Tag Archive for: Politologue

Greaneteen not certain to make Champion Chase line-up

Greaneteen is facing a race against time to be fit for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham later this month.

The eight-year-old finished last of five runners behind Chacun Pour Soi in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown on his most recent start, having won the Tingle Creek and chased home Shishkin at Kempton on his two previous outings.

Greaneteen finished fourth in the Champion Chase last term, beaten just two lengths by Put The Kettle On, but trainer Paul Nicholls admits his charge may not be ready for the Festival after requiring treatment for an ulcer on his eye.

He said on Thursday: “He’s not here at the moment, he’s injured his eye. Whether he got hit with a lump of mud or something at Down Royal or got cast in his box, he’s got an ulcer on his eye which he is being treated for.

“It’s going the right way, but I think we’re unlikely to be able to go Cheltenham with him.

“Unless I get him back in the next few days, he’ll have to wait until Sandown on the last day of the season. He would be 50-50 to be able to run in the Champion Chase.”

Paul Nicholls with Politologue
Paul Nicholls with Politologue (David Davies/PA)

While Greaneteen is a doubt, Politologue is set to fly the flag for the Ditcheat team in the two-mile Grade One.

The popular grey won the race in 2020 but was ruled out of a defence just moments before the race last term when connections discovered blood in his nose.

Now an 11-year-old, Politologue has won four Grade Ones for owner John Hales and Nicholls believes the Champion Chase could be his swansong, depending on how he runs.

Politologue returns in victory at Cheltenham two years ago
Politologue returns in victory at Cheltenham two years ago (Simon Cooper/PA)

He said: “He won the race two years ago and he’s a dual Tingle Creek winner. He’s 11 years old now, so he’s got it all to do – there’s a lot younger legs in the race. It’s going to be hard for him.

“I suspect this will be his last run or second-last run – we may go on to Sandown and run him.

“He’s been an amazing horse. I think this will be the sixth time he’s run at the Festival, so he’s been fantastic and I wouldn’t mind a few more like him.

“He went to Wincanton this morning and worked really nicely. He’s been a pleasure to train all his life, but he’s in the twilight of his career now.”

Nicholls bringing King George squad to the boil

Paul Nicholls is stepping up preparations for his trio of Ladbrokes King George VI Chase horses ahead of the Kempton showpiece on Boxing Day.

Frodon, a shock 20-1 winner last year, will bid to defend his crown and give the champion trainer a 13th victory in the race, while Clan Des Obeaux, who won back-to-back renewals in 2018 and 2019 before finishing third last year, will be out to make it three victories in the three-mile Grade One event.

The duo will be joined by Saint Calvados, who was fourth 12 months ago when in the care of Harry Whittington.

Nicholls said: “All three of them are on target. They have had a nice prep.

“Clan is in good shape – he is very well. So is Frodon. We plan to give all three of them an away day somewhere in the middle of this month and then it will soon come round. We are very happy with them and can’t wait for that race.”

Nicholls is also eyeing Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase for former Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Politologue, after he ruled him out of Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, a race he won last year.

Runner-up to Nube Negra in a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham on his seasonal bow, Nicholls explained that the ground was against a defence of his title this weekend.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “He has come out of Cheltenham well the other day and had the ground been testing this week, then we might have looked at it, but it is not suitable for him.

“Where do you go with him? There are obvious targets. You could look at the Desert Orchid at Kempton on December 27, but the ground would want to be very testing or soft, and I’m sort of favouring Ascot at the end of January. That would suit him quite nicely.”

Nicholls also revealed that exciting Grade One-winning hurdler Monmiral, who trailed in fifth of six in last Saturday’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, sustained an injury and will be sidelined until the New Year.

Nicholls said: “He is still at the vets. He did sustain a nasty cut, which is a very valid excuse. On Monday, we were not very happy with him, so we sent him to the veterinary hospital that we always use and he has been there ever since. I have had a text this morning, and he is 100 per cent and the cut is OK.

“We didn’t want him to go the wrong way and we will pick him up tomorrow or Monday and I suspect he will be ready to run in the middle of January.

“He obviously had a valid excuse. I think someone jumped into him at the first or the second and obviously he didn’t perform well after that.

“He will have a couple of quiet weeks and then we’ll get him back in January. I think he is going to want two and a half miles – I have always thought that.

“We are buying a bit of time until he goes chasing in the autumn and that’s when I think we will see him at his best.

“It is always a tough year for four-year-olds. We did think we’d go well on Saturday, and obviously I was disappointed at the time, but he has a very reasonable excuse and we will put a line through that run.

“We will start with him in January and see where we end up. It might well be that the target for him will be the two-and-a-half-mile race at the Aintree festival (Aintree Hurdle) – I see that being a nice race for him – and then look forward to him chasing in October.”

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

 

Cobden eagerly awaiting Shloer showdown with Politologue

Harry Cobden is “delighted” with Politologue ahead of his belated clash with Put The Kettle On and Nube Negra in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.

The Paul Nicholls-trained grey should have taken on the pair in defence of his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown in March, but was dramatically withdrawn just before the race having been found to have burst a blood vessel.

Put The Kettle On went on to land the two-mile showpiece from Nube Negra, and the stage is set for an intriguing rematch. Cobden fears the latter more as he felt he was unlucky in running.

“Put The Kettle on needs no introduction as she is last season’s Champion Chase winner, but I think Nube Negra is probably the main danger going into the race,” he said.

“He was a bit unlucky at the Festival last season – he didn’t have the gaps turning in and he will really appreciate the decent ground.

“Politologue has been a champion really and has turned up everywhere for the last five or six years.”

Cobden reports the 10-year-old to be ready to return to the fray on his first start since disappointing at Aintree in April.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be back on board him. I schooled him on Tuesday and he is in fantastic form and he jumped really well,” he said.

“It seems to me that he still has the fire in his belly. I’m very excited and looking forward to the weekend.

“He has been a fantastic horse for the yard and he is just shy of winning a million pounds in prize money, having won over £990,000.

“He has had a great preparation and hopefully we haven’t left any stones unturned and he is ready to roll.”

Cobden admits he owes a lot to Politologue for helping establish his career during his early years in the saddle.

“I suppose he was my second big Saturday Grade One winner after Irving when he won the Tingle Creek as I was still a teenager at the time. He really helped put me on the map and has played a big part in my career,” he added.

“The two miles around Cheltenham is one we all look forward to and especially on a horse like him who, touch wood, is such a safe jumper. He is a horse that is close to my heart given what he has done in the past as well.”

Nuts Well out to make a splash in Marsh Chase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicholls is also expecting a big run from Master Tommytucker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politologue among Marsh octet

Politologue is set to face seven rivals in the Marsh Chase at Aintree on Friday.

Paul Nicholls’ grey was forced to miss the defence of his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at last month’s Cheltenham Festival after he was found to have a trickle of blood in his nostril.

The incident proved to be nothing serious, however, and the 10-year-old will aim for a second win in Friday’s feature, which is registered as the Melling Chase, having claimed victory in 2018 and finished second to Min when the race was last run two years ago.

Nicholls also runs the classy Master Tommytucker and Duc des Genievres, a previous winner of the Arkle.

Jerry Scott’s Dashel Drasher, a late absentee from the Ryanair Chase on account of the ground, will aim to add to his Grade One tally having won the Ascot Chase last time out.

Nuts Well finally returns to action for Ann and Ian Hamilton, having missed several engagements since his victory over the same course and distance in the Old Roan Chase in October.

Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir d’Oudairies, who was a non-runner at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, and Henry de Bromhead’s Notebook represent the all-conquering Irish team.

Itchy Feet for Olly Murphy completes the field.

The Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle has 10 runners including County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter.

Nicky Henderson’s highly-regarded Dusart, not sighted since beating the high-class Soaring Glory on his hurdles debut in November, is bound to be popular with punters.

Kim Bailey’s Ajero, who is on a five-timer, and Nicholls’ Houx Gris, who ran so well for a long way in the Boodles at Cheltenham, are also engaged.

In the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Henderson’s Chantry House gets the chance to build on his victory in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Colin Tizzard fields strong opposition in the shape of The Big Breakaway and Fiddlerontheroof, who both ran well behind the exciting Monkfish at the Festival.

Shan Blue steps back up to three miles after being ridden aggressively in the Marsh at Cheltenham, with Silver Hallmark, Sporting John, Espoir De Romay and Empire Steel also running.

The Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle sees Nicholls’ Bravemansgame step up to three miles following his eclipse by Bob Olinger in the Ballymore at Cheltenham.

He is among a field of 15 which includes Emmet Mullins’ Cape Gentleman, Tizzard’s Oscar Elite and Henderson’s Gallyhill.

A field of 28 will line up in the Randox Topham Handicap Chase over the National fences, with Ibleo heading the weights for Venetia Williams.

Two For Gold, Caribean Boy and Willie Mullins’ Livelovelaugh, ridden by Patrick Mullins, are among a competitive field.

Politologue has Aintree in sights

Politologue heads 11 entries in the Marsh Chase at Aintree.

Paul Nicholls’ grey was denied the chance to defend his Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham last month when a trace of blood was found in his nostril minutes before going to post.

The problem was nothing serious, and on Friday he is set to make his third appearance in a race registered as the Melling Chase – which he won in 2018.

Nicholls could also run Master Tommytucker, Duc Des Genievres and Real Steel.

Nuts Well, not sighted since winning the Old Roan over the same course and distance in October, could take on the big guns for the small stable of Ann Hamilton.

Dashel Drasher, Lalor, Itchy Feet and Midnight Shadow complete the entries from Britain – while there are two Irish possibles, Fakir d’Oudairies, declared to run at Fairyhouse on Monday, and Henry de Bromhead’s Notebook.

In the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle, Dan Skelton’s My Drogo has the chance at the highest level to confirm the promising impression he has made this season.

Stablemate Third Time Lucki, Nicky Henderson’s Dusart and Cheltenham absentee Dreal Deal are among the intriguing entries – along with Alex Hales’ For Pleasure, a highly creditable third in the Supreme last month.

There are several four-year-olds entered – among them Alan King’s Tritonic, who disappointed when strongly fancied for the Triumph Hurdle.

In the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Henderson’s Festival winner Chantry House is due to step up in trip to three miles for the first time.

Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof and The Big Breakaway, who both ran well behind Monkfish at Cheltenham, the Skelton pair of Shan Blue and Protektorat and Kim Bailey’s Happygolucky are among 18 entries.

Also in the mix is Emmet Mullins’ The Shunter, who is likely to have a myriad of options once more through the week.

The Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle has attracted 23 entries, which include Mullins’ Cape Gentleman.

Bravemansgame, Adrimel, Dreal Deal and Gallyhill are all included.

The field for the Randox Topham Chase over the Grand National fences has been reduced to 32, with the Venetia Williams-trained Ibleo heading the weights.

Headgear will be on at Aintree for Clan Des Obeaux

Clan Des Obeaux is set to be fitted with headgear for the first time in the Betway Bowl at Aintree.

The dual King George VI Chase hero has finished third and second in the last two runnings of next week’s Grade One contest – and will return to Merseyside in a bid to make it third time lucky on Thursday week.

With connections deciding against a third tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Clan Des Obeaux will be making his first appearance since failing to reel in stablemate Secret Investor in last month’s Denman Chase at Newbury.

Trainer Paul Nicholls said: “Clan Des Obeaux will run in the Betway Bowl and he is either going to run in some blinkers or cheekpieces – we will decide nearer the time.

“He ran very well the last day behind Secret Investor and he deserves to win a nice race this season. He ran on at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, but the ground would have been against him that day, then he didn’t quite perform in the King George.

“I just think some cheekpieces or blinkers might just sharpen him up a bit, because the other day I thought he should have won at Newbury, but Secret Investor just out-battled him a little bit.

“To be fair, he has had a lot of hard races but he has stayed sound through it all. He probably looks after himself a little bit, so a bit of headgear might just focus him a bit more.”

Clan Des Obeaux will be part of a strong Nicholls squad bound for Aintree, with Politologue a potential runner in the Marsh Melling Chase on Friday week.

The grey did not defend his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham after he was found to have blood in one of his nostrils when being saddled.

Paul Nicholls with Politologue
Paul Nicholls with Politologue (David Davies/PA)

“Politologue will either go here or go to Sandown for the Celebration Chase,” Nicholls added.

“It was frustrating what happened before the Queen Mother, and it just about summed my Cheltenham week up. The way the race unfolded you would have to have said he would have been right in the mix.

“He just had a trickle of blood in his nose – it wasn’t from his lungs. (But) if we had run him and something happened to him, we would never forgive ourselves, so we did the right thing for the horse.

“You can’t take chances with horses like that. He is fresh and well – and he has won the Melling Chase before.”

Master Tommytucker, last seen finishing second in the Ascot Chase, is also in the mix for the same race.

Hitman heads for Aintree with strong claims
Hitman heads for Aintree with strong claims (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nicholls said: “Master Tommytucker was always going to go for this race after his run at Ascot.

“Better ground will suit him, as would a flatter track. I don’t think he will be far away in the King George next season.”

The Ditcheat handler confirmed Hitman an intended runner in Thursday’s Manifesto Novices’ Chase, rating him one of his “best chances” of the meeting, while Yala Enki and Give Me A Copper will bid for glory in the Randox Grand National itself.

He said: “We took Yala Enki down to David Pipe’s the other day to jump the National fences there, and he jumped great. He’s been to Lambourn to go over the National fences there as well, so he has had two schools over the fences.

“Give Me A Copper schooled with him at David’s the other day, and he did well. I’ve always thought this race would suit him.”

Mullins looking to Chacun to end his Champion Chase wait

Chacun Pour Soi faces a critical Cheltenham mission as he bids to complete master trainer Willie Mullins’ full set of Festival titles in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The short-priced favourite will be joined by stablemate Cilaos Emery against eight other heavyweight contenders on Wednesday.

But there is no doubt the hopes of Closutton will be centred chiefly on Chacun Pour Soi to deliver the one Cheltenham championship event that has as yet eluded the Festival’s all-time most successful trainer.

Among his record-breaking tally of victories, at the start of business this week Mullins could count two Gold Cups – after Al Boum Photo conquered that Everest for him in each of the last two years – four Champion Hurdles, two Stayers’ crowns and three Ryanair Chase successes.

He has suffered only disappointment, though, in the top two-mile chasing division – including with his brilliant but fragile favourite Douvan in 2017 and 12 months ago when Chacun Pour Soi had to miss the race because of a last-minute stone bruise.

Since then, the lightly-raced nine-year-old has been imperious in three dominant victories on home soil against the best of his compatriots.

At the prospect of winning the great race for the first time, Mullins said: “It would be huge for the stable and everyone here to get that win and have all the championship races at the Cheltenham Festival.

“I hope he will give us a chance to try to put that away. He’s in great form since Leopardstown (in last month’s Dublin Chase) and does everything right at home, so fingers crossed.”

Mullins is not inclined to dwell on last year’s mishap – and neither was he at the time, because there were a string of other major races he needed to concentrate on.

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend have their sights on the Champion Chase
Willie Mullins and Paul Townend have their sights on the Champion Chase (David Davies/PA)

He added: “It hurts – but at Cheltenham, every 35 minutes it’s a new page, and you don’t really get to think about it or for it to sink in.

“Thankfully we had a good Cheltenham last year – so it’s history.

“It’s different if you had one horse – you would probably wallow in it – but as I said to the lads ‘just put it behind us and get on to the next race’.”

Chacun Pour Soi, who will be ridden by Paul Townend for owner Rich Ricci, developed a reputation for susceptibility to injury as well as brilliance on the track as he managed just four appearances in his first two campaigns for Mullins.

There has been no sign of any problems this season, however, and Mullins understandably has high hopes he can rise to his biggest challenge yet on his first attempt at Cheltenham.

He said: “He had his troubles early on in his career – but now everything has settled down, he just goes up the gallop every morning and does his work.

“He is one of the ones if you had to pick the top five or six travelling over, you’d say he is one that you are really hoping can bring his ‘A’ game there.”

Politologue had his deserved moment in the spotlight 12 months ago
Politologue had his deserved moment in the spotlight 12 months ago (Simon Cooper/PA)

He faces a clutch of top-class contenders – even in the absence of dual winner Altior, pulled out of the race for the second year running because of a late setback.

The challengers are headed by Paul Nicholls’ title-holder Politologue and Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra.

Festival stalwart Politologue had already finished fourth and second to Altior in the previous two Queen Mothers when he won emphatically last year.

The grey – who will be running at the meeting for the sixth time – started this season with a Tingle Creek triumph at Sandown, before finishing second to the vastly-improved and reopposing First Flow at Ascot in January.

“I think it was a good run in the Clarence House,” Nicholls said of Politologue’s most recent effort.

“The ground was probably testing enough for him that day, and he might be slightly better on spring ground – which is why Cheltenham suits him very well.

“He always gives his all. There was no excuse at Ascot – he got beaten by a better horse on the day. (But) he still ran to a very high level, which he’ll do in this race.

“He’s solid and jumps well and will give you a good run for your money.

“Being realistic, we’ve got a nice chance, but it will be hard.”

First Flow was a revelation at Ascot
First Flow was a revelation at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Kim Bailey’s First Flow is unbeaten in his last six races, during which he has risen 25lb – often showing a liking for very soft ground.

His Cotswolds trainer reports jockey David Bass has great faith in his ability to compete at this highest level.

“David totally believes in the horse, and we both know that the horse stays well,” said Bailey.

“We’ve been arguing all season whether we ought to be running over two and a half miles rather than two, but David has been adamant two miles is the right trip – and he’s proved himself right so far.

“He probably just goes through soft ground better than everybody else. I think his last performance probably gave the horse confidence and the jockey confidence that he can handle better ground better than we thought.”

Nube Negra shocked Altior at Christmas
Nube Negra shocked Altior at Christmas (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nube Negra has run just once this season – but that is by design, and his surprise Kempton victory over Altior at Christmas was a revelation.

Skelton said: “We come here fresh and well. He had a little gallop round Warwick three weeks ago, and I was happy with how that went.

“Nice ground will suit him, and we’re just really looking forward to it.”

Henry de Bromhead supplies two more Irish hopefuls, last year’s Arkle favourite and winner respectively, Notebook and Put The Kettle On.

He said of the former: “The first year he ran (at Cheltenham), he ran in the Ballymore, and he’s never looked as good over a trip as he has since we dropped him back to two miles.

“Last year, yes, he was disappointing – having set off favourite.

“He’s coming here off the back of one less run than last year, so hopefully that will stand to him. He’s a bit fresher, and I would say the better the ground, the better his chance.”

Put The Kettle On has a definite liking for Cheltenham
Put The Kettle On has a definite liking for Cheltenham (Andrew Matthews/PA)

While Notebook fluffed his Festival lines, finishing sixth and last, stablemate Put The Kettle On emphatically did not – at 16-1.

The mare won again at Cheltenham in November, before having to settle for third behind Chacun Pour Soi – and Notebook – at Leopardstown a month later.

De Bromhead said: “She was brilliant in the Shloer obviously, and then she ran very well at Leopardstown.

“We were planning to go to Kempton – but obviously with Covid we weren’t allowed to travel, so we were never convinced Leopardstown was going to be ideal for her. But she still ran really well.

“As we all know, she just loves Cheltenham, so hopefully that’ll improve her a couple of pounds as well.”

The remainder of the 10-strong field features Harry Whittington’s Rouge Vif, third in last year’s Arkle, the admirable Sceau Royal for Alan King and Nicholls’ second-string Greaneteen.

Nicholls expecting tough task against ‘nearly unbeatable’ Chacun

Paul Nicholls is under no illusions about the task facing defending champion Politologue in next month’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – hailing red-hot favourite Chacun Pour Soi as “nearly unbeatable”.

Politologue provided the Ditcheat handler with a joint-record sixth victory in the two-mile showpiece at the Cheltenham Festival last March, and made a successful start to the current campaign by bagging his second Tingle Creek at Sandown.

However, the grey was beaten by First Flow on his latest outing in Ascot’s Clarence House Chase – and having witnessed the Willie Mullins-trained Chacun Pour Soi trounce his rivals at last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival, Nicholls admits his charge has plenty on his plate.

Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme, Nicholls said: “Chacun Pour Soi looks nearly unbeatable on his run at Leopardstown the other day.

“He has got to act at Cheltenham – it’s a slightly different track and that is the only question mark I can see.

“Politologue always gives his all and is the most genuine and tough horse. I think this year will be his sixth Cheltenham Festival.

“But if Chacun Pour Soi does turn up in really top form, he’s going to be hard for us all to beat.

“Politologue does like Cheltenham, which is a big plus, but I think he’s got plenty to do.”

Bravemansgame is one of Paul Nicholls' leading hopes for the Cheltenham Festival
Bravemansgame is one of Paul Nicholls’ leading hopes for the Cheltenham Festival (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

During an extensive interview, Nicholls confirmed his Challow Hurdle winner Bravemansgame firmly on course for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at next month’s Festival, while the improving Barbados Buck’s is “in the mix” for the Albert Bartlett.

Of Bravemansgame, he said: “He’s in good form and nice and fresh. He had four runs up to and including the Challow Hurdle at Christmas and we just decided to keep him fresh after that.

“He worked well on Saturday and is very fit. We’ll probably have an away-day somewhere with him and I couldn’t be happier with him.

“Physically, he just keeps on improving.”

Nicholls’ Cheltenham team also includes Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Frodon, of whom he added: “He’s an amazing horse. He’s gone and won a King George VI Chase now on top of a Cotswold Chase and a Ryanair.

“He’s definitely in the mix. Nobody will ever believe Frodon will win a Gold Cup, but he keeps on surprising people.”

The multiple champion trainer confirmed the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell followed by a trip to Aintree as “the plan at the moment” for McFabulous, although testing conditions at Fontwell may prompt connections to consider the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

More immediately, Nicholls is looking forward to saddling both Cyrname and Master Tommytucker in next Saturday’s Betfair Ascot Chase.

“Master Tommytucker would be fine getting a lead if Cyrname goes a real gallop. They’re both free-going kind of horses, but Master Tommytucker doesn’t need to lead,” said Nicholls.

“Cyrname doesn’t need to lead now either. They’ll probably help each other.”

Nicholls focusing on Champion Chase defence with Politologue

Paul Nicholls has taken Politologue’s defeat at Ascot on the chin and will now prepare the grey for the defence of his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown.

The Ditcheat handler was happy with the run of Politologue and just felt he was “beaten by a better horse on the day” when going down by seven lengths to First Flow in the Clarence House Chase.

John Hales’ 10-year-old will head straight to the Cheltenham Festival without another run.

“No excuses, he got beat by a better horse on the day. He ran a good, solid race, he galloped all the way to the line. I’m very happy with him,” said Nicholls.

“He’s fine. All is well with him.

“He won’t run again before the Champion Chase.”

Nicholls was delighted with the way Yala Enki overcame a bad mistake at the fourth-last fence to win the Portman Cup for the second year running at Taunton.

The 11-year-old had led to that point but lost the lead to If The Cap Fits, before he rallied in tremendous fashion for Bryony Frost to regain the advantage between the last two fences and score by five lengths.

Yala Enki won for the second successive year at Taunton despite making a bad mistake at a crucial stage of the race
Yala Enki won for the second successive year at Taunton despite making a bad mistake at a crucial stage of the race (David Davies/PA)

“He did well to recover from his mistake. He galloped on strongly,” said Nicholls.

“He’s fresh and well today. I’ve made no plans for him.

“Obviously it was nice race to win with him. He’s a proper horse.”

Hales has full confidence in Politologue

Owner John Hales is confident Politologue will prove hard to beat in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained grey appeared to be on the decline after he was found to have broken blood vessels when suffering his sixth successive defeat in the 2019 Tingle Creek at Sandown.

However, he roared back to his best when following in the hoofprints One Man and Azertyuiop to provide his owner with a third victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and then picked up where he left off by bagging a second Tingle Creek last month – three years after his first.

Hales hopes his latest crack two-miler will finally be given the credit he deserves if he can add another Grade One success to his CV at Ascot on Saturday – a race in which Azertyuiop came up narrowly short when conceding lumps of weight to Isio in an epic renewal 17 years ago.

Hales said: “He’s very well, and I think he deserves to be favourite after what he did in the Tingle Creek and the Queen Mother before that. I’m not sure what the combined distance of those two wins were, but it must be a fair way.

“He’s always been a magnificent jumper. The season before last, his form was a little bit indifferent, and he didn’t run very well in the Tingle Creek – after which we found out he was bleeding. It’s possible that he’d bled before, and we didn’t pick it up.

“What people seem to have missed is Paul changed his training routine after that, and at the same time he has improved out of all recognition – he’s a different horse.

“We have no concern at all about the ground. He’s a genuine two-and-a-half-mile horse, which you need to be around Cheltenham, and you’ll need to be on Saturday.”

Harry Skelton partnered Politologue at Cheltenham and at Sandown – but with the rider’s brother Dan training Nube Negra for this season’s Champion Chase, Skelton has given up the mount, meaning Harry Cobden will be reunited with Politologue this weekend.

“Harry Skelton has done a great job for me, and I’m very sorry to see him go,” Hales added.

“It was Harry’s decision. His brother has this horse to run against us in the Queen Mother – and he’s got to ride him, hasn’t he?

“I’m very happy to have Harry Cobden riding our horse, so I’m not complaining.”

Politologue and Harry Cobden in the 2017 Tingle Creek
Politologue and Harry Cobden in the 2017 Tingle Creek (Julian Herbert/PA)

Cobden is looking forward to renewing the partnership with Politologue, having won the Tingle Creek on him in 2017.

He said: “Politologue is the favourite going into it, and I’m just delighted to be back on him.

“Everything he has done since the Tingle Creek last season has been great. The training performance for the Champion Chase was unbelievable. Paul came in one morning and said ‘I’m going to train his horse differently’ – he rewrote all his rules.

“I schooled him Monday, and he jumped great. I saw him work on Thursday morning – and although I didn’t ride him, he seemed in fantastic form, he was very bullish and looked a million dollars.

“I wouldn’t get off Politologue to ride any of the others in the race, because he is the form horse going into it.”

Defi Du Seuil (right) saw off Un De Sceaux in last year's Clarence House Chase
Defi Du Seuil (right) saw off Un De Sceaux in last year’s Clarence House Chase (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Politologue’s rivals include his stablemate Duc Des Genievres and Philip Hobbs’ stable star Defi Du Seuil, who was a red-hot favourite for the Champion Chase after denying the now-retired Un De Sceaux a fourth Clarence House success 12 months ago.

The JP McManus-owned gelding disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival and was pulled up on his seasonal reappearance at Prestbury Park in November, but jockey Richard Johnson hopes he will show his true colours this weekend.

He said: “I was at Phillip’s and schooled him on Wednesday morning, and he was very good. Let’s hope the winners we’ve had recently are a good omen and that Defi can put his last run behind him.

“He’s in good form at home and he’s been given all the time in the world. He feels in rude health, and we go full of hope.

“He’ll have to pull out his A-game, because he’s up against some good horses. He feels sharp at home, wanting to take on the fences – and he’s still a young horse.”

Former Ascot Chase winner Waiting Patiently was supplemented earlier this week, having made an excellent return from more than a year on the sidelines when runner-up to Frodon in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The talented but fragile 10-year-old has proven his versatility over a variety of distances, and trainer Ruth Jefferson is unconcerned by dropping back almost a mile in trip.

Speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing, she said: “The ground at Kempton was the fastest I would have run him on, and we’re at the opposite of that spectrum on Saturday – but he’s got form on heavy ground, and I don’t see it being a problem.

“He’s performed at every trip on every sort of going description. It’s a case of him not being the easiest horse to keep sound and healthy – so while we’ve got a sound and healthy horse, we’re going to take our chance to run him.

“I can’t see why the trip will bother the horse, so I’m not going to let it bother me.

“I think there’s less pressure in our situation, because nobody expects you to win – you’re just that small person who might rock up!

“I don’t get excited and I don’t get nervous. You don’t go into a Grade One thinking you’re going to win it, but I think there’s a lot in his favour because he’s versatile trip-wise, he’ll like the ground and likes the track.”

Kim Bailey steps First Flow up in class following five consecutive wins, while Bun Doran (Tom George), Fanion D’Estruval (Venetia Williams) and Le Patriote (Dr Richard Newland) complete the eight-strong field.

All systems go for Politologue at Ascot

Paul Nicholls believes Politologue is at the top of his game ahead of Saturday’s Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero picked up where he left off when landing a second victory in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, and will be a hot favourite to provide his trainer with a record sixth triumph in the Grade One feature.

Harry Skelton was on board the John Hales-owned grey both at Cheltenham and Sandown, but with his brother Dan responsible for a Champion Chase contender this term in Nube Negra, Harry Cobden will be reunited with Politologue this weekend.

Harry Cobden will take over from Harry Skelton on Politologue
Harry Cobden will take over from Harry Skelton on Politologue (John Walton/PA)

Nicholls told Sky Sports Racing: “Harry is here every day and rides Politologue a lot anyway. He schooled him on Monday and won a Tingle Creek on him (in 2017), so it’s no big issue.

“The horse is in good form and the ground is ideal, so we’re looking forward to it. I think he’s in as good a place as he’s been for a long time – I don’t think Harry has ridden him in the form that he’s in at the moment, apart from when he won the Tingle Creek.

“We changed things last season after he had that little bleed in the Tingle Creek and he’s not been beaten since. I’ve never known him look better and be so enthusiastic.

“He’ll go straight to Cheltenham after Saturday. It’s absolutely perfect timing for him.”

Politologue is set to be joined by stable companion Duc Des Genievres.

Winner of the 2019 Arkle when trained by Willie Mullins, the eight-year-old was runner-up to Put The Kettle On at Cheltenham in November, before placing third behind Nube Negra at Kempton over the Christmas period.

Nicholls added: “He’s won on soft ground, (but) I’m not convinced he wants it that testing.

“He ran out of petrol up the hill the first day at Cheltenham and the other day (at Kempton) we made a little bit more use of him and he finished tamely.

“He’s got it all to do. We’re going to take our chance as he’s not the easiest horse in the world to place.”

Harry Skelton has enjoyed two big victories with Politologue
Harry Skelton has enjoyed two big victories with Politologue (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Ditcheat handler confirmed Danny Kirwan an intended runner in Ascot’s Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle, while Eglantine Du Seuil is set to contest the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle.

Of the latter, Nicholls said: “She’s a tough, genuine mare who ran very well at Cheltenham the last day.

“Strictly on ratings, she’s got it all to do, but she does get 6lb off Magic Of Light and also Roksana, who looks like she’ll be hard to beat.

“Our mare is in between the devil and the deep blue sea with her rating, but hopefully she’ll run well and get the trip.”

There will be one less rival for Politologue to face, however, with Kate Harrington, assistant trainer to her mother, Jessica, confirming that Impact Factor will not make the journey from Ireland.

Instead, the lightly-raced nine-year-old will stay closer to home for the Dublin Racing Festival.

“Impact Factor won’t go for the Clarence House and will instead run in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase at Leopardstown (February 6),” said Harrington.

Harry Cobden takes over on Politologue at Ascot

Harry Cobden will be back aboard Politologue in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday, after Harry Skelton agreed to relinquish the ride.

Skelton steered the Paul Nicholls-trained grey to victory in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last season and the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December.

However, Skelton is set to have a clash of interests when it comes to this year’s Champion Chase in March. He is stable jockey to his brother Dan and they have a leading contender in Nube Negra, who defeated Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton last month.

Harry Skelton celebrates winning the Champion Chase with Politologue
Harry Skelton celebrates winning the Champion Chase with Politologue (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Skeltons, and their father, Olympic showjumper Nick, are long-standing friends of Politologue’s owner John Hales. They are believed to have discussed the matter, resulting in Skelton giving up the ride.

Nicholls confirmed to the PA news agency Cobden will be back in the plate for Politologue’s last race before he defends his Champion Chase crown.

Cobden has ridden Politologue six times, winning the Tingle Creek in 2017 and finishing second to Altior in the Champion Chase in 2019.

Politologue is the 5-4 favourite with Coral for the Ascot feature, ahead of King George third Waiting Patiently at 5-2.

Coral’s David Stevens said: “Politologue gave Harry Skelton his biggest win when the pair won last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, but it will be Harry Cobden on board the grey this weekend and at the Cheltenham Festival, although Harry Skelton still has a chance of winning the race again this March, with Nube Negra one of the leading contenders at 10-1.”

Politologue on course for Clarence House Chase

Politologue heads 12 entries for the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 23.

The Paul Nicholls-trained grey won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March and took the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on his reappearance last month.

Nicholls is also represented by Duc De Genievres, who has been placed in the Shloer Chase and Desert Orchid Chase since his move from Willie Mullins.

Jessica Harrington provides the two Irish-trained possibles in Impact Factor and Sizing Pottsie, who both won handicap chases at Fairyhouse on their latest starts.

Last year’s winner Defi Du Seuil could return to action for the first time since his disappointing run in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on November.

The Philip Hobbs-trained gelding was pulled up before the last fence when beaten. Nothing came to light and the eight-year-old has either the Clarence House or the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury next month as the target for his comeback race.

“He seems fine. He didn’t perform on the day for some reason, but nothing showed up,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“He’s had a bit of a break and hopefully he’ll be back in time for that (Ascot). He has an entry, but we’ll know nearer the time how he is.

“He has the Game Spirit as his other option.”

The Kim Bailey-trained First Flow, winner of his last five races, could be given this Grade One opportunity. Completing the list are Benator, Bun Doran, Esprit Du Large, Fanion D’Estruval, Le Patriote and Riders Onthe Storm.