Tag Archive for: Skytastic

Banbridge steps up in distance and class at Aintree

Jospeh O’Brien is hoping Aintree’s flat track will help Banbridge handle the step up to an extended three miles as he bids for Grade One glory in the Cavani Menswear Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.

Banbridge kept on strongly at Cheltenham to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle last time under Mark McDonagh.

JJ Slevin, who partnered the six-year-old to success on his penultimate start at Navan, returns to the plate on Friday, with O’Brien’s runner top-rated on a mark of 143.

“Banbridge is well,” said O’Brien. “It’s an open enough race and on paper he looks to have a good shout. If he gets the trip he has every chance.

“I was surprised to see he was top rated in it, but we won’t complain. He’s not guaranteed to stay, he’s always a good traveller and he won a couple of races at two miles this year, but Aintree will give him a chance to stay.”

Ahoy Senor beat Bravemansgame in a high-class renewal last year and future chasing diamonds are certain to be unearthed again this year.

Sam Thomas feels Skytastic, who justified favouritism twice when going two-from-two over hurdles, could be one of them.

The six-year-old bypassed Cheltenham after scoring over and extended two miles and three furlongs Ascot and while his South Glamorgan handler knows he faces a step up in class, he believes Skytastic warrants his opportunity.

“It was a good performance on soft ground at Ascot,” said Thomas.

“He is a horse whom we hope stays the trip and we are excited to be having a crack at a Grade One with him.

Skytastic will go novice chasing next season
Skytastic will go novice chasing next season (Tim Goode/PA)

“This will probably be his last run over hurdles before we go novice chasing with him next season.

“The race has cut up a little bit, but it is still going to be a very competitive race and we are looking forward to it going there fit and well.

“He has only had two runs to be judged on, so a mark of 134 seems fair. We’d like to think he will turn into a much better chaser.

“It will be lovely, safe ground and they don’t have much racing on it, so as a jockey, you just looked forward to riding up there because the ground is beautiful.”

Nicky Richards is no stranger to Aintree success, having been responsible for the likes of the high-class chaser Monet’s Garden and Grade One-winning hurdler Faasel.

He hopes Crystal Glory, who chased home Hillcrest in the Grade Two Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock in February, can continue on an upward curve.

“He has done nothing wrong,” said the Penrith handler. “I think he is a progressive, improving horse and I don’t think we have seen the best of him.

“I thought he ran a lovely race behind Hillcrest, really. He ran a grand race, got the trip well on not very nice ground.

“I think the better ground will suit him nicely, so we are looking forward to it.

“It is a Grade One race at Aintree and they are never easy, but it is great to be in there with an improving horse.”

Title-chasing Paul Nicholls, who sent out Bravemansgame to finish second last year, relies on Gelino Bello, who was twice runner-up to Blazing Khal at Cheltenham before Christmas.

He warmed up for this race with an impressive nine-length victory in an extended two and-a-half-mile novice hurdle at Newbury last month.

Bowtogreatness was impressive at Leicester last time
Bowtogreatness was impressive at Leicester last time (Mike Egerton/PA)

Green Book and Stag Horn, who both ran in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, lock horns again and there are four more last-time-out winners in the line-up.

One of those, Bowtogreatness, is co-owned by former Bournemouth, Tottenham and West Ham manager Harry Redknapp.

After two successive victories, at Ffos Las and Leicester, trainer Ben Pauling feels he is no back number stepping up in trip.

He said: “Bowtogreatness has done nothing wrong this year, but only in run-of-the-mill novice hurdles. He could not have been more impressive last time out.

“He was going to go to Cheltenham, but met with a setback – he knocked a joint.

“So we avoided Cheltenham and we come to a Grade One, and we are very much looking forward to seeing how he gets on.

“I’m hoping he will have a good each-way chance. He is in great order.”

Unbeaten Skytastic to miss Cheltenham and wait for Aintree

Unbeaten novice hurdler Skytastic will skip the Cheltenham Festival in favour of a final outing of the season at Aintree.

The Sam Thomas-trained six-year-old has run four times so far and has been victorious on every occasion, taking two bumpers and a pair of hurdle contests.

His most recent success was a narrow triumph over Warlord in an Ascot novice in mid-February, after which Thomas indicated the bay may not take up entries in the Ballymore or Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and could instead be aimed at Aintree.

With the Festival growing ever nearer the Welsh National-winning trainer has confirmed the Grand National meeting will be Skytastic’s next port of call, a fixture which hosts the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles and the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle over three.

“He’s absolutely fine, he’s in good form, although he’s not doing a lot of work at the minute,” Thomas said.

Skytastic (right) in action at Ascot
Skytastic (right) in action at Ascot (Simon Marper/PA)

“His target is Aintree now, we’re really looking forward to the future with him for next season as much as anything.

“He’s going to be a lovely big chaser and he’s one we’re really looking forward to.”

With a chasing career the ultimate goal for Skytastic, Thomas intends to take a patient approach through his early days and cites the horsemanship of Nicky Henderson as a good example of ensuring longevity by giving horses time to mature.

“He’s had two runs in quick succession now, one more run and that’ll be him,” he said.

“If you look at the way Nicky treats a lot of his youngsters and babies, he brings them on carefully and a result you see them as chasers for years and years to come.

“He’s not a small, nippy little type, he’s a big horse and I don’t want to do anything silly with him when we’ve got the rest of his career to look forward to.”

Skytastic headlines Ascot double for Thomas and Deutsch

Sam Thomas earned a big Saturday double at a wind-swept Ascot on Saturday, with Skytastic and Good Risk At All both scoring in style.

The former rider had plenty of days to remember in the saddle, with big-race success on the likes of Denman, and he learned plenty from the likes of Venetia Williams and Paul Nicholls, so it is no surprise to see him carving out the next successful phase of his career, as a trainer.

Skytastic had to dig deep to remain unbeaten in taking the Join Kim Bailey Racing Novices’ Hurdle, with the six-year-old having won bumpers at Newbury and Doncaster last term before justifying favouritism in a maiden hurdle at the latter track on his reappearance.

He had barely been challenged previously, yet Charlie Deutsch’s mount, sent off the 6-5 favourite, had to fight tooth and nail to get the better of Scarface, who had cruised ominously through the race, only to make minor errors at the penultimate and final flights.

The 12-1 shot still looked like landing the two-mile-three-furlong event, but Skytastic kept finding more to run out a neck winner, the pair drawing 11 lengths further clear of Ballyblack (8-1).

Thomas felt he had learned plenty and while he holds engagements in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, the South Glamorgan handler may well keep his powder dry.

He said: “If anything, knowing the horse like we do – obviously it is never nice to see a horse looming like that – our lad is never going to win pretty to be honest. He is very laid back and it was great that he has had to dig deep for the first time today. That would not be his ground by any stretch of the imagination.

“He has learned more today than he will have ever learned. He is very intelligent and it is exciting to have these sort of horses to come to the big days with.

“He has Cheltenham entries but in my eyes, he is a big galloper and I don’t know if Cheltenham would be right up his street for the minute. I think Aintree would be more of a target. A nice, big, galloping track where you can wind him up up the straight, I think would suit him a lot more.

“We can look forward to Cheltenham, maybe over fences, next season, but again I’d have to speak to the owner about that.

“This is exciting and my job is to try and keep him in one piece and he’ll hopefully do the rest for us as his career evolves.”

Good Risk At All impressed at Ascot
Good Risk At All impressed at Ascot (Simon Marper/PA)

Better was to come from Deutsch in the Dingley’s Promise Handicap Hurdle as Good Risk At All (6-4 favourite), carrying the same Walters Plant Hire Ltd owner’s silks, took advantage of his lenient handicap mark to power to a facile nine-length success.

Thomas said: “He clearly handles those conditions. At Warwick the last day, they make him look a little one-paced if anything.

“In a good run race on soft ground, like it was today, he relished that.

“He was particularly well handicapped today and that will get us into the Coral Cup if we wanted to go down that route.

“Realistically, I came into today thinking this chap was our winner. He is so well handicapped off 127 and he had to win today, or I am not doing my job properly.”

Fortescue (right) on his way to Ascot glory
Fortescue (right) on his way to Ascot glory (Simon Marper/PA)

There could be a family day out at the Grand National if Fortescue gets into the Aintree showpiece.

Owned and bred by Tim Nixon, the eight-year-old shot stayed on resolutely after the last to down Fiddlerontheroof and score by a length and a half in the three-mile Listed greatbritishstallionshowcase.co.uk Swinley Chase under Hugh Nuget.

The 7-1 shot had been placed on his previous two starts, including a good third in the Peter Marsh at Haydock.

He maintained that good form, jumping well and relishing the ground under the 5lb claimer, who is now hoping the Henry Daly inmate can creep in near the foot of the National weights.

“At the moment, he has 10st and should go up a few pounds for this,” said Nugent.

“He liked this ground and jumped well, and while he can be hard work, he always finds more when you ask him.

“I hope he can get in (to the National). It would be lovely to ride at Aintree and it would be lovely for my granddad, who bred him and owns him.”

Daly, also on the mark at Haydock with the promising Hillcrest, completed an Ascot double with the Harry Cobden-ridden Guillemot (14-1) in the Ascot Racecourse Supports The Autism In Racing Handicap Hurdle.

Skytastic makes striking impression on jumping bow

Skytastic could be headed for Cheltenham after making an impressive debut over jumps in the Rob Burrow Helping To Fight MND EBF ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle (Qualifier) at Doncaster.

Trainer Sam Thomas wanted to get the unbeaten Dai Walters-owned six-year-old out earlier in the season but a pulled muscle put paid to that.

However, Skytastic (11-8 favourite) wasted no time in showing his potential with a very smooth success, triumphing by three and three-quarter lengths over Godrevy Point in the hands of Charlie Deutsch to add to his two bumper wins.

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles is the more likely objective than the three-mile Albert Bartlett.

Thomas said: “It’s a relief with a horse like that, but he’s very special.

“We had him ready to run at the start of the season, but he pulled a muscle so I’ve literally started from scratch with him. You’ve probably seen him at 90 per cent today. I’m just thrilled to get that out of the way.

“He’s in both races at Cheltenham, but I wouldn’t have thought we’d go down the three-mile route just yet. I’d imagine we’d be looking at the two-and-half-miler.

“We’ve got six weeks. It depends if we want to get another run into him for experience and fitness.”

Walters said: “He’s some horse. He got cast in his box just before he was going to run two or three months ago. He pulled a muscle so I’m glad to get him out in time for Cheltenham.

“We’ll take on those top ones. He’s in the same park. I was impressed with his jumping today and he’ll make a nice chaser.”

Deutsch completed a double when Funambule Sivola defied top weight in the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Chase.

The 5-4 favourite rallied close home to score by a length after long-time leader Before Midnight regained the initiative briefly on the run-in. The Big Bite stayed on to dead-heat for second place.

Funambule Sivola  (left) touches down in front on his way to winning the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Chse at Doncaster
Funambule Sivola (left) touches down in front on his way to winning the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Chse at Doncaster (Tim Goode/PA)

Deutsch said: “He jumped brilliantly, apart from the first. I got racing up the straight. He got to the front and I thought I had the other horse beat, then he came back at me.

“I probably got there a bit too soon, but he’s so quick and he jumped well. He’s a great little horse.”

Nocte Volatus (3-1) bounced back from an unfortunate incident on his previous start to win the Betting Better With Sky Bet Novices’ Handicap Chase.

The seven-year-old had run out at the first under conditional Dylan Kitts at Hereford, but the combination enjoyed a better outcome this time to win by eight and a half lengths from Ahead Of The Field.

Trainer Tom Lacey said: “It’s just starting to click with him. He’s been very hard to get to the races. This year he has turned the corner. He did get more worked up here than previously at Catterick and Newcastle, but Dylan is doing a good job.

“Hereford wasn’t Dylan’s fault. He was inexperienced in a big field against professionals. It was just one of those unfortunate things.

“It’s nice to have him back on track. He’s doing nothing wrong at the minute. You have to support the young lads in the yard. He’s a tidy little rider. You have to pick the rides for them and nurse them along.”

Lacey completed an across-the-card double just 10 minutes later when Dibble Decker (8-1) struck at Huntingdon.

Ridgeway (3-1) made a pleasing debut over jumps when winning the Sky Bet Uks No. 1 Betting App Novices’ Hurdle.

The five-year-old, a winner on the Flat for Eve Johnson Houghton, was given a confident ride by Harry Skelton to score by two and a half lengths from the Irish-trained Foxhollow.

The winning jockey said: “It looked on the Flat like he was better on better ground. I took him a bit wider to try to get fresh ground. It wasn’t too bad out there. He handled conditions well and won really well.”

Tommaso (11-2) finished strongly under Tommy Dowson to get up close home in the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Division One.

The Phil Kirby-trained four-year-old snatched the verdict by half a length from Chess Player with She’s A Rocca a neck third.

Kirby said: “He’s not done an awful lot since we got him. It’s nice for juveniles to take on older horses. He seemed to have a fair enough mark. Hopefully he’ll be a nice horse for the Flat in the summer.”

Division Two went to the Donald McCain-trained Taragrace (10-1), who defeated Mind Hunter by two and a half lengths in the hands of 5lb claimer Theo Gillard.