Tag Archive for: Sceau Royal

Sceau Royal fighting fit for Christmas Hurdle challenge

Sceau Royal will take his chance in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day after coming out of the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in “good order”, according to trainer Alan King.

The nine-year-old defeated last season’s Christmas Hurdle winner Silver Streak on his seasonal bow at Kempton and followed up with a decisive success in the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

However, the versatile Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding, winner of 10 of his 23 races over hurdles, was tapped for toe in the closing stages of last weekend’s two-mile Grade One, where Not So Sleepy and Epatante dead-heated, with Daryl Jacob’s mount a length and a half back in third.

Though Sceau Royal was sent chasing in the spring, the Barbury Castle handler has reverted to the smaller obstacles this autumn and sees the Christmas Hurdle as the ideal race.

King said: “Sceau Royal is fine. We will have a quietish week with him. We will continue his build up and the plan is to go to the Christmas Hurdle with him. He is in good order and has taken his race well. The race looks ideal for him.”

Before that, he is looking forward to Ascot’s Howden Christmas Racing Weekend, with Tritonic set to fly the flag for the yard in the Betfair Exchange Trophy on December 18.

Last season’s Grade Two Adonis Hurdle winner, Tritonic could be joined by stablemate Potterman, who could revert back to hurdles despite winning the bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown in April.

King said: “Tritonic is definitely on course for Ascot. He has been working nicely.

“I’m not sure about Potterman yet. I should imagine if the weather breaks, the ground might be too soft for him then, but I am just giving myself the option. We might leave him for the spring, but we will wait and see.”

Newcastle ground key to Sceau Royal’s Fighting Fifth bid

Alan King is likely to send Sceau Royal for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday week as long as the ground is suitable.

The Barbury Castle trainer is keen to let him take his chance as the nine-year-old has been in fine form since winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton for a record third time earlier this month.

“He’s very well. Obviously, if the weather holds we will seriously look at the Fighting Fifth next weekend,” said King.

“He’s in a good place. I want to go to Newcastle but I wouldn’t go if it was heavy. With this English weather you just don’t know what you’re going to get. If the weather holds, he will probably head to Newcastle.”

King expects Tritonic to be all the better for his fifth place in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday and is looking to run him in the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Ascot on December 18.

“He ran a good race and I think will be much sharper for it – the experience in a big field. He’ll probably go to Ascot the weekend before Christmas,” he said.

“That is what I’m thinking of at the moment.”

Sceau Royal out on his own as three-time Elite hero

Sceau Royal became the first horse to win the Unibet Elite Hurdle for a third time when scooting home in the Grade Two at Wincanton.

Alan King’s admirable performer scampered clear on the run-in to add this year’s renewal to his previous wins in 2016 and 12 months ago.

The 4-5 favourite crossed the line five and a half lengths to the good from Teqany in the hands of Daryl Jacob, his task having been made easier by the late withdrawal of Goshen – for whom the ground was too quick.

Sole Pretender took the six runners along in the early stages, with Christopher Wood and Teqany close up. Sceau Royal was always travelling well and took closer order before leading at the final flight and winning as he liked.

King said: “He does all the talking. I don’t have to say much – I think he is a superstar. He has won it as a four year-old, eight-year-old and nine-year-old. I said ‘what the hell was I doing in between?’ – but I was novice chasing.

“He is as good as ever, and I’m convinced he is slightly better. His homework is much better than it was two years ago. We know how to train him now, and he is in such a great place.

“Daryl said he couldn’t have gone any quicker early on, but the one thing he does do is get the trip well. I’ve been saying for two years we will go two and a half with him, but I don’t think we will do that.”

Looking at future targets, King added: “We will speak to Anthony Bromley (racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede), but one thing we won’t do is go right-handed with him over a fence – today he has gone a little bit left, but you can get away with that over hurdles.

“The Fighting Fifth and International at Cheltenham are possible.”

King had earlier enjoyed a one-two when Wynn House (100-30) made a winning return to action, getting the better of stablemate Hotter Than Hell by three-quarters of a length in the Richard Barber Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle under Tom Cannon.

Trainer Alan King had a double on the card at Wincanton
Trainer Alan King had a double on the card at Wincanton (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’ve always thought she was very good. She seems to have grown a fair bit and developed through the summer,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“She probably wants to go up in trip, because the extended two miles five around here on good ground is sharp enough, but she has seen it out well.”

Jordan Nailor enjoyed the biggest success of his career when springing a 40-1 surprise on Rocco in the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase.

The 3lb-claiming conditional brought Nigel Twiston-Davies’ winner through to lead at the second-last fence.

The eight-year-old saw off the challenge of Potterman by two and a quarter lengths to confine King’s charge to runner-up spot in this race for the second successive year.

The first two drew six lengths clear of Hurricane Harvey, with the latter’s fellow joint-favourite Cap Du Nord fourth. There was a sad postscript to the race when it was confirmed Storm Home suffered a fatal fall at the second last.

Of Rocco’s victory, Nailor said: “I had a nice winner over hurdles last season, but to come back early in the season and have another big winner means a lot.

“I’ve ridden in the race a few times, and the thing I’ve learnt is you have to go quick early to get a nice position – otherwise you get shuffled back, but he got the position we wanted and he jumped fantastic, which really helped.

“He had a light enough weight on his back, and the ground was good – which is what he wants. It’s a good jumping test around here, and he jumps brilliantly, so everything panned out brilliantly.

“The Grade Three (handicap at Sandown in March, on Beauport) was my first big winner, so that meant a lot. But this is a race I’ve ridden in a few times – and I thought I’d love to win it and I have now, so there are no complaints.

“He is a bit in and out, but when he performs like that he is a nice horse. This is my first winner since dislocating my thumb in September, so it is good to get a winner like this.”

Jockey Charlie Hammond also had his best win to date when scoring on Captain Tom Cat in the Grade Two John Romans Park Homes ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase.

The 6-4 chance, trained by Richard Newland, put in a good round of jumping and got the better of the odds-on favourite Mick Pastor by two and a quarter lengths.

Hammond said: “That’s by far my biggest winner. I won the Sefton last year, but to come here and win a Grade Two is lovely. The boss (Newland) has been good to put me up today, so things are going well.

“We missed the odd one down the back but we were almost between strides and I was just trying to quicken up then. He has been very clever and got me out of trouble – and over the last three when I needed him, he was really good.

“It was a lovely jumping performance, and he stayed it out well, and that is probably won us the race. He is a big athletic sort that was a cheap buy, but the boss has done a real good job with him.”

Sceau Royal out to prove himself Elite again

Alan King has hailed Sceau Royal as a “legend” as the nine-year-old goes in search of a third win in the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Way back in 2016, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s versatile performer won Saturday’s race as a four-year-old.

He has since gone on to prove himself even better over fences, while also winning the Elite again easily last year – and he looked as good as ever when beating Silver Streak at Kempton on his recent reappearance.

“He’s a legend. He’s going for a third win in this and is very much a yard favourite,” said King.

“He’s in good order and he came out of Kempton well, so I’m looking forward to running him.

“Crucially the ground should suit. We all know he’s better on some nice ground.”

Gary Moore’s Goshen is on something of a retrieval mission this season, following an up-and-down campaign last time around.

He did, though, manage his only win over this course and distance in the Kingwell Hurdle.

There are two Irish runners in Norman Lee’s Sole Pretender, who won the Grimes Hurdle, and Peter Fahey’s Belfast Banter – an impressive winner of the County Hurdle at Cheltenham before then stepping up on that to win a Grade One at Aintree.

Belfast Banter provided Kevin Sexton with the biggest win of his career at Cheltenham
Belfast Banter provided Kevin Sexton with the biggest win of his career at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

He has since finished midfield in the Galway Hurdle, and took a heavy fall at Listowel last time out.

“It’s a tight track, and there’ll be loads of pace involved in the race,” said Fahey.

“It could suit him and hopefully he’ll run a huge race. He’s forward and is fit and well in himself.

“He was a bit sore the day after his fall at Listowel but he’s come out of it fine. He’s schooled well at home. Everything seems fine. He was going to run a big race that day.”

Paul Nicholls runs Christopher Wood, the mount of Bryony Frost, with Harry Cobden on Sole Pretender.

Also on the card is the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase – a race Nicholls has dominated down the years, but the unseasonably quick ground has played havoc with his planning this time.

He declared top weight Truckers Lodge and Highland Hunter in the hope of getting in a prep for the Welsh National for both – but took them out on Friday afternoon, having walked the track with clerk of the course Dan Cooper.

King runs Potterman, who in contrast likes good ground, but the trainer warns he will come on for his first outing of the season.

A short-head runner-up to the re-opposing El Presente in this race 12 months ago, Potterman went on to win the Bet365 Gold Cup following an inquiry – but he was last seen pulling up at Perth in June.

“I think by the time he got to Perth in June he’d just had enough,” said King.

“He’d had a good year before that and has had a good break. He is only just ready to start back now, but I wanted to try and get a run into him before the Ladbroke Trophy.

“I think whatever he does in this he will come on for the race, and also he’s pretty high in the handicap now. The handicapper has probably got him as well, but he likes going right-handed and he won’t mind the ground, so we’ll see how he gets on.”

El Presente, Emma Lavelle’s Irish Prophecy, Fergal O’Brien’s Hurricane Harvey and the Christian Williams-trained Cap Du Nord are other major players in a typically competitive renewal.

All eyes were set to be on Nicholls’  Bravemansgame in the  John Romans Park Homes “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase, following his sparkling chasing debut at Newton Abbot, but the champion trainer pulled him out too on Friday.

Nicholls tweeted: “Have just walked @wincantonraces with @Dan_WCooper
and after their sterling effort watering we both agree the chase track is good, good to firm in places and therefore too fast to run Bravemansgame . @CobdenHarry will switch to Mick Pastor.”

Sceau Royal and Goshen top Elite field

Sceau Royal and Goshen are among eight entries for the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Winner of Saturday’s Grade Two 12 months ago, the versatile Sceau Royal showed he is every bit as good as ever when winning at Kempton on his reappearance recently.

With little rain forecast this week, Alan King’s nine-year-old will have enhanced prospects of winning the race for a third time – having done so for the first time back in 2016.

Gary Moore could hardly have his string in better form, so he will be hoping for a better start to this season from Goshen.

Last year, he was repeatedly held up until reappearing at Cheltenham in December when he was disappointing – but he did win the Kingwell Hurdle on his next outing, over the same course and distance as this weekend’s race. He was subsequently well beaten by Honeysuckle in two further outings.

An intriguing entry is last year’s County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter, who went on to win a Grade One novice hurdle at the Grand National meeting.

He has since finished in midfield in the Galway Hurdle, but took a heavy fall most recently at Listowel.

Belfast Banter (noseband) came through late to win at Aintree
Belfast Banter (noseband) came through late to win at Aintree (Tim Goode/PA)

Another Irish entry is the Grimes Hurdle winner Sole Pretender, trained by Norman Lee.

Christopher Wood, Hatcher, Petrastar and last year’s second Teqany complete the list.

The 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase has attracted 22 entries.

Paul Nicholls’ Truckers Lodge is at the head of the weights – but with no rain on the horizon in Somerset, he could be a doubtful runner.

Nicholls has also entered Highland Hunter and Cat Tiger in a race he has won for three of the last four years – with Present Man twice and Give Me A Copper.

“This is the 60th year of sponsorship – and I’ve been very lucky to train some nice horses for the sponsors, Mark and Tessa Woodhouse, including Present Man who won it twice,” said Nicholls.

“It’s a race we love to win – it’s a great spectacle, and we’re all looking forward to it.

“The big problem this year is the ground. It’s good, and we’ve a dry week forecast, so the soft-ground horses are pretty much going to be ruled out.

“I’ve entered Cat Tiger, but he’s also got an option at Auteuil at the weekend, and I’ve put Truckers Lodge in because he needs a race before the Welsh National – and he loves going right-handed.

“He would probably prefer more cut in the ground, but he does have form on good. For soft-ground horses, this weekend will be a bit of an issue.

“We normally target the race, but this year it just hasn’t worked out like that. For Present Man, it was always his aim.”

Royal makes victorious return with Kempton Listed strike

Sceau Royal capped a memorable weekend for Alan King when coming out well on top against Silver Streak in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Hurdle at Kempton.

Just over 24 hours on from cheering home Trueshan at Ascot on Champions Day and seeing Senior Citizen win a decent pot at Market Rasen, stable stalwart Sceau Royal showed he is still going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Evan Williams’ Silver Streak was sent off the 4-6 favourite attempting to win the race for the third year in succession.

Having also won the Christmas Hurdle at the track, Silver Streak looked sure to be difficult to beat but his jumping was a little rusty, continually giving away ground at his obstacles.

On the other hand, Sceau Royal (7-4) jumped slickly, with Daryl Jacob happy to take up the running just before the last flight and he sprinted clear to win by three and a half lengths.

“That was lovely. We had the option of going back for the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las which he won last year or going for this,” said King.

“He was rated a lot higher over hurdles this year than he was last year and I thought this was the right place to come and get him started rather than carrying top weight yesterday.

“I thought he would run very well but come on for it a bit. It was a good starting point. He has just been a superstar. He always travels well through his races.

“The Queen Mother (Champion Chase) last year was very hard to take (badly hampered when going well). I don’t think I’ve ever left a racecourse as disappointed as I did that day and that might have been his big chance – but we have regrouped and he has been fine.

“He has been an absolute legend year after year and hopefully there is a bit more in him yet.”

Alan King has enjoyed a memorable weekend
Alan King has enjoyed a memorable weekend (Mike Egerton/PA)

A return to Wincanton to defend his Elite Hurdle title is now on the cards.

“I’d imagine we would go back for the Elite now and go from there,” said King.

“Over fences I would only go left-handed as he does go left. I know he won the Henry VIII a few years ago, but he is better left-handed over fences.

“We will just duck and dive with him.”

Williams was philosophical in defeat, saying: “He was beaten by a very good horse and we have so much respect for the winner and Alan’s horses are in very good form. There are no excuses.

“We will go to the Fighting Fifth (at Newcastle) now. Some days you are not disappointed about getting beaten as you get beaten by the right horse and he is not going to win them all. The winner is a very good horse.

“We will be all right – good horses get beat. We didn’t jump well today. He didn’t jump the first or second. I thought we would pick up turning in and go and win the race but he didn’t.”

Champ delights Henderson with Game Spirit second

Nicky Henderson was thrilled to see Champ enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials in defeat after finding only Sceau Royal too strong in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

Having been off the track since claiming a last-gasp victory in what is now the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, the JP McManus-owned Champ was originally due to make his long-awaited return in the three-mile Betfair Denman Chase.

However, with Newbury’s Betfair Super Saturday card pushed back eight days after the original fixture was frozen off, Henderson made the surprise decision to instead run Champ over an extended two miles in the Game Spirit, due to the meeting’s proximity to the Festival.

Ridden forward by Nico de Boinville back over this shorter trip, Champ travelled with zest and jumped with accuracy, before eventually being reeled in by Alan King’s proven two-miler Sceau Royal (3-1 favourite) and Daryl Jacob.

“He’s enjoyed himself there and he’s clearly not slow,” said a delighted Henderson.

“The great thing was his jumping – it was deadly – and that will have done him the world of good.

“We boxed him over to Henrietta Knight’s the other day and he’s gone three times either way in the loose school. That (his jumping) needed ironing out and it clearly worked.

“He’s an exciting horse and much better on a racecourse than at home. You wouldn’t give two and sixpence for him on the grass gallop, but when he gets to the racecourse it’s like flicking a switch and he’s on the case full wallop!

“He’s got so much natural pace and he’s versatile. It was better to give him a kinder race today than go three miles, but on the evidence of the RSA last year, we know he stays.”

Bookmakers were clearly impressed by Champ’s display in being beaten just two lengths, with Coral cutting him to 6-1 from 8-1 for for the Gold Cup on March 19, making him their second-favourite behind dual winner Al Boum Photo.

Henderson added: “He was on the bridle until the second-last and now we have two days short of a month until the Gold Cup.

“We are now very much looking forward to Cheltenham with him.”

King was understandably proud of the admirable Sceau Royal, who was winning for the third time this season, having previously landed the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

The nine-year-old, who fell on his most recent outing in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, is entered in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month, but is not certain to line up in either.

Sceau Royal on his way to winning at Newbury
Sceau Royal on his way to winning at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

King said: “He’s a wonderful little horse and it’s great for the owners, as they had a bad day yesterday, losing poor old L’Ami Serge.

“I’m not sure what happened to him at Kempton last time – it was so out of character for him to end up on the floor. He jumped absolutely super today, didn’t he?

“Whether he goes to Cheltenham will be very much ground dependent. If it’s soft ground we’ll wait – there’s the two-and-a-half-mile race at Aintree (Melling Chase) and the Celebration Chase at Sandown, so we’ll see.

“I’m not saying he won’t go to Cheltenham, but we would need it to dry out quite considerably, which can happen.

“We’ll enjoy today.”

Desert Orchid enters Kempton equation for Sceau Royal

Sceau Royal may return to fences for a potential clash with Altior in the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase.

Best known for his exploits in the two-mile chase division, Alan King’s charge has successfully reverted to the smaller obstacles this season – with wins in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

The eight-year-old has since chased home Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, before finishing a creditable fourth in last Saturday’s International Hurdle at Cheltenham – in which just five hurdles were jumped because of the low sun.

While a rematch with Epatante in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day is not being ruled out, King will also consider instead taking on her esteemed stablemate 24 hours later.

“I thought Sceau Royal ran extremely well the other day,” said the Barbury Castle trainer.

“I know it didn’t suit a lot of them, but it certainly didn’t suit us with the hurdles coming out, because that is his one strong point – his jumping.

“He seems to have taken the race very well, and there’s a chance he could go to Kempton over Christmas.

“He’ll have an entry in the Christmas Hurdle, but he’ll also have an entry in the Desert Orchid – and we’ll look and see what’s there.

“There’s nothing really for him in January or February, so he could have a good break after Christmas.”

At the prospect of taking on one of the Seven Barrows stars at Kempton, King added: “We’ll try and give Mr Henderson something to worry about, although I don’t think he’ll worry too much!”

Sceau Royal ‘in good order’ but no decision yet on International run

Alan King plans to make a late call on whether to let Sceau Royal line up for Saturday’s Unibet International Hurdle.

Better known as a high-class two-miler over fences, the eight-year-old has successfully reverted to the smaller obstacles this season with victories in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

He had to make do with the runner-up spot behind last season’s Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on his latest appearance – and King was undecided on Tuesday as to whether to let his charge turn out a fortnight later at Cheltenham.

“I’m going to wait and see what the weather does and he’s also got to do a little bit of work in the morning, so we’ll see how that goes,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“It’s obviously not long since the Fighting Fifth. He seems in good order, but I won’t make a decision until Thursday.”

Race sponsors Unibet make Sceau Royal a 9-2 shot for the Grade Two contest, with Gary Moore’s Goshen heading the market at 9-4.

Sceau Royal returns with Welsh Champion Hurdle victory

Alan King’s Sceau Royal made a triumphant return to action in the Potter Group Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las.

Better known as a high-class two miler over fences, the eight-year-old was last seen finishing last of five runners in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March – having finished third behind Altior in the same race 12 months earlier.

Back over the smaller obstacles for the first time since filling the runner-up spot in the 2019 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, Sceau Royal was a 10-1 shot in the hands of Daryl Jacob.

Always travelling strongly, the Doctor Dino gelding moved smoothly into contention in the home straight before pulling two and three-quarter lengths clear, with Ballyandy best of the rest in second.

King said: “We didn’t really have too many options over fences at the minute, and Anthony (Bromley, racing manager for the owners) felt this looked a good starting point for him when the ground started to dry up, because he’s rated about a stone lower over hurdles.

“He had a little wind operation a month or two back. It was very slight, but you never know, it might just have helped him a little bit – it doesn’t look to have hindered him, anyway.

“We’ve got all sorts of options now. We could look at the Elite Hurdle, which is in three weeks’ time at Wincanton. If we didn’t fancy that, he might have an entry in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham next month – and there’s also the Shloer Chase on the same weekend.

“He doesn’t have to go straight back over fences. The ground is the key to him, because he doesn’t want a slog – running in those heavy-ground Tingle Creeks are no use to him.”

Jacob and his retaining owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede were completing a quick-fire double on the card, with If The Cap Fits having earlier made a successful fencing bow in the Canter Carpet High Performance Surfaces Novices’ Chase.

The Grade One-winning hurdler faced a far from straightforward task, with the quality pair of Fiddlerontheroof and Emitom in opposition, and he was not entirely convincing in the jumping department through the early stages.

However, he was good when he needed to be over the final two fences – and it was impossible not to be impressed by the way Harry Fry’s stable star careered seven and a half lengths away from Fiddlerontheroof on the run-in.

“I’m delighted with that,” said Fry.

“He was a bit novicey early on, but Daryl gave him a lovely introduction and I was delighted with the way he attacked the fences in the straight.

If The Cap Fits in action at Ffos Las
If The Cap Fits in action at Ffos Las (David Davies/PA)

“There’s loads more to come from him, both in terms of experience over fences and fitness. Today was far from the be all and end all – it was about hopefully getting a nice round of jumping in and some confidence.

“We’ll get him home and see how he is, but I was thinking something like the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton might be a nice next target for him. Bags Groove actually won this race today for us, before going on to win the Rising Stars.

“Today was very exciting, and I hope it’s onwards and upwards.”

Estelle Ma Belle made a winning first start for Paul Nicholls in the Follow pottergracing On Twitter Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.

Part of the batch of horses moved to Ditcheat from Willie Mullins’ yard by owner Jared Sullivan, the French import finished second on her only start in Ireland at last year’s Galway Festival.

Estelle Ma Belle was much too good for her rivals
Estelle Ma Belle was much too good for her rivals (David Davies/PA)

Ridden by 3lb claimer Lorcan Williams, the six-year-old came home with five lengths in hand over Spring Run.

Nicholls was at Kempton, from where he said: “Estelle Ma Belle is a nice mare. She had one run for Willie last year and then had her problems – saying she is very fragile would be an understatement.

“We’ve done a lot of work with her and got her right. I thought she would run tidy today – and she won well

“She is not the most fluent jumper. But we have been doing an awful lot on that at home, and Lorcan has been riding her home schooling, which is why he rode her today – and he did a good job with her.

“She could be a nice mare. First and foremost, we have to see how she is tomorrow, and that is the most important thing.

“I do think she needs to go left-handed, which is a plus. I will talk to Jared, and we will find a nice mares race left-handed.”