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Takingrisks carrying hopes of another National hero for Greystoke

Nicky Richards reports Takingrisks to be in top shape ahead of the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.

Takingrisks, who bids to become the first 12-year-old to win the world’s greatest steeplechase since Amberleigh House in 2004, landed the Scottish National in 2019 and sprang a 40-1 surprise in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster in January.

The trainer’s father, the late Gordon Richards, won the Grand National twice with Lucius in 1978 and Hallo Dandy in 1984. Richards has taken a leaf out of his book by building National-style fences to give Takingrisks an example of what to expect on the big day.

Takingrisks on the way to glory in the Scottish National
Takingrisks on the way to glory in the Scottish National (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“He’s done everything we’ve wanted the old lad to do. He’s ready and we’re all looking forward to it,” said the Greystoke handler.

“We built three fences. He had a look the other morning and he’s had a proper go at them. We’ve done what my father used to do.”

Richards confirmed Takingrisks’ regular partner Sean Quinlan will be in the saddle at the weekend.

“Sean gets on grand with him and is having a good season,” he added.

“We’ve a good horse in top condition and a confident jockey riding him. He knows the old boy, so let’s see how we get on.”

Hallo Dandy was a famous winner of the Grand National for the late Gordon Richards
Hallo Dandy was a famous winner of the Grand National for the late Gordon Richards (PA)

The ground on all three courses at Aintree was described as good to soft, good in places on Tuesday afternoon, with further watering planned.

Clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “We have gone good to soft, good in places on all three courses and are watering again today. The Mildmay and Hurdle courses will receive between three and five millimetres of irrigation, while we will put another six millimetres on the Grand National course.

“At the end of today we will come to a decision about what we are going to do tomorrow. I am sure we will be doing some watering again tomorrow as we aim to begin the Randox Grand National Festival with good to soft ground on Thursday.

“I am very pleased with how Aintree is looking. There is fantastic grass cover and walking the Grand National course today it feels pretty much like perfect ground.

“There are a few areas where a little more watering is needed to make it good to soft and then we will be all set.”

Trainer Profiles: Nicky Richards

Trainer Profiles: Nicky Richards

It’s time for another edition of trainer profiles and, for this one, I’ve opted to run the rule over the Cumbrian operation headed by Nicky Richards.

There are two key motivating factors in selecting Richards for a bit of the data treatment. Firstly, it’s not a yard I have especially followed, and I enjoy the educational journey that penning these articles delivers: the discovery of new insight and information is the fun element of compiling these pieces. Secondly, and far more importantly, it’s a results thing. The stable has generally strong and consistent performance over time, which is a solid foundation for deeper analysis. Let’s begin.

Here is an unedited, unfiltered view of all the yards runners from 2011 at SP in UK National Hunt racing (up to and including 5th Feb 2021)

 

That’s a very impressive set of numbers. I’d speculate that, based on these data, if you were farming the bookies’ offers of best odds guaranteed, backing all runners from the stable you’d be at worst broadly breaking even. Not a bad starter for ten.

Nicky Richards: Performance vs. the Market

As is now tradition (if three events can be counted as tradition) we will commence with a market check to obtain a general feel for the yard, which I’ve found to be a reliable starting point in the construction of a trainer profile.

The table below contains all of Richards’ runners for just over the last ten years, grouped by starting price.

 

 

As might be expected, there is a healthy look to the picture, with the probable exception of those sent off at 22/1 or longer. Three winners from 228 runners at these prices is cause enough to avoid almost at all costs. That said, one does need to be a little careful in ranges where a single winner can significantly impact the overall view. Even so, not for me in data terms, given that just one of the 81 horses priced 50/1 or bigger made the frame.

Meanwhile, at the sharper end, there is a strong impression that broad value exists in the 5/2 to 20/1 price range. This implies a slight but consistent underestimation of the stable within the market where perhaps the form claims are not overtly obvious. That’s far from an endorsement or recommendation to get involved indiscriminately, however.

Here are the data represented graphically, displayed by A/E which assists in painting a picture of where general value may exist.

 

After further rummaging, there wasn’t a lot more to get excited about within this area (that I found, anyway). Therefore, the message is a broad one, in that there is value in following Richards when paying particular attention to those priced in the 5/2 to 20/1 ranges.

Despite this, for the rest of this article I’m going to only consider runners with an SP of 14/1 or shorter, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Yes, the graph and data does show potential value up to 20/1. However, between 16s and 20s, a strike rate of 5.9% (13/222) isn’t enough to insure me against the dreaded losing runs in spite of the potential long-term profit. It’s a personal choice and you have to be geared up for feast and famine at that end of the market: I’m not especially.

Nicky Richards: Seasonal Performance

As is often the case with National Hunt yards, performance can vary throughout the year and it’s something which can be seen from Team Richards, as the table below illustrates.

 

In relative terms at least, the numbers put up during the summer jumps season are a pale shadow of the rest of the year. They’re not terrible, far from it, but it would appear that the summer season is not a major focus for the yard. The below graph shows the same data through the prism of A/E and clearly illustrates the dip.

 

Catching the yard from December to March appears to be optimal in rough terms.

Digging further, I’ve mentioned before that seasonal performance and underfoot conditions often go hand in hand. Given that the A/E numbers have a slight dip during the summer it could generally be expected that the overall performance is less positive on firmer ground, a condition more prevalent at that time of year.

 

Exactly as expected, the insight on Good and Good to Firm are strikingly below those for going on the softer side with clear variance across strike rates, P&L, A/E and even place percentages.

It’s of specific interest to try and establish whether softer ground runners in summer do comparatively well against those running on ground more typical of the warmer months, and vice versa (firmer ground performance in winter).

 

The above line graph splits the data by underfoot conditions and month. By way of explanation the dotted grey line represents the overall data for the yard in terms of A/E (same data as the graph at the start of this section). The blue line shows A/E performance for stable runners on Good to Soft, Soft and Heavy ground conditions. The sunny orange line contains A/E info for Good and Good to Firm runs.

It reveals that, generally, the yard out turns better numbers when the going is on the softer side irrespective of the time of year. It also at least hints towards an assertion that there might well be some sort of edge backing Richards runners during the summer jumps season when the going is more winter like (June still moderate). In fact, A/E performance peaks in July on the wetter going across all data sets. Granted, this only relates to 12 runs, but it does demonstrate potential value can still be attained in summer, despite the higher-level data pointing in another direction.

Of course, there is no categorical rule; none of this info should mean back or laying blindly, life is always more nuanced than that. However, by gaining an understanding of these elements a general sharpening of the punting process can be attained.

For example, to convince me to part with my cash on a Richards summer jumper on Good or Good to Firm ground I’d want the horse to tick virtually every other box available and show significant superiority over the rest of the field. In such cases, there would very likely be no juice in the price as the horse’s chance would be so obvious.

On softer ground I’d show more leniency with regards to the form in the book. Naturally, we will still be wrong a lot more often than right, but by using data to find value we can ensure our winners pay for a lot more losers!

 

Nicky Richards: Seasonal performance by race type

Another notable aspect where the seasonal performance can be seen is with National Hunt Flat races. The first port of call is to evaluate accomplishments by the different types of National Hunt discipline to ascertain how data in bumpers holds up against the other race types.

 

It’s clear, and very much like Fergal O’Brien from my last article, that Richards is a trainer to follow when no obstacles are in play. It may be enough to leave it there, however, the seasonal factor is again well demonstrated focusing on this race category alone.

 

The above table shows the rhythm of the stable regarding its bumper runners. From May to September there are two wins from 23 runs. However, performance through the winter is exemplary. If this table is representative of the future, then March will be a good time to get on board with a strike rate of very nearly a third since January 2011.

 

 

Nicky Richards: Performance by Racecourse

There is little doubt that Richards is a leading light of the northern racing circuit. A perusal of his runners by UK region confirms that beyond all reasonable doubt.

 

This yard, based in Cumbria, thirty miles from the Scottish border, has saddled just under half of its UK runners in Scotland. Most of the other stable competitors have been heavily concentrated in and around Northern England. In very general terms, the rare forays to the Southern parishes are underwhelming.

The dichotomy is stark: this is a yard that is seemingly content to harvest on the northern circuit consistently, leaving the South to others.

Analysing individual track performance, the below table demonstrates all course data for those where the stable has saddled 50 or more runners over the duration of the analysis.

 

The focus on Scotland can be clearly seen with Ayr, Kelso and Perth filling the top three berths and Musselburgh not too far behind. However, it’s hopefully obvious regarding the tracks that are front and centre in terms of punting interest. The output at Carlisle and Hexham sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Consequently, they’re highlighted by the unsubtle dark blue bandings (Sedgefield and Kelso have claims, too).

Whilst Carlisle has an edge over Hexham in terms of profitability, both are worth noting with percentage strike rates well in the 30s. For the record it’s a 64% ROI at SP combined across this pair of wagering diamonds.

I spent a while trying to ascertain a better edge to the track info: race types, distances, venue of last run, all sorts of other info and, in truth, there wasn’t too much to be found to enhance the edge in question. That’s heartening, I guess, because the best, most sustainable, angles are also usually the simplest.

I did check those runners with SP’s at 16/1 or greater too, just in case there was a trick being missed at these tracks. Reassuringly, the numbers for the stable at these prices are 0/37 with only four placed horses, somewhat validating my semi-arbitrary 14/1 cut off point.

With an edge that is as route-one as this it may be expected that the market would have adapted, evolved, and essentially reduced or removed any punter advantage. To evaluate this, the graph below illustrates the cumulative profit and loss picture from the 2011 start date used in this article.

 

Basically, there is no sign of abatement, in fact it could be argued that performance is going from strength to strength with the twin track performance being as strong as ever over the past three years. The law of averages (and of Sod!) suggests it’s due a reversal at some point. However, as a bare minimum a Nicky Richards-trained horse at Carlisle or Hexham requires thorough analysis given that a third of them prevail. Until the market adapts, I’m going to keep a close eye on stable runners at these courses.

Nicky Richards: Stable jockeys

The below table shows the principal riders Richards has engaged from 2011 to date [excluding Brian Harding who took the bulk of the rides until his retirement in 2017]. Craig Nichol is also riding with much less frequency for the stable, too, over recent times (but is included).

 

If the primary focus is a quest for winners, then it’s no surprise whatsoever to see Brian Hughes lead the way. The strike rate on a Hughes ride is far superior (27%) to any other pilot deployed by the yard (Sean Quinlan, who has only taken 21 rides thus far, aside). However, deriving value from a champion jockey-steered runner is easier said than done in the long term as the ROI (0.9%) and A/E (0.95) allude. At first glance, at least, the value approach is to follow the mounts of Ryan Day. In fact, there would be worse ways to indiscriminately wager than backing the Richards/Day combo based on the intel above.

To prevail, or even tread water, in this game it’s essential to swim against the tide of the market on a consistent basis (if you’ll pardon my mixed and mangled metaphors). Listening to the many protagonists within racing media it’s quite easy to pick up on common assumptions or themes and it’s always fun trying to prove or disprove the comments through, you know, actual fact-checked analysis. It’s amazing how many urban myths and factoids are hurled around which have little statistical merit. One such oft-spouted view relates to jockey upgrades or downgrades from race to race and how much this may affect the chances of a particular horse.

By way of example, we have a young, talented jockey (Day) whose impact on his rides may be underestimated by the market. And we have an extremely high profile, leading champion jockey (Hughes) with all the associated focus. This inevitably results in his mounts usually being well found in market terms.

But what about jockey switches between the two on the same horse? We can see (albeit on a micro scale) that moving from Hughes to Day is not necessarily a downgrade. Day to Hughes is not necessarily is an upgrade either. In fact, the numbers suggest the converse.

 

Horses piloted last time out by Day that have switched to Hughes have produced just three victories from 23 outings. The converse switch is four from 13. Again, these are tiny samples so let’s not go overboard; but the point is to challenge assumptions about supposed rider upgrades. There are cases such as this everywhere, every day. In this example, from a value perspective, you shouldn’t be put off a horse piloted by Ryan Day, even if the champ was on top last time.

Nicky Richards: Headgear

Analysing the Richards stable in terms of headgear performance throws up some interesting stats. The table below shows the performance of the yard’s animals by whichever accoutrements are fitted to aid performance.

 

Yard runners dating back to 2011 have outperformed market expectations where some form of body kit has been added. Based on these numbers alone it appears to be reasonably clear cut that Richards and team are exemplar in understanding when to call on some of the aids available. Including the visored runners there are a total of 49 wins from 193 runs, an A/E of 1.29 and a 33% ROI just from backing all Richards runners with headgear at SP.

I did check to establish whether there was any pattern in how many times the yard had turned to a particular piece of headgear equipment for a given horse, expecting to potentially see horses with new (to them) attachments performing better to the tried and tested ones. There wasn’t too much in it, with all horses performing well irrespective of the freshness of the headgear solution to the animal. Again, it’s one for the checklist. A Richards runner with ‘go-faster stripes’ is one to shortlist if the price is keen enough at 14s or shorter.

Yet again, I’ve exceeded my intended word count so that’s it for another edition of Trainer Profiles. Hopefully, you’re armed with a few snippets around the top trainer Nicky Richards and have discovered something new along the way. I certainly have. The stable is right in the crosshairs now, and I’ll be tracking runners closely hereafter.

Takingrisks grabs Sky Bet glory for Richards and Quinlan

Takingrisks stayed on stoutly to see off the bold front-running bid of Aye Right in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

The 2019 Scottish National hero was sent off at 40-1 having not won since his Rehearsal Chase success last season, but again proved he has stamina in abundance.

Aye Right gave his all once more, just as he had in the Ladbrokes Trophy in which he finished second to Cloth Cap.

He was still in front jumping the last as the favourite, Cap Du Nord, who travelled smoothly throughout before hitting the second last hard, and Takingrisks bore down on him.

As Cap Du Nord began to tire, it was Nicky Richards’ 12-year-old who kept finding more for Sean Quinlan, with Takingrisks claiming it by a length and a quarter with a further two and a half lengths back to Cap Du Nord. Canelo was fourth.

Nicky Richards was thrilled with Takingrisk's victory
Nicky Richards was thrilled with Takingrisk’s victory (Tim Goode/PA)

Richards said: “I thought he’d run a good race.

“I thought he was as good as anything in the race. Age might be a barrier to a lot of people, that he’s getting on a bit, but he doesn’t know how old he is and he doesn’t perform like an old-age pensioner.

“He got out of the gate lovely and got into a grand rhythm. Then it was starting to look like it was going to be a stamina test and I thought ‘we’re in business now’.
“He’s won three top-class handicap chases. He’s a lovely horse.

“I think time has slipped him past for the Grand National to be fair to him. I think he’ll probably go for the Scottish National. That will be the plan.”

Sean Quinlan, pictured after Takingrisk's Scottish National success
Sean Quinlan, pictured after Takingrisk’s Scottish National success (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Quinlan said: “He’s usually very slowly away. I just said to Nicky before we went out there’d be plenty of pace, so I’d get him winging over the first two and let him sit and travel handy.

“They went a good gallop and he was a bit long at the first. He’s taken me everywhere, he’s jumped and travelled. Going to three out, he’s had a bit of a blow and I thought that was his running done now, but from the back of the second last he’s just stayed. He winged the last and stayed on all the way to the line.

“Aye Right was second in a Hennessy and I thought he was the horse to beat. He was in front a long way and was probably waiting for one to come and do him.

“Nicky has done a fantastic job with this horse. Two years ago he won the Scottish National and last year he was going for the Grand National and it was called off.

“The plan was the Scottish National this year, but we thought we’d take a race or two on the way and he’s done it today, which is great.”

Aye Right’s trainer Harriet Graham was left ruing her luck after hitting the bar in another big race.

She said: “It’s cruel to be second, he ran such a cracking race. In the Ladbrokes Trophy he was well beaten, but this time he could have done it.

“I thought for a minute he might just hold on, but he probably needs another two furlongs – he’s an out-and-out stayer.

“Callum (Bewley) dropped his whip and he’s upset, but that’s racing and there will be a big one in him.”

Christian Williams was satisfied with the effort of third-placed Cap Du Nord.

He said: “He ran a great race. I’m delighted. He travelled well and stayed well. I was pleased with him.”

Nicky Richards sets sights on Scottish National for Takingrisks

Nicky Richards intends to work back from a second outing in the Scottish Grand National with former winner Takingrisks.

The Greystoke handler will once again target the Grade Three prize at Ayr in April with the 12-year-old, having saddled him to victory in the 2019 renewal of the race.

After failing to complete on his seasonal return at the Scottish track, Takingrisks underwent a wind operation before finishing fourth on his most recent start in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle

Richards said: “The main aim is to try to get him back to the Scottish National in good form. The old lad seems to be bonny at the moment.

“We were hoping to run him at Ayr the other day, but the meeting was called off, so we are now scratching our heads what to do with him.

“I would run him tomorrow if there was a suitable race.”

Trainer Nicky Richards
Trainer Nicky Richards (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A tilt at next month’s Eider Chase has not been ruled out by Richards, although it is far from certain he will go for the Newcastle marathon.

He said: “He needs a test of stamina, so it is no good sending him to Kempton or somewhere like that. He needs two or three runs before the Scottish National, though.

“The Eider is a gruelling race and it can knock the edge right off a horse. He would prefer better ground and I’m not sure running him over four miles at Newcastle is the right thing.

“We may have to go there and I suppose if he won the race, it would be great.”

One thing Richards will not be doing is switching Takingrisks back to hurdles given his below-par efforts over the smaller obstacles following his Scottish National and Rehearsal Chase triumphs.

He added: “I did toy with the idea of running him over hurdles, but I’ve done that a couple of times before and the old boy didn’t enjoy it.

“He wants to be enjoying things at his age and we need to get him firing on all cylinders before the Scottish National.”

Haydock beckons for Ribble Valley

Nicky Richards hopes Ribble Valley can take advantage of a drop in class by returning to winning ways in the Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.

The lightly-raced eight-year-old was last seen finishing third behind Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante in the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November.

Having had a short break, Ribble Valley – previously triumphant on his return to action at Carlisle – will be prepared by the Greystoke handler for the two-mile Grade Two prize on January 23.

Richards said: “The plan at the moment is to run Ribble Valley in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.

“He is working away well and he seems fine, so hopefully we get a good run with the weather.

“He just needs to be a bit more streetwise, because when he has won he has gone round on the bridle.

“He didn’t disgrace himself at Newcastle, and hopefully there is a graded race over hurdles in him over the next couple of months.”

Although Ribble Valley failed to make his debut at the highest level a winning one, Richards believes the ground might have had a bearing on the result.

He said: “I think the ground was a little bit faster than we expected at Newcastle.

“He is a great big horse, and that ground probably didn’t suit him 100 per cent, especially down the straight.

“Epatante is the best jumps filly in the country, and on the day he wasn’t good enough. That said it was only his fifth run over hurdles, so he was in at the deep end.”

With a switch to chasing on the agenda for Ribble Valley next season, Richards is confident he will be seen to even greater effect when jumping a fence.

He added: “You were half-thinking he could be an Arkle horse this season, but he had only had four runs under his belt and he needs to be a bit more streetwise, so that is why we stuck over hurdles.

“I hope running him against good horses over hurdles this season will stand him in good stead over fences next season.

“I’m hoping he will take real high rank among the top boys when he goes novice chasing.”

Richards plans to continue taking small steps with Castle Rushen, who backed up his debut win over hurdles at Ayr in October with another emphatic success at the Scottish track the following month.

He said: “Castle Rushen is a grand horse. I’m not sure where he will run next, but it will probably be in February.

“We will have to put him in the top end at some stage to see where we are with him, but we will just go steady for now.”

With Castle Rushen appearing to appreciate the step up to an extended two miles and three furlongs last time out, Richards expects the Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding to be campaigned over similar trips in the future.

He said: “As you go up in class, you need more things in your favour – and while he would win over two again, I would imagine two and half would be his trip.

“He is a good traveller, and I know it wasn’t much of a race he won last time, but he has come out of it very well.”

Trevor Hemmings, owner of Castle Rushen (David Davies/PA Images)
Trevor Hemmings, owner of Castle Rushen (David Davies/PA Images)

An outing at the Randox Health Grand National Festival could be a long-term target this season for Castle Rushen.

“You know what colours he is in, and there is no doubt it would be lovely to be there for Trevor, and I’m sure he would be fine on a bit nicer ground,” added Richards.

“We’ve got a couple of runs to have before we firm up those plans, but it is nice to be thinking of a meeting like that.”

First prize for My Old Gold at Carlisle

My Old Gold claimed a valuable black-type success in the Houghton Mares’ Chase at Carlisle.

The Nicky Richards-trained mare, who beat this weekend’s Ladbrokes Trophy winner Cloth Cap at Doncaster nearly a year ago, was lining up after disappointing on her first run of the campaign at Market Rasen.

Henry Daly’s Chilli Filli, winner of the Market Rasen race, re-opposed – but the market was headed by Kerry Lee’s Happy Diva, who could finish only third.

Happy Diva had fallen last time out when still in contention in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, attempting to win it for a second year in succession, and she had 6lb and upwards in hand on all her rivals on official ratings.

Richard Patrick set out to make all on the odds-on favourite, but champion jockey Brian Hughes could be noted travelling strongly on My Old Gold.

Having hit the front, My Old Gold (4-1) appeared to have everything under control – and although Chilli Filli arrived on the scene to challenge after the last, the winner was always doing enough.

Hughes told Racing TV: “We thought the ground would have been a lot slower than it was at Market Rasen – but it had dried up, and she’s more at ease on this (soft) surface.

“She’s a versatile mare and she’s twice a Listed winner now. She beat the Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy) winner at Doncaster last year, and she’s got solid form all the way through.

“She’s 10 now but was a late starter, and she doesn’t ride like a 10-year-old.

“Nicky will find the right race – she’s versatile and can get three miles. She’ll make a grand broodmare, but I wouldn’t mind a few more days out of her yet.”

Ribble Valley lives up to expectations at Carlisle

Ribble Valley booked his ticket for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle with a smooth success on his comeback at Carlisle.

Nicky Richards has never disguised his admiration for the seven-year-old and reappearing having had a wind operation since meeting with his sole defeat over hurdles, he oozed class.

While only four went to post in the Watch Irish Racing On racingtv.com Intermediate Hurdle, the seven-year-old was giving 6lb to Olly Murphy’s highly-regarded Nickolson but he had no answer as champion jockey Brian Hughes breezed by on the 8-15 favourite.

On jumping the last Hughes just asked Ribble Valley to lengthen and he won by five and a half lengths, setting up a trip to Newcastle on November 28.

“That was lovely, he’ll come on a lot for that and Brian said it couldn’t have been nicer,” said Richards.

“He’s been very heavy and took a bit of getting fit, so Brian just asked him to lengthen after the last, he thought he’d give him a blow, there was no point sitting up on him.

“That was only his fourth run over hurdles so he’s very inexperienced. At the start of the season we thought, bearing in mind the level we hope he’s going to get to, he didn’t have enough experience to go chasing.

“So we were thinking of today and if it went well, which it has, he’ll probably go for the Fighting Fifth to get some more experience. Then we’ll take it from there, see how that goes and take it race by race.

“Brian said it was chopped up on the inside today so he kept him wide. Brian thinks some real good to soft ground and a proper gallop would be ideal.

“I just hope it’s not heavy ground come Newcastle as that might spoil the party.”

Earlier Dan Skelton’s Protektorat (5-4 favourite) put up a smart round of jumping to win the Introducing Racing TV Beginners’ Chase.

Hopes high as Ribble Valley returns to action at Carlisle

Nicky Richards has never hidden the regard in which he holds the promising Ribble Valley, who reappears at Carlisle on Thursday.

Winner of four of his six races under rules, he met with defeat when last seen at Ascot behind Master Debonair on heavy ground.

He had a wind operation following that run in December, before his season was cut short by the pandemic.

“Hopefully we don’t get too much rain and it will be just good to soft ground. It was nice ground there the other day,” said Richards.

“He had a little wind op when things at Ascot didn’t work out quite right, but we were toying with that idea before.

“We had that done with the view we were probably going to go to Aintree or Ayr for the Scottish Champion, and then we know what happened.

“He’s in grand fettle, ready to run and get his season started and take it from there.

“He’ll jump fences fine when the time comes, we’ll see how he gets on his next run or two before we decide when that’s going to be.”

His main rival in the in the Watch Irish Racing On Racingtv.com Intermediate Hurdle appears to be Olly Murphy’s Nickolson, winner of two of his three races to date.

“If Nicky Richards’ horse is as good as they say he is then we might struggle to beat him,” said Murphy.

“My lad has been in good form at home, he’s training well and whatever he does he will improve upon.

“I know we are getting a little bit of weight, but if Nicky’s is as good as they say then it looks like we might be facing a tall order.

“He’s a nice horse for the future in any case.”

Murphy sends Notre Pari north for the Introducing Racing TV Beginners’ Chase, which also looks competitive.

“This looks a good starting point for him, coming back down in trip to two miles on a stiff track on some nice ground,” said Murphy.

“He was a decent novice hurdler, but I’m keen to see how he’ll get on over fences.

“He’s ready to go but will improve on whatever he does.”

Peter Niven’s Malystic, Sandy Thomson’s Elf De Re and the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat will ensure there is plenty of strength in depth.