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Nuts Well out to make a splash in Marsh Chase

Nuts Well takes the big leap into Grade One company for the first time in the Marsh Chase at Aintree.

Trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton for her husband Ian, Nuts Well has won five of his last six races – including the Old Roan Chase over this course and distance in October.

The 10-year-old has not been seen since then, though – and while his form has worked out, he nevertheless tackles a different standard of opponent on Friday.

“There’s been nothing wrong with him – it’s just been circumstances,” said Ian Hamilton.

“The Peterborough Chase was off. We took him to Wetherby, but the ground was hock deep. We wanted to go to Kempton but felt he was going over the top – and we didn’t think Cheltenham would suit him up and down dale.

“That means he hasn’t run for 166 days, but he’s heading there fresh and well as a course-and-distance winner.

“He meets a few of them wrong at the weights, but not massively. We just hope they haven’t watered too much – he does like good ground.”

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Paul Nicholls fields three of the eight-strong field, headed by Politologue – who won this race back in 2018 but was a late absentee from the Queen Mother at Cheltenham last month.

Politologue (right) came out best in a battle with Min three years ago in this race
Politologue (right) came out best in a battle with Min three years ago in this race (Tim Goode/PA)

“He has been A1 since we had to withdraw him at the last minute at Cheltenham, after we discovered a trickle of blood in his nose,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“In fact, I’d say he is better in himself than he was three weeks ago.

“He won this race three years ago, and it helps that last year’s winner Min is absent this time. Politologue has been successful over this trip several times – he likes going left handed and looks a big player back at Aintree. His record when running after a break of at least 71 days is outstanding.”

Nicholls is also expecting a big run from Master Tommytucker.

He said: “Although he was beaten two lengths by Dashel Drasher at Ascot last time on soft ground, I have a feeling that going left-handed on this flatter track on drier ground will suit him much better.

“He more than deserves a crack at this Grade One.

“Tommy is a high-class horse, hasn’t had much racing and is still improving. He more than deserves a crack at this Grade One.”

A previous Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres completes Nicholls’ squad.

“He is one of those horses stuck in no man’s land between handicaps and graded races,” said Nicholls.

“We tried more patient tactics on him at Cheltenham last time, but he does like to get on with things, so we will look to be positive on him. While he faces a tough task, he will appreciate the flat track at Aintree.”

Fakir D'oudairies (right) went close against Pentland Hills at this meeting two years ago
Fakir D’oudairies (right) went close against Pentland Hills at this meeting two years ago (Paul Harding/PA)

Anything that comes over from Ireland should always be respected, and Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies has some very strong placed form in the book. He was, though, all set to run at Fairyhouse earlier in the week.

“We decided to withdraw Fakir D’oudairies from Fairyhouse last Monday after I walked the track,” said O’Brien.

“I felt it was just too quick for him, and we have to put the horse first. This is definitely a stronger race than he was due to run in on Monday, but his excellent run in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival entitles him to a leading chance in it.

“We’ll be having a look at the ground again on Friday – and as long as it’s safe, he’ll take his chance. This mid-range trip is probably his best distance, and he ran very well at this meeting as a juvenile hurdler. Some unexpected rain would be welcomed!”

Ascot Chase winner Dashel Drasher, Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet and Henry de Bromhead’s Notebook complete the field.

Aintree return in Nuts Well’s sights after series of snags

Nuts Well has a return to Aintree on his spring agenda following a frustrating winter which has denied him the chance to extend this season’s unbeaten record since his Old Roan Chase victory.

A succession of hitches, with the weather and most recently a minor injury setback, has kept Ann Hamilton’s 10-year-old off the track for almost five months.

But Ian Hamilton, who owns the vastly improved chaser trained by his wife at their Northumberland yard, expects him to be ready for either the Melling Chase or Betway Bowl at Aintree’s Grand National meeting next month.

Patience has been key throughout the winter, and it was tested again when a poisoned joint – from which Nuts Well is already recovering – ruled him out of a return for Kelso’s Premier Chase on Saturday.

“Everything’s gone wrong with that horse since Aintree,” said Hamilton.

“He was going to Huntingdon (for the Peterborough Chase in December), and then they put it off and took it to Cheltenham – and we didn’t think Cheltenham would suit him.

“Then we were going to Wetherby to take First Flow on (over Christmas) – and when we got there, the ground was absolutely horrendous.

“(Jockey) Danny (McMenamin) had ridden in the race before and he said ‘that ground is no good for him’. So we decided not to run him, and brought him home.”

Nuts Well’s absences did not end there.

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Hamilton added: “Then we were going to Kempton (for the Silviniaco Conti Chase in January), and the vet came to do something else, he checked him over and he said ‘I’ll tell you what, this horse is going over the top’.

“So we gave him a rest, and brought him back, and he was 110 per cent for Kelso.

“We don’t know what happened, but he got a poisoned joint. He wasn’t lame or anything, but we didn’t dare run him.

“He’s fine now, but we’ve missed again – so we’ve missed a few times with him.”

Nuts Well’s setback was ill-timed, but short-lived.

“We couldn’t find a cut or anything, but we think we’ve got rid of the poison now,” said Hamilton.

“He’s back riding again, but it was too late for Kelso.

“It’ll have to be Aintree, but I don’t know which race.

“I think he’ll stay three miles – we’d have found that out (for sure, over almost that distance) at Kelso. His half-brother Runswick Royal was by a miler, and he stayed three miles easily.

“He’s by more of a staying horse, so I’d have thought he’d be bound to stay.”

That brings the Bowl into the equation as well as the Melling – but either way, Nuts Well will be tackling Grade One level for the first time.

“I’m not sure which race to put him in – I’d have thought we’ll put him in both, and it will be (like) a first-time-out job to get him ready.

“He won at Kelso first time out, so we should be able to get him ready.”

Even from his career-high rating of 159, he will therefore need to excel himself – but after Old Roan runner-up Clondaw Castle boosted the form significantly at Kempton last month, that appears far from out of the question.

“He had some good horses behind him that day in the Old Roan, and he did it fairly well off top weight,” said Hamilton.

“The second horse won that good race the other day (at Kempton). That horse absolutely hacked up the other day – top class. So we should have a bit of fun somewhere.”

Nuts Well also proved at Aintree that he can perform in soft ground – but Hamilton is still hoping for a dry spring.

“He is adaptable, but he jumps better out of that good ground, because he’s not very big,” he said.

“He did fantastically at Kelso (first time out this season), and never touched a twig. But at Aintree, it was a bit on the softer side – he was all right, but he did touch one or two, just getting his feet out.

“So he’s definitely better on better ground, (but) Aintree is usually good ground.”

Nuts Well to miss Silviniaco Conti Chase

Nuts Well will sit out the long journey to Kempton for the Silviniaco Conti Chase.

Ann Hamilton’s stable star has not been seen in competitive action since landing the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October, having since missed the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon after it was abandoned and switched to Cheltenham, and then the Castleford at Wetherby because testing ground.

Hamilton and her husband Ian were considering travelling from Northumberland to Sunbury-on-Thames for Saturday’s Grade Two feature, but their 10-year-old will instead enjoy a short break following veterinary advice.

“We were thinking about going, but we’ve had the vet here looking at another horse and he’s thinking our horses might be going over the top,” said Hamilton.

“Nuts Well is perfectly all right, but we’ve been training him on and off for the last 10 weeks since he ran. It’s frosty ground, it’s been difficult the getting the horses out and he has been in (training) a long time.

“We’re going to give him a break and hopefully we’ll find a nice race for him at the end of February or something like that.”

The initial plan had been to head south to take on Grade Two opposition again.

“It’s disappointing, because we were working up to do these things,” added Hamilton.

“But we don’t want to go all the way to Kempton if he’s not at his best – and it is a very hot race.”

Nuts Well team have Wetherby under consideration

A Christmas outing at Wetherby is under consideration for Nuts Well after connections decided against running in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham.

One of just a handful of horses trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton and owned by her husband Ian, the nine-year-old charged home to cause an upset in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October.

Nuts Well was declared to run in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, but the meeting was abandoned due to flooding and he was not even entered for the race after it was switched to Prestbury Park last week.

“I’m not sure Cheltenham would be his track, to be honest,” said Ian Hamilton.

“Maybe if were a bit younger we might have had a go, but we’ve got a lot of sheep and cattle around at the moment and we can’t just go away and leave them two or three days. The horse has never stayed away overnight either.

“There aren’t many races for him and Ann and I are getting on! It’s a long way to drive to some of those places down south, but we might have to think about it at some stage.”

Considering immediate plans, Hamilton added: “We’ll probably look at Wetherby – either the Rowland Meyrick over three miles on Boxing Day, or probably more likely the two-mile race (Castleford Chase) the day after, as you’d think it will be soft or heavy ground.

“He likes better ground ideally. I know he won on soft at Aintree, but I don’t think it was as soft as they were saying.

“I think the ideal track would be Kempton, but it’s a long way and I don’t know if he’s good enough for a race like the King George and we’ve missed the entry stage for that anyway.

“I do think he’ll stay three miles no bother, especially if the ground is decent on a flat track.

“Aintree is ideal for him really, but they’re not racing again until April.”

Hamilton hoping Nuts Well can shine in Peterborough prize

Nuts Well is among 14 entries for Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

Trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton and owned by her husband Ian, the nine-year-old has won five of his last six races.

He beat Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Aye Right on his seasonal reappearance and followed up in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, which has produced its fair share of subsequent winners.

“The Old Roan hasn’t worked out so bad, has it?” said Ian Hamilton.

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“He’s been all right since, but he has a hell of a weight to carry this weekend.

“Hopefully they won’t all show up, he’s in good fettle so we’ll just have to hope for the best.

“Two or three that were behind us at Aintree have come out and won, and that is always nice to see.

“He’d have a little chance I would think. I suppose one worry is that he carried 11st 7lb at Aintree, he’ll have something similar on Sunday but Danny (McMenamin) won’t be able to claim 3lb as this is a Graded race and with the Covid changes, they are already carrying an extra 3lb.

“I think this might be a bit better race than Aintree, but we’ll see how we get on.

“After Harriet’s (Graham) horse (Aye Right) ran so well in the Ladbrokes Trophy, it would be great if we could go south and do something similar – Harriet is just a young lass compared to us though! It was magic watching, giving the winner all the weight too. She trains not far from us, so we were delighted.”

Top Notch won the race at Taunton three years ago
Top Notch won the race at Taunton three years ago (Julian Herbert/PA)

Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch is chasing a third victory in the race, having won a rearranged version at Taunton in 2017 and reclaimed the Grade Two prize back at its rightful home 12 months ago.

Top Notch has not been seen since finishing third to Frodon in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January. Henderson could also run Mister Fisher.

Paul Nicholls has entered Dolos, while Nigel Twiston-Davies has given Al Dancer the option.

Bun Doran, Mercian Prince, Simply The Betts and Fanion D’Estruval are all in the mix too.

Peterborough Chase a possible option for Aintree hero Nuts Well

The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon has emerged as a potential next port of call for Nuts Well following his surprise victory in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on Sunday.

One of just a handful of horses trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton and owned by her husband Ian, the nine-year-old charged home on Merseyside to upset the big guns in the hands of conditional jockey Danny McMenamin.

While appreciative of the biggest success of their training career, there was no basking in the glory for the husband-and-wife team on Monday, with Ann Hamilton saying: “It was straight back into work this morning. Ian has been doing his jobs on the farm and it’s been busy.

“We were absolutely thrilled yesterday. He (Nuts Well) was tired this morning, because obviously ran his best, but he’s been out in the field today and he’s covered in mud – you wouldn’t recognise him!”

Hamilton admitted the victory came as a surprise and she must now start looking for races in the programme book she has never previously considered.

She said: “He’s worked his way up the handicap. We didn’t know whether to go to Aintree or wait for a race at Wetherby on Friday, but we felt the horse was in good form and we’d go to Aintree and give it a go.

“We’d have been thrilled if he’d finished in the first four and at one point it looked like he was going backwards, but when Danny got him pulled out he came with a run.

“He’s won for us every year since he was a four-year-old. He can throw in a bad one, as they all can, but he’s been the horse of a lifetime for us really.”

Asked about future plans, Hamilton added: “I’m not used to this at all! We’re not great travellers, but we’ve said this will be the only chance we’ll have to have a go.

“Richard Hale, the jockeys’ agent, has been on the phone and he says the Peterborough Chase over two and half miles might be a good race for him. Other than that, Ian wants to lift him up to three miles, but the Peterborough Chase would look the race at the moment.

“It’s lovely to have a horse that can run in these races and we’ll have to look after him – we can’t run him every couple of weeks.”

Nuts Well springs Old Roan surprise at Aintree

Nuts Well gave Northumberland trainer Ann Hamilton her biggest success to date in the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase at Aintree.

The nine-year-old, whose top-weight of 11st 10lb was reduced by the 3lb claim of jockey Danny McMenamin, outstayed Clondaw Castle to claim the £36,000 first prize.

Imperial Presence made most of the running with Midnight Shadow and Crievehill to the fore with the latter going on four out.

He was soon challenged by Oldgrangewood and Clondaw Castle, who put in their bids with Itchy Feet and Nuts Well.

There was little between the quartet at the last, but Nuts Well (18-1) and Clondaw Castle knuckled down to fight it the finish.

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It was only in the closing strides Nuts Well got on top, to win by a length and a half. Itchy Feet was a length back in third, with four and a half lengths back to Oldgrangewood in fourth.

Nuts Well was given a quote of 33-1 for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Betfair and Paddy Power.

Downpatrick-born McMenamin – who is based with Nicky Richards, who trained three-time Old Roan winner Monet’s Garden – told Racing TV: “He showed a lot of heart out there today, he had to dig deep for it but he did it in the end.

“I didn’t want to rush him, I wanted him to see out the trip. He got the revs up a bit at the last and got in a bit tight, but he was quick away from the back of it.

“It’s great to win this race.”

There was early drama in the two-and-a-half-mile feature when Robbie Power was unseated from the well-fancied Vision Des Flos at the second fence.

The obstacle was bypassed on the second circuit as the Gold Cup-winning rider received treatment, but while stood down for the rest of the day he was able to walk back into the weighing room, having thankfully escaped serious injury.

Elsewhere on the card, Minellacelebration continued his love affair with the Merseyside venue as he recorded a third course and distance success in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Veterans’ Handicap Chase.

The 11-year-old, trained by Katy Price, quickly put the race to bed after leading at the second-last fence in the hands of Ben Poste.

The rest of the field were playing for places as the 15-2 chance ran out an emphatic winner of leg three of the veterans’ chase series over three miles and a furlong.

Minellacelebration scored by 14 lengths with Pobbles Bay staying on to claim second spot by a neck from Sametegal.