Tag Archive for: North Lodge

King eyeing Premier prize with North Lodge

Unbeaten Cheltenham winner North Lodge heads a strong field for the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso on Saturday.

Successful on his hurdling debut at Aintree in the autumn, Alan King’s charge doubled his tally with a clear-cut victory on Festival Trials Day at Prestbury Park last month.

The five-year-old holds an entry in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, but his trainer views this weekend’s Grade Two prize as a more suitable target at this stage.

“We just didn’t think he was mentally ready for Cheltenham,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“It looks a pretty decent race on Saturday, obviously. But it’s just part of his experience and if he ran well and we were happy with him, he might go on to Aintree after this.

“He’s got a penalty to carry on and it won’t be easy, but he just needs educating a bit.”

North Lodge is just one of three unbeaten runners along with the Laura Morgan-trained Bold Endeavour and Sholokjack from Dan Skelton’s yard.

Donald McCain is looking forward to saddling Richmond Lake, who was little over a length behind North Lodge at Aintree and was last seen chasing home the high-class Jonbon at Haydock.

Richmond Lake in winning action at Bangor
Richmond Lake in winning action at Bangor (David Davies/PA)

McCain said: “I don’t think the ground will bother him unduly. He’s surprised us a bit this season, to be honest, and if he continues to surprise us, then grand.

“It’s competitive race – there’s a bunch of very solid novices in there.

“I’d say Alan King’s horse is the one to beat. We’re a bit better off at the weights since Aintree, so fingers crossed he runs his race and goes there with a chance.”

The Nicky Richards-trained Nells Son has already won at Kelso and was not too far behind Jonbon and Richmond Lake when fourth at Haydock in January.

“It’s a very open race. I suppose any one of the nine could win it and he’s one of them,” said the Greystoke-based trainer

“He seems very well and I think he’s progressing. He ran a good race at Haydock and was doing all his best work at the finish. Hopefully he’ll get there and run a very good race on Saturday.”

Kim Bailey’s Espoir De Romay is the likely favourite for the bet365 Premier Chase.

The eight-year-old has been off the track since finishing third behind Fiddlerontheroof at Carlisle in October, but has upwards of 9lb in hand over his weekend rivals on official ratings.

Olly Murphy is hoping the application of blinkers can help Itchy Feet get his head in front for the first time in over two years.

Itchy Feet deserves to get his head in front
Itchy Feet deserves to get his head in front (Steven Paston/PA)

The eight-year-old was last seen finishing a close-up fourth in the inaugural Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield six weeks ago.

He said: “Kim Bailey’s horse will be hard to beat looking at the ratings, but hopefully a set of blinkers will light my lad up.

“People will say X, Y and Z about him, but he has been very consistent at a high level and he probably deserves to win a race.

“I’m looking forward to running him at three miles for the first time. Kelso is a bit of a specialist’s track, but if he handles it he’ll go close.”

Windsor Avenue bids to follow up his 40-1 victory in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster ahead of a likely tilt at Grand National glory at Aintree.

“The blinkers helped at Doncaster and hopefully they’ll work again,” said trainer Brian Ellison.

“The Sky Bet Chase form has worked out well as the third horse (Cap Du Nord) won the big race at Kempton last weekend.

“This is obviously a prep run for the National, but he’s fit and doing well.”

Other hopefuls include Ann Hamilton’s top-weight Nuts Well and Lucinda Russell’s course favourite Big River, who has already won eight times at the Borders circuit.

North Lodge picks up Ballymore honours in dramatic renewal

North Lodge is unbeaten in two runs after triumphing in a dramatic renewal of the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The race was incident-strewn from the off, with hurdles missed out due to the low sun and Harpers Brook coming down early on and hampering Henry Daly’s 4-5 favourite Hillcrest, who jinked and unseated Richard Patrick.

Joined by Nicky Henderson’s Balco Coastal up the hill, the Alan King-trained North Lodge then drifted across the track on the run to the line, slightly impeding the Seven Barrows runner, who was eventually beaten by two and a half lengths.

After a stewards’ inquiry the placings remained unaltered and King’s 7-1 chance added a Cheltenham success to his prior hurdle win at Aintree in early December.

King said: “I hoped he’d run very well, but I thought whatever he did he’d improve again.

“Ideally I’d have liked to have gone a slightly lower route with him, but we had a little chat midweek and decided we’d be brave and come and have a look and see.

“I always felt a step up in trip would suit. Aintree, over two miles, I thought would be sharp enough.

“I think he’s fairly adaptable ground-wise. I had his full-brother years ago, Winter Escape, who was smart as a young horse.

“I thought he jumped well. The hurdles being taken out was actually a hindrance as he got a bit green going round them. It probably confused him a little bit.

“I don’t know about the Festival. I just said to the boys (owners) let’s enjoy today and chat about it next week.

“I think potentially he’s a very good horse and we’ve just got to do it right. Whether he wants to come to Cheltenham this year, I’m not sure.”