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Ribble Valley lives up to expectations at Carlisle

Ribble Valley booked his ticket for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle with a smooth success on his comeback at Carlisle.

Nicky Richards has never disguised his admiration for the seven-year-old and reappearing having had a wind operation since meeting with his sole defeat over hurdles, he oozed class.

While only four went to post in the Watch Irish Racing On racingtv.com Intermediate Hurdle, the seven-year-old was giving 6lb to Olly Murphy’s highly-regarded Nickolson but he had no answer as champion jockey Brian Hughes breezed by on the 8-15 favourite.

On jumping the last Hughes just asked Ribble Valley to lengthen and he won by five and a half lengths, setting up a trip to Newcastle on November 28.

“That was lovely, he’ll come on a lot for that and Brian said it couldn’t have been nicer,” said Richards.

“He’s been very heavy and took a bit of getting fit, so Brian just asked him to lengthen after the last, he thought he’d give him a blow, there was no point sitting up on him.

“That was only his fourth run over hurdles so he’s very inexperienced. At the start of the season we thought, bearing in mind the level we hope he’s going to get to, he didn’t have enough experience to go chasing.

“So we were thinking of today and if it went well, which it has, he’ll probably go for the Fighting Fifth to get some more experience. Then we’ll take it from there, see how that goes and take it race by race.

“Brian said it was chopped up on the inside today so he kept him wide. Brian thinks some real good to soft ground and a proper gallop would be ideal.

“I just hope it’s not heavy ground come Newcastle as that might spoil the party.”

Earlier Dan Skelton’s Protektorat (5-4 favourite) put up a smart round of jumping to win the Introducing Racing TV Beginners’ Chase.

Hopes high as Ribble Valley returns to action at Carlisle

Nicky Richards has never hidden the regard in which he holds the promising Ribble Valley, who reappears at Carlisle on Thursday.

Winner of four of his six races under rules, he met with defeat when last seen at Ascot behind Master Debonair on heavy ground.

He had a wind operation following that run in December, before his season was cut short by the pandemic.

“Hopefully we don’t get too much rain and it will be just good to soft ground. It was nice ground there the other day,” said Richards.

“He had a little wind op when things at Ascot didn’t work out quite right, but we were toying with that idea before.

“We had that done with the view we were probably going to go to Aintree or Ayr for the Scottish Champion, and then we know what happened.

“He’s in grand fettle, ready to run and get his season started and take it from there.

“He’ll jump fences fine when the time comes, we’ll see how he gets on his next run or two before we decide when that’s going to be.”

His main rival in the in the Watch Irish Racing On Racingtv.com Intermediate Hurdle appears to be Olly Murphy’s Nickolson, winner of two of his three races to date.

“If Nicky Richards’ horse is as good as they say he is then we might struggle to beat him,” said Murphy.

“My lad has been in good form at home, he’s training well and whatever he does he will improve upon.

“I know we are getting a little bit of weight, but if Nicky’s is as good as they say then it looks like we might be facing a tall order.

“He’s a nice horse for the future in any case.”

Murphy sends Notre Pari north for the Introducing Racing TV Beginners’ Chase, which also looks competitive.

“This looks a good starting point for him, coming back down in trip to two miles on a stiff track on some nice ground,” said Murphy.

“He was a decent novice hurdler, but I’m keen to see how he’ll get on over fences.

“He’s ready to go but will improve on whatever he does.”

Peter Niven’s Malystic, Sandy Thomson’s Elf De Re and the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat will ensure there is plenty of strength in depth.