Tingle Creek Chase Trends

Run over 2m the BetFair-sponsored Tingle Creek Chase will be staged this year at Sandown Park racecourse on 4th December and is always seen as a good guide to the Queen Mother Champion Chase run at the Cheltenham Festival later in the season – with Master Minded (2008), Moscow Flyer (2004), Sprinter Sacre (2012), Sire de Grugy (2013), Dodging Bullets (2014) and Altior (2018) the last horses to do the Tingle Creek/Champion Chase double in the same season.

The 2019 Tingle Creek Chase was won by the Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil – the second win in the race for the trainer after also winning it in 2001 with Flagship Uberalles, while 12 months ago trainer Paul Nicholls landed his eleventh Tingle Creek Chase when the popular grey - Politologue - landed the prize for a second time having also won it in 2017.

Here at Geegeez, we take a look back at recent winners and gives you the key Tingle Creek trends to look out for ahead of the 2021 renewal – this year run on Saturday 4th December.

Recent Tingle Creek Winners

2020 - POLITOLOGUE (11/8 fav)
2019 – DEFI DU SEUIL (2/1 fav)
2018 – ALTIOR (8/13 fav)
2017 – POLITOLOGUE (7/2)
2016 – UN DE SCEAUX (5/4 fav)
2015 – SIRE DE GRUGY (10/3)
2014 – DODGING BULLETS (9/1)
2013 – SIRE DE GRUGY (7/4 jfav)
2012 – SPRINTER SACRE (4/11 fav)
2011 – SIZING EUROPE (11/8 fav)
2010 – MASTER MINDED (10/11 fav)
2009 – TWIST MAGIC (9/4)
2008 – MASTER MINDED (4/7 fav)
2007 – TWIST MAGIC (5/1)
2006 – KAUTO STAR (4/9 fav)
2005 – KAUTO STAR (5/2 jfav)
2004 – MOSCOW FLYER (2/1)
2003 – MOSCOW FLYER (6/4 fav)
2002 – CENKOS (6/1)


Tingle Creek Chase Trends

18/19 – Returned 6/1 or shorter in the betting
18/19 – Aged 9 or younger
17/19 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
16/19 – Had won a Grade One chase before
15/19 – Winners that went onto run in that season’s QM Champion Chase
15/19 – Placed favourites
15/19 – Had won at least 4 times over fences before
14/19 – French bred
14/19 – Aged between 5-8 years-old
14/19 – Officially rated 165 or higher
14/19 – Returned 5/2 or shorter in the betting
12/19 – Raced within the last 4 weeks
12/19 – Winning distance – 3 lengths or more
12/19 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
12/19 – Won last time out
11/19 – Had won a chase race at Sandown before
10/19 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
6/19 – Went onto win the Champion Chase (Altior, Dodging Bullets, Sire de Grugy, Sprinter Sacre, Master Minded & Moscow Flyer) at the Cheltenham Festival that season
1/19 – Went onto win the Gold Cup (Kauto Star) at the Cheltenham Festival that season
The average winning SP in the last 19 years is 5/2


Note: The 2010 renewal was staged at Cheltenham


Mr Glass digs deep to secure Newcastle prize

Mr Glass secured his fourth victory in succession with a determined front-running performance in the Weatherbys ‘The French Furze’ Novices’ Hurdle at Newcastle.

A dual bumper winner last season and impressive on his hurdling debut at Chepstow last month, the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was the 5-6 favourite for his latest assignment at Gosforth Park.

Sent straight to the lead by Sean Bowen, the archetypal chaser in the making was not always foot-perfect and he briefly looked in danger when challenged early in the home straight.

The well-backed Marble Sands and point-to-point winner Loughderg Rocco both loomed up looking serious threats – but to his credit, Mr Glass dug deep in the driving snow to see off the latter by a length.

Speaking from Newbury, Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham said: “Mr Glass is a smashing horse – he’s next season’s chaser.

“I don’t think he will have a busy year. He is learning loads and as you can see, he is very green.

“I suspect he will run somewhere after Christmas in a nice, staying novice hurdle.”

Too Friendly made it two from two over obstacles with a clear-cut success in the Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow Introductory Juvenile Hurdle.

A useful performer on the Flat for George Scott, the gelded son of Camelot made a successful switch to the jumping sphere on his first start for Dan Skelton at Stratford last month.

Too Friendly (right) on his way to victory
Too Friendly (right) on his way to victory (Tim Goode/PA)

Well fancied to follow up as the 5-4 favourite, Too Friendly moved smoothly into contention under Bridget Andrews before pulling almost five lengths clear of market rival Twilight Twist on the run-in.

“He was really good,” Skelton said from Newbury.

“The runner-up made a mistake at the last which gifted it to us, but I think we may have had it covered at the time.

“It is good form and I think he’s a progressive horse.”

Scene Not Herd justified 15-8 favouritism in the Eileen Peacock Memorial Handicap Chase for trainer Charlie Longsdon and jockey Jonathan Burke.

Impressive on his return from 11 months off the track at Hereford a few weeks ago, the six-year-old made light of his welter burden of 11st 11lb – passing the post with six and a half lengths in hand over Luckofthedraw.

Longsdon said: “He was really electric at Hereford and I was slightly worried that 35 millimetres of rain (at Newcastle) might be too much for him.

“I had my reservations, but he’s a horse going the right way.

“We can step him up slightly now into better company.”

Winds Of Fire leads the way at Newcastle
Winds Of Fire leads the way at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

The Evan Williams-trained Winds Of Fire came good under a cool ride from Adam Wedge in the Betfair Daily Rewards Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Second on each of his final three starts of last season, the six-year-old came to grief at the first obstacle in the race won by Scene Not Herd at Hereford.

The 10-1 shot made no mistake on this occasion, however, travelling strongly before finding enough for pressure to repel Cooper’s Cross by a length and three-quarters.

Supporters of title-chasing Brian Hughes were in clover after the victory of Since Day One in the Living North EBF ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle.

Hughes was due to be in action at Bangor, but with that fixture abandoned, he instead made the journey to Newcastle for just one mount.

It proved worthwhile, however, with Donald McCain’s Since Day One striking gold at odds of 14-1.

King George VI Chase Trends

Staged each year on at Christmas on Boxing Day at Kempton racecourse, (Sunday, 26th December) the King George VI Chase is the highlight contest on the festive racing calendar.

With star names like Desert Orchid, One Man and, more recently, Kauto Star, who won the King George Chase a staggering five times, amongst the household names to land this decent pot then the 3m Grade One race never fails to attract the best longer distance chasers in training, while it’s also seen as a good guide to that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

We take a look back at recent winners and highlight the key stats to take into the 2021 renewal – this year run on Sunday Dec 26th, where the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux, who won this in 2018 and 2019, will be trying to win back his crown.


Past King George VI Chase Winners

2020 - Frodon (20/1)
2019 - Clan Des Obeaux (11/2)
2018 – Clan Des Obeaux (12/1)
2017 – Might Bite (6/4 fav)
2016 – Thistlecrack (11/10 fav)
2015 – Cue Card (9/2)
2014 - Silviniaco Conti (15/8 fav)
2013 – Silviniaco Conti (7/2)
2012 – Long Run (15/8 fav)
2011 – Kauto Star (3/1)
2010 – Long Run (9/2)
2009 – Kauto Star (8/13 fav)
2008 – Kauto Star (10/11 fav)
2007 – Kauto Star (4/6 fav)
2006 – Kauto Star (8/13 fav)
2005 – Kicking King (11/8 fav)
2004 – Kicking King (3/1 fav)
2003 – Edredon Bleu (25/1)
2002 – Best Mate (11/8 fav)

Note: The 2005 renewal was staged at Sandown Park

King George VI Chase Trends

17/19 – Had raced within the last 5 weeks
17/19 – Had won a Grade One chase before
17/19 – French (13) or Irish bred (4)
16/19 – Finished in the top three last time out
16/19 – Placed favourites
16/19 – Had won over 3m or further (fences) before
15/19 – Officially rated 168 or higher
15/19 – Returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting
15/19 – Aged 8 or younger
12/19 – Had won a race over fences at Kempton before
11/19 – Winning favourites
11/19 – Won last time out
10/19 – Ran in the Betfair Chase (Haydock) last time out
10/19 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
10/19 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (12 times in all)
8/19 – Won by a previous winner of the race
2/19 – Won by an Irish-based yard (only 3 in the last 35 runnings)
Paul Nicholls, Colin Tizzard and Nicky Henderson have trained ALL of the last 15 winners between them (10 Nicholls, 2 Tizzard, 3 Henderson)
The average winning SP in the last 19 years is 5/1










Monmiral bids to join elite club with Fighting Fifth success

Paul Nicholls could not be happier with Monmiral as the unbeaten four-year-old bids to become only the fifth horse of his age to win the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

Night Nurse is the most famous of the quartet to take this treasured prize at four since its inception in 1969 – the latest being Countrywide Flame in 2012.

Now it is Monmiral’s chance to add his name to an elite list. He heads to the North East with a perfect record of four out of four since moving to the UK from Francois Nicolle’s stables in France.

However, Nicholls knows it is difficult as horses of his age have to meet their elders on equal terms, while he has to give 7lb to last year’s winner Epatante as mares receive a sex allowance.

Monmiral (right) had a gallop at Newbury last week
Monmiral (right) had a gallop at Newbury last week (Adam Davy/PA)

“It is a tough task for four-year-olds in their second season. They don’t get a weight allowance against older horses but he’s a talented horse and he’s unbeaten,” he said.

“Mares get a 7lb allowance and for four-year-olds, it’s a hard year for them traditionally. Only four four-year-olds have won the race. He doesn’t know that. We’ve done everything to prepare him right.

“We’ll learn an awful lot more on Saturday especially and the more rain that falls, the better for him.”

Nicholls went on: “We didn’t want to go chasing this year so we’re having to run in these races and the run on Saturday will tell us where we end up – whether we go Christmas Hurdle afterwards or whether we step up in trip.

“Saturday is a fact-finding mission but prep wise it’s gone great. He looks great and I’m hopeful of a very good run. I can’t predict he’s going to go and win. We just think we’ve had a great preparation and we’ll let the horse do the talking.”

Nicky Henderson has been pleased with Epatante as the 2020 Champion Hurdle winner tries to get back on track after she lost her form following her success in this race 12 months ago.

“Aidan (Coleman) schooled her on Thursday morning and she seemed to be as good as I have ever seen her, jumping-wise, which is important. That is the litmus test with her,” said Henderson.

“It is a much better race this year than last. For a start, Sceau Royal is in much better form this year than last and I thought he was very impressive at Wincanton. Paul’s (Nicholls) horse (Monmiral) could be anything and Silver Streak beat us at Kempton and didn’t get far in the race last year, so we don’t know where we are with that one, so it is a very competitive race.”

Sceau Royal was runner-up 12 months ago and returns in great form, having won at Kempton and Wincanton this autumn.

Trainer Alan King has his fingers crossed the forecast rain does not materialise.

Sceau Royal (left) heads to the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle in top form
Sceau Royal (left) heads to the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle in top form (David Davies/PA)

“I hope Newcastle misses the rain, as Sceau Royal is so much better on a decent surface. He’s been a star for us and is in a great place just now,” the Barbury Castle trainer told

“He’s looked better than ever when winning at Kempton and Wincanton this season, and he also looked in good order in his last piece of work. Epatante will again be hard to beat, but I’m very happy with our fellow.”

Silver Streak had to play second fiddle to Sceau Royal at Kempton last month but trainer Evan Williams reports the grey to be in good shape.

“Everything is grand with Silver Streak. We think he is heading up there in great form, but it is going to be a very difficult race to win,” said the Llancarfan handler.

“You can make a case for pretty much the whole field, as should be the case for a Grade One race, and hopefully our lad can put his best foot forward.”

Connections of Silver Streak will be hoping the grey has better luck at Newcastle compared to last year when he was taken out by Not So Sleepy
Connections of Silver Streak will be hoping the grey has better luck at Newcastle compared to last year when he was taken out by Not So Sleepy (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Silver Streak was carried out by the loose Not So Sleepy at the second flight last year and Hughie Morrison’s quirky character is again in opposition.

“When he beat Buzz last year we had the ground in our favour. With his rating now and his run in the Champion Hurdle (last season) we thought we’d better have a go. He wasn’t beaten far by Epatante that day,” said Morrison.

“We were toying with the idea of running him in the November Handicap, but we didn’t think it was worth having a go unless the ground was in his favour. It wasn’t soft and it did dry out.

“This time we don’t have many other options with him so we thought we’d have a go. Let’s hope the rain arrives before 3.15 on Saturday to slow the others down. Hopefully, we might get enough rain to make it soft.”

Fighting Fifth Hurdle Trends

Sponsored by leading bookmaker Betfair, the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth hurdle is staged at Newcastle racecourse.

Having first been run in 1969 the contest is often seen as an early-season trial for the Champion Hurdle, with the Nicky Henderson-trained Punjabi (2008) and Buveur D'Air (2018) the last horses to win both races in the same season.

The 2017 and 2018 Champion Hurdle winner – Buveur d’Air – landed this race in 2017 before going onto Cheltenham glory again in March 2018, while he also took the prize in 2018 and was second in 2019. 12 months ago it was another Nicky Henderson/JP McManus runner that won the race as Epatante with ease and went onto finish third in the 2021 Champion Hurdle.

Here at GEEGEEZ, we are on hand as he looks back at past winners and gives you the key trends to look out for ahead of the 2021 renewal – this year run on Saturday 27th November.

Recent Fighting Fifth Hurdle Winners

2020 - EPATANTE (8/11 fav)
2019 – CORNERSTONE LAD (16/1)
2018 – BUVEUR D’AIR (11/8)
2017 – BUVEUR D’AIR (1/6 fav)
2016 – IRVING (6/1)
2015 – IDENTITY THIEF (6/1)
2014 – IRVING (6/4 fav)
2013 – MY TENT OR YOURS (8/11 fav)
2011 – OVERTURN (7/4)
2010 – PEDDLERS CROSS (9/4)
2009 – GO NATIVE (25/1)
2008 – PUNJABI (8/11 fav)
2007 – HARCHIBALD (4/1)
2006 – STRAW BEAR (Evs fav)
2005 – ARCALIS (9/4 fav)
2004 – HARCHIBALD (9/4 jfav)
2003 – THE FRENCH FURZE (25/1)
2002 – INTERSKY FALCON (11/10 fav)

Fighting Fifth Hurdle Betting Trends & Stats

19/19 – Won a hurdles race over at least 2m before
17/19 – Won at least a Grade 2 hurdle before
17/19 – Finished in the first two in their latest race
16/19 – Raced in the Champion Hurdle later that same season
16/19 – Won at least 4 times over hurdles before
15/19 – Placed favourites
14/19 – Officially rated 151 or higher
13/19 – Won their last race
11/19 – Ran within the last 6 weeks
11/19 – Placed in the top 6 in the Champion Hurdle later that season
9/19 – Favourites that won (1 joint)
6/19 – Won by an Irish bred horse
5/19 – Raced over hurdles at Newcastle before
5/19 - Trained by Nicky Henderson (5 of last 13)
4/19 – Won by an Irish based yard
3/19 – Won by a previous winner of the race
2/19 - Trained by Paul Nicholls (2 of last 7)
2/19 – Won the Champion Hurdle later that same season (2008 Punjabi, 2018 Buveur d’Air)
The average winning SP in the last 19 runnings is 5/1

Note: The 2008 renewal was staged at Wetherby, and the 2010 race at Newbury





Epatante faces five rivals in Fighting Fifth defence

Last year’s winner Epatante heads a field of six for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

The 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine, trained by Nicky Henderson, comfortably took the prize by four and a quarter lengths from Sceau Royal last term.

Alan King’s nine-year-old has race fitness on his side this time, having won a Listed contest at Kempton and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton this autumn as he seeks to reverse that form.

Evan Williams will be hoping for better luck with Silver Streak, who was taken out at the second flight by the loose Not So Sleepy in this race 12 months ago. The grey has had the advantage of a run this season, finishing second to Sceau Royal at Kempton.

Not So Sleepy has a point to prove after unseating his rider and causing mayhem in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle last year
Not So Sleepy has a point to prove after unseating his rider and causing mayhem in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hughie Morrison gives Not So Sleepy the chance to redeem himself on the back of a run on the Flat at Doncaster five weeks ago.

“He’s going to go and have a day out at Newcastle. Hopefully, he’ll behave better this time. He hadn’t jumped a hurdle for a while, like he hasn’t this time, but he’s always been one that has a look around when he’s doing something new,” said Morrison.

“Hopefully he’ll be better this time now he knows the geography of the place a bit better.”

Monmiral had a tremendous first campaign over hurdles for trainer Paul Nicholls. The four-year-old won all his four starts, culminating in the Grade One Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

Nicholls accepts it is a big ask at this stage of his career but he could not be happier with him.

Monmiral takes on classy seasoned campaigners for the first time at Newcastle
Monmiral takes on classy seasoned campaigners for the first time at Newcastle (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“He’s schooled this morning. He’s in good order. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said the Ditcheat handler.

“It’s a step up in class for him, obviously, from what he’s been running in but he couldn’t have done more. He’s won all his completed starts.

“The form from Aintree has turned out well but it’s another step up in class for him. It is hard, that second year for four-year-olds. They don’t get any allowance over hurdles so he has to be at the top of his game and improve from last year.”

The Iain Jardine-trained Voix De Reve, fourth last year, completes the line-up. Belfast Banter was the only withdrawal at the 48-hour final declaration stage.

Monmiral ‘more likely’ to run at Newbury than in Fighting Fifth

Paul Nicholls is unlikely to run Monmiral in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday, with a dry forecast ahead.

Unbeaten in four starts for the Ditcheat handler, the four-year-old was last seen landing the Grade One Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in April.

However, Nicholls is taking a watching brief as the French-bred son of Saint Des Saints – who is co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson – would prefer a little more give underfoot and could head to Newbury for the Listed Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury instead.

Nicholls said: “Monmiral is entered in both races, but I will see what the ground is and what the weather forecast does.

“I won’t run him on quick ground at Newcastle. If the ground is good to soft at Newbury, I will probably run him there. Without looking, it is a job to say. But at this point in time, I would say he is more likely to go to Newbury than Newcastle.”

Nicholls is looking forward to another big weekend, with bet365 Gold Cup beaten favourite Enrilo set to make his seasonal reappearance in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase.

Nicholls said: “Enrilo definitely runs in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He is in good form and this is a good starting point, but we have taken the decision not to declare Next Destination.”

Nicky Henderson with Epatante at Seven Barrows
Nicky Henderson with Epatante at Seven Barrows (David Davies/PA)

A total of seven horses stood their ground for Newcastle at the confirmation stage, headed by Epatante.

Winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle, the Nicky Henderson-trained mare made her reappearance in the Gosforth Park feature 12 months ago, recording a stylish success over Sceau Royal.

The Alan King-trained Sceau Royal was last seen winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and could reoppose.

Evan Williams’ Silver Streak was unceremoniously carried out by Not So Sleepy last year, but enjoyed a significant change in fortunes when subsequently beating Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Silver Streak and the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy are in the field once again.

Elite Hurdle third Belfast Banter (Peter Fahey) is in line to renew rivalry with Sceau Royal, with Voix Du Reve (Iain Jardine) completing the list.

Monday Musings: An APT Comparison?

Last March, as Rachael Blackmore urged her mount in the Cheltenham Gold Cup to close on stablemate Minella Indo and Jack Kennedy up the hill after the last fence, she would have been excused for saying: “A Plus Tard” or “see you later” in the English version, writes Tony Stafford.

The comment might have been Lostintraslation for some – the much-fancied horse of that name pulled up two from home that day – but after last weekend when both latter horses won major races, the path appears set for a march to greatness for the Henry De Bromhead seven-year-old.

Lostintranslation’s easy win in Ascot’s Chanelle Pharma Chase signalled another pointer to the revival in form of the Tizzard stable – soon by all accounts to have son Joe’s name rather than dad Colin’s above the stable entrance. That effort, though, could not compare with the Irish-trained horse’s performance in running away with the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park.

Most enjoyable for British racegoers as the Irish won this coveted Haydock autumn feature for the first time, was that A Plus Tard carries the colours of Cheveley Park Stud, the principal UK-owned breeder which every year produces top-class animals. With more than 100 mares and in excess of 110 in training every year, Flat racing is the bread and butter. Jumping is the winter release.

Under the careful management of Chris Richardson the stud has fuelled on the enthusiasm for jump racing of Patricia Thompson and her late husband David. The couple won the 1992 Grand National with last-minute buy Party Politics, trained by Nick Gaselee and ridden by Carl Llewellyn, and in recent years built up a select team of high-class jumpers in Ireland.

A class apart though is A Plus Tard and although only a seven-year-old he has just entered his fourth season as a steeplechaser, and still has only 12 races over fences (five wins, five seconds and two thirds) on his record.

Much of the talk before Saturday’s race surrounded the possibility that Bristol De Mai would equal the achievement of Kauto Star who won the Betfair four times in the first decade of the millennium with one unseated preventing an unblemished five-race record.

Bristol De Mai, trained for the last eight seasons by Nigel Twiston-Davies and, like Kauto Star, an early acquisition from France after precocious efforts over hurdles, has won three. Initially he beat in turn Gold Cup winners Cue Card and Native River. He was narrowly beaten in the race in 2019 to Lostintranslation before outstaying multiple Grade 1 winner Clan Des Obeaux last November.

As with those two multiple Betfair victors, A Plus Tard started in France. Whereas Kauto Star had already raced nine times (winning three) before his dramatic step up in form to win a four-year-old Graded hurdle at Auteuil when a 36-1 shot in late May, A Plus Tard never raced at that level. His moment came on his fifth and final start (and second win) when collecting a 40k to the winner 4yo handicap early in April 2018 there.

Like Kauto Star and Bristol De Mai before him A Plus Tard switched quickly to chasing, running as early as November of that year and finishing runner-up in a field of 13 at Gowran Park under Blackmore – the first of the 11 races in which they have combined.

Remarkably, three races on and less than four months after that initial association the now five-year-old ran away with the 20-runner Close Brothers Handicap Chase. The only horse of his age in the race, he did so giving weight and a 16-length thrashing to Grade 1 hurdle winner Tower Bridge with 18 other decent performers trailing far behind.

His next run brought defeat in third over three miles at Punchestown at the end of his busiest season with De Bromhead. He was restricted to only three races the next winter, sandwiching defeats on reappearance and when a close third behind Min in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham with a first Grade 1 triumph at Leopardstown over Christmas.

And last season was another cherry-picked campaign of just three races. Again Leopardstown provided the one win, another at Grade 1 level over Christmas but this time without Rachael who partnered instead Minella Indo, who fell before the race warmed up. Darragh O’Keeffe was the lucky man to step into her shoes. Back on A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup as chronicled at the start of the piece, second place to her stable-companion and other regular partner came as their rally up the hill was a little trop tard.

There is an uncanny symmetry about aspects of the early careers of Kauto Star and A Plus Tard. Both started in France and showed precocity. Certainly in the case of Kauto Star, he burned bright for many seasons. De Bromhead’s deliberate planning for his young improving star’s career offers hope that his will also be long-lasting

The Knockeen, County Waterford, trainer has run him sparingly and, with a horse of such talent, there is no need to go searching away beyond the top prizes. I would be surprised if he turned out more than four times, with Punchestown a possible after Cheltenham, especially if he wins the Gold Cup this time. Next will likely be the normal trip to Leopardstown for a Christmas hat-trick attempt.

Minella Indo, who comes from the parallel universe of Irish jumps talent, the point-to-point field, is the De Bromhead version of Paul Nicholls’ Denman. That great chaser was a contemporary of and in terms of merit almost exact counterpart of Kauto Star and he too came from the Irish pointing field.

Kauto Star was by 29 days the senior and in terms of their careers with Nicholls earned almost twice as much as his colleague and rival, collecting £2.2 million from 19 wins in 31 chases. Denman won 14 of 24 for £1.14 million

When Kauto Star won his first Betfair Chase as a six-year-old he was rated 173. Afterwards he even once touched as high as 190 but mostly was rated in his prime in the 180’s.

Although at seven a year older at the time of his first win in the race, A Plus Tard is rated 1lb lower at 172. It is worth reminding ourselves of the ease of his win, and on faster ground than is normal for the Betfair Chase.

Bristol De Mai and Royale Pagaille kept each other company for more than two-thirds of the race on Saturday before Royale Pagaille got the edge in that private battle, with A Plus Tard always tracking them going easily. He was sent to the front three out and, pulling away all the way home, the finishing margin of 22 lengths over Royal Pagaille could have been much greater had Rachael wished.

Remembering just how impressive Royal Pagaille (rated 163) had been in the Peter Marsh Chase over the same course and distance last January, it was salutary to see a similar disrespectful beating being handed out to him. The winner must be raised for the win although Kauto Star’s rating as he won successively his first Betfair, Tingle Creek (two miles) and the first of his five King Georges brought very little reaction from the handicapper.

There was definitely a hint of Kauto Star in the speed with which A Plus Tard disposed of his 2019 Close Brothers rivals at Cheltenham, and again as he cosied up to Royal Pagaille before asserting. This was an exceptional performance but there is still that stable-companion and last season’s Cheltenham defeat to avenge before we declare him the best of the bunch.

Rachael Blackmore also had to make a painful (at least it looked that way beforehand) choice between A Plus Tard and her 2021 Cheltenham Festival winner Bob Olinger when that horse also made his seasonal return at Gowran Park, again with Darragh O’Keeffe as the beneficiary.

Bob, the deeply-impressive unchallenged winner of last season’s Ballymore Novice Hurdle at the Festival, was appearing for the first time since and enjoyed a nice school round to defeat useful yardstick Bacardys (Willie Mullins). This was the champion trainer’s first try at assessing the likely threat to his own best novice chasers later in the season. It might have dented his optimism a bit, but he usually pulls one out of the hat!

One Saturday winner who will offer some hope of a domestic success at the Festival is the Nicky Henderson-trained but Hughie Morrison nurtured and developed grey, Buzz, who followed his Cesarewitch success with another dominant effort in the Coral (to you and me Ascot) Hurdle.

While there is an intermediate distance race for the top-class chasers (the Ryanair) at the Festival, two and a half mile hurdlers are forced to drop back to the minimum for the Champion Hurdle or stretch to three miles and a bit for the Stayers. Otherwise they can wait for Aintree which does cater for them.

I think the level Aintree circuit would be perfect to utilise Buzz’s Flat-race speed and he would be meeting horses partly used up trying either of the possible Cheltenham options. But then, who can resist the lure of Cheltenham? Certainly not, it seems, James Stafford and his Thurloe Thoroughbreds syndicate.

Buzz races for the partners but, with a portion of the proceeds of their victories going to the Royal Marsden, Buzz will always have a feel-good factor going for him.

Never mind additionally that James did casual shifts for me ages ago at The Daily Telegraph and thereafter always greets me on the country’s racecourses as “Uncle Tone”. I can think of worse forms of address – indeed I’ve received a few in my time!

- TS

Nicholls thrilled with ‘proper one’ Bravemansgame

Paul Nicholls already has a tilt at next year’s King George in mind for Bravemansgame after another faultless display in the Double Daily Rewards With Betfair Graduation Chase at Haydock.

Winner of the Challow Hurdle last winter before placing at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring, the six-year-old looks like scaling even greater heights over fences judged on his first efforts.

Having readily accounted for the high-class Fusil Raffles on his chasing debut at Newton Abbot last month, the six-year-old faced a similarly stern test on Merseyside.

Itchy Feet, runner-up in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on his latest appearance, appeared the biggest threat on paper and that is just what transpired.

But Bravemansgame jumped immaculately in front in the hands of Harry Cobden and passed the post with just under three lengths in hand over his 155-rated rival without being fully extended.

Nicholls said: “He’s progressing nicely and that was great against older horses. He did that well, he’s progressing nicely and has hardly had a race, to be honest – he’s obviously very good.

“Hurdles got in his way a little bit, as they do for all those good chasers. He’s got so much scope for chasing and Harry’s smile said it all really – he’s a proper one.

“He’s got everything you want really – jumping ability and gears and stays well.”

Next on the agenda for the winner is the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day – and Nicholls hopes he might return to the Sunbury venue 12 months later for the big one.

“The Kauto Star is the obvious race to go for. Three miles round Kempton will be brilliant for him, so he’ll go there,” Nicholls added.

“If he’s good enough to go to Cheltenham with a winning chance we’ll go, but it’s a long way off and we’ll make that decision nearer the time.

“Someone asked me there ‘what’s the target’ and I said the 2022 King George. God willing, if everything is all right, that’s the sort of race he’ll be running in.

“I think last year when I compared him with Denman I wasn’t too far off the mark when you look at one they’d done at this stage of their career. God willing he might progress to do what he did – it’s nice to think he might.”

Frost at the double with Flemenstide and Jeremy Pass

Bryony Frost was all smiles as she enjoyed a Paul Nicholls-trained double in the opening two races at Ascot.

Flemenstide took the first contest on the card, the Molton Brown Novices’ Hurdle, opening his account over hurdles on his debut encounter with obstacles.

The six-year-old was a bumper winner last season, but was well beaten in his last performance on the level when finishing ninth of 10 at Ayr in April – a performance he put well behind him with a three-and-a-quarter-length success at 100-30.

The Duchess of Cornwall with Bryony Frost
The Duchess of Cornwall with Bryony Frost (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“He’s a big three-mile chaser, who will come into his own when he sees a fence,” Frost said.

“He’s still very babyish in his head, he’d be the sort of kid in school that’d take a lot of time to settle and find his place in the classroom.

“There’s plenty of talent there for him to use and I really liked the way that once we were out over the last he was very honest and kept to his line and picked up very smartly.”

Harry Derham, assistant trainer to Nicholls, said: “We schooled him at the start of the week on grass and thought that he was only just ready to start.

“He’s always had loads and loads of ability, it’s just taken him a while to get to the point where he was ready to get out on the the track.

“He’s still very green, but it’s encouraging to see that he can still win despite that so he’s obviously quite a talented animal.”

The team then quickly returned to the winner’s circle when Jeremy Pass cruised to an easy victory in the Ebony Horse Club Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, after starting as the 4-5 favourite.

Facing only two rivals, the six-year-old produced a confident round of jumping to easily pull away from his opponents and cross the line four lengths to the good.

“I’ve never had such an easy experience around Ascot over fences,” Frost said.

“For such a big horse it’s a long way to communicate from brain to hooves and he is special, he’s very quick and intelligent to move his feet when he needs to.

“There wasn’t a worrying moment, maybe one long one down the back but it was just a massive confidence boost for him.

“He is the perfect stamp of a three-mile chaser, he really is, with hurdles he couldn’t even see they were there.

“He is a big lad and there’s a lot to build on, he can now start to move his career forward.”

Presentation time at Ascot
Presentation time at Ascot (Nigel French/PA)

Derham added: “His jumping won it for him, he just jumped from fence to fence really nicely.

“I’m not sure where he’ll go next, but the key to him is good ground, he doesn’t like slow ground because his breathing stops him.

“Last year he wasn’t quite seeing out his races, perhaps that was because over hurdles he couldn’t quite get a breather in, but chasing seems to bring out the best in him.”

Next Destination misses Betfair Chase

Next Destination will miss this afternoon’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Having saddled the great Kauto Star to claim a record four victories, and also struck gold twice with Silviniaco Conti, trainer Paul Nicholls was hoping Next Destination could provide him with a seventh success in the Grade One feature.

But the Ditcheat handler confirmed on Saturday morning that the nine-year-old would not be making the long journey north to Merseyside, posting on Twitter: “Sadly Next Destination is a non-runner today @haydockraces.

“My head lad Clifford Baker was not happy with him this morning having not eaten up overnight leaving us no option but to leave him at home.

“Hopefully he will be able to run again soon.”

Bravemansgame takes next step on chasing ladder at Haydock

Bravemansgame will be prohibitive odds to add his name to the illustrious roll of honour in the Double Daily Rewards With Betfair Graduation Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has saddled seven of the last 10 winners of the two-mile-five-furlong contest, with future stars Politologue (2016) and Clan Des Obeaux (2017) among those to use this race as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things.

The Ditcheat handler has similarly high hopes for Bravemansgame, who was one of the leading staying novice hurdlers in Britain last season and is expected to scale even greater heights over fences.

The six-year-old made an excellent start to his chasing career at Newton Abbot last month and faces three more experienced rivals in a bid to double his tally.

“He’s ready to go. The ground being good to soft is perfect,” said Nicholls.

“It’s not a novice chase, but it’s an intermediate chase and he gets a bit of a weight allowance.

“The track will suit him very well. It’s a different track to jump round here, but he was very good and solid in his jumping at Newton Abbot and this will be some more experience for him.”

Nicholls is hoping victory this weekend will tee up Bravemansgame for a tilt at the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Paul Nicholls is excited to see how far Bravemansgame can go
Paul Nicholls is excited to see how far Bravemansgame can go (David Davies/PA)

He added: “I could have gone to Newbury next weekend, but I keep looking at the forecast and I can’t see too much rain coming and running here gives me an extra week before Kempton.”

The highest-rated horse in the field is Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet, who was beaten a length into second place by Allmankind in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree four weeks ago.

The Ann Hamilton-trained Pay The Piper also merits respect, having chased home the high-class Fiddlerontheroof in the Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle on his latest appearance.

Alnadam, representing the formidable combination of Dan and Harry Skelton, completes the line-up.

Next Destination primed to make it magnificent seven for Nicholls

Paul Nicholls is confident Next Destination is “ready for his life” as the champion trainer chases a seventh victory in the Betfair Chase on Saturday.

It is 15 years since the Ditcheat handler first claimed the Haydock showpiece with the brilliant Kauto Star, who is immortalised in bronze on Merseyside having also won the race in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Nicholls also struck gold with Siviniaco Conti, who landed the Grade One prize in 2012 and regained his crown in 2014, and in Next Destination he hopes he has found another major contender.

“He’s a high-class horse with good form,” Nicholls said on Thursday morning.

Paul Nicholls (right) with Kauto Star at Haydock
Paul Nicholls (right) with Kauto Star at Haydock (Nigel French/PA)

“He hasn’t got the speed of Kauto Star, who was a one-off, and I’d describe him as more of a Silviniaco Conti-type as he’s an out-and-out stayer who gallops forever.”

A Grade One-winning hurdler for Willie Mullins in the spring of 2018, Next Destination was not seen on a racecourse again until October of last year when finishing second over hurdles at Wetherby.

The nine-year-old went on to win a Grade Two novice chase at Newbury on his fencing debut, and doubled his tally at Warwick, before finding only Galvin too strong in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

Nicholls admits he would prefer conditions were more testing ahead of Next Destination’s seasonal reappearance, but has no worries about his fitness.

He added: “He’s done his last bit of work this morning, he’s in good shape and we’re looking forward to the race on Saturday.

“He ran very well in the National Hunt Chase. They went no gallop at all that day – it was a sprint from the back of the last and we could have done with there being more of an emphasis on stamina.

“One thing is for sure, with Saturday’s race being a Grade One, they always go a good gallop and over nearly three and a quarter miles, stamina is what you need – and he’s got an abundance of stamina.

“He’s won on good ground and soft ground. Being honest, if I was going into it thinking we had a massive chance I would have preferred the ground to be like it was last year really.

“We’ve tried to get him to this race very fresh and very fit and he’s ready for his life – he won’t need the run, I can assure you.”

Nicholls is well aware of the task facing his charge, with triple Betfair Chase hero Bristol De Mai and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard among his rivals.

But having already claimed the scalp of A Plus Tard’s Gold Cup-winning stablemate Minella Indo with the admirable Frodon at Down Royal three weeks ago, he is relishing the challenge.

“It’s a good race, as you’d expect,” said Nicholls.

“You’ve got A Plus Tard, who was second in the Gold Cup last season, but the Gold Cup winner got beat at Down Royal. It’s a long way from Cheltenham and a different track and a different time of year.

“A Plus Tard looks the one to beat on form, as Minella Indo was at Down Royal, but they’re beatable at this time of year.”

Nicholls happy with Cyrname and looking towards spring return

Paul Nicholls has not given up hope of getting Cyrname back on track in the spring after the star chaser underwent a third wind operation on Wednesday.

The nine-year-old was the highest-rated horse in training after getting the better of Altior in a highly-anticipated clash at Ascot two years ago, but there have been a few bumps in the road since.

A dominant display in last year’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby suggested he might back to his best, but he was pulled up on his next two starts and again when defending his Charlie Hall crown last month.

In the immediate aftermath of his latest defeat, Nicholls admitted retirement could have to be considered, but he is ready to roll the dice one more time.

He said: “Cyrname underwent a wind operation yesterday (Wednesday) – he had a tie forward operation.

“He won’t be back until the spring, but he bounced out of the Wetherby race really well.

“He’s only nine years old and there was no suggestion with the way he is that he needed retiring.”

Nicholls confident ‘exciting’ Enrilo can sparkle in Ladbrokes Trophy test

Paul Nicholls believes Enrilo can provide him with a sixth victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy on Saturday week following a pleasing workout at Newbury on Tuesday morning.

The Ditcheat handler won back-to-back renewals of the prestigious handicap as a rider aboard Broadheath and Playschool in the 1980s, while Strong Flow provided him with a first win as a trainer in 2003.

The brilliant Denman won under a welter burden of 11st 12lb in both 2007 and 2009 – and in Enrilo Nicholls believes he has another leading contender.

First past the post in last season’s bet365 Gold Cup before being demoted to third, the seven-year-old delighted his trainer after enjoying a morning spin alongside four stablemates under Harry Cobden.

Nicholls said: “I’m pleased with Enrilo and Harry was chuffed to bits with him – he couldn’t pull him up afterwards. He travelled nicely and it will put him spot-on for next week.

“He was unlucky at Sandown and it’s handy we don’t have a penalty by coming straight here fresh.

“What I like about him is that he stays and he has speed, which you need for the Ladbrokes Trophy.

“I was very lucky to ride the winner twice and it’s really exciting to have Enrilo this year.”

Enrilo was kept up to his work by Monmiral and Clan Des Obeaux, with the latter appearing in rude health ahead of his bid for a third victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Clan Des Obeaux (left) on his way to winning last season's Punchestown Gold Cup
Clan Des Obeaux (left) on his way to winning last season’s Punchestown Gold Cup (Brian Lawless/PA)

Nicholls decided against running his charge in this weekend’s Betfair Chase at Haydock in an attempt to ensure he is cherry-ripe for his hat-trick bid in the Boxing Day showpiece, where he is likely to meet his stablemate and defending champion Frodon.

“Clan is going for the King George and he’ll have another gallop next week,” said Nicholls.

“We thought Haydock would take the edge off him in bottomless ground and he’s so good fresh.

“We’ve got six weeks to get him ready for Kempton and want to go there in the best possible shape.

“Last year we had to be easy on him for two weeks after the Betfair Chase, whereas this year we can give him a month of hard graft and go there fresh.

“Frodon always keeps finding, but when Clan’s at his best he’s hard to beat.”

Monmiral caught the eye in his workout – finishing full of running under Harry Derham.

So impressive at Aintree in the spring, the four-year-old is due to return in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on the same day as the Ladbrokes Trophy, although Newbury’s Gerry Feilden is an alternative.

Nicholls confirmed that if Monmiral does head for the north east, Sean Bowen is pencilled in for the ride, with Cobden due to partner Enrilo at Newbury.

AP McCoy at Newbury
AP McCoy at Newbury (Adam Davy/PA)

Of Monmiral, Nicholls said: “He worked very nicely and he’s a Clan Des Obeaux or Frodon of the future.

“We need rain for him. If it’s not soft at Newcastle, he could come here for the Gerry Feilden or it will have to be the International at Cheltenham.

“His first run will tell us where we are.”

The other two Nicholls inmates to work at Newbury were Kapcorse and Flash Collonges, with the latter ridden by Sir Anthony McCoy. Both are due to return to Berkshire for competitive action next week.