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Mister Fisher prevails in Peterborough prize

Mister Fisher claimed top honours in the Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham.

Originally due to be run at Huntingdon last Sunday before that fixture was abandoned due to flooding, the Grade Two contest was swiftly rescheduled to form part of a bumper eight-race card in the Cotswolds.

Mister Fisher was a high-class novice over fences for Nicky Henderson last season – winning at Cheltenham and Doncaster before finishing fourth behind the top-class Irish trio of Samcro, Melon and Faugheen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival.

The six-year-old was pulled up on his reappearance in last month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, but showed his true colours on his return to Prestbury Park – travelling strongly to lead early in the home straight in the hands of Nico de Boinville.

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The heavily supported 5-2 favourite Kalashnikov – a late addition to the race after it was switched to a left-handed track – looked a huge threat after a flying leap at the final fence, but Mister Fisher (9-2) dug deep up the hill to see him off by a length and three-quarters.

Clondaw Castle was best of the rest in third.

After equalling Henrietta Knight’s record of eight Peterborough Chase victories, Henderson said: “That was good. It was a good race.

“When he ran in the Paddy Power, I think it was combination of his first run and very soft ground. This has turned out be harder work than I thought and softer than I hoped for. I’m not going to start talking about ground again, don’t you worry, that’s off the agenda this weekend!

“Well done everyone for getting this race put on again. This was the right race for him today as he was in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (on Saturday), but I think just being able to be up there and having a bit of daylight – he enjoyed it.

“They went a good gallop all the way. He jumped great. He is learning and he is a young horse on the up.”

Coral cut Mister Fisher to 14-1 from 25-1 for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March.

Henderson added: “Nico says the Ryanair is the race for him and I’ll go with that. He doesn’t want to go three miles. He says that is enough, so it looks like the Ryanair road.

“I’m not going to wrap him up and put him away as he will run again, but he will want to be nice and fresh as he wants a spring campaign rather than a winter campaign because of the ground.”

George launches dual assault on Peterborough prize

Clondaw Castle and Bun Doran give Tom George a strong hand in the rearranged Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham.

High-class two-mile chaser Bun Doran will step up to two and a half miles for the first time since the spring of 2018 in a Grade Two contest that was saved from last Sunday’s abandoned meeting at Huntingdon.

Clondaw Castle was not due to contest the race last weekend, but is a definite contender at Prestbury Park judged on his Newbury victory of a fortnight ago.

George said: “Clondaw Castle was second in the Old Roan at Aintree on his first run of the season and won well at Newbury. He’s in good form I think he’s progressing well.

“He was also in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup on Saturday, but I was worried the ground might be too soft by then.

“We’re going into unknown territory with Bun Doran – stepping him up in trip. He’s too high in the weights for a lot of two-mile handicaps, so we’ll see how he gets on over two and a half. I’m open-minded about it really.”

Another leading fancy who was not due to run at Huntingdon is Kalashnikov.

Kalashnikov returns to chasing for Amy Murphy
Kalashnikov returns to chasing for Amy Murphy (Nigel French/PA)

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Amy Murphy’s stable star prefers a left-handed track – and having been just touched off in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle a few years ago, he clearly acts at Cheltenham.

“Kalashnikov is in good shape,” said Murphy.

“I was really pleased with his comeback effort at Haydock (over hurdles), where he got tired late on and probably didn’t stay three miles on that ground.

“The Peterborough Chase wasn’t Plan A, but now it is being run on a left-handed track, it made sense to go as he is much better going this way round.”

On the other hand, Paul Nicholls is not as enamoured the race was moved to Cheltenham for Dolos.

He told Betfair: “I was very keen on his chances in this race on Sunday at Huntingdon as he is well suited by racing on a flat track.

“Two and a half miles is ideal for Dolos, who is so consistent and again ran a fine race under top weight at Cheltenham in October when fourth to Rouge Vif.

“But I’d have been more confident if the race hadn’t been transferred from Huntingdon to Cheltenham.”

Nicky Henderson is once again the man to beat in the race, with both Top Notch and Mister Fisher declared.

Top Notch won his first Peterborough Chase at Taunton
Top Notch won his first Peterborough Chase at Taunton (Julian Herbert/PA)

Henderson has won the race seven times and is looking to join Henrietta Knight on eight wins, with Top Notch himself bidding for a Peterborough hat-trick on his reappearance.

Henderson told Unibet: “I am sure that the wind operation will help Top Notch. It has helped him, but it has held me up.

“It is possible that he might need the run, but he is able to do another piece of work (with the extra week), which might just help him.

“The rain came so suddenly before Mister Fisher’s reappearance at Cheltenham, really I should have taken him out, because we knew it was pointless running him, but the rain only came an hour before the race and we were committed.

“Nico (de Boinville) was well aware of it and he pulled him up in bags of time. It was horrible that day, we had a whole lot of horses that just couldn’t cope with it at all and he was one of them. He seems in really good form at home.”

Black Corton represents Paul Nicholls
Black Corton represents Paul Nicholls in the long-distance handicap chase (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Venetia Williams-trained Fanion D’Estruval and Glen Forsa from Mick Channon’s yard complete the field.

In the Grade Three Unibet Handicap Chase over three and a quarter miles, Nicholls runs top-weight Black Corton, who departed just after halfway in the race won by Imperial Aura at Ascot last time out.

“He was rather unlucky at Ascot last time when he stumbled on landing and parted company with Bryony Frost,” said Nicholls.

“Life isn’t easy for him off a mark of 160, but he seems very well and I’m putting on cheek pieces to try to sharpen him up a bit.

“He’s won twice at Cheltenham in the past and will run his usual genuine race, though he wouldn’t want too much rain overnight.”

Court Maid won a valuable prize at Fairyhouse just 12 days ago for the father and son combination of Tom and David Mullins – and turns out relatively quickly under a penalty.

Kalashnikov firmly in the mix for rescheduled Peterborough Chase

Amy Murphy’s stable star Kalashnikov is set to return to Cheltenham for the rescheduled Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase.

The seven-year-old was not due to contest the Grade Two contest in its original guise at Huntingdon, due to his preference for left-handed tracks.

However, with Huntingdon’s fixture abandoned due to flooding, the race was rescheduled and switched to Friday’s card at Cheltenham, where Kalashnikov was narrowly beaten in the 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Murphy said: “The Peterborough Chase wasn’t Plan A as usually it’s run right-handed, but now it’s been switched to a left-handed track, he’s very much an intended runner.”

Kalashnikov suffered a broken blood vessel on his final start of last season when fifth behind Altior in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

But Murphy was encouraged by his start to the new campaign, when seventh over hurdles at Haydock last month.

She added: “We were very happy with the run at Haydock. He probably just didn’t quite see out the three miles, but he’ll have come on plenty for that and there was no bleed, which was the main thing.”

Seven of the nine horse declared for the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon are again in contention – Bun Doran, Top Notch, Mister Fisher, Al Dancer, Dolos, Fanion D’Estruval and Glen Forsa – but Nuts Well and Forest Bihan are not.

Clondaw Castle, Master Tommytucker and Militarian are also among the 11-strong field.

Peterborough Chase rescheduled for Cheltenham but Altior will not feature

Cheltenham will play host to the rescheduled Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase on Friday – but Altior will not be getting an entry.

Nicky Henderson had mooted the possibility at the weekend of his brilliant chaser running in the Grade Two should it be staged at Taunton following the abandonment of Huntingdon, as it was three years ago when won by Top Notch.

However, the fact the race will now be run at Cheltenham over two and a half miles means Altior – who missed the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday due to ground concerns – will wait for the Desert Orchid Chase on the second day of Kempton’s Christmas meeting instead.

“Altior won’t be entered, he wouldn’t want two and a half miles around Cheltenham. He’ll go to Kempton at Christmas,” said Henderson.

“The other day I was thinking it was only two-three at Taunton a few years ago, but I was wrong. That would have made my ears prick on good ground, but he wouldn’t want that trip at Cheltenham.

Nicky Henderson with Altior at his Seven Barrows yard
Nicky Henderson with Altior at his Seven Barrows yard (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“Top Notch will definitely run and Mister Fisher will have the option of the Peterborough and the Caspian Caviar on Saturday, I’ll have to speak to his owners.

“Very well done to everybody involved at the British Horseracing Authority and Jockey Club for getting the race reorganised, it is much appreciated. Especially when there is already a valuable race over the same trip at the same meeting.”

He added: “Ground will be very important to Mister Fisher, if it was good ground forecast for Friday and there was rain due Saturday, it would make me want to run on Friday even more.”

Fresh entries for the race will close at midday on Tuesday, with declarations at the 48-hour stage the following morning as normal.

The Fitzdares-sponsored Henrietta Knight Mares’ National Hunt Flat Race, which carries Listed status, has also been saved from Sunday’s Huntingdon meeting and will be run at the Cambridgeshire track on December 22.

Rouge Vif needs sound surface at Sandown

Harry Whittington is keeping an eye on the Sandown weather as he prepares Rouge Vif to take on Altior in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior has been the dominant force in the two-mile division for the last few seasons, save last term when an attempt to step up in trip left its mark on the 10-year-old as he was limited to just two starts.

In contrast, Rouge Vif was twice a winner in the 2019/20 campaign and finished third in the Arkle, boosting his mark to 156 – a perch from which he triumphed with ease on his return at Cheltenham in October.

A subsequent run in last month’s Shloer Chase back at Prestbury Park was scuppered by testing ground, and Whittington believes a sound surface at the Esher venue is crucial to Rouge Vif’s chances.

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He said: “Rouge Vif is in great form and firmly on course for the Tingle Creek Chase on Saturday.

“We would obviously rather have our conditions, given we are taking on the likes of Altior, so better ground will be important to him. I think if the ground remains as it is, we would be hopeful of a good run.

“If Sandown got plenty of rain then that would put his participation in doubt, but at the moment he is a definite runner if the weather holds – and it is something we are really looking forward to.

“These are the races you dream about running in. To have a horse capable of running in a big Grade One like the Tingle Creek against a horse of Altior’s calibre is hugely exciting. Hopefully, we don’t get too much rain, and it should be a very exciting race.”

Simply The Betts has the option of running at Huntingdon for Whittington
Simply The Betts has the option of running at Huntingdon for Whittington (Tim Goode/PA)

On what could be a big weekend for Whittington and owners Kate and Andrew Brooks, Simply The Betts is also entered in Sunday’s Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

The seven-year-old, who was a Festival winner back in March, finished sixth on his return in the Paddy Power Gold Cup back at Cheltenham last month – and he could yet return to that venue in preference to Sunday’s Grade Two contest.

Whittington added: “He’s in great form and has come out of his last race fine. He’s also in the Caspian Caviar at Cheltenham on December 12, and no decision about where he runs will be made until later in the week. Wherever he runs, I think he’ll run very well.”

Hamilton hoping Nuts Well can shine in Peterborough prize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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