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Martin to chart direct Cheltenham route with Bear Ghylls

Bear Ghylls is set to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival after trainer Nicky Martin admitted defeat in her bid to get another run into her stable star.

A 19-length winner of a bumper at Warwick last March, the six-year-old has continued in the same vein this season by completing a hat-trick of wins over hurdles.

Martin’s plan to give her charge a first outing at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day last month was scuppered by a waterlogged track, while the same issue ruled out an intended outing in Thursday’s Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon.

And with the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds now less than five weeks away, the Minehead-based trainer has decided to bite the bullet and prepare her charge for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle without the aid of another outing.

Martin said: “I think we’re going to go straight to Cheltenham now, simply because this weekend was my last hope (of running beforehand).

“We wanted to go to Huntingdon, but that has been abandoned. There’s nothing else for him really as if we wait any longer, it will all be getting too close to the Festival.

“I could send him away to do a bit of schooling next week at Henrietta Knight’s or somewhere like that, and then we can try to get a racecourse gallop in. That’s all we can do really.

“The one good thing is I know this horse needs to be fresh – he really needs five weeks between his races, as far as I’m concerned.

“He’s a big, raw horse and I was worried when we went to Exeter it was only 20 days since his last race.

“If you’re going to go for a big race at Cheltenham, I’d much rather he went fresh than three weeks after his last run or whatever.”

Amigos has Haydock in sights again

The Two Amigos may be set for a second crack at Haydock’s Grand National Trial next month following his excellent effort in the Welsh Grand National.

Nicky Martin’s smart staying handicap chaser was fourth on Merseyside last February, having finished fifth at Chepstow.

If he heads to the north-west again, this time it will be after a gallant runner-up performance behind Secret Reprieve in Wales on Saturday.

Martin reports the nine-year-old to have taken his latest Welsh National exploits in his stride.

“He’s absolutely perfect. He’s very chirpy,” said the Somerset trainer.

“He’s just a complete legend, because he’s so small and he tries so hard.

“He’ll get his big day, one day, hopefully.

“He’ll probably go to the Grand National Trial again, I would imagine. I think it will be a bit like last year with him.”

Bear Ghylls conquers Exeter

Bear Ghylls gave his supporters a couple of minor scares before maintaining his unbeaten record in the MansionBet’s Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Hurdle at Exeter.

Nicky Martin’s exciting six-year-old made mistakes at two of the last three obstacles, but it had no bearing on the result as he ran out a decisive winner.

Matt Griffiths had Bear Ghylls just off the pace set by course specialist Trans Express but he was going so well he had a share of the lead four out.

Bear Ghylls (10-11 favourite) was soon in front and controlling the race, despite being untidy at the last third last and the final flight.

He ran on strongly to the line to score by five lengths from Stormy Flight. Elysian Flame was a head away in third place.

“There’s always pressure when they’re unbeaten. I’m absolutely delighted,” said his Somerset trainer Martin.

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“He’s very green still. The problem is he jumps foot perfect at home but on the racecourse he doesn’t seem to respect the hurdles very well.

“He’s only had four runs and first time in a handicap, so it’s very good.

“We’ll probably try to find a Graded race rather than a handicap, which was the original idea. Then obviously Cheltenham was abandoned on the first (of January) which is where he was meant to go.

“We’ll just make sure he comes out of the race all right and have a look at something in a month’s time.”

Crossley Tender (11-2) won for the second time at Exeter and the fourth in all this season with a decent staying display in the MansionBet Bet 10 Get 20 Handicap Chase.

Paul Henderson’s eight-year-old made his stamina tell by coming through to lead at the final fence and galloping on strongly to beat Samuel Jackson by six and a half lengths.

“I think the ground was a little bit quicker than the last time he ran, and I think that suits him better,” said the Hampshire trainer.

“The horse is very well and is in a rich vein of form.

“He had a bad back last year, but we didn’t know until he ran really badly one day and didn’t jump at all well.

“Now we know we have a girl (Georgia) who looks at his back, and so we keep on top of it. We have a back lady who comes in, and she showed her how to treat it. That’s made all the difference.

“He’s a good jumper but he just wasn’t quite there – but he’s much better now.

“I’ve not had a look at the race programme. We’ll see how he goes. He’s maintained his form and he hardly blew when he came back in.”

There was a power cut shortly after that race, and the clerk of the scales reported the riders were unable to weigh in – but the stewards were satisfied the correct weight had been carried throughout and confirmed the placing of all finishers. The two later contests went ahead as planned.

David Pipe and Tom Scudamore, fresh from their Grade One success with Adagio in the Finale Juvenile at Chepstow on Saturday, had earlier continued the good work with Martinhal (100-30) in the MansionBet Faller Insurance Maiden Hurdle.

The six-year-old, having his first run since undergoing wind surgery, got off the mark over jumps with a game win by half a length from Karl Philippe.

Cheltenham likely to be on the agenda for Bear Ghylls on New Year’s Day

Bear Ghylls is likely to put his unbeaten record on the line in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

The Nicky Martin-trained gelding stormed to a 19-length victory when a 33-1 shot for his bumper debut at Warwick in the spring, but has since proved that effort was no fluke with back-to-back wins over hurdles.

Bear Ghylls beat Friday’s Cheltenham winner Make Me A Believer on his hurdling bow at Lingfield – and while he was made to work hard to justify cramped odds on his latest appearance over two miles at Ffos Las, Martin feels it was a worthwhile experience.

She said: “We ran him back over two miles at Ffos Las as a bit of an education. He’ll have learnt a lot as he was so strong and stupid! I think we can now go back to his distance, which I think is two and a half.

“The plan at the moment is to head for the Ballymore at Cheltenham on January 1. He needs further and we need to see if he likes the hill and just see how good he is really.

“We should learn plenty about where we’re heading, hopefully.”