at his racing yard”.

A spokesperson for the BHA said on Wednesday: “The BHA can confirm that Mr Harris has formally notified the BHA of his intention to appeal against the recent decision of the Licensing Committee. We will provide further details regarding the appeal in due course and will make no further comment at this time.”

Contacted by the PA news agency, Harris said: “I have appealed. I need to respect the Licensing Committee’s decision, which I do, but some of the information they have been given was not correct.”

Harris, who started his training career in 2001, had a seven-year enforced absence from 2011 to 2018 due to financial issues.

Since returning to the sport he had saddled some notable winners, highlighted by Knight Salute, who claimed the 2022 Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree along with three Grade Two victories that season.

Milton Harris has training licence removed following BHA hearing

Milton Harris has been found not to be a “fit and proper person” to hold a trainer’s licence, in written reasons issued by the British Horseracing Authority’s Licensing Committee.

The Warminster handler had his licence suspended by the BHA in November pending a hearing in January, with the BHA saying it was “a result of a breach of the conditions on his licence and related matters”.

The Licensing Committee said the concerns of the BHA surrounded “the nature and extent of MH’s admitted breaches of the conditions which already exist on his licence, which were imposed in 2018 and MH’s failure to be candid in his dealings with the BHA in respect of those breaches, particularly when the BHA was seeking to provide opportunities for MH to remedy those breaches”, “misconduct in his dealings with others, including fellow licence holder Mr Simon Earle” and “in respect of safeguarding arising out of MH’s conduct with young persons employed at his racing yard”.

In the wake of the ruling, BHA director of integrity and regulatory operations, Tim Naylor, said: “Racing is a sport that works hard to provide a safe and welcoming space for all and the ruling of the Licensing Committee in this case sends a clear message that those in positions of authority in our industry must act in a way that upholds these values.

“We are grateful to the committee for their time in considering this matter and also to those who came forward to share their experiences of Mr Harris and gave evidence at the hearing.

“Some of the details in the Licensing Committee’s decision make for extremely uncomfortable reading. Mr Harris’s behaviour over a prolonged period of time fell a long way short of what we expect of a licensed person and, as the committee found, would cause damage to racing’s reputation if allowed to continue without repercussion.

“We are, therefore, pleased with the panel’s finding that Mr Harris is not a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

“As is clear from the decision, the BHA’s concerns ranged across a number of very serious issues. One of these concerns related to safeguarding. The BHA takes its safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously and, as demonstrated by its bringing this case before the Licensing Committee, will do everything within its powers to ensure that those working in our sport do so in an environment befitting what should rightly be expected by them and, in the case of young people, their parents or guardians upon taking a job in the sport.

“The BHA recently published an updated Safeguarding and Human Welfare Strategy, which built on our existing policies and seeks to protect and promote the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in the sport.

“As always, we would encourage anybody who feels they have been subjected to or witnessed inappropriate behaviour in our sport to contact us. The BHA’s Code of Conduct clearly establishes the standards that everyone involved in racing is expected to uphold and we will never turn a blind eye to concerns raised about conduct which may fall below these standards.”

At the beginning of December, Harris’ assistant Tony Charlton was granted a temporary training licence by the BHA, “with agreed conditions attached”.

Contacted by the PA news agency, Harris described himself as “disappointed” by the verdict, with a further response planned in the coming days.

He said: “I’ve just seen the decision of the committee and I’m obviously disappointed.

“My immediate priority is to look after the horses, owners and long-serving staff here and in the immediate that will be my sole focus. I will make a statement (on the decision) in a few days’ time.”

Harris, who started his training career in 2001, had a seven-year enforced absence from 2011 to 2018 due to financial issues.

Since returning to the sport he has saddled some notable winners, highlighted by Knight Salute, who claimed the 2022 Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree along with three Grade Two victories that season.

Tony Charlton granted temporary licence following Milton Harris suspension

Milton Harris’ assistant Tony Charlton has been granted a temporary training licence after an interim suspension was imposed on Wiltshire-based Harris by the British Horseracing Authority.

Harris has not been able to have runners since November 9, when Balboa and Giddyupadingdong were not permitted to compete at Ludlow by the BHA, with the Warminster trainer due to face a licensing committee hearing in January.

Charlton has now been given a temporary licence to train from Harris’ Sutton Veny yard, although it is “with agreed conditions attached”.

Horses who have remained in Harris’ yard since the trainer’s licence was suspended will be able to run from December 14, although any horse who has been in a licensed yard and moves to Charlton will be eligible to run immediately.

Harris, who started his training career in 2001, had a seven-year enforced absence from 2011 to 2018 due to financial issues.

Since returning to the sport he has saddled some notable winners, highlighted by Knight Salute, who claimed the 2022 Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree along with three Grade Two victories that season.

Milton Harris has licence suspended by BHA

Milton Harris has had his training licence suspended by the British Horseracing Authority pending a hearing in January.

The interim suspension comes after horses trained by the Warminster handler were not permitted to run at Ludlow on Thursday, with the BHA ruling Balboa and Giddyupadingdong were “not qualified” for their respective engagements.

A BHA spokesperson said: “Following a hearing before the chairperson of the independent judicial panel of the BHA, Mr Harris’s licence has been suspended pending a licensing committee hearing in January.

“This is as a result of a breach of the conditions on his licence and related matters.”

Harris, who started his training career in 2001, had a seven-year enforced absence from 2011 to 2018 due to financial issues.

Since returning to the sport he has saddled some notable winners, highlighted by Knight Salute, who claimed the 2022 Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree along with three Grade Two victories that season.

Harris sent out Pyramid Place to win the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow last month and had his most recent runners at Plumpton on Monday.

Scriptwriter sights set on Ebor after going close at the weekend

Milton Harris’ Scriptwriter has a York return on his agenda before new connections take aim at the Melbourne Cup.

The four-year-old is a Grade Two-winning hurdler who took the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle in November and went on to place fifth in the Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on the last run of his National Hunt campaign.

He was in action on the level in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot over a mile and three-quarters, finishing seventh of 16 at 40-1.

Last weekend’s John Smith’s Silver Cup at York saw him step out of handicap company and into a Group Three, where he was only narrowly beaten, coming home a neck behind William Haggas’ seasoned Group-race performer Hamish.

Both the course and distance seemed to suit and Scripwrtier will encounter both again as he holds an entry for the Sky Bet Ebor, York’s headline handicap that offers £300,000 to the winner in late August – plus, for the first time, a guaranteed ticket to the ‘race that stops a nation’.

“I was a bit frustrated at first as I think this horse gets to the front and then stops and that’s what he did,” Harris said.

“The jockey didn’t really do much wrong, but a few yards ahead of the line he was ahead and after the line he was ahead again.

“He’ll go back there for the Ebor next, the Group Three was an afterthought really as I saw it and thought he may as well give it a go as he handles any ground.”

After the Ebor connections are hoping there is a date much further afield in the diary.

“He’s been bought from existing owners of mine by Australian owners and the plan for him is to run out there,” Harris said.

“He’ll go for the Ebor now and then into quarantine for Australia on a one-way ticket, I should think. The plan is for him to run once out there and then go for the Melbourne Cup.

“It’s not set in stone, but you’ve got to have a dream, haven’t you?”

Harris also provided an update on Knight Salute, the Grade One-winning hurdler who suffered a serious injury late last year.

The five-year-old is recovering at Harris’ yard and is faring well after a tense time when his life hung in the balance.

“He’s very well, he’s not in any discomfort and he does have a good quality of life,” said Harris.

“The plan is for him to go to one of his owners, who has some land and horses and is a good fellow.

“I don’t think he’ll ever race again, though you never know, but truth be told the vets would probably have had him put down.

“He wasn’t in any pain and he’s very comfortable now, he’s been a wonderful patient.”

Harris dreaming of Melbourne Cup bid for Scriptwriter

Milton Harris is hatching an audacious plan to get Scriptwriter rated highly enough for a tilt at the Melbourne Cup.

The two-mile ‘race that stops a nation’, which will be run at Flemington on November 7, is the richest handicap run anywhere in the world and was worth over £2.5million to connections of Gold Trip, who won it last year.

There there is always fierce competition for a place in the line-up which has a maximum of 24 runners.

But Warminster handler Harris is hopeful the former Aidan O’Brien-trained gelding will show his ability throughout the summer on the Flat, starting with Saturday’s Group Three John Smith’s Silver Cup Stakes at York.

“He’s a Group horse, we’ve always thought that,” said Harris. “I’m going to tempt fate. He’s going to run on Saturday at York, I think. The main target has always been the Ebor at York.”

The Ebor victor will be given an automatic entry for the Melbourne Cup, with the York contest the only international win-and-you-are-in race.

Scriptwriter proved himself among the top young hurdlers last season, winning the Grade Two Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham in November.

He also landed a decent all-weather handicap on the Flat at Wolverhampton before being touched off in the Finesse Hurdle back at Cheltenham.

Scriptwriter was seventh to runaway winner Vauban in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot on his return to action last month and while his official Flat rating is 103, he will need to improve if he is to have a chance of going to Australia.

Harris added: “I thought he ran well at Ascot from a bad draw, but just couldn’t win.

“So we are going to York on Saturday and then hopefully the Ebor. If those two races go well, we might have a go at the Melbourne Cup – if you don’t dream, you’ll never have one come to fruition, will you?”

Harris looking to Aintree with Triumph absentee Scriptwriter

Milton Harris will target Aintree with Scriptwriter after he failed to line up in the JCB Triumph Hurdle on Friday due to scoping dirty.

Scriptwriter contested Group races on the Flat for Aidan O’Brien and has become a decent hurdler. In the care of the Wilshire handler, he is one of the leading British juveniles.

Winner of Cheltenham’s Grade Two Triumph Hurdle Trial in November, the four-year-old reverted to the Flat to win at Wolverhampton on his next outing before returning to Cheltenham to find only Comfort Zone too good.

He carried a penalty for his Grade Two success when beaten favourite in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton and while not near his best, Harris had hoped he would bounce back in the Triumph.

Scriptwriter will now head to Aintree in a bid to emulate Knight Salute, who capped a remarkable juvenile season by landing the Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at the Grand National meeting last year.

“Scriptwriter is fine,” said Harris. “He will now go to the Grade One at Aintree.

“It was just that the scope wasn’t clean, and it was not worth the trouble.

“It’s a pity as I was hopeful he’d run a nice race and show us the form we know he is capable of. We’ll be all right, don’t worry.”

Knight Salute, who was last seen finishing third in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in November, is still battling to recover from a major injury after an operation the following month.

“He had to have a rotten tooth taken out under anaesthetic and he injured himself getting up after,” said Harris. “He’s obviously out for the season and we’ll do what’s best for him.

“It’s a huge shame, but it shows you how fragile these brilliant animals are.”

Harris plotting Adonis triumph for Scriptwriter

Scriptwriter could cement his place as Britain’s leading JCB Triumph Hurdle hope in the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.

Milton Harris won the Grade Two contest with Knight Salute 12 months ago and is treading the same path to the Cheltenham Festival with his classy recruit from Aidan O’Brien’s all-conquering Flat string.

A winner of his first two hurdling starts and also successful when having a spin on the all-weather at Wolverhampton in December, he was beaten less than a length by Joseph O’Brien’s Comfort Zone at Prestbury Park on Trials Day.

He lost little in defeat that day and Harris now hopes he can regain the winning thread to gather some momentum towards the Festival in this £80,000 contest.

Scriptwriter (left) jumping a final hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day
Scriptwriter (left) jumping a final hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day (David Davies/PA)

He said: “He’s in good form. It’s well publicised that Paddy (Brennan) and I both agree that we got tactics a bit wrong at Cheltenham last time, without wishing to take anything away from the winner.

“It’s going to be a difficult task with a penalty, but he seems in good form and is probably the leading British juvenile and I have no problem with the horse’s form and well-being heading into the race.

“The Adonis is a good race in its own right and we did consider going fresh to the Triumph, but this is an £80,000 good race and it needs supporting. Cheltenham isn’t the be-all and end-all of everything, even though it is clearly our main target, but he is a juvenile hurdler.

“This horse has a Flat rating of 104 and ran to 104 when he ran on the Flat not so long ago and you have to ask yourself could any of these run to 104 on the Flat?

“We’re very happy and have had a clean run (since Cheltenham) and it would be very good for Paddy and the owners. The horse is a very nice horse and we’ll be doing our best.”

Scriptwriter has another Joseph O’Brien horse to take on this time in the form of Nusret – who looked good at Punchestown in the autumn before finishing third in deep contests the last twice.

Paul Nicholls also looks to have a smart prospect for a race he has won three times in the last 10 years in the form of Rare Middleton.

A winner at Leopardstown for Andy Oliver in the autumn, he soon transferred to Ditcheat for 215,000 guineas and made a winning debut for the champion trainer at Taunton last month.

“A useful handicapper on the Flat in Ireland, he made a pleasing hurdles debut for us with a tidy victory at Taunton early in January,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“That wasn’t the strongest of maiden races but he has come on nicely at home and this has always been his target.

“I’m hopeful that Rare Middleton can now raise his game on good ground that will suit him at Kempton. This race will tell us whether he goes for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham or waits for Aintree.”

Alan King is another with a fine record in this event and relies on Spartan Army, while Nicky Henderson last won this in 2019 with Fusil Raffles and unleashes the former William Haggas-trained mare Pawapuri, who was rated 85 on the level and looks an interesting hurdling newcomer for the Seven Barrows handler.

A new name to the training ranks is Ben Brookhouse and he is looking to his first-ever winner Sarsons Risk to build on victory at Doncaster and put his name on the map.

He said: “He seems to have come out of Doncaster well and he is a likeable type and seems to want to do it.

“He only had three days off after Doncaster but it was like a piece of work to him in all fairness. We are just pressing on now and looking forward to the Adonis.

“I think he is very special and he has a big engine now that we have sorted his wind issue out. His jumping at Doncaster was as slick as you like, which is a big thing for juveniles.

“I think he definitely deserves his place on Saturday. There is the voice in your head telling you he will win this without too much fuss, potentially, but then you have the realistic voice in your head saying everyone is thinking this. I think he has got a very good chance but the opposition is strong.”

Gary Moore’s Perseus Way finished second to Scriptwriter at Cheltenham on his hurdling debut and has gone on to acquire a rating of 125 over timber thanks to a placed effort in a Chepstow Grade Two and a commanding victory in the Chatteris Fen.

Perseus Way comes back under Jamie Moore
Perseus Way comes back after winning at Huntingdon under Jamie Moore (PA)

That Huntingdon success was given a timely boost when the runner-up bolted up at the same track on Thursday, but Moore believes his charge needs to raise his game.

He said: “It will be different to Huntingdon, a bit tougher race.

“He’s wrong with a few horses in the race handicap wise, but I just felt he had to have a go. He can go there and get the same prize money as the Fred Winter and I think the track will suit him.

“He’s a horse we like a lot, but he’s got to up his game a bit on Saturday. Scriptwriter is a 104-rated Flat horse isn’t he, but he wasn’t far behind him at Cheltenham the first time so we’ll just have to have a go at it.”

Scriptwriter’s owner Adams will be back on more familiar ground this weekend

Prominent owner Mark Adams hopes it will be ‘downhill’ all the way for Scriptwriter in Saturday’s Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.

The Milton Harris-trained four-year-old is among Britain’s top hopes for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, despite having his colours narrowly lowered by Comfort Zone in the trial at Cheltenham last month.

A Group Three performer for Aidan O’Brien on the Flat, Harris shrewdly purchased the Churchill gelding and he won on all three starts for the Warminster handler before going down by three-quarters of a length to the Joseph O’Brien-trained Comfort Zone.

Adams, who also co-owns the likes of last season’s Adonis Hurdle and Aintree’s Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle winner Knight Salute, and last season’s Grand National ninth Jacamar, hopes Scriptwriter can bounce back in the Grade Two contest at the Sunbury track.

“He’s well and we are looking forward to the Adonis and seeing how we got from there,” said Adams.

“I have a lot of faith in the horse, so we have high hopes.”

On Sunday, Harris was in St Moritz to see the Middleham Park-owned Mordred finish unplaced in the Evangelos Pistiolis Foundation – 83rd Grosser Preis von St Moritz, a local Group Two contest on the ‘White Turf’, which was reduced to four furlongs because of melting snow.

The Warminster handler was also an interested bystander as Adams took part in Skijoring, a winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by a horse, dogs or a motor vehicle.

“It has not gone to plan so far,” said Harris. “Mark got taken out at the start by another horse on Sunday and there’s often a bit of carnage in it. It is not for the faint-hearted.”

Skijoring races span three consecutive weekends and not being one to shirk a challenge, Adams is keen to return for some unfinished business next year.

“I was a bit banged up and bruised last week, but not this weekend,” said the owner.

“I got taken out at the start. One of the other drivers couldn’t control their horse when he came out of the stalls and took me off the track in the wrong direction.

“I managed to turn my horse around, but they wouldn’t let me join in the race. It was disappointing.

“This is the first time I’ve done it, I’ve just got my licence to race this year.

“Milton had been talking about it for a few years. I ride horses as well and kind of put the two together, but I came out and didn’t quite realise how big an event this is.

“I haven’t quite made my mind up if I will do it next year, but I feel a bit frustrated this year and a bit unfulfilled.

“So I am probably going to have to come back next year and have a go.”

Adams quipped: “Milton will probably give me a shove, regardless. I don’t think he’d do it – I’m not sure they’d find a horse big enough to tow him!”

Postmark stamps likely Boodles ticket in Newbury victory

Milton Harris will give Postmark one more run before a crack at the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, after a cosy victory at Newbury on Sunday.

The four-year-old, who is part-owned by former West Ham and Bournemouth manager Harry Redknapp, was a useful handicapper on the Flat – including winning in the Racing League under Frankie Dettori – yet was a little disappointing on his hurdling bow when seventh of nine at Kempton over Christmas.

However, Mitch Bastyan’s mount proved a different proposition on his second attempt, drawing away after the last in the Bloomfields Horseboxes Presents The Raceline Professional Maiden Hurdle to beat three rivals by five and a half lengths and upwards, the good to firm ground putting him in a better light.

Speaking from St Moritz, Harris said of his 11-8 favourite: “He is a nice horse and I expected him to win today. He just didn’t like that ground last time at Kempton.

“I know the race cut up a bit, but the second horse (Up For Appeal) might be a nice horse.

“He is only a four-year-old. We just might look at giving him another quick run and consider then going for the Boodles. We have to have three runs before going there. I think he is a nice horse.”

Few horses in training are as consistent as Mortlach and he rewarded owners Richard Hames and Doug Pocock with a seventh success since April last year, taking the Stewart Wright Memorial Novices’ Handicap Chase by four and three-quarter lengths under Paddy Brennan.

The 11-10 favourite had finished runner-up on four occasions – including in the Grade Two Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton – and was third in both the John Francome and the Kauto Star, since last scoring at Kelso in October.

Fergal O’Brien is not ruling Mortlach out of the Cheltenham Festival
Fergal O’Brien is not ruling Mortlach out of the Cheltenham Festival (David Davies/PA)

Trainer Fergal O’Brien feels there is still an outside possibility the eight-year-old will line up in either the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy or the Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

He said: “I’m just delighted for Mortlach. He has been a good servant.

“When he runs in these big races, like he did at Christmas, he’s always trying his best and if Paddy feels he can’t win, then he kind of looks after him.

“He’s been so consistent – he turns up every week and he’s had plenty of races and he’s done us proud.

“He loves racing and he’s very straightforward. He spends most of his time in his field, eating what little grass is there.

“We might probably head to Kempton next Saturday with him. Two miles is probably short for him, so we’ll see him better over two and a half.

“You’d be a brave man to presume he won’t go to Cheltenham, especially where Paddy is concerned.

“Last year the Turners cut up and you just never say never. That’s why he has got those entries. You just don’t know who will turn up. We are having such a dry spell, you just never know.”

Favourite-backers were also on cloud nine when Cloud Dancer justified his 6-4 odds in taking the Bloomfields Horseboxes Presents The Raceline Professional Junior “National Hunt” Hurdle under Niall Houlihan.

The Gary Moore-trained runner, making his hurdling debut, stayed on well after the last in the extended two-mile heat to score by five and a half lengths.

Flying Nun (7-2 favourite) put two lacklustre runs at Hereford behind her to plunder the three-mile Byerley Stud Mares’ Handicap Hurdle for Emma Lavelle, while there was a walkover for Dalamoi in the novices’ Limited Handicap Chase when sole rival Quick Draw was withdrawn because of the quick ground.

Family Business (9-4) was far from fluent on the first circuit of the Kevin & Karen Waller’s 60th Birthday Handicap Chase, yet warmed to the task when pulled out down the back straight by Gavin Sheehan.

The Richard Hobson-trained six-year-old soon had his two opponents in trouble turning for home and went on to score by eight lengths.

Harris backing Scriptwriter to produce winning performance

Milton Harris insists Scriptwriter has blossomed and hopes the evidence will be there for all to see in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle, the first of a nine-race bumper card at Cheltenham on Saturday.

A Group Three performer for Aidan O’Brien on the Flat, Harris shrewdly purchased the Churchill gelding and he has won on all three starts for the Warminster handler.

A winner over a similar trip on the Old Course in November, he returns to Prestbury Park’s New Course on the back of a win in a decent all-weather Flat handicap at Wolverhampton last month.

Scriptwriter takes on seven rivals who include Chepstow’s Grade Two Finale Juvenile Hurdle hero, the Joseph O’Brien-trained Comfort Zone, and Gary Moore’s runaway Newbury winner Jupiter Du Gite, in a warm renewal of the two-mile-one-furlong contest.

Yet Harris is brimming with confidence after overseeing his latest sharpener.

He said: “Scriptwriter went to Kempton on Tuesday and did a little piece of work over a mile.

“He is in a very good place and obviously we had that little run at Wolverhampton, which was good.

“He is a good horse and he seems to have blossomed. He wouldn’t want extreme soft ground, but I don’t think we are going to get that.

“While the race will be a little bit better than it might have been because everywhere else has been off, I’m very happy with him. He’s definitely improved since his first two hurdle runs, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Henri The Second seeks more Grade Two glory
Henri The Second seeks more Grade Two glory (Steven Paston/PA)

Elsewhere on a cracking card, Henri The Second bids to supplement his Winter Novices’ Hurdle success at Sandown with a second Grade Two win in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Harry Cobden’s mount, who was runner-up to Chianti Classico on his seasonal bow at Chepstow, will concede weight to all 10 rivals in the extended two-and-a-half-mile contest, which is a slight concern to Paul Nicholls.

The champion trainer said: “He has got a 5lb penalty for winning the Grade Two at Sandown Park before Christmas and that won’t make life easy against good horses.

“He is obviously a nice horse and he has already won a good race this season. He is in good shape and he will stay up that Cheltenham hill, but he has got a big task with the penalty.

“He ran very well last time, however we thought he would go well on his first run but he was a bit green. He is still learning and there is plenty of improvement to come from him yet.

“He wasn’t quite ready for the Leamington at Warwick as he had a hard race at Sandown, so he needed that little bit of extra time, but we have got him back where we want him now.”

Can You Call (right) has impressed the handicapper
Can You Call (right) has impressed the handicapper (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Can You Call, hiked 13lb since winning a heavy-ground Uttoxeter handicap hurdle last time, is one of the challengers.

His trainer, Evan Williams, hopes the eight-year-old can justify his 131 official rating.

He said: “The handicapper obviously thinks we should be in a race like that, taking on those kind of horses, so let’s give it a go.

“I never question the handicapper. He knows, he’s the professional, he’s the man. We just go where the handicapper says we should go. If he says we are up to that class, and says ‘get in there and get your share of 50 grand’, then that’s what we’ll try to do.

“It is a good race, as it should be, but two thirds of the field can’t beat us according to the man at the BHA, so we’re looking forward to picking up the money.”

The Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase comprises 15 runners, headed by last season’s Festival winner Delta Work and 2021 Grand National winner Minella Times.

The 2021 Becher Chase winner Snow Leopardess has her first try over the unique course, which is a test that Back On The Lash has already mastered.

Martin Keighley’s representative won over the same course and three-and-a-quarter-mile distance at last season’s November meeting and the Condicote handler expects a bold show again.

He said: “He’s in great form and hopefully it will go ahead, because he loves it round there. It looks a hot race again, but he’d have a decent chance.”

Promising Gentle Slopes suffers season-ending setback

Milton Harris has been dealt another injury blow as promising hurdler Gentle Slopes has been ruled out for the season.

Having already seen last season’s Grade One-winning juvenile hurdler Knight Salute sidelined, it is a bitter blow to the Warminster yard, as Gentle Slopes had shown plenty of promise in winning a competitive Cheltenham bumper in November.

A £90,000 purchase on the back of a point-to-point win, the Anwar Badri-owned Gentle Slopes won in good style on his Sedgefield debut, before being held by Encanto Bruno at Cheltenham on his second start.

His four-length success over School Days Over on his return to Prestbury Park brought forth quotes for the Champion Bumper.

Switched to hurdling for his next run, he was a beaten favourite when third to Attacca in a Cheltenham novices’ heat last month, but was well supported to bounce back in the Ballymore Maiden Hurdle when upped to an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham on Sunday.

However, having travelled well to the home turn, he dropped away tamely under Sean Bowen and was beaten over 27 lengths by Weveallbeencaught.

Harris revealed: “Gentle Slopes is out for the season. That’s the nature of racing.

Milton Harris will step Twinjets up in class for his next run
Milton Harris will step Twinjets up in class for his next run (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I thought something was wrong, as he dropped out. He just picked up an injury, but he’s gone for the year.”

The yard gained some compensation with a Plumpton double on Monday, with Harry Cobden partnering both Twinjets and El Muchacho and to success.

Twinjets, who took an extended two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle to supplement his earlier Leicester success, will now move to deeper waters.

Harris said: “He has a double penalty now, so he will have to go up in grade.

“I’m tempted to go for the two-mile-five-furlong Graded race at Warwick (Grade Two Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, January 14) or there’s the (Grade Two) Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials day on January 28 – nothing dramatic, but he’s good.

“He’s a galloper and is improving. Gentle Slopes is a bit better, though, so it is a shame he is gone for the year.”

With Knight Salute also sidelined, the yard will rely on Scriptwriter to provide star quality in the coming months.

The Mark and Maria Adams-owned four-year-old is Britain’s leading Triumph Hurdle hope after supplementing his two hurdle wins with another success, in a mile-and-a-half all-weather Flat handicap at Wolverhampton on Friday evening.

Having taken his tally to three wins since being bought out of Aidan O’Brien’s yard, he is now set to have at least one more spin before the Festival meeting in March.

Harris said: “Scriptwriter is due to go to Cheltenham for the Trials Day on January 28 and if that doesn’t happen, due to ground conditions or whatever, he’ll go to the Adonis at Kempton.”

In the longer term, Harris could return to the Flat with the 62,000 guineas purchase.

He added: “He’s a good horse and he’s pretty unexposed on the Flat. We’ll protect his handicap mark as much as possible, but you couldn’t rule out something like the Ebor with him next season.”