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Nassalam on course for Cheltenham’s Triumph Trial

Nassalam is to put his Festival credentials on the line in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham this month.

The four-year-old lost his unbeaten record in Britain when runner-up to Adagio in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday, but trainer Gary Moore was delighted with the performance and the way Nassalam has taken the race.

The French import was sent off evens favourite for the Grade One after two wide-margin victories against vastly inferior opposition at Fontwell – and he just fell narrowly short on his steep rise in class.

“He’s come out of the race very well indeed. I’m very pleased the way he’s come out of it,” said his West Sussex trainer.

“It was a massive step up to what he’d done. The ground would have been quick enough for us. I think we’d be a bit better on softer ground.

“When they go round Chepstow in three minutes 56 seconds it’s not heavy ground, and our horse is probably more suited to heavy ground.

“It’s all a learning curve. It’s the first time he’s a been in a battle. He never raced on the Flat, and his wins have been uncompetitive.

“I was delighted. He just got beat by a better horse on the day.

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“He’ll probably go for the Trial at Cheltenham (on January 30) as long as the ground is soft.”

Moore reports his Champion Hurdle hope Goshen, meanwhile, on course for Sandown next month.

Goshen was found to have a fibrillating heart when last of 10 in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, on his first run back over jumps since coming down at the final flight when holding a big lead in the Triumph in March.

“He’s on target for Sandown (Contenders’ Hurdle on February 6), very much so,” said Moore.

Goshen is likely to be back in action at Sandown next month
Goshen is likely to be back in action at Sandown next month (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“His work is good. I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”

Goshen is owned by Steven Packham, whose colours could be carried by Fifty Ball in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month.

The six-year-old is on a hat-trick after winning the last two of his four starts at Ascot and Sandown since he joined the Moore stable from France.

“He goes for the Betfair Hurdle. That will be his next run,” said the trainer.

Trainer Gary Moore is happy with Goshen ahead of his intended reappearance at Sandown
Trainer Gary Moore is happy with Goshen ahead of his intended reappearance at Sandown (Simon Cooper/PA)

“He was impressive at Sandown. I’m not sure how the race has turned out, but I know his previous run at Ascot was quite good.”

Benatar may line up next in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 23 – depending how the field for the two-mile one-furlong Grade One takes shape at the five-day confirmation stage.

There were just 12 initial entries, and Moore would consider running the nine-year-old if he had a fair chance of picking up some prize money.

Benatar (near side) is a possible for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot
Benatar (near side) is a possible for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot (Steve Parsons/PA)

Benatar was a very encouraging third in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month, on his first start since January 2019.

“I will see what the five-day entries are like for the Clarence House,” said Moore.

“If he’s got a chance of nicking third or fourth prize he might run there. If not I’ll save him for something else.”

“We’ll look at the five-day stage and see what’s in it.

“It might cut up. Generally these two-mile races are cutting up.”

Moore eager to assess Nassalam’s Grade One credentials

Gary Moore is delighted to have a second chance with Nassalam in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday.

The four-year-old gelding would have missed the Grade One contest had it been run when originally planned over Christmas as he was under a cloud.

The meeting was abandoned but was rescheduled, subject to an 8am inspection, giving Nassalam the opportunity to show just how good he is.

The French import has won his two starts for Moore, both at Fontwell, by 59 and 49 lengths. The opposition may have been moderate, but Nassalam could not have been more impressive.

Moore is as keen as anyone to see how the horse fares against much better rivals.

“He wasn’t right when it was meant to be run,” the West Sussex trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“With the Irish not being able to come over, he might have a decent chance, hopefully.

“He’s quite a big horse and strong as well with a fantastic mind. He’s very straightforward to train.

“He is just a very nice horse. Hopefully they will be able to run on Saturday so we can see how good he is.”

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Adagio has made a good start to his hurdling career with two victories and a second from three starts.

His trainer David Pipe is just hoping he can cope with the likely heavy ground.

“He’s done well this season. He might not want the ground as easy as it what it will probably will be, but he goes there with a good chance, hopefully,” said the Nicholashayne handler.

Adagio clears the last to win at Cheltenham and now tries his hand at Grade One level at Chepstow
Adagio clears the last to win at Cheltenham and now tries his hand at Grade One level at Chepstow (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Fergal O’Brien is happy to give Elham Valley his chance in a Grade One after making a successful hurdling debut at Sandown last month.

The Cheltenham trainer has been happy with the horse in the meantime and has no concerns about the ground.

“He had his Sandown form franked as the horse of Gary Moore’s (Hudson De Grugy) has come out and won since,” said O’Brien.

“It wasn’t until speaking to you boys (press) that we thought about this race but, having spoken to both Paddy (Brennan) and the owners, we know he will love the ground and track, so we decided to give it a go.

“He is a lovely little horse and is a joy to do anything with. He loves his jumping and we schooled him on Thursday and he was electric from one side to the other.

“Where he will finish I don’t know, but we will let him take his chance and he will give it his best.”

Paul Nicholls has a fascinating runner in Houx Gris, who is being pitched at a high level on his first start in the UK.

The four-year-old won at the second attempt over hurdles in France for Sylvain Dehez begore joining the Ditcheat handler.

Paul Nicholls gives Haux Gris his UK debut in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow
Paul Nicholls gives Houx Gris his UK debut in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

“He is an interesting recruit from France who has been pleasing us since he arrived early last month. We bought him at the sales early in November shortly after winning at Auteuil,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I don’t normally run newcomers so quickly, but he settled in straight away and has adapted beautifully to our routine.

“He is working great, seems to be improving and looks to be a smart juvenile. I really like what I see and just hope he has acclimatised enough to give a good account of himself.”

Trainer Tom George is hoping Bannister gets the chance to run at Chepstow
Trainer Tom George is hoping Bannister gets the chance to run at Chepstow (Simon Cooper/PA)

Bannister’s last two starts have been in France, but he is back running close to home. He has also been declared for the opening juvenile hurdle at Kempton, but trainer Tom George would prefer to run him at the Welsh track.

“The plan is to go Chepstow if it’s on,” said the Slad handler.

“He’s picked up some nice prize money in France. He’s very much a novice chaser for next season, but he has been running well in France on his last couple of runs.”

Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge take National chance for Paul Nicholls

The Paul Nicholls-trained duo of Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge remain at the head of the weights for Saturday’s Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow following the final declaration stage.

Yala Enki finished runner-up to Potters Corner 12 months ago under Bryony Frost and the partnership stays intact as the 11-year-old bids to make it third time lucky, having been third in 2018 when trained by Venetia Williams.

There was only one withdrawal from the five-day entries for the marathon chase, with the aforementioned Williams not declaring Didero Vallis. She instead relies on Cloudy Glen.

Evan Williams’ Secret Reprieve has headed the betting since winning the trial for the race and as the original weights stand, he looks well-in off just a 4lb penalty. Williams also runs Prime Venture.

David Pipe saddles Ramses De Teillee and Vieux Lion Rouge, while Springfield Fox represents Tom George.

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The Two Amigos, who ran so well last year, a previous Scottish National winner in Joe Farrell and Lord Du Mesnil, second at the Cheltenham Festival in March, are among the other contenders.

Nicky Martin, who trains The Two Amigos, believes the nine-year-old is better shape than he was when fifth in this race last season.

The Two Amigos (right) is reported to be in good form ahead of the Coral Welsh Grand National
The Two Amigos (right) is reported to be in good form ahead of the Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“Fingers crossed it’s on which would be amazing,” the Somerset trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“I think he’s in better form this year than he was last year. He’s very fresh and ready to go.

“The softer the ground the better. With it being covered it could be quite holding by the time they take the covers off, that would be my only worry.”

A poignant winner would be Colin Tizzard’s Christmas In April, as this year the race is being run in memory of the trainer’s daughter, Kim Gingell.

There is also Grade One action scheduled with a field of eight set to face the starter in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

Not surprisingly Gordon Elliott’s duo of Duffle Coat and Quilixios were not declared after the UK travel ban imposed by the Irish Government was extended until midnight on Friday.

Nassalam has so far looked a smart prospect in the making
Nassalam has so far looked a smart prospect in the making (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gary Moore’s Nassalam has created a big impression in his short hurdling career to date, winning both his starts on these shores, and could be the one to beat.

“He hasn’t actually beaten anything yet. When he won first time he did the best time of the day, which he shouldn’t have done because he wasn’t extended, and also it was the fourth race on the card so he didn’t exactly have the best ground,” Moore said.

“He’s not a flashy work horse at home. His work before his first race was very average, but his work has improved as time has gone on.

“He works like a nice horse now, but before he ran first time he looked very average to me.”

The Pipe-trained Adagio was a winner at Cheltenham last time out and sets a solid standard, while Fergal O’Brien’s Elham Valley was impressive on his only start to date.

Bannister, Houx Gris, Mr Shady, Pyramid Place and Yggdrasil complete the field.

Nassalam set Grade One assignment after Fontwell cruise

Nassalam is set to go for Grade One honours in the Finale Junior Hurdle at Chepstow later this month after confirming the impression of his debut display in Britain with a second wide-margin success at Fontwell.

Appropriately running in the One More For The Moore’s Juvenile Hurdle, the Gary Moore-trained three-year-old never gave those who were tempted by a price of 1-12 an anxious moment as he sauntered to victory.

Nassalam had won by 59 lengths on his first start for the West Sussex-based handler, also on this course, since his move from Guillaume Macaire in France.

This was just as impressive as he staked a big claim for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, for which he is a general 14-1 chance.

Holding a narrow lead from the outset, Jamie Moore gradually increased the tempo and the pressure on the opposition.

Nassalam’s jumping was slick, although he did jump slightly to the left. He pulled away at the business end to score by 49 lengths from 200-1 shot Zellerate.

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The winning trainer said: “I’m very pleased. As long as he got round he had nothing to beat, but it was very straightforward. It’s not the way to make the running, but he kept it simple.

“He’ll run in the Finale at Chepstow just after Christmas. That’s where he goes next.”

Trainer Gary Moore was delighted with the winning performance of Nassalam at Fontwell
Trainer Gary Moore was delighted with the winning performance of Nassalam at Fontwell (Simon Cooper/PA)

The winning rider was also impressed with the performance.

“The last day I was coming back from an injury and I thought we had a good chance and today I thought I’d just enjoy it. These are the horses you want to be riding,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s jumped brilliant. I’m grinning. I really like this horse. I know the opposition wasn’t the best, but it’s just the way he does it. It’s all very easy for him.

“When he schools at home the first couple of hurdles he’s exuberant. I said to dad he’s improved since his last run. He’s got a lot fresher at home.

Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last
Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He felt on top of the world today. He’s a lovely little horse – he’s like a baby Sire (De Grugy) with the face on him.

“He hasn’t beaten much so far, but they can only win. I gave him a squeeze after the last and there was plenty there.

“You can’t compare him with Goshen, but he’s another nice horse we’ve got hopefully. He’s had two nice runs so we can step him up in grade now and see what he can do then.”

Moore senior reports Goshen – who had last season’s Triumph Hurdle at his mercy before his heartbreaking exit at the final flight – to be on course for the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham following a pleasing workout on Tuesday.

Joshua Moore riding Bridle Loanan
Joshua Moore riding Bridle Loanan (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He worked today. All good. I was very pleased with him,” he said.

“At the moment he’s going to Cheltenham, definitely.”

The Moore stable completed a Fontwell double when Bridle Loanan (3-1 favourite) took the Thank You To The Cisswood Team Handicap Chase in the hands of Joshua Moore.

Call Off The Dogs (9-2) then made it a hat-trick when giving Jamie Moore a brace in the Christmas Offers At Champagne Piaff Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

Nassalam impresses in Fontwell stroll

Nassalam confirmed the impression of his debut success in Britain with a second wide-margin success at Fontwell.

Appropriately running in the One More For The Moore’s Juvenile Hurdle, the Gary Moore-trained three-year-old never gave those who were tempted by a price of 1-12 an anxious moment as he sauntered to victory.

Nassalam had won by 59 lengths on his first start for the West Sussex-based handler, also on this course, since his move from Guillaume Macaire in France.

This was just as impressive as he staked a big claim for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, for which he is a general 14-1 chance.

Holding a narrow lead from the outset, Jamie Moore gradually increased the tempo and the pressure on the opposition.

Nassalam’s jumping was slick, although he did jump slightly to the left. He pulled away at the business end to score by 49 lengths from 200-1 shot Zellerate.

The winning rider was impressed with the performance.

“The last day I was coming back from an injury and I thought we had a good chance and today I thought I’d just enjoy it. These are the horses you want to be riding,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s jumped brilliant. I’m grinning. I really like this horse. I know the opposition wasn’t the best, but it’s just the way he does it. It’s all very easy for him.

“When he schools at home the first couple of hurdles he’s exuberant. I said to dad he’s improved since his last run. He’s got a lot fresher at home.

Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last
Jamie Moore and Nassalam clear the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He felt on top of the world today. He’s a lovely little horse – he’s like a baby Sire (De Grugy) with the face on him.

“He hasn’t beaten much so far, but they can only win. I gave him a squeeze after the last and there was plenty there.

“You can’t compare him with Goshen, but he’s another nice horse we’ve got hopefully. He’s had two nice runs so we can step him up in grade now and see what he can do then.”