Bear Ghylls is likely to be put away for next season following his fine effort in defeat at the Cheltenham Festival.
Nicky Martin’s stable star earned himself a shot at the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by winning his first four races – and while he ultimately met with defeat for the first time in the Cotswolds, he was far from disgraced in finishing fourth.
There is an outside chance the six-year-old could make an appearance at Aintree next week, but he is more likely to head for his summer holiday before pursuing a career over fences in the autumn.
Martin said: “We’ll give it 10 days, and if it doesn’t rain he’ll be going on his holidays.
“We did half think of going to Aintree next week, but the weather is so fantastic – and I’m not going to run him on watered ground.
“He’s sound, happy and all good.”
While no match for the impressive Bob Olinger at Cheltenham, Bear Ghylls finished on the tail of Challow Hurdle winner Bravemansgame.
“To be truthfully honest, I think if he hadn’t made the mistake he made three out, he definitely would have been third if not second,” Martin added.
“I was very impressed with how he came up that hill, because you never know if they’re going to come up it or not.
“I’m absolutely delighted with him, and he’s come out of the race well.”
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Nicky Martin is down to “Plan H” as she prepares the unbeaten Bear Ghylls for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The six-year-old has won each of his four runs so far, taking a bumper by 19 lengths on his racecourse debut before going on to score a hat-trick of victories over hurdles.
His last success was a five-length triumph at Exeter in January, after which Martin found her preferred path to Festival blocked by a spell of race abandonments.
A waterlogged track prevented the trainer from introducing her charge to the Cheltenham hill when Festival Trials Day was lost, with an intended run in Huntingdon’s Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle scuppered for the same reason.
Despite the interrupted preparation, Bear Ghylls remains on course for his first venture into Grade One company.
“At the moment everything is going to Plan H, which we are on as it all got a bit messed up at the beginning, but we’re back on course,” Martin said.
The trainer is bolstered by the subsequent performances of several horses beaten by Bear Ghylls – amongst them David Pipe’s Make Me A Believer, who went on to win a novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham in December and then finish a half-length third in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.
“His form looks so solid, especially the race at Lingfield – the first hurdle race he won,” Martin said.
“I believe all six that were behind him have gone on and won, so the form’s looking very solid, even though he’s never run in a big race as of yet.
“His form is good, he’s in good order and he’s fresh, so fingers crossed.
“Everybody’s very excited – fingers crossed we get there all intact.”
Though the Festival is the imminent target, Martin has a graduation to novice chasing pencilled in for the gelding when he returns from a summer break next season.
“We’ve always said that next year he’ll go chasing because he is a chaser in the making, he’s a big horse,” she explained.
“A good summer on his back and he’ll fill out again, I think he’ll respect fences a lot more than hurdles.
“That’s always been the plan, to go chasing with him next year, without a doubt.”
From her Minehead stable, Martin also trains Welsh Grand National runner-up The Two Amigos, who was last seen finishing third in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock on February 20.
The Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter is the next port of call for the gelding, who remains on a mark of 144 after four successive placed runs.
“Having Bear Ghylls and The Two Amigos, it’s quite special for me,” Martin said of her two stable flagbearers.
“Especially with us being such a small yard.
“Just as long as the ground doesn’t go good to firm or something silly, which I’m sure it won’t as we’re due some rain, that (the Midlands National) is definitely the plan.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.
“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.
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.”
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