Nolan suffers back injuries in Southwell fall

Micheal Nolan is set to have surgery today after suffering back injuries in a fall at Southwell.

The jump jockey fractured his T5 and T6 vertebrae and broke several ribs when taking a nasty tumble from the Seamus Mullins-trained Ardbruce at the second fence in the Southwell Handicap Chase over two miles on Monday.

He was treated on track and then taken to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham for further assessment. Nolan was conscious and complaining of chest pains.

“X-rays show the fracture in T5 and T6 which they are going to operate on this afternoon and stabilise,” said Mullins.

“They found the uppermost rib was broken as well, which was giving him the chest pain. His lungs were OK.

“He’ll be in hospital a few days post op and he should be out by the weekend at the latest.

“The prognosis is pretty good. Yes, he’ll be out for an extended period, but everything is moving and he said he was feeling quite comfortable this morning. He’ll be fine long-term.

“I’ve spoken to him this morning and he’s in good spirits.”

Exitas scores emotional success for Middleton at Southwell

An emotional Phil Middleton recalled how Exitas twice overcame life-threatening injuries in the last two years to return to winning form at Southwell.

Middleton, who owns as well as trains the 13-year-old, managed to  hold his composure as he greeted his winner after the Dapper Spaniel Gastro Pub Rolleston Handicap Hurdle.

Ridden by 5lb claimer Tabitha Worsley, the 17-2 chance showed he retains all his enthusiasm for racing as he came home eight lengths clear of Hattaab.

It was a first success for Exitas since a veterans’ handicap chase at Aintree in October 2018.

“He ran here a couple of years ago and put his foot in a hole,” Middleton told Sky Sports Racing.

“He ripped his shoe off, and the shoe was dangling in his tail. He came back and couldn’t get off the horse box.

“He had torn all his ligaments through his pastern. We stood him for six months in agony. We nearly had him put down.

“We nursed him back. On his comeback run, he struck into himself, burst his joint capsule. The vet said he will get an infection. It’s 50-50. You might want to put him down.

“We sent him off to Newbury vets hospital for two weeks, and they saved him.”

After that second major scare, Middleton thought it best to retire Exitas – but the horse had other ideas.

“I retired him. He was as miserable as sin. He stood at the gate asking to come in – ‘I want to be a racehorse’,” said the Aylesbury permit holder.

“We ran him at Warwick, and he pulled up two out. The jockey got off him and said he was lame. I thought ‘not again’.

“I leapt over the rails and got down there. He was soon trotting as sound as a bell. The vets were there, there was nothing wrong with him, so I thought we’ll carry on.

“I can hear people thinking he’s cruel carrying on, but it’s not about greed. He loves the game – and I love him!”

Retirement could finally be imminent for Exitas – but he is first likely to make a quick reappearance in a handicap hurdle at Worcester on Saturday.

“He’s going to be retired,” added Middleton.

“When he wins he usually wins three. I think he’ll win at Worcester on Saturday night – and I’ve got the best home ever for him after.”

Jockey Jonathan England, on fourth-placed Wishfull Dreaming, received a two-day suspension for careless riding.

Royal double for Henderson team at Southwell

The Queen enjoyed a Southwell double as Nico De Boinville steered two horses to success at the Nottinghamshire track in the royal silks.

The first of the Nicky Henderson-trained duo to strike was Kincardine, who won on his racecourse debut when taking the Dapper Spaniel Gastro Pub Rolleston Open National Hunt Flat Race after starting as 13-8 favourite.

The four-year-old is out of Side Step who is turn a daughter of Magic Score, with both dam and grand-dam owned by the Queen and trained by Henderson.

“He was fantastic, it was nice to have something to aim at for a change,” De Boinville told Sky Sports Racing after the early pace of the race was provided by No Authority.

Rapid Flight ridden by jockey Nico de Boinville on their way to winning the Happy Birthday Lucy Titchener ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle at Southwell Racecourse
Rapid Flight ridden by jockey Nico de Boinville on their way to winning the Happy Birthday Lucy Titchener ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle at Southwell Racecourse (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think it might turn out to be a nice bumper in time, he’s a really nice horse and he showed plenty of toe there.

“He was doing enough in front, he pricked his ears and I knew if the other horse came to me, he’d have gone on again.”

The owner-trainer-jockey trio then enjoyed an immediate second success on the card as Rapid Flight landed the Happy Birthday Lucy Titchener ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle.

The five-year-old made all of the running and stayed on to shake off a challenge from Sounds Russian before passing the post a length and a quarter ahead as a 9-4 shot.

Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan also teamed for a treble on the card, with Coole Well prevailing in the Free Racecourse Entry With Golf Membership Handicap Chase to provide their first success.

The eight-year-old started as 10-11 favourite and only officially joined O’Brien’s stable six days ago after spending some time at Brennan’s base since departing his former yard.

Coole Well ridden by jockey Paddy Brennan clear a fence on their way to winning the Free Racecourse Entry With Golf Membership Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse
Coole Well, ridden by jockey Paddy Brennan, clears a fence on their way to winning the Free Racecourse Entry With Golf Membership Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse (Mike Egerton/PA)

O’Brien said: “Paddy more or less trained him for this one.

“We’ve had Coole Well four or five weeks, Paddy’s done all the work at home.

“He’s got a nice set up there and he’s just been hacking about.

“The longer we’ve had him, the better he’s settled in, so we were very pleased with that. It was lovely the way he travelled and jumped.”

Byzantine Empire (3-1) then produced O’Brien and Brennan’s second success when a three-and-a-half-length winner of the Jigsaw Sports Branding Novices’ Hurdle before As High Say (2-1 favourite) wrapped up the hat-trick with victory in the Rolleston Revival Village Event Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

The favourite also prevailed in the Follow Jigsaw Sports Branding On Twitter Handicap Chase as Kerry Lee’s Do It For Thy Sen crossed the line eight lengths ahead of his nearest rival under Brendan Powell.

Having triumphed at the same track on his last outing, the gelding was 5-2 favourite for the contest and ran prominently from the start.

Picking up the lead with three fences left to navigate, the seven-year-old was easily able to pull away from the rest of the field and was a ready winner of the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

Do It For Thy Sen, ridden by jockey Brendan Powell, clears a fence on his way to winning the Follow Jigsaw Sports Branding On Twitter Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse
Do It For Thy Sen, ridden by jockey Brendan Powell, clears a fence on his way to winning the Follow Jigsaw Sports Branding On Twitter Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse (PA/Mike Egerton)

Tanit River provided Robbie Llewellyn and Bradley Gibbs with a success in the Join Southwell Golf Club Open Hunters’ Chase at 4-1.

The 11-year-old brought credible form from hunter chases at Ascot and Cheltenham and made all of the running to deny David Maxwell aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained 8-15 favourite Cat Tiger.

“He ran at Cheltenham in the four-miler and he jumped and travelled very well that day,” Gibbs said.

“Four miles around Cheltenham was probably a bit too far for him, but he’s back here today. Robbie said he had him in good form and to be fair, he did – he jumped and galloped today.”

Harry Skelton seizes jockeys’ title lead with Southwell treble

Harry Skelton’s title hopes were boosted by a Southwell treble that left him two wins ahead of Brian Hughes in the jump jockeys’ championship.

Skelton was trailing his rival by one ahead of the card, but his full book of rides produced three victories while Hughes drew a blank.

Fidelio Vallis took the opening contest for Skelton and Paul Nicholls, drawing 11 lengths clear of his nearest challenger to justify a starting price of 30-100.

The second leg of Skelton’s treble was then provided by Caroline Bailey’s Just A Deal, who was a runaway winner of the second division of the Join Southwell Golf Club Handicap Hurdle after finishing second in a similar contest last time out.

The six-year-old started as 15-8 favourite and was unchallenged when cruising to a 19-length victory – providing Skelton with his 138th success of the season.

“He’s done really well,” Skelton told Sky Sports Racing.

“The last day we just bumped into one. I rode him with a bit more room today, he jumped well and stayed on really well.

“Caroline said ‘don’t be afraid to just get him rolling, because all he does is gallop’.

“He’s fairly inexperienced, but he’s going the right way.”

Skelton and Bailey teamed up again to take the last the race on the card as Begin The Luck obliged at 5-1 and left the jockey holding a narrow lead with 11 days of the season to go.

“The support I’m getting is fantastic,” he said.

“I’m very grateful to everyone who has chipped in to help me get this far, hopefully now we can just keep pushing.

“It’s a long way to go and a lot of things can happen, but I’ve got good people around me.”

Skelton is the 1-5 favourite with both Coral and Ladbrokes to be crowned top jockey.

Elsewhere on the card, the first division of the Join Southwell Golf Club Handicap Hurdle went the way of Go Chique for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville, with the five-year-old mare passing the post three and three-quarter lengths ahead of her nearest rival to land a 15-2 success.

“She was really good,” De Boinville said.

“She won her bumper here and she’s been progressing nicely. She really appreciates top of the ground and a step up to three miles helped as well.”

William Of Orange then claimed his 10th career success when winning the On Track Off Course: Handicap Chase for conditional jockey Joe Williamson and trainer Mark Walford.

The 10-year-old was triumphant at Catterick in March under the same rider and seemed to bounce back from his subsequent well-beaten effort at Sedgefield to prevail again at 15-2.

“He’s class really, he’s old enough now and he knows the ropes,” Williamson said.

“Everything possibly just happened a bit quick the last day at Sedgefield and he just got caught a bit off his speed, but there was a bit more give in the ground today which suited him and he’s done it nicely again.

“It’s great to get another winner for Mark Walford, who’s given me plenty of support this season.”

The Donate To Racing Welfare Online Maiden Hurdle then went the way of Paul Webbers Pawpaw, who was steered to a four-and-three-quarter-length success at 17-2 by Ciaran Gethings.

“He gave me a great feel, I spoke to Richie (McLernon, who rode last time) on the way here and he filled me full of confidence,” Gethings said.

“It was very smooth, really, he jumped and travelled well.”

Harry Skelton maintains championship chase with Southwell treble

Harry Skelton’s stellar form continued as he kept up his title charge with a treble at Southwell.

Skelton was trailing reigning champion jockey Brian Hughes by three wins going into the meeting, with both riders having full books of rides at Southwell and Hexham respectively.

Skelton got a winner on the board early when taking the first race aboard Gary Hanmer’s Costly Diamond, who sealed a hat-trick of victories when prevailing by a length and a quarter in the And Wave Goodbye To Pain Handicap Chase.

Ridden prominently throughout, the evens favourite took up the lead over the sixth fence and was never passed, holding on to triumph ahead of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Larch Hill.

The next contest produced another Skelton success, with the jockey this time partnering Olly Murphy’s First Class Return in the Free Tips Daily On Handicap Chase.

First Class Return, ridden by Harry Skelton, on his way to winning the Free Tips Daily On Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse
First Class Return, ridden by Harry Skelton, on his way to winning the Free Tips Daily On Handicap Chase at Southwell Racecourse (Mike Egerton/PA)

Starting as 10-11 favourite, the eight-year-old came to the fore early and was unchallenged when registering a 12-length success.

Skelton was denied three back to back wins when beaten in the next two contests, but Soyouthinksoagain did deliver in the Weatherbys Handicap Hurdle for his brother Dan.

The victory left Skelton level with Hughes at the top of the table with each jockey on 130 wins, but Hughes’ success aboard Bavington Bob in the fourth race at Hexham saw him edge back into the lead again with over three weeks until the season concludes

“It’s brilliant and it’s down to a good team,” Skelton told Sky Sports Racing.

“Dan’s horses are flying and I’m picking up a few outside rides. I’m in a very privileged position with a lot of good people around me.

“Obviously you’re always watching, aren’t you?” he said when asked if he was following Hughes’ fortunes at Hexham.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but this is a position I’ve always wanted to be in – I’ve dreamt of being here.

“I never thought I’d do it this year, but it’s fantastic and I’m loving it.

“My agent, Ian Popham, is working very hard and my brother’s working very hard in placing the horses.”

Harry Skelton
Harry Skelton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Elsewhere on the card, the favourite prevailed in the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, with Aidan Coleman in the saddle as the Nicky Henderson-trained Hob House triumphed at 5-2.

From the family of Champion Hurdle winner Epatante and running in the same JP McManus silks, Hob House was making his racecourse debut and Coleman was impressed with the professionalism he demonstrated.

“He felt very well, I delivered him well and he was no real hassle,” he said.

“He was forward enough going into the race and the race went to plan. I committed him a bit sooner than I’d like because one decided to take me on leaving the back.

Last year's Champion Hurdle winner Epatante is a relative of Hob House
Last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Epatante is a relative of Hob House (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I just let him go on then, he was idling a bit up the straight, but he’s a nice horse.

“He was very good, he was very straight and professional.”

Of any similarities between the four-year-old and Epatante, Coleman added: “There’s plenty to like about him. He’s probably not as fast as she is, but he’s got the size and scope to hopefully run over a bit further than she does.”

Rockstar Ronnie was at the head of the market for the Download The At The Races App Novices’ Hurdle and looked likely to be another winner for Skelton, but it was Olly Murphy’s No Risk Des Flos that struck to give Coleman back-to-back wins.

The grey had run with credit in all four prior starts, winning once in a maiden hurdle, and demonstrated his credentials as a future chaser with a good round of jumping and a three-and-a-quarter-length victory.

No Risk Des Flos, ridden by Aidan Coleman, winning the Download The At The Races App Novices’ Hurdle
No Risk Des Flos, ridden by Aidan Coleman, winning the Download The At The Races App Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He’s a gorgeous horse, he just needed a bit of time, but he’s done his job,” said Ger Tumelty, assistant trainer to Murphy.

“He’s won two hurdles now this season and he’s going to be a lovely horse to go novice chasing with – I’d imagine that’d be the plan next year.

“He’s still a bit green, he’s still a bit raw.

“He was a fresher horse coming into it today, we’re really happy with him and I think he’d probably appreciate a bit further on slower ground.

“He was good enough to win today, that’s the main thing.”

Charlie Todd appeared to escape serious injury as he was unshipped from Dragon Bones in the Sky Sports Racing Virgin 535 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

The filly swerved approaching the obstacle, firing Todd into the hurdle, but the rider walked away from the incident. Padstow Harbour (11-1) took the prize.

In-form Skeltons continue in the winners with Southwell four-timer

Dan and Harry Skelton continued their excellent form ahead of the Cheltenham Festival with a 35-1 four-timer at Southwell on Monday.

Harry Skelton was taking his tally for the season to 106 – and is five behind Brian Hughes in the jockeys’ title race after the reigning champion also rode a winner at Wetherby.

His brother Dan has 112 on the board and is in second place behind Paul Nicholls in the trainers’ championship, which is decided on prize-money.

The Alcester team took the honours at the Nottinghamshire track with Danse Idol, King D’Argent, Rockstar Ronnie and Embole.

The trainer said: “The horses are in good form. I know three were a short price, but that was a good performance by them all and it was a good day out.”

Danse Idol (7-5 favourite) got the ball rolling with hard-fought victory by half a length over long-time leader Northern Beau in the Virgin Bet Mares’ Handicap Chase.

It was much easier for King D’Argent (4-5 favourite), who ran his two rivals into the ground to score by 27 lengths and 30 lengths from Blacko and Glajou in the Virgin Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Rockstar Ronnie had no trouble justifying prohibitive odds of 1-9 in the Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle, despite giving 6lb away all round for winning at Kelso last month. The six-year-old made all to beat Lockdown Leader by 14 lengths.

Embole (13-2) brought up the four-timer by following up a recent Wetherby success in the Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle, coming home nine and a half lengths clear of the field.

Skelton realises the significance of stable form ahead of a big meeting – but also what day-to-day success means, too.

“A bit of form going into Cheltenham stands everyone in good stead and puts a smile on everyone’s face – the staff, owners, everybody,” he said.

“It’s important to have a bit of form going into it, but these races today were important in their own right, for these horses that aren’t going to those Festivals.

“We’ve got to keep the ball rolling every day.”

Chapple-Hyam eyeing Saudi and UAE Derby options for Albadri

Albadri could be heading to the Middle East for a big objective following his victory in the Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free Handicap at Southwell.

The Dandy Man colt has entries in the Saudi Derby at Riyadh next month and the UAE Derby at Meydan in March and Jane Chapple-Hyam is hoping to get an invitation for one of them.

The Newmarket trainer took Albadri to the Nottinghamshire venue whto give him experience of the Fibresand surface as it is the closest to dirt in the UK.

Albadri had been highly-tried in Pattern company after scoring at odds of 100-1 on his debut at Windsor in August, but had run respectably at Group Three and Listed level in four attempts.

His final outing of 2020 was in the Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury where he was sixth to Mujbar, beaten less than four lengths.

Top weight of 9st 7lb was no hindrance to Albadri (9-4) as he made all the running over the one-mile trip in the hands of Hollie Doyle. Never in any danger of defeat, he crossed the line a length ahead of Apatite.

“He’s been running in Group races and so he was top weight for a reason,” said Chapple-Hyam.

“The horse has done the talking and done it nicely. He’s got a Saudi Derby and a UAE Derby entry, so whichever one will take him, he’ll go.

“It’s never any harm putting them up at Southwell because it’s the most similar surface you’ll get to dirt.

“I was happy to run there with top weight. He’d worked well at home leading into that race today and we’ll see who wants to accept us – UAE or Saudi.

“That’s been our goal since he ran at Newbury to be in either Derby.”

Racing Insights, 1st January 2021

My main runner of interest on Thursday wasn't amongst the places but was much better than the bare result and she did outrun her odds. She would have been seen to much better effect had she been ridden prominently. Blushes were salvaged slightly by the runner flagged as the main danger winning the race.

This will be my final day filling the Racing Insights hot seat, Chris will be back to continue shining the light on some nice bets in the new year.

Friday is the final day that registered free users will have full free access to Geegeez Gold. That’s not the end of the benefits of being a free user though – every day there are free features and races available to free registered users.

You can sign up for a free Geegeez account here to get benefits every day.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I find Geegeez Gold extremely useful in analysing races at Southwell with course form and/or being bred for the surface so important and this is where I’ll be heading for Friday’s preview. The 1.15pm is a class 3 handicap over 7f and looks an interesting contest to get stuck into.

Only seven runners in this but Instant Expert is still going to save us plenty of time in shedding light on those that have gone well here in the past. First let’s check out the place data.

The majority of these have run consistently well here in the past with nothing standing out as not liking the surface. Both Teston and Irreverent have yet to run here.

Now let’s see the win only data.

Fieldsman was the least interesting of those that have run here before based on the place data and that’s definitely reflected in the win only data here, he’s won just two of this fourteen runs here in handicaps.

In terms of winning records here something is going to have to give with Stone Soldier, Ayr Harbour and Borsdane Wood all having a 100% record here to date.

Before we look at the sire data in Instant Expert we should first pick up any other snippets from the Instant Expert screenshots above. Ayr Harbour strong across the board for win purposes and is crucially the only runner proven in this class and here at Southwell. Fieldsman on the other hand does have a fairly consistent place record here but he scores poorly for all categories for win purposes on Instant Expert.

The sire data in Instant Expert should tell us more about the chances of Teston and Irreverent who will both be making their course debuts.

Rio De La Plata, sire of Teston, comes out as the top sire here from those with runners in the race but unfortunately he’s had just one runner here is seems. So that 100% place record certainly needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Iffraaj, sire of Irreverent, doesn’t have an amazing place strike rate here with his runners but it is still better than that of Invincible Spirit (Borsdane Wood) and Dandy Man (Fancy Footings). Both of those runners have run well here in the past so we can’t confidently rule out Irreverent (or Teston) based on the surface.

Stone Soldier is likely to be the early favourite. He looked an exposed 3yo until trying this surface for the first time on his stable debut early in December and he looked a natural on that occasion, winning by over 4 lengths from a reliable yard stick. That 2nd was a neck from victory on his next run over course and distance and the 3rd won next time out so overall that was strong form.

Stone Solider followed that effort up with a narrower victory up at a mile. He’s up another 5lbs now and may be short enough in the betting but what is potentially most interesting is this horse has run seventeen times but has only run over 7f twice, winning on both occasions.

He does have some decent stats in his favour here, particularly the IV produced by this trainer and jockey partnership.

Ayr Harbour is the horse that brings slightly classier form into this contest having won a class 2 handicap two starts ago at Chelmsford before recording a 2nd last time out in this class. His course win hasn’t worked out well though and his recent wins have been at a mile so he could be opposable if on the short side here.

Borsdane Wood was the other interesting one based on course form, having won both his previous runs on fibresand. Both wins were over this distance too but the issue is they came 13 months ago for a different trainer. He managed just two runs in 2020 (both poor efforts in June) and has possibly not trained on or at the very least had some serious soundness issues – perhaps both. It’s possible the return to this venue will spark a revival (it certainly needs to) but he’s a hugely risky proposition. Market support would be interesting though.

The trainer change might be a positive here with Julie Camacho producing an IV of 1.81 with recruits from other yards on their stable debuts.

Fancy Footings is difficult to weigh up. He seems to run very well or absolutely terribly with little to predict what is coming. He won here by over three lengths off just a 2lb higher mark just over a year ago and followed that up with a decent 3rd over course and distance off a 6lb higher mark than he carries here. A return to that sort of form may see him win this. He was less impressive back here in January though when beaten 7 lengths off a 4lb higher mark than he contends with in this. He’s one you can’t rule out but he’s difficult to back.

Fieldsman is very much exposed here and although he has only won twice from fourteen runs here, those victories have both come in the past six weeks. He’s only 7lbs better off with Stone Soldier for a 7.5 length beating though here earlier in December and it’s difficult to make a case for him reversing that form.

Teston has some interesting form and could be a contender here. He’s got plenty of form on artificial surfaces from his time in France and he’s only 7lbs higher here than when victorious by 7 lengths at Doncaster in June. He ran well in listed company after that effort. He’s been in lesser form in three runs since but there have been some excuses for that (heavy ground, then much faster ground, then the distance).

Irreverent is well handicapped on some older form but hasn’t quite been firing recently, running okay but not as if about to win. He’s running here for the first time and is wearing a first time visor so there are reasons why he could suddenly run much better but also reasons why he’ll run terribly!

It pays to be up with the pace here but we may well see a contested pace.

Teston is likely to try to burn them off with his customary running style but he’s going to have to go very fast to lead. There are plenty of prominent runners here as well as front runners so we could see a few having to go wide round the turn as they jostle for position.


A difficult race in which to find value with the bookies looking to have got this market pretty much right. Neither Stone Soldier or Ayr Harbour look brilliantly handicapped but they’ve both shown the classier form and they have the least questions to answer.

Unless there is a ton of money for Borsdane Wood the best play in the race might be a straight forecast on Stone Solider to beat Ayr Harbour. The drop in trip for Stone Solider should suit better than it does for his nearest market rival.

Southwell set for Tapeta switch

Arena Racing Company have submitted a planning application to replace the current Fibresand surface at Southwell with Tapeta.

Fibresand has been used at the Nottinghamshire venue since the inception of all-weather racing in 1989 yet despite several regeneration efforts, the time has now come for it to be replaced.

Tapeta, developed by Michael Dickinson and Joan Wakefield, has been in use at Wolverhampton and Newcastle – also owned by ARC – for a number of years and it is also in use around the world.

ARC chief executive, Martin Cruddace, said: “Racing at both Wolverhampton and Newcastle has benefitted hugely from the installation of Tapeta, as we have worked closely with Michael Dickinson, Joan Wakefield and their team on the maintenance and upkeep of both surfaces.

“Tapeta represents the next generation of artificial all-weather racing surface, in terms of its appeal to both trainers and jockeys, and it offers a number of benefits regarding its safety record, relative lack of kickback and fairness for horses.  In addition, it has the ability to handle very low temperatures and significant rainfall.

“The installation of Tapeta will give us an opportunity to look at the flat programme at Southwell and possibly introduce some Fast Track Qualifier races for the All-Weather Championships, for example.

“This work represents another significant step forward for racing at Southwell, which we intend to be one of the finest all-weather tracks in the world.”

It is expected work will start in the spring and be completed by summer 2021.

Champion trainer John Gosden backed the move and said: “I am delighted that ARC has chosen to make this investment in such difficult times. I have always thought that Newcastle is the best all-weather track in the UK because of its configuration and surface.

“The Tapeta surface is both safe and true and Southwell’s configuration is akin to many of the top racecourses in the USA. It will greatly benefit from the switch to Tapeta and I look forward to having many runners there.”

Mark Johnston was also in favour and said: “This is fantastic news. Southwell is faultless in terms of scale and layout and, with a Tapeta surface, it can be an all-weather racetrack of the highest international standard.”

Scott Dixon’s stables are very close to the track and he is excited at trying out the new surface.

“Obviously we train on track, so I look at it very positively because ultimately we’ll have a fantastic surface to train on every day,” he said.

“Fibresand has been very good to us over the years, we’ve had a lot of horses that have been Fibresand specific and course specialists. We’ve done well on it, but time moves on, things improve and Tapeta is regarded as one of the finest surfaces in the world.

“Southwell is a galloping track, very fair and is probably the best all-weather track in the country in terms of its layout so I think it is a very positive move for us. I look forward to it.”

However, not all trainers believe it is a good move.

Southwell regular Mick Appleby, who is based 43 miles away at Oakham, would prefer to see an American-style dirt surface there.

“I don’t think it’s the right decision. Yes, I agree Fibresand is now outdated and needs replacing,” he said.

“I don’t think Tapeta is the answer. For me, personally, I think they should change it to a dirt track.

“We’ve got no dirt tracks in the UK. We’ve got nothing anywhere near what they’ve got in America when Fibresand goes.

“You’d have thought it would have made more sense to put a dirt track down and get some better races on and get some Breeders’ Cup qualifiers and qualifiers for Dubai and things like that.

“What’s the point in having three Tapeta tracks?”

Kim Bailey thrilled to see Balleticon back to winning ways after long absence

Kim Bailey was delighted to see Balleticon make a successful return from a 705-day absence in the 20K Owners Club Guarantee Maiden Hurdle at Southwell on Sunday.

Runner-up in two of his three bumper starts, the six-year-old had not been seen in competitive action since finishing fifth at Bangor almost two years ago.

Hot favourite Mocacreme Has loomed up looking a big danger to the front-running Balleticon before leaving the back straight, but the latter refused to yield and proved three and a half lengths too strong.

Bailey said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and a big thank you goes to my head lad George Savill. He rides this horse every day and he is far from an easy horse, I promise you.

“His bumper form is rock solid and he’s got stacks of ability, but he’s unbelievably fragile.

“Fingers crossed he’s in one piece tomorrow and I rather feel the same way about his owners, actually – this is their first winner and I think there’ll be big celebrations for them tonight!”

Ecossais justified 2-1 favouritism in the opening Download The Star Sports App Now! Handicap Chase.

Ecossais (centre) on his way to victory at Southwell
Ecossais (centre) on his way to victory at Southwell (Tim Goode/PA)

Oliver Greenall’s charge successfully followed up his course victory of last month with a near three-length verdict in the hands of 5lb claimer Ross Turner.

“I’m very pleased. He’s healthy and well and improving, so it’s all good,” said Greenall.

“I was a bit worried about the softer ground, but he seemed to handle it.

“He just seems uncomplicated, so it’s great.”

Debden Bank also obliged for favourite-backers in the Call Star Sports On 08000 521 321 Handicap Chase.

A promising third on his seasonal reappearance at Stratford last month, the 100-30 chance was fitted with cheekpieces for his latest assignment and they seemed to have the desired effect, with James Best’s mount powering 11 lengths clear of his toiling rivals.

Fame And Concrete made a seriously impressive start to his career in the Read Davy Russell’s Exclusive Blog Standard Open NH Flat Race.

Representing the father-son combination of Jonjo O’Neill and Jonjo O’Neill junior, the 7-2 shot took over the lead rounding the home and the further he went the better he looked – passing the post 13 lengths clear of Deeper Blue.

Phil Kirby’s Another Theatre was a surprise winner of the £10k Showtime Guarantee Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

Formerly trained by Henry Oliver, the daughter of Shantou had shown precious little in her first two starts over fences for Kirby in finishing seventh at Perth before being pulled up at the same track.

Another Theatre was a wide-margin winner
Another Theatre was a wide-margin winner (Tim Goode/PA)

She was priced up accordingly for her return to the smaller obstacles at 28-1, but romped to an 18-length triumph under Tommy Dowson.

Kirby said: “Her form was good before we got her and the plan was to go chasing, but she’s just struggled.

“She’d schooled well at home, but hasn’t jumped particularly well at the races, so we just decided to go back to basics over hurdles and try to teach her to be a racehorse again, as she’d just lost her way.

“It’s a nice surprise to see her win today. Hopefully there’s more to come from her now.”

Oliver Sherwood and Brendan Powell combined to land the Pipped At The Post Offer EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle with 10-11 favourite Ocean Drifter.

Wargrave has Baker dreaming of big things on Southwell return

Wargrave fuelled more “mad dreams” for trainer George Baker when he added a maiden victory over hurdles at Southwell to a remarkable equine CV which already contains a ‘white turf’ title at St Moritz.

Wargrave won the Grosser Preis von St Moritz on his stable debut for Baker in February, having previously run in the Group One National Stakes as a two-year-old for Fozzy Stack in Ireland and since taken in Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood this summer.

After the son of Galileo had proved himself equally adept over jumps, beating odds-on favourite Hooper by a length in the Sky Sports Racing HD Virgin 535 Maiden Hurdle, Baker cited “America, via the Guatemalan Derby” as possible future destinations.

Slightly closer to home for the Sussex trainer, but on no smaller stage, Wargrave has sparked hopes of spring targets at Aintree or Cheltenham if he can manage to “sneak into” a big handicap.

“I brought him all the way up here to Southwell, from the southern Riviera of Sussex, hoping it would snow – because he goes on that!” Baker said with a smile, after the four-year-old had prevailed at 11-4 under Adrian Heskin, on just his second attempt over hurdles.

“I’m delighted with him,” he added.

“We do have a bit of a mantra – ‘have horse, will travel’, always pressing the gamble button and going off to strange places and fun places with winning chances.”

Baker is perhaps best known for the globetrotting exploits of his 2013 Royal Hunt Cup winner Belgian Bill – and in Wargrave, he appears to have unearthed another kindred spirit.

“Belgian Bill took us round the world, and this fellow likewise,” he said.

“Who knows where we’ll end up? He might be a type for America at some point – we’ll see, one step at a time.

“America, via the Guatemalan Derby – I think that would be the obvious one.”

Other targets will come first, on home soil.

“By the end of the season, maybe he’ll be sneaking into the bottom of one of those better handicaps if things drop right,” said Baker.

“We’re never ones for getting ahead of ourselves. But I think a flat track probably suits – so I suppose if everything went perfectly, he’d maybe the type who could end up in a nice race at Aintree, because I’d have thought that track would probably suit him.

“But there’s another place called Cheltenham along the way. To add a Cheltenham winner to our Royal Ascot winner would be beyond my wildest dreams.

“But you have to have mad dreams in this game, as we all know. So I’ll drive home from here with a few.”

Wargrave has already made a lifelong dream come true for his owner Paul Bowden.

“He was a proper horse on the Flat,” said Baker.

“He’s been a real star, and I’m delighted for his owner Paul. He’s been a great supporter of ours, and his dream was to win that race in St Moritz – now the dream is racing on a bit longer!

“He did a great job for us in St Moritz, which is what the owner bought him for – he wanted a horse to win that big race over there.

“He got that job done, (but) then got a bit bored of the stalls through the summer.”

The solution was a comparatively short journey for Wargrave, for expert jumping tuition from triple Gold Cup-winner Best Mate’s former trainer and schooling doyenne Henrietta Knight.

Baker said: “If you want your horses to jump well, you send them to the best, so we sent him down to Hen’s, and all credit to her – she’s been a massive part of turning this horse’s mind around.

“He was just a bit sour through the summer, and he went down there for two weeks with Hen, and that’s been the making of him – he jumped beautifully at Exeter the other day.

“We’re mainly a Flat yard, but we love having a few jumpers round the place.

“He’s an exciting horse for a different discipline – if we can have a bit of fun with him over hurdles, so be it.”

Wargrave was not the only notable winner on the day when jumping returned for the first time to Southwell following a two-month suspension of its National Hunt fixture list while investigations were carried out into a spate of fatalities.

Despite two fallers and other non-completions on the eight-race card, there were no reports of serious injury.

Paul Nicholls’ Barbados Buck’s, meanwhile, also scored over hurdles for the first time.

The Stewart family’s well-related five-year-old served notice of his potential by relishing a step up in trip to win the Free Tips Daily On Novices’ Hurdle by two and a quarter lengths at 11-4 under Bryony Frost.

Jumping set to resume at Southwell next week

Jump racing will return to Southwell next Friday after the conclusion of an investigation into eight equine fatalities at the Nottinghamshire track.

Cheltenham Festival winner Croco Bay was one of the fatalities which occurred from July 30 to September 3, and the British Horseracing Authority and course owners Arena Racing Company suspended jump racing at Southwell from that date.

The report makes four key recommendations to modify existing fences and changes to the race programme.

A schooling morning to trial the modifications made to fences took place on Wednesday – with a number of leading trainers and jockeys present to test, and offer feedback, on the amendments made.

Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, said: “The BHA and ARC have worked together to comprehensively review the incidents at Southwell between July and early September, while racing was temporarily suspended at the course as a precaution.

“Having completed analysis of the racing in that period, all those involved agreed there are a small number of changes that can be made which will have a positive impact.”

ARC racing director Jon Pullin said: “We are extremely grateful to BHA and all of those who have assisted in this review. The recommendations that it has made have been fully implemented at Southwell, ahead of the resumption of jump racing at the racecourse on November 13.

“The amendments to the steeplechase fences have been a focus of the work undertaken by the racecourse team in preparation for this upcoming meeting, working alongside jockeys and trainers to make sure that the recommendations from the review are met.

“The physical changes to the fences sit alongside the other ongoing work, which includes the race programme, as part of our constant review of racing operations at Southwell and all of our sites.”

Trainer Charlie Longsdon, who was present at the schooling morning, said: “The changes that have been made to the fences are a positive step – and based on the schooling morning, we were very happy with how the horses were jumping them.

“The jockeys who rode over them were happy too, and we’re looking forward to having runners at Southwell at the next fixture.”

Champion Oisin Murphy reaches 1,000 winners milestone

Oisin Murphy reached 1,000 domestic career winners aboard Perfect Sign at Southwell.

The champion jockey achieved the landmark on the Michael Dods-trained juvenile with victory over Sealed Offer by two and three-quarter lengths – in the colours of his retained owner, Qatar Racing, edging closer to retaining his title.

As well as being successful in the UK, Murphy, 25, has had winners all over Europe and the rest of the world.

Born in Cork, he began riding in the UK in 2013 and quickly made an impact, being crowned champion apprentice in 2014.

He was appointed number one jockey for Qatar Racing in 2016, and in June this year secured his first Classic success – landing the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket with Kameko, in the Qatar colours.

Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “I ride for great people, and it’s really nice to get my 1,000th in these colours.

“The filly is in the sale on Thursday, so it’s a good moment.

“When you start out as an apprentice you hope to just get one winner – hopefully I can ride 1,000 more in the future.

“I ride good horses all over the world – I’m very privileged and I have to remember that.”

Murphy is already looking to the future, including on Kameko next week when Andrew Balding’s colt is due to run the last race of his career at the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

“We’ve been so lucky to find good horses over the years,” he added.

Kameko and Oisin Murphy will be heading to the Breeders' Cup next week
Kameko and Oisin Murphy will be heading to the Breeders’ Cup next week (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“Roaring Lion was a champion, as is Kameko, but to replace them isn’t easy – so we keep trying.

“To win my first Classic on Kameko was great – growing up as a child you watch all the Classics, and that was very special.

“Kameko heads to the Breeders’ Cup, and we took him to Kempton this morning and we went round left-handed so he could get used to that.”

Pace Wins The Race: 6f All Weather Handicaps

In my most recent article, we looked at pace bias in 5f handicaps on the all weather, and as promised here is a follow-up looking at the 6f trip, writes Dave Renham.

For regular readers I appreciate the next few lines in some form or other seem to appear in all my pace articles, but for the benefit of new readers I need to clarify the following: when discussing pace the main focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on. At there is a pace tab within the racecards for each race, and the stats in this article are based on the site’s pace data. These pace data on Geegeez are split into four sections each of which are assigned points – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). For all my articles I concentrate on the numerical values to create a plethora of hopefully useful stats.

The minimum distance of five furlongs gives the strongest pace bias on the flat as previous articles have illustrated. However, there is still a bias to pace horses/front runners over an extra furlong, which I will demonstrate in what follows.

The first set of data I wish to share with you is the overall pace perspective for 6f all weather handicaps with six or more runners (the data for this article has been taken from the last 5 years 2014 to 2018):

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 325 1812 17.9 1.75
Prominent (3) 523 4448 11.8 1.15
Mid Division (2) 155 2003 7.7 0.79
Held Up (1) 357 4886 7.3 0.72


These stats give front runners a solid edge – it is not as strong as over 5f but it is still significant. Just for comparison purposes let us look at the strike rates (SR%) and Impact Values (IVs) for 6f and for 5f:


Pace comment 6f 5f   6f 5f
  SR% SR%   IV IV
Led (4) 17.9 22.3   1.75 2.04
Prominent (3) 11.8 12.5   1.15 1.15
Mid Division (2) 7.7 6.5   0.79 0.62
Held Up (1) 7.3 6.7   0.72 0.61


Over 6f front runners are still winning 1.75 times more often than average so we still have a decent starting point.

The main data for this article covers all-weather six-furlong handicaps with 6 or more runners. I then split the data into different field sizes – 6 to 8 runners; 9 – 10 runners; 11 or more runners. I did this ‘runner split’ for the 5f all-weather data in the previous article, and over that trip bigger fields produced the strongest front-running bias. As it turns out, this is replicated over 6f too:

6 to 8 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 536 104 19.4 1.41
Prominent (3) 1093 167 15.28 1.11
Mid Division (2) 304 27 8.88 0.66
Held Up (1) 988 107 10.83 0.79


9 to 10 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 548 100 18.25 1.73
Prominent (3) 1351 163 12.07 1.15
Mid Division (2) 549 43 7.83 0.74
Held Up (1) 1477 113 7.65 0.73


11 or more runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 728 121 16.62 1.98
Prominent (3) 2004 193 9.63 1.14
Mid Division (2) 1150 85 7.39 0.88
Held Up (1) 2421 137 5.66 0.67


The IV for front runners increases as the number of runners increases. This is somewhat counter-intuitive and is therefore worth bearing in mind.

The article that discussed 5f all weather sprints looked at each course and distance individually. Once again this is the plan here, as different courses have different layouts, and also there are differences between certain track surfaces too. Let's start with Chelmsford and work through alphabetically.


Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 58 278 20.9 1.97
Prominent (3) 71 562 12.6 1.19
Mid Division (2) 31 422 7.3 0.71
Held Up (1) 44 671 6.6 0.62


Just over a fifth of the 6f handicap races (SR 20.9%) at Chelmsford have seen the early leader going on to win. This compares with a strike rate of 26.3% over 5f: not quite as strong but with an IV close to 2 the front-running bias is still clear.

It has already been noted that in bigger fields at all of the all-weather courses the front-running bias seems to be more evident. This is certainly the case here: in races of 11 runners or more at Chelmsford, the front runner has prevailed an impressive 21 times from 87 giving a strike rate of 24.1% and an Impact Value of 2.93.

The draw seems to be material here, too, with those horses drawn nearest to the inside rail performing best when taking the early lead (all 6+ runner races). That makes sense as they will be taking advantage of the shortest route. Horses that have led early from one of the three lowest draws in these big field Chelmsford 6f handicaps have won 25% of their races with an Impact Value of 2.28.



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 72 388 18.6 1.85
Prominent (3) 107 938 11.4 1.14
Mid Division (2) 41 542 7.6 0.78
Held Up (1) 84 1123 7.5 0.75


The 6f trip at Kempton has a decent number of races each year giving punters plenty of opportunities to get involved. Front runners have a clear edge here and, as with Chelmsford, field size accentuates this.

In 6f handicaps of 11 or 12 runners (12 is the maximum at Kempton), front runners have secured 39 wins from 176 runners (SR 22.2%) with a very high Impact Value of 2.53. However, the draw data suggest there is no clear advantage to front runners drawn near to the inside rail (low).



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 68 297 22.9 2.07
Prominent (3) 76 590 12.9 1.16
Mid Division (2) 32 380 8.4 0.79
Held Up (1) 50 745 6.7 0.61


The statistics for Lingfield seem to suggest front runners there have the biggest edge compared with the other five UK all-weather courses. Any front runner here that is well fancied has done extremely well: horses that were either favourite or second favourite and led early over 6f here went on to win 39 times out of 80 runners equating to a win rate of nearly 50%.



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 23 143 16.1 1.74
Prominent (3) 34 394 8.6 0.94
Mid Division (2) 17 197 8.6 0.97
Held Up (1) 40 485 8.2 0.89


Coincidentally, the front running IV over 5f at Newcastle is also 1.74. Front runners do have an edge here but it is not a course I personally get heavily involved with, as the straight track for all distances up to a mile makes it a unique test of an all-weather horse in Britain. That greater emphasis on stamina produces the reverse to Kempton and Chelmsford, with front runners struggling in bigger fields.



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 33 166 19.9 1.85
Prominent (3) 102 690 14.8 1.38
Mid Division (2) 7 124 5.6 0.57
Held Up (1) 17 491 3.5 0.32


A reasonable IV of 1.85 for front runners, but it is also worth noting that horses which come from midfield or off the pace really struggle here just like they do over 5f. One other area worth sharing with you is when a front runner also happens to be in the top 5 of the Geegeez speed ratings, it has won on 22 of 79 occasions (SR 27.9%) producing an IV of 2.50.



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 71 540 13.1 1.33
Prominent (3) 133 1274 10.4 1.06
Mid Division (2) 27 338 8.0 0.87
Held Up (1) 122 1371 8.9 0.9


Comfortably the poorest stats for front runners are at Wolverhampton, where there is a very small edge only and little to write home about. Indeed, pace seems to be far more balanced across the run styles at Wolves than at any of the other tracks.


Before I finish, in other articles I have used the various figures to create course and distance pace averages. I do this by adding up the pace scores of all the winners at each course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more ‘biased’ the course and distance is to horses that lead early or race close to the pace.

Here are the 6 furlong handicap C&D pace averages for the six aw courses:


Taking all the data into account, six furlong handicaps on the all weather do offer ‘pace’ punters a potential edge. It is, unsurprisingly perhaps, not as strong as over five furlongs, but still strong enough to give clued in bettors a good leg up on the opposition. All we need now is to find a fail-safe method to predict the front runner...

- Dave Renham