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Stat of the Day, 9th February 2018

Thursday's Result :

7.00 Chelmsford : Fareeq @ 3/1 BOG 2nd at 5/2  Slowly into stride, soon chasing leaders on outside, hung badly left from over 1f out, ran on inside final furlong, went 2nd last strides, no chance with winner...

We continue with Friday's...

4.45 Chelmsford :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Volpone Jelois @ 4/1 BOG

A Class 5, 1m5.5f handicap on Polytrack worth £5,434 to the winner...

Why?

And another fairly simple approach with a 5 yr old gelding, better known as a hurdler. That said, he has made the frame in each of his four non-NH runs, all under today's jockey Megan Nicholls and mainly at Class 5, although he was a runner-up in his sole effort at Class 4 (over 1m6f) suggesting there's a win on the level in him somewhere!

Jockey Megan is 4 from 18 (22.2% SR) for 16.24pts (+90.2% ROI) on the level, riding for her famous father Paul since the start of 2017 and these runners include...

  • over 1m4f to 1m6f : 4/14 (28.6%) for 20.24pts (+144.6%)
  • at Class 5 : 2/6 (33.3%) for 15.48pts (+257.9%)
  • and at Class 5 over 1m4f to 1m6f : 2/3 (66.6%) for 18.48pts (+615.8%)

And further confidence is derived from the yard's recent form, winning 10 of 40 (25% SR) over the past 30 days rising to 8/28 (28.6%) over the last fortnight.

...pointing towards...a 1pt win bet on Volpone Jelois @ 4/1 BOG which was widely available at 6.20pm on Thursday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 4.45 Chelmsford

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

The Lanzarote Hurdle – Nicky to nick-it from Nicholls

Kempton’s Lanzarote Hurdle was established in 1978 and originally run over two miles. In 2007 the race was extended to its current trip of 2m5f.

In the 10 renewals since the change in trip, just three winners have carried more than 11 stone to victory. Paul Nicholls and Nick Williams have landed three apiece in that period, with Modus winning for team Ditcheat 12 months ago.

Six-year-olds have been dominant in recent times, with the race tending to favour a progressive type with few hurdling miles on the clock. Three of the past 10 winners had only run three times over hurdles, prior to landing this valuable event. Despite the race usually attracting a fair-sized field, shocks have proved rare. Of the past nine renewals, Micheal Flips at 9/1 was the biggest price winner.

Nicky Henderson is responsible for the front two in the betting for tomorrow’s renewal. Diese Des Bieffes is only a five-year-old, and has had just three outings over hurdles. He was runner-up to classy novice If The Cap Fits last time at Kempton. Outpaced during that two-mile contest, he stayed on strongly in the home straight, and it would be a surprise if this extended trip didn’t prove ideal. He’s by popular French stallion Martaline, responsible for classy types including Dynaste, Disko and Agrapart. Leading juvenile hurdler We Have A Dream is also among his progeny. Henderson’s youngster is set to carry 11-2, though 5lb claimer Mitchell Bastyan appears booked for the ride. This fella looks to have a huge chance.

William Henry will carry top-weight and is challenging his stablemate at the top of the market. He came down on chase debut and has reverted to hurdles. A classy novice last term, he was runner-up to Wholestone at Cheltenham last January, with Poetic Rhythm five-lengths back in third. The strength of that form has been well advertised this winter, and of those at the top of the handicap, he looks the class act.

Bags Groove joins him at the top of the pile. Harry Fry’s seven-year-old won a Pertemps Qualifier at Kempton in November, but is raised 5lbs for that effort. This looks more competitive, and I’m far from sure that he has enough improvement left to win off this latest mark.

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Paul Nicholls has enjoyed plenty of success in the race, and has another leading contender in Topofthegame. The six-year-old is lightly raced, with just four starts under rules, and is another reverting to hurdles after falling on his only chase outing. He was some way behind William Henry in the race at Cheltenham, though was a huge raw baby at the time. There’s every chance that he can turn that form on its head, especially as he gets 6lb from that rival. He’s by Flemensfirth, and as such should have no problem with conditions. He should go close.

Nick Williams has a couple lurking at the bottom end of the handicap. With such an outstanding record in the race, the Devon trainer cannot be dismissed. Dentley De Mee looks the one to keep an eye on. The five-year-old has had just three outings over hurdles, and though he’ll need to improve plenty to be competitive here, there’s every chance that he could do exactly that. He gets the best part of a stone or more from the leading protagonists, and it would be no surprise to see him sneak into a place.

Owner JP McManus captured last year’s event, and has one of the favourites this time in the Alan King-trained River Frost. He was fifth in a strong renewal of the Silver Trophy at Chepstow in October, and that form certainly gives him a chance here. He too is lumbered with top-weight, and will be ably assisted by Barry Geraghty; twice a winner of this race in the last five years. This six-year-old is clearly a player, but I’m not convinced he’s quite good enough.

Siding with Paul Nicholls or Nicky Henderson is often a sensible decision, and I think the pair have this race between them. I’m just favouring Diese Des Bieffes over Topofthegame, though I fancy it’ll be close.

Best of luck to those having a punt.

Welsh National looks a Sweet Little Mysteree

First run at Chepstow in 1949, the Welsh National is this weekend’s feature event.

Rain caused the cancellation at Christmas, and though the ground remains heavy, the re-arranged fixture looks sure to go ahead. The marathon contest is run at a little over three and-a-half miles, and is certain to prove a gruelling test for a competitive field of 20 runners.

Vicente tops the weights and heads here after a pleasing return at Cheltenham in November, when a close second to Perfect Candidate off a mark of 150. He won the Scottish National on very different ground in April, and is now 5lb higher in the handicap. It usually takes a serious Gold Cup contender to challenge here off such a lofty weight. Native River managed it last year, and back in 2011 Synchronised carted 11-6 to victory. Vicente is good, but not quite in that league. He could run a huge race, but he’s up against it.

The same can be said of Rock The Kasbah and Beware The Bear, who are next in the weights. The former appears a doubt, with Philip Hobbs likely to decide this morning. The trainer is clearly concerned that the ground will be too testing. It’s a shame, as the horse clearly loves the track. But I’m inclined to agree with Hobbs on this one.

Beware The Bear won the Rehearsal Chase last month, though I’m not sure how. Seemingly beaten turning for home, he battled on bravely, and as the leaders faltered, picked up the pieces to lead after the last. A 4lb penalty isn’t severe, but he’s no Gold Cup winner and I can’t have him as the winner of this.

Chase The Spud will love the ground, and returned to action in style when winning at Haydock. He’s a relentless stayer and looks to be improving despite now being a 10-year-old. Nevertheless, he’s gone up plenty for his win in the Midlands National and that Haydock success. I’m not sure he has the class to cope with such a hike in the handicap.

Along with the top-weight, Paul Nicholls has Silsol entered. The nine-year-old rarely jumps a fence, but has performed to a high standard in staying hurdles. He beat Native River in last year’s West Yorkshire at Wetherby, but was somewhat below-par on his return from a year off when down the field in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Haydock. The ground shouldn’t prove an issue, and his chase mark is some 10lbs lower than that over hurdles. Bryony Frost takes a handy 5lb off his back, and if she can get him jumping he could run a huge race. He has a touch of class.

Though seven and eight-year-olds have dominated in recent times, Mountainous was successful at 11 in the 2015 renewal (ran in early 2016). That gives hope to those fancying Houblon Des Obeaux, who came third in this last year. He could head to Sandown, but should he take his chance at Chepstow, he’ll be a full 10lb better off this time around. He’s another with that touch of class, and I fancy he’ll run well.

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Wild West Wind lacks experience, though surprisingly, that rarely holds them back in this marathon handicap. The Tom George-trained nine-year-old took the trial in early December, and has been raised 4lb for that effort. I felt his jumping was a little ‘safe’ on that occasion, and this race is a much tougher task. He defeated 12-year-old Alfie Spinner (now 13) by a couple of lengths, but probably needs to improve a fair bit to land a blow here. I’m not convinced he’s good enough.

One equine pensioner that could again go well is the Irish raider Raz De Maree. Runner-up to Native River in last year’s race, he’s on a similar mark, and has the talented James Bowen in the saddle. The 5lb claim is a great help, and this young jock is one of the best. He could well run into a place.

Vintage Clouds is an interesting contender and has the right kind of profile. The eight-year-old is bred to operate in testing ground, and ran well last time behind Clan Des Obeaux. He needs to prove that these marathon trips truly suit, but I fancy he will. His best form has come on flatter tracks, and that’s a slight concern. Nevertheless, I fancy he’ll run well.

Mysteree certainly has proved his liking for a gruelling test of stamina, and he looks ideally handicapped to go close here. He’s not had a prep-run, and that has proved a negative in this race over the years. However, he goes well fresh, having won his last three seasonal renewals. He won the Eider Chase last year, and came close to landing the Midlands National. The ground is ideal, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the first three.

Michael Scudamore took the 2012 renewal thanks to Monbeg Dude, and I fancy his sweet little Mysteree will do the business on Saturday. It’s going to be a slog, and he’s a slogger. I’ll also be placing a few quid on Houblon Des Obeaux, in the hope that he retains enough ability to make the most of his generous looking handicap mark. If Houblon heads to Sandown, I’ll splash the each-way cash on Silsol.

Best of luck to those having a punt.

A Thrilling Kempton Christmas Gathering

I went out and bought the Christmas TV magazine yesterday, and have started circling all the programmes that will excite me during the holiday period.

The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio and Shrek 2, instantly caught the eye. However, there’s no doubting the highlight at this time of year, and I don’t mean Christmas Top Of The Pops.

The channel may have changed, but Boxing Day racing from Kempton remains my ‘numero uno’ (The Wizard Of Oz is a close runner-up). The King George VI Chase is one of the most thrilling races of the winter with a truly wondrous roll of honour. Last year’s renewal was truly ‘Joyful and Triumphant’ for Team Tizzard, as Thistlecrack swept far more experienced chasers aside, to win in the style of a superstar. Things haven’t gone to plan since, but one of Jump racing’s major player’s is back for more, with his jockey at Kempton hopeful of a repeat performance.

Tom Scudamore told At The Races: “It felt like he had all his old spark, but just got tired from going to the second last (Newbury Long Distance Hurdle). He'd suffered an injury at Cheltenham and had plenty of time off the track. He'd been showing everyone the right signs at home. Joe and Colin (Tizzard) were happy with him, but unfortunately the time he had off just got the better of him at Newbury. Colin and Joe tell me he's been going very well at home, but the proof in the pudding will be on Boxing Day.”

Ruby Walsh knows a thing or two about Kempton’s showpiece, having ridden Kauto Star to a record-breaking five victories. Still recovering from injury, he believes that Nicky Henderson has the leading contender. Speaking to Racing UK he said: “Strictly going on novice form and the performance he was putting up in last year's Feltham, I'd be leaning towards Might Bite. I rode in his RSA and the gallop he went was phenomenal. Kempton will suit him, going right-handed. I think he'll be very hard to beat.”

Walsh also spoke of the Betfair Chase winner, Bristol De Mai, saying: “If we were to get a drop of rain and the track was to get a bit slower, then Bristol De Mai would have a chance. I would say he is an unbelievably strong stayer and that’s why, on testing ground, he just goes the same speed as he would on good ground and it kills off the opposition. I’m not saying he won’t go on good ground, it’s just can he burn the opposition off to the same effect as he does on soft ground?"

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Should trainers and connections hold their nerve, this looks to be a thrilling renewal, with a feel of the ‘changing of the guard’. We have a pair of six-year-olds in Bristol De Mai and Disko. The former fresh from that stunning success at Haydock, and the latter highly regarded by his trainer Noel Meade, and talked of as a Gold Cup prospect. There’s a trio of seven-year-old's, including Tizzard’s classy Tingle Creek runner-up Fox Norton, who steps-up in trip having come-up just short at two-miles. The race favourite; Henderson’s Might Bite, is just eight, and though Thistlecrack and Whisper are both nine, they have very few chase outings to their name.

The decision not to send Sizing John over for the prestigious event came as no surprise. But arguably the biggest name lacking from this year’s line-up is that of trainer Paul Nicholls. He’s won the race seven times in the past 11 years, with Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti proving Kempton heroes.

Politologue’s win in the Tingle Creek at Sandown would have come as a huge relief to the Ditcheat handler, but the lack of a quality staying chaser in the yard will be hugely frustrating. The performance of Clan Des Obeaux last week at Cheltenham, will give hope of a Nicholls renaissance in this division. By next Christmas, he could be the one making his presence felt in the Christmas showpiece.

Colin Tizzard and Nicky Henderson have shared four of the last seven renewals and both have a pair of strong contenders this time around. Nigel Twiston-Davies will hope to spoil the party, but there’s no doubting that the staying chase landscape, and to some extent the Grade One picture, continues to change, with Team Ditcheat rarely invited to the gathering.

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup – The time is right for Le Prezien

Paul Nicholls aims for another successful Saturday, having last week captured the Tingle Creek at Sandown with Politologue.

The Ditcheat handler tops the training charts for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup with four victories. Those wins have come since 2009, and he saddled four-year-old Frodon to victory 12 months ago. Tomorrow he heads to Cheltenham with a trio of challengers, including the top pair in the betting, who also sit at the head of the handicap.

Five-year-old Clan Des Obeaux tops the weights and arrives off the back of a decent performance at Haydock. He defeated Vintage Clouds in testing conditions despite having to give his opponent 7lbs. Prior to that, a couple of scrappy jumps late-on allowed Whisper to get the better of him at Kempton. He’s certainly got the stature for fences, but you get the feeling that this fella remains a work in progress. He looks ungainly at times, struggling to get that big frame organised at his fences. The famous hill should suit, but he’ll need to avoid errors in the latter stages if he’s to win this.

Le Prezien was third in the BetVictor last month behind Splash Of Ginge and Starchitect, but is slightly better-off at the weights. He wouldn’t want it as testing as last time, though does go well in soft ground. He clearly likes the track, and this trip looks his optimum. He’s a classy and consistent sort, and with Barry Geraghty on top, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t go close again.

Nicholls also has Romain De Senam among the 11 entrants. Though his breeding suggests testing conditions would be fine, his trainer has said that soft ground is far from ideal. He struggled in the BetVictor, when fading late-on for a fifth-place finish. It’s tough to see him turning that form around, though he is a progressive looking youngster.

The same can probably be said of the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Foxtail Hill. I’m a fan of this horse, but he’s a ‘free-going’ sort and failed to get home in the testing ground of the BetVictor Chase. He beat Le Prezien over the minimum trip back in October, but I fancy we’ll need to wait until the Spring to see him back at his best.

Splash Of Ginge was the star of the show a month ago, and is by no means out of it this time, despite a 5lb rise in the handicap. Though not as desperate as November, the ground will still be soft, and as such the winner will need reserves of stamina to see-out the 2m5f trip. It’s also important to mention that this race is run on Cheltenham’s New Course which has a stiffer finish than the Old that hosted the BetVictor. I’m anticipating a bold run from the nine-year-old, who remains on a fair mark.

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Ballyalton was fourth in the BetVictor, and is another that enjoys his trips to Prestbury Park. He’d be the first 10-year-old to win this race since 1974, though a season off the track means he has few miles on the clock. Like Le Prezien, he’ll likely go better on less testing ground, though has form with soft in the description. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the mix, though he’s vulnerable to a more progressive sort.

King’s Odyssey is third-best in the betting, and was tipped-up by Paul Kealy in his Weekender piece. Jumping is key to this fella, having come down when going well in last year’s race. His return at Carlisle was decent if not spectacular, and he does have the all-important course form, having won a novice handicap chase at the start of 2016. I’m not convinced he’s good enough despite a fair looking handicap mark. He’ll enjoy conditions, but I fancy errors are likely as the race hots up.

Starchitect only just failed to land the BetVictor and should go close again. A couple of slight errors at the last two fences arguably cost him victory that day, and with a clearer round he and Splash Of Ginge should again be side by side. He’s a leading contender.

Finally, a mention for the David Dennis-trained Deauville Dancer. He’s the 33/1 outsider of the field, and has been on the go since May. He’s run 10 times in that period, with nine of those coming over fences. He’s won five of them, and this six-year-old looks a much-improved horse. Though only a three-runner affair, his last performance at Doncaster was without doubt his best, and I was impressed by the accuracy of his jumping. His breeding suggests he’ll cope with conditions, and though this is by far his toughest test, he will be ably assisted by Aidan Coleman, who won this race aboard Niceonefrankie in 2014. The trainer almost captured the Badger Ales last month, and this fella has a chance.

Paul Nicholls has a strong record in the race, and I’ll be siding with Le Prezien to make it third-time lucky this term. He’s come close in his last two visits to the track, including that close third in the BetVictor. I’ll also have a small punt on Deauville Dancer. This could prove a step too far for the six-year-old, but he arrives in good order, and I’ll take a chance that there’s further improvement that will make him competitive at a big price.
Best of luck to those having a punt.

Twiston Shout – The New One goes for Fab Four

We’re back to Cheltenham this weekend for their two-day International meeting.

Thankfully the cold snap has passed and any lying snow in the Cotswolds has now melted away. The ground at Prestbury Park is described as soft, good to soft in places, with the likelihood of soft all round by the off.

The action begins on Friday, though it’s the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and the International Hurdle, both on Saturday, that are sure to provide the headlines. Nigel Twiston-Davies may prove a central figure as he’s responsible for three-time winner of the International, The New One, along with last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup winner Splash Of Ginge in the feature chase.

The former has been a stable star for many years, and has become one of the most popular hurdlers in training. Should he win Saturday’s Grade Two, it’ll be a record-breaking fourth victory in five years. He’s currently tied with Birds Nest and Relkeel with a trio of victories apiece.

The trainer appears as bullish as ever, saying: “He's in really good nick, it's his race and has been for three of the last four years. We gave My Tent weight last year and we've got to do it again this season, but he hasn't run this season so maybe he won't be quite as sharp. Richard Johnson rides and I thought it was a brilliant effort in the Greatwood. He was beaten only five lengths giving tons of weight away. He seems as good as ever.”

Team Skelton continue to bang-in the winners, with a stunning strike-rate of 24%. Ch’Tibello returns to action, and gets a handy 6lbs from The New One. He was just two-lengths behind him in last year’s Christmas Hurdle off level weights, and the six-year-old is open to further improvement. Skelton said of his leading hurdler: “Soft ground has been very much in his favour, which is amazing because we always thought he wanted better ground. He won at Haydock last season in really heavy ground and ran well in the Kingwell. We haven't been to Cheltenham before with him but that doesn't hold too many fears. We get 6lb off The New One and it seemed a sensible race to aim for.”

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Mullins may send young hurdler Melon over for the race, though punters should hold onto their cash until the ferry lands at Holyhead. Runner-up in last year’s Supreme, he looked good when winning the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal, though beat nothing of note. He’ll be giving plenty of weight to My Tent Or Yours and Ch’Tibello, but the opportunity of gaining further Cheltenham experience may sway the Irish trainer.

Twiston-Davies has arguably the better chance of lifting the International over the Caspian Caviar, though the ‘Ginge Army’ may disagree. Splash Of G is up 5lb for his victory last month, and conditions will again be favourable, though you fancy he’s had his day. Le Prezien is better at the weights and could again go close, having finished second and third in his last two visits to the track. Paul Nicholls has won four of the last eight renewals, and has a trio of contenders, including this fella.

Last weekend the Ditcheat handler said of his intended runners: “Romain De Senam wants really decent ground and it turned against him in the BetVictor. Clan Des Obeaux will go on any ground, but cut obviously suits him and he loves really soft conditions. I just want to be sure he's all right as it's not that far along from Haydock. Le Prezien is also likely to be confirmed.”

Clearly conditions have gone against Romain DS, whilst the other pair head the betting. Clan Des Obeaux is lumbered with top-weight, though he certainly has the frame for the job, and his close second to Whisper at Kempton in November reads well after the Ladbrokes Trophy (Hennessy) at Newbury.

Nicholls and Twiston-Davies took the main prizes last weekend, and a repeat performance is certainly on the cards.

Fox lacks Fizz as Nicholls makes it a Tingly Ten

At the highest level, Fox Norton’s vulnerability to a slicker and quicker two-miler proved his undoing, as Politologue held on for a thrilling victory in Saturday’s Tingle Creek at Sandown.

The six-year-old grey, trained by Paul Nicholls, jumped beautifully throughout and at the third-last came alongside Ar Mad at the front of affairs, with a couple of lengths back to Fox Norton. He maintained that advantage to the last and though the runner-up gained all the way to the line, he was never able to bridge the gap.

Nicholls was clearly thrilled with the victory, his tenth in the race: “That means an awful lot, we are just short of a Grade One horse and I always believed in this one. It was a good ride from Harry and I'm delighted for everybody. He is starting to look the proper job. I knew when he went to Exeter there would be huge improvement. No one ever believes you when you say they need a run, but he hadn't been back long enough really.”

The trainer added: “I knew they would go quick and his jumping stands him in great stead. Harry said he just cruises there and ends up idling in front. The faster they go, the more he can get a tow into the race. John (Hales, owner) has always wanted him to be a Gold Cup horse. I just thought at Haydock last season and at Cheltenham we were riding him wrong and doing the wrong thing. That's why I said we will go to back to two at Aintree and we were unlucky that day.”

Speaking to Racing UK a little later Nicholls added: “He’s only six and we’ll just go along with him quietly. That’s only his second run out of novice company and he’s won a Tingle Creek and a Haldon Gold Cup, which is what all those good ones I had before had done. His jumping is brilliant and that’s a big asset to him. We’ll possibly go to Ascot at the end of January for the Clarence House, but there’s one target, the Champion Chase, and that’s what we’ll aim at.”

Hales has owned other high-class two-milers including One Man and Azertyuiop, but had never previously captured the Tingle Creek. He said of the victory: “It is a wonderful win. I'm absolutely delighted. He is only a six-year-old. I thought we had a chance. I thought if we win this today, we've beaten a really good horse. It is a pity Douvan didn't come or Altior wasn't fit because I like to compete against the best and we don't duck anybody. But he a beat a very good horse and all credit to him.”

Harry Cobden had given the winner a perfect ride, and said: “He's a lovely horse, the first day I sat on him was at Haydock over two and a half on heavy ground, he took a bit of my heart that day and he's got it all now.”

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Tizzard appeared a little stunned at proceedings, but admitted that there were always concerns over the right trip for Fox Norton: “Whether he is a Ryanair horse or a King George horse I don’t know. We’ll think about it. I’m sure from now on he will go up in trip - we hankered on it all last year and it looks more like it every time we talk about it. We got in a bit tight at the last and the Paul Nicholls horse was away.”

It became a day of rare disappointment for the Tizzard team, when the decision to run Finian’s Oscar in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase backfired spectacularly. Outpaced on the flat and woefully ponderous at his fences, the five-year-old is clearly no two-mile chaser. Tailed off throughout the contest, he finished 61 lengths behind the impressive winner Sceau Royal and will not be seen over the minimum trip again. Along with Fox Norton, Tizzard will be stepping him up for the remainder of the campaign. Both could find themselves running over three-miles at Kempton during the Christmas period.

The Alan King-trained winner was foot-perfect throughout and zipped past Brain Power approaching the last fence. Henderson’s fella got in close and stumbled on landing, sending David Mullins to the turf, whilst Sceau Royal scooted clear for an 11-length success. North Hill Valley was the eventual runner-up in a dramatic renewal.

The winner is likely to be aimed at the Arkle, though the large galloping and undulating track may not play to his strengths as Sandown clearly did. He was laser-sharp over the obstacles and clearly that will be of benefit come March, though his ability to battle bravely up the final hill will prove just as crucial.

One horse that did battle bravely in testing conditions was Blaklion at Aintree. Punters latched on to the Twiston-Davies chaser, and he was sent-off a short-priced favourite for the Becher Chase. He proved himself the class act, travelling powerfully throughout before pulling clear for a nine-length success. The Last Samuri ran another cracker over the National fences to finish second. Both are likely to return for the ‘main event’ in April, though their respective handicap marks will make life awfully difficult.

Stat of the Day, 30th November 2017

Wednesday's Result :

3.55 Wolverhampton : Skyva @ 6/1 BOG WON at 7/2 Tracked leaders, effort on inner over 1f out, pushed along to lead near finish, wining by a head.

The last selection of another profitable month runs in Thursday's...

1.20 Taunton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Silent Steps @ 5/2 BOG

A Class 4, 4yo+Novice Handicap Hurdle over 3m on Good ground worth £4549 to the winner.

And a 6 yr old mare making a seasonal reappearance after also moving yards. She finished her last campaign well, coming home as a runner-up in each of her last two starts for trainer Nicky Henderson. People often think that if a horse leaves Nicky's yard, then it's already on the wane, but when you find that this girl has ended up with Paul Nicholls, that necessarily won't always be the case!

Paul Nicholls' horses with more than their fair share of races, especially at the smaller provincial venues, but are generally overbet and therefore poor value from a punting perspective despite the high strike rate, but if you dig deep enough, there are still some angles worth pursuing.

One of those angles is actually very simple...Back Paul's hurdlers at Taunton! Now that seems very basic/straightforward for an SotD angle, but since 2009 this approach has found 74 winners from 210 (35.2% SR)for level stakes profits of 40.5pts (+19.3% ROI), which is excellent for blindly backing a top trainer.

And I could leave it there, but you know I won't/can't! So, of those 210 Taunton hurdlers...

  • Class 4 = 45/127 (35.4%) for 30.4pts (+24%)
  • In Novice races : 49/121 (40.5%) for 19.5pts (+16.1%)
  • from November to January : 40/93 (43%) for 71.63pts (+77%)
  • in handicaps : 19/77 (24.7%) for 20.4pts (+26.5%)
  • 6 yr olds are 22/58 (37.9%) for 7.9pts (+13.6%)
  • at 3m/3m0.5f : 7/28 925%) for 4pts (+14.7%)
  • making their yard debut : 10/24 (41.7%) for 15.8pts (+65.6%)
  • females are 5/12 (41.7%) for 2.6pts (+21.5%)
  • and in Novice handicaps : 3/9 (33.3%) for 2.17pts (+24.1%)

...which points us towards... a 1pt win bet on Silent Steps @ 5/2 BOG which was widely available at 6.55pm on Wednesday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 1.20 Taunton

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P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Harry’s Game

Dan and Harry Skelton continue to make their mark, despite the big-guns beginning to unleash their major players.

Currently second in the trainers’ championship, the Warwickshire team made a fabulous start to the current campaign, and though realistic in their ambitions, will be hoping for further success, such as the promising performance from North Hill Harvey at Cheltenham on Sunday.

Ridden with supreme confidence by Harry Skelton, the imposing young chaser had the race won some distance from home. Cool and calm on top, Skelton met the last two fences on a perfect stride and the horse did the rest. He may not be a World beater, but this young chaser now has four wins to his name at Cheltenham, including last year’s Greatwood Hurdle. A fast run two-mile appears ideal, and there’s scope for plenty more improvement.

The way with which Harry goes about his business is testament to the professionalism of the Skelton’s. Completely immersed in all things Lodge Hill, Harry will be found working and schooling the equine team every day. A stylish, well-balanced young jockey (still only 28), he is particularly strong in a driving finish, low over the horse, getting every drop of effort from his mount. He shuns the limelight, despite himself lying second in the jockeys’ title race, instead praising big-brother Dan for supplying the quality ammunition.

It’s no secret that the Skelton’s are going places, but Harry is undoubtedly a vital component in the team’s success.

Another Harry who sees his stock rising at a rate of knots, is young Harry Cobden. Weather permitting, this coming Saturday he’ll be aboard chasing royalty in Cue Card. A regular these days for both Colin Tizzard and Paul Nicholls, and yet still just 19, this has been an incredible period for the young man from Somerset.

Another that graduated from the pony racing circuit, Cobden has already won his fair share of prestigious races. Paul Nicholls entrusted him with Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle of 2015, despite his lack of experience. The then 7lb claimer didn’t disappoint, timing his challenge to perfection before pulling clear after the last.

A year later, the young jock was landing his first Grade One, when driving Irving to a thrilling victory in the Fighting Fifth, defeating Apple’s Jade by a nose. At the time Cobden said of the victory: “To win a Grade One is what dreams are made of and I’m grateful to Mr Nicholls and the owners for putting me on him. To put a 3lb claimer on, in a race like that, may not be the done thing in some eyes, but thankfully the boss has faith in me.”

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The conditional jockeys title followed for the youngster, and those occasional ‘good rides’ have become a regular occurrence. He had a couple of victories at Cheltenham over the weekend. He was onboard Posh Trish for Nicholls in the listed mares’ bumper. And then rode Tizzard’s classy young hurdler, Slate House, to victory in the Supreme Novice Trial. He also came close to landing the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase aboard Vicente, rather ironically losing out to Paddy Brennan and Perfect Candidate.

On Saturday we’ll see if Paddy’s loss is Harry’s gain. Win or lose, there’s no doubting this young man has a bright future in the saddle.

You’d think a pair of upwardly mobile Harry’s would be enough for one article, but it would be unfair to leave out 23-year-old Harry Bannister, who is currently enjoying something of a purple patch. With four wins from his last eight rides, including a double at Southwell yesterday, this young man can do little wrong. Most of his opportunities are coming aboard horses trained by Harry Whittington (I know, hard to believe isn’t it), and a strike-rate of 22% is testament to just how well things are going this season.

But this wouldn’t be horse racing if several highs were not followed by a shattering low. And so it was at Cheltenham, when Whittington’s talented mare Glenmona, ridden by young Harry, stumbled in the back straight resulting in her death. Bannister will have been shaken by such a blow, but jockeys know just how quickly fortunes can change.

Despite the Cheltenham setback, this Harry double-act is clearly flourishing and let’s hope that there are many more successful days to come.

Some will feel that I missed a trick in not exploring in more depth, the achievements of Harry Fry in this piece, especially as he had a winner at Leicester on Sunday by the name of Old Harry Rocks. But this article was always intended to cover the emergence of young Harry’s in the saddle. And the trio profiled are certainly heading in the right direction.

Hill can reach Gold Cup Summit for Twiston-Davies

All eyes will be on Cheltenham this weekend, and today’s piece focuses on Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup.

The Grade Three began life as the Mackeson Gold Cup and was first run in 1960. Starting as a two-mile chase, the trip was upped to 2m4f in the late 60s. Martin Pipe is the most successful trainer with eight victories, seven of those coming in a devastating spell from 1996 to 2005.

In recent years Jonjo O’Neill (3 wins), Nigel Twiston-Davies (2) and Paul Nicholls (2) have all enjoyed plenty of success in the race. Seven-year-olds have a terrific record of late, with six wins from the last 10. Indeed, the race tends to go to a progressive young chaser, often in their second season over the larger obstacles.

Despite the race often attracting a large field, upsets have proved rare. Only one of the last 10 winners could be described as unfancied, though in that period only one favourite has struck gold. As is often the case at the Home of Jump racing, previous track experience is a huge positive. Seven of the past 10 winners had previously won at Cheltenham. This racecourse is a unique test, and many horses fail the strenuous examination.

The favourite for Saturday’s renewal is top-weight Kylemore Lough, now trained by Harry Fry. Lumping just shy of 12 stone is often a reason to dismiss a horse in such handicaps, but last year’s winner carried 11-11, and four of the last 12 winners have coped with more than 11 stone on their back. This fella has enough Cheltenham experience, and appears to act on the track, though he’s finished fifth in his last two visits. He came close to winning the Caspian Caviar Chase last December (now 2lb lower), and a repeat of that performance would see him go extremely close. Can Fry get more out of him than Kerry Lee? I’m a fan, and I fancy he’ll run well.

The Alan Fleming-trained Tully East is next best in the betting. A second-season chaser, he won at the Cheltenham Festival in March, when ridden beautifully by Denis O’Regan. He travelled like a dream that day and appeared to win with something to spare. Nevertheless, he’s 10lb higher in the handicap, and though he has the right profile, he’ll find this race much tougher to win. He’s a player, though I worry about that handicap mark. Another concern is the poor record of Irish raiders.

Paul Nicholls has a couple of entrants, and both are prominent in the betting. Le Prezien has track winning form, though was runner-up on his last visit, when finding Foxtail Hill impossible to pass. The pair had a mighty tussle in October at two-miles, though the extra half-a-mile should prove no obstacle. The pair are handicapped to finish side by side again, and you’d fancy both will go close. They’re tough to separate.

Nicholls’ other hope is five-year-old Romain De Senam. He’s won his last two, but is up 6lbs and will find this tough. He was runner-up in the Fred Winter of 2016, and probably should have won that day. The track and trip look ideal, and Nicholls took this race in 2014 with Caid Du Berlais, also aged five. I can see him getting outpaced coming down the hill, but I fancy he’ll be finishing well. He has the right amount of experience, but I worry he’ll have too much to do turning for home.

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Ballyalton is an interesting contender. Back from injury, the Ian Williams-trained 10-year-old tuned up for this with a promising run over hurdles at Aintree. He won over course and distance at the Cheltenham Festival of 2016, and clearly enjoys his trips to Prestbury Park. He’s on a competitive mark, though his age is a negative based on the trends. Only three horses over nine have won the race.

The Pipe team have an outstanding record, though David has only managed the one success. Starchitect is two from seven over fences, and has a fair bit to find on Foxtail Hill, from their run at the course in April. Though talented, I don’t think this fella is quite good enough to win in this company.

One that is on a steep-upward curve is Jamie Snowdon’s Double Treasure. The six-year-old beat Two Taffs last time, though the runner-up was having his first outing of the campaign. He’s progressed dramatically over the Summer, but needs to find more if he is to be competitive here. Despite his four wins on the bounce, I fancy this could be a step too far.

There’s a couple I quite like at a price for the each-way punters out there. Theinval is trained by Nicky Henderson and was incredibly consistent during his first season over fences. He has some decent pieces of form to his name, especially the second-place finish to Cloudy Dream at Ayr in April. The sensational Fondmort won this race for Henderson in 2003, and this fella has a far better chance than his 25/1 odds suggest.

Another that interests me is the Twiston-Davies second string Splash Of Ginge. He rarely wins over fences, but his handicap mark has fell through the floor since the dizzy heights of 2015. He’s run well at Cheltenham in the past, and his last performance was encouraging. More rain would help, though I’m still tempted.

Greedy I know, but I’ll be backing three in the race. I fancy Nigel Twiston-Davies could have a day to remember, and I’ll be taking Foxtail Hill to win. He looks incredibly tough and is two from four in recent visits to the track. I’ll also have a little on Splash Of Ginge in the hope that the track and an eye-catching handicap mark spark a revival. Finally, I’ll be putting a couple of quid on Henderson’s seven-year-old Theinval. I’m convinced he’ll go close, though I do worry about his ability to cope with the famous hill.

Best of luck to all those having a punt.

Hendo Blow – But it’s on with the Show

As attention turned to Cheltenham, Jump racing fans were rocked yesterday with the news that Altior will miss most of the season due to a breathing issue.

Nicky Henderson dropped the bomb, saying: “I'm really disappointed to report that Altior will miss the Grade One Tingle Creek at Sandown next month due to a wind problem that has surfaced, which means he will not be ready in time. He started faster work last week in the build-up to Sandown and did an excellent piece with Lough Derg Spirit last Tuesday. However, he made a whistling noise on Saturday, so we did an overland scope yesterday, which is basically galloping while being scoped.

“Between our own vet Dave Matterson and Geoff Lane they both concluded that he has a small issue with his wind whereby his larynx isn't opening sufficiently. After discussing the matter with his owners, Christopher and Pat Pugh, we decided that he will need a small procedure to rectify the problem.”

The trainer is hoping that his equine goliath will return in the Spring, in time for a tilt at the Champion Chase. Sprinter Sacre and Might Bite have had the same procedure in the past, to correct slight breathing problems. Altior’s return to the track looks assured, though the timing remains uncertain. Let’s hope he makes the end of season festivals, and again shows us what a fabulous racehorse he is.

With Defi du Seuil’s withdrawal from Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle, it is a Henderson inmate that’s taken over at the head of the market. It’s hard to believe that a trainer so dominant in the Champion Hurdle has yet to capture this prestigious event. Jenkins is fancied by many to put that record straight. The form of his win at Newbury last November is strong, though Henderson maintains the youngster is badly handicapped.

He spoke earlier in the week, insisting: “He is handicapped on his reputation as a bumper horse, not on what he’s achieved. He was awful that day when he beat Bags Groove. He couldn’t jump a hurdle. Then he fell into one at Ffos Las in the most appalling race you’ve ever seen and somehow ended up on 137.”

Despite his handicap mark, Henderson does believe the horse is in good shape, adding: “He wants to jump this year and wants to work. If he is back to what he was as a bumper horse, he will be very good.”

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The Dan Skelton-trained North Hill Harvey took the Greatwood 12 months ago, and the stable had the runner-up, Superb Story, in 2015. Mohaayed is their representative this time, and he has been well supported in the markets. He has a winning profile and the trainer insists that he’s suited to better ground. Speaking last month, Skelton was clearly targeting this race with the five-year-old, saying: “We will run him fresh in the Greatwood Hurdle. He’s off a nice mark. We will plan his season from there. He’s got his experience and jumps nicely.”

The feature race on Saturday is the BetVictor Gold Cup, a race that Paul Nicholls has won twice in the past five years. The Ditcheat handler has a pair of strong contenders, and said of them: “This is the ideal race to run him (Romain De Senam) in, as he needs a real fast-run race, which he will get at Cheltenham, and he is in good shape.” The five-year-old has improved for a step-up in trip this term, though his handicap mark has suffered as a consequence.

Of his other entry, Nicholls said: “Le Prezien is in good order. He is rated 150 which is quite high. He is an improving game young horse that gets the trip, so he must have a chance.” He was a close second at Cheltenham in October, when beaten by Foxtail Hill over two miles. It would come as no surprise to see both go close again, with this two-and-a-half mile trip likely to suit the pair.

Colin Tizzard will be looking forward to the meeting, with Fox Norton and Finian’s Oscar expected to go well. Both run under the familiar colours of Alan Potts, who very sadly died earlier in the week. Alan’s death comes just three months after the passing of his wife Ann, and yesterday the family confirmed that horses under the ownership will run as planned. Speaking at Exeter yesterday, Joe Tizzard said: “We’ll certainly be running them because they’ve been planned out for this weekend. Alan was due to come to our place Thursday night and see the yard, then go to Cheltenham. It’s a real shock that he’s no longer with us.”

Potts’s daughter Julie is known to have shared her parent’s love of racing, though whether she’ll be at Cheltenham is unknown. Bryan Cooper will continue as main jockey for the English-based horses. “That’s how Alan wanted it, so it’ll stay like that,” Tizzard Jr said.

Follow Phil – Despite Defi Defection

We return to the Home of Jump racing on Friday for Cheltenham’s three-day November Meeting.

Always thrilling and often informative, this tends to be a gathering where certain trainers perform consistently well. You’d expect powerhouses such as Nicholls and Henderson to rack-up the winners, but in recent times two handlers have outshone the rest.

Whilst Nicholls has had a none-too-shabby seven wins from the last four November meets, and Nicky Henderson has amassed six in that period, it’s David Pipe and Philip Hobbs that set the standard. Despite drawing a blank in 2015, Pipe has struck nine times, with Hobbs managing a dazzling dozen. The Master of Minehead had a sensational 2014 meeting, winning six races over the three days, including the Greatwood and the Triumph Hurdle Trial.

Hobbs has a terrific record in the prestigious Greatwood Hurdle, taking the Grade Three with several high-class sorts. In 2014 it was Garde La Victoire that upset Henderson’s well-fancied Vaniteux. In 2010 Menorah captured this, having won the Supreme Novices’ eight months earlier. In 2006 it was the wonderful Detroit City that romped to success. He’d won the Triumph Hurdle earlier in the year. However, arguably Hobbs’ greatest hurdler took the event in 2002. The relentless galloping grey, Rooster Booster, owned by Terry Warner, took this on-route to a Champion Hurdle victory in 2003.

Hobbs looked to have the horse with the perfect profile for this weekend’s renewal, in Defi Du Seuil. However, a change of heart means that the Triumph Hurdle winner will now head to Ascot, rather than take on The New One on Sunday.

Hobbs also has a strong record in the Triumph Hurdle Trial, which takes place on Saturday. He’s landed two of the last three, and was successful in last year’s race thanks to the aforementioned, Defi Du Seuil. The Minehead handler will be hoping for further success this weekend, as he’s set to saddle another Terry Warner-owned grey, Gumball. It’s looking a tasty renewal, with Henderson and Nicholls both represented. However, Hobbs’ fella has impressed in his two victories this term.

Other Hobbs contenders to look out for over the three days include Three Faces West in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase. The talented staying chaser is back from injury, having looked mightily progressive when winning his last race at Newbury in December 2016. The team also have Crooks Peak in the concluding National Hunt Flat race. He was a convincing winner at Newton Abbot on debut. This is tougher, but he looks a decent sort.

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It’s been a slow start to this latest campaign for the Pipe team, but there are signs of an upturn in recent weeks, and the guys from Pond House will be hoping for another strong Cheltenham showing. Moon Racer was a high-profile winner at last year’s meeting, and in recent times Pipe has struck gold with Kings Palace, Dell’ Arca, The Liquidator and Red Sherlock.

Dell’ Arca has an entry in the opening chase on Friday, though he’s not jumped a fence since 2015. He’s looked good over hurdles in his last two starts, winning at Newbury just last week. He’s far more likely to stick to hurdles and run in the listed staying event on Saturday. He’s lumbered with top-weight, but remains on a competitive mark.

David’s father Martin remains the most successful trainer in the history of the BetVictor Gold Cup, and the stable have a realistic contender for Saturday’s renewal in Starchitect. A solid fifth place finish in the Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival suggests this race will prove ideal. He’s on a fair mark and should go well.

Pipe has also taken over the training of Vanituex, after his move from Seven Barrows. He’s entered in the Shloer Chase and will face the likes of Fox Norton and Special Tiara. I’ve always been a fan of this fella, though he needs good ground if he’s to have any hope of being competitive.

Both the Hobbs and Pipe teams lack the depth of talent as they head into the Cheltenham weekend. Nevertheless, the pair have enjoyed plenty of success at this November Meeting in recent times, and I’d be surprised if they don’t land a few mighty blows once again.

Nicholls and Henderson Jump to it

Present Man defied testing conditions to land the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls has an outstanding record in the race, and had three fancied contenders. He finished with the first and fourth home, though his young novice Mr Mix disappointed. Concerns had been raised over the winner’s ability to cope with soft ground, but any worries were dispelled as the seven-year-old ‘tanked’ along under talented conditional jockey Bryony Frost.

Prominent throughout, Frost sent the winner on from the fifth-last, with only the David Dennis-trained Final Nudge for company. The pair fought out the finish, with Present Man’s bold jumping key to his success. He battled on bravely to hold-off the runner-up by a rapidly diminishing head.

Her father Jimmy had won the race 21 years earlier, and it was clear to everyone that Bryony was thrilled to mirror Dad’s achievement. Speaking to ITV Racing immediately after the win, she said: “He jumped, he travelled. He answers every question. He was pulling my arms out all the way round.”

Nicholls was winning his eighth Badger Ales, and said of the winner: “I was worried about the ground, but I must say I've never seen him look better. I knew he'd go in the ground, but it was whether he stayed in the ground. He's a great example of Rome not being built in a day. He’s took three years to get where he is today. It was a peach of a ride and it's great for the owners.”

Mark Woodhouse owns the winner, and happens to sponsor the race. Clearly emotional, he said of the victory: “We were always in it to win it. It went a bit soft for him, and he’d have had a better chance on good ground. I haven’t got much voice left. I used it up during the home straight.”

The Grand National at Aintree has now been named as a likely target for the winner. The way he jumps a fence will certainly be an asset, though he still has to prove that he can see-out a marathon trip.

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The victory completed a valuable double on the card for trainer Paul Nicholls, having earlier seen his exciting young chaser Modus take the Rising Stars in dominant fashion. Just three arrived at the start, though the race looked competitive enough. Ridden confidently by Sam Twiston-Davies, the favourite took up the running two fences from home. He quickened impressively, hitting the line with nine lengths to spare. Bigger tests lie ahead, but this was a decent performance.

Just 24 hours later, Paul Nicholls’ nemesis, Nicky Henderson, unleashed his potential star staying chaser Might Bite. Last year’s RSA winner made his seasonal debut at Sandown, and romped to an impressive victory in the Future Stars Intermediate Chase. In all honesty, this was a race that he had to win convincingly. At times like a showjumper over the fences, he was virtually foot-perfect throughout. Urged to pull clear by Nico de Boinville, he comfortably put 10 lengths between himself and the field, before being eased approaching the line.

“Job done. I'm happy with that,” said the jockey, speaking to Racing UK after the win. “He was very fresh and well going down to the first. I felt I had to take it (the running) up when I did, just because he was enjoying himself so much. He'll come on bundles for that. The big fences played to his strengths. He's got so much scope for improvement that I think he'll be even better than he was last year.”

Nicky Henderson looked chuffed and relieved, saying: “It was straightforward. His jumping was great. He just needed a run and I think he was running a bit fresh. He settled well, and he jumped beautifully. Our objective is the King George and most agreed the sensible thing was to come here (rather than the Betfair Chase at Haydock). He won't run again until then and he'll be miles straighter than he was today. That's part one done.”

The champion trainer added: “Our job is now to get him there on Boxing Day quite a lot fitter than he was today. I wouldn't say a racecourse gallop would go amiss. We'll try and win the King George and then make a second-half-of-the-season plan.”

Winning the King George is a mile away from landing an intermediate chase at Sandown. But there’s no doubting Henderson’s chaser is talented. He’s fluid in movement and beautifully athletic over his fences. He also looks to have plenty of untapped potential, though how he copes when challenged for the lead remains an unknown. Kempton’s Christmas showpiece is stacking up to be an absolute cracker.

Ellison’s Jumpers find form at Kelso

The recent treble at Kelso came as a timely boost for Brian Ellison, as the new National Hunt season starts in earnest.

The dual-purpose trainer from Malton in Yorkshire has a strong team assembled for the latest Jumps campaign, with Forest Bihan a potential stable star.

The six-year-old had a novice chase campaign full of promise. He only failed by a head to land a Grade One success at Aintree, having already ran-up a trio of victories at Towcester, Newcastle and most impressively at Doncaster.

Speaking of his exciting chaser after the latest success, Ellison said: “He was very good at Kelso. He had been working well, but it is always difficult giving weight away to good horses. He was brilliant with his jumping and he never missed a beat. We picked the race out a while ago and now we have to look at what we do next. We are looking at the Haldon Gold Cup and the Shloer Chase. I will have a word with Phil Martin and see what he wants to do. I don't see any reason why we would want to go up in trip as he is fast enough for two.”

Having spent a little time watching his previous races, I’m of the opinion that Forest Bihan would benefit from some sort of headgear. He certainly has a tendency to cock his head and have a look around, once in front. He should have won at Aintree but was chinned on the line by San Benedeto. And his best performance came at Doncaster, when delivered late to sprint past Cloudy Dream.

The Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter looks a sensible option, having been won in recent times by those just below the elite two-mile chasers. It’s difficult to envisage Forest Bihan getting the better of Altior or Douvan, though such challenges lie ahead.

Ellison is based at Spring Cottage Stables, in Malton, and continues to transform the yard. Training since 1989, he’s now been at Malton for almost 20 years. The yard has expanded from just 25 stables to nearer 125 in that time. The addition of a Water Walker in 2014 has proved hugely beneficial, especially with fragile horses. Exercising five horses at a time, the water levels can be adjusted, aiding the recovery of those with back or leg injuries.

Trainers at Malton are fortunate to have fabulous facilities close to hand. The gallops at Langton Wold are some of the finest in the UK. Covering an area of around 120 acres, there is a six-furlong polytrack gallop and one at a mile and three-furlongs. There are also three grass gallops at five-furlong, six-furlong and a mile and two. Terrific schooling grounds include standard fences and two Grand National fences, along with flights of hurdles and starting stalls.

Such facilities inevitably aid the process of producing talented racehorses. And Ellison has several that he would hope will be capable of winning at a decent level over the coming months.

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Apterix is a young chaser with plenty more to offer. A three-time winner last winter, the seven-year-old is effective up to two-and-a-half miles. He needs a little give in the ground to be seen at his best. With a chase mark in the low 140s, he’ll be winning again soon.

Many at Spring Cottage carry the familiar silks of PJ Martin. Ellison’s leading patron would have been hopeful of Grand National glory with Definitly Red last April. Unfortunately, the gutsy chaser suffered interference early and had to be pulled up. The trainer states another crack at Aintree is not in the plans, and the horse may start back at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall. It’s a track he enjoys, and in testing conditions he is a match for most staying chasers. He remains on a decent handicap mark.

Seamour is another under the same ownership, though better known for his exploits on the flat. Set for a campaign over timber, he was a classy juvenile back in 2014, when winning both starts, including an impressive success over Pain Au Chocolat. He’s rated 131, which looks generous for a 101 Flat performer. A stiff two miles may be fine, but he’ll certainly stay a lot further. He’s an intriguing proposition and should be followed closely.

Fit from a couple of runs on the flat, Nietzsche is expected to go for the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. He was third in the Fred Winter at the Festival in March, and is an exciting prospect for handicap hurdles at two-miles. Ellison insists that the horse needs soft ground to be at his best.

Contre Tous is an interesting newcomer, having transferred from Paul Nicholls’ yard. By the same sire as Forest Bihan, he’s a substantial unit and should make a decent chaser in the long-term. The five-year-old remains something of a baby, and though the trainer says he’ll start out over hurdles, his future surely lies over the larger obstacles. He probably needs to strengthen into that substantial frame, so expect plenty of improvement with time.

The yard has another exciting prospect in young hurdler Ravenhill Road. The six-year-old is a favourite of Ellison’s and will head over obstacles having won both his bumpers. He missed the latter part of last season due to injury, but is back fit and well. A big horse, he’s by Exit To Nowhere out of a Zaffaran mare, and the pedigree suggests he’ll appreciate testing ground. The trainer has picked him out as a horse to follow this winter.

Finally, I’m convinced that Zaidiyn remains a handicap hurdler to follow. Injured last winter, he needs a strongly run two miles on soft ground. He’s a hold-up horse, and as such needs things to fall just right. Nevertheless, I’m sure there’s a big prize in him.

I’m anticipating a strong campaign for Brian Ellison and his Malton team. Forest Bihan looks the headline act, but the supporting cast are far from shabby.

Stat of the Day, 13th May 2017

Friday's Result :

7.40 Ripon : Swift Emperor @ 11/2 BOG 3rd at 3/1 Held up towards rear, headway over 2f out, ridden inside final furlong, no extra towards finish.

Friday's pick goes in the...

7.30 Warwick...

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Brahms de Clermont3/1 BOG

Why?

A 6 yr old gelding who has made a flying start to his career finishing 116421 in his 6 starts so far, the latest run being a win at Exeter four days ago.

Trainer Paul Nicholls' runners are 23/81 (28.4% SR) over the last 30 days and 3 from 7 (42.9% SR) over the past week, so they're clearly in good nick, whilst here at Warwick, they are 15/54 (27.8% SR) since 2011.

And Mr Nicholls' record with handicap debutants  stands at 28 wins from 117 (23.9% SR) for 66.8pts (+55.6% ROI) since 2014, including...

  • hurdlers at 24/102 (23.5%) for 70.2pts (+69.5%)
  • those ridden by today's jockey Sam Twiston-Davies are 13/55 (23.6%) for 34.1pts (+61.9%)
  • Class 3 runners are 15/47 (31.9%) for 32pts (+62.6%)
  • and LTO winners are 10/31 (32.3%) for 41pts (+136.7%)

And speaking of Sam Twiston-Davies, he's also in good form, with a 5/22 (22.7% SR) record over the fortnight, including 3 winners from 11 (27.3% SR) in the last 7 days and since 2013, he has 21 winners from 112 (18.75% SR) here at Warwick, of which those trained by Paul Nicholls are 8 from 19 (42.1% SR) for 11pts (+57.9% ROI) profit.

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Brahms de Clermont3/1 BOG which was widely available at 8.40pm on Friday, but if you can grab the 10/3 BOG offered by Paddy Power, please do do! To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 7.30 Warwick

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats are to Betfair SP, as (i) I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you and (ii) although inferior to the BOG odds we secure, BFSP is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns quoted.