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Bear Ghylls’ chasing debut will wait for softer ground

Nicky Martin will wait until softer ground arrives before embarking on a novice-chasing career with the promising Bear Ghylls.

The six-year-old was last seen finishing fourth behind Bob Olinger in the Grade One Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

He was previously unbeaten in four starts, taking a bumper and then striking three times over hurdles en route to his Graded debut at Prestbury Park.

A chasing career beckons for the Bear Ghylls, although there are no firm plans as yet on where he will first be seen jumping a fence.

“We haven’t really decided at the moment – he’s just pootling along, and he needs the softer ground anyway,” said Martin.

“We’re not really rushing him, because he does need the softer ground – and he needs to go chasing.

“He’s going over a fence, and that’s always been the plan with him.”

Martin’s staying chaser The Two Amigos is likely to begin his campaign more imminently – in the Edinburgh Gin Chase at Kelso on Saturday, should the ground prove suitable.

“Providing it rains, he will be going to Kelso,” said the Exmoor trainer.

The Two Amigos ran well in several Grand National trials last season, and ended his campaign when eighth in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.

Similar long-distance contests will be on the agenda this year, with the gelding not yet old enough for veterans’ chases.

“As he’s got older, I wanted to do the veterans’ series with him – but he’s not 10 until January, so it’s going to be the same sort of plan this year,” added Martin.

“Anything over three miles to three and a half is perfect for him really.

“He’s in serious form – he’s a little legend.”

Both horses are usually ridden by jockey Matt Griffiths, who suffered a serious head injury in a road collision this month and remains in hospital receiving treatment.

The Two Amigos is set to return at Kelso this weekend - ground permitting
The Two Amigos is set to return at Kelso this weekend – ground permitting (Clint Hughes/PA)

The 31-year-old has ridden Bear Ghylls in each of his five starts and has also struck up a partnership with The Two Amigos, a horse Martin says requires skilful riding.

“I’m actually pulling my hair out with The Two Amigos at the minute, because I don’t know who to put on him – he is a little tricky, and there is a knack to riding him,” she said.

“I’ve been given a list of who’s available and who wants to ride him. I’m going to have to decide tomorrow – but I haven’t decided yet.

“He’s a horse that likes to think he’s in charge, and Matt knows exactly how to ride him. It is a really big shame.”

Nicky Martin on ‘Plan H’ with Ballymore hope Bear Ghylls

Nicky Martin is down to “Plan H” as she prepares the unbeaten Bear Ghylls for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old has won each of his four runs so far, taking a bumper by 19 lengths on his racecourse debut before going on to score a hat-trick of victories over hurdles.

His last success was a five-length triumph at Exeter in January, after which Martin found her preferred path to Festival blocked by a spell of race abandonments.

A waterlogged track prevented the trainer from introducing her charge to the Cheltenham hill when Festival Trials Day was lost, with an intended run in Huntingdon’s Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle scuppered for the same reason.

Despite the interrupted preparation, Bear Ghylls remains on course for his first venture into Grade One company.

“At the moment everything is going to Plan H, which we are on as it all got a bit messed up at the beginning, but we’re back on course,” Martin said.

The trainer is bolstered by the subsequent performances of several horses beaten by Bear Ghylls – amongst them David Pipe’s Make Me A Believer, who went on to win a novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham in December and then finish a half-length third in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

“His form looks so solid, especially the race at Lingfield – the first hurdle race he won,” Martin said.

“I believe all six that were behind him have gone on and won, so the form’s looking very solid, even though he’s never run in a big race as of yet.

“His form is good, he’s in good order and he’s fresh, so fingers crossed.

“Everybody’s very excited – fingers crossed we get there all intact.”

Though the Festival is the imminent target, Martin has a graduation to novice chasing pencilled in for the gelding when he returns from a summer break next season.

“We’ve always said that next year he’ll go chasing because he is a chaser in the making, he’s a big horse,” she explained.

“A good summer on his back and he’ll fill out again, I think he’ll respect fences a lot more than hurdles.

“That’s always been the plan, to go chasing with him next year, without a doubt.”

From her Minehead stable, Martin also trains Welsh Grand National runner-up The Two Amigos, who was last seen finishing third in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock on February 20.

The Two Amigos ridden by Matt Griffiths (right) takes a jump during The Anne Duchess Of Westminster Memorial Handicap Chase at Bangor
The Two Amigos ridden by Matt Griffiths (right) takes a jump during The Anne Duchess Of Westminster Memorial Handicap Chase at Bangor (David Davies/PA)

The Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter is the next port of call for the gelding, who remains on a mark of 144 after four successive placed runs.

“Having Bear Ghylls and The Two Amigos, it’s quite special for me,” Martin said of her two stable flagbearers.

“Especially with us being such a small yard.

“Just as long as the ground doesn’t go good to firm or something silly, which I’m sure it won’t as we’re due some rain, that (the Midlands National) is definitely the plan.”

Teillee and Mesnil feature among 15 seeking National Trial gold

Ramses De Teillee tops the weights as Lord Du Mesnil remains on course to try to go one better than last year in Haydock’s William Hill Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.

Richard Hobson’s Randox Grand National entry, just outdone by shock winner Smooth Stepper here 12 months ago, is among 15 confirmations for Saturday’s Grade Three handicap over an extended three and a half miles.

Lord Du Mesnil, last seen when only ninth in the rescheduled Welsh Grand National at Chepstow six weeks ago, is joined among the Haydock possibles by several old rivals.

Nicky Martin’s The Two Amigos was in front of him as runner-up at Chepstow, but could manage only a distant fourth in this race last year.

David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee, winner of the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle on this card 12 months ago, was a long way behind both Lord Du Mesnil and The Two Amigos at Chepstow.

Also still in the reckoning this time are the lightly-raced Sojourn, runner-up here in December for Anthony Honeyball, Fergal O’Brien’s veteran Perfect Candidate, Alan King’s Warwick Classic Handicap Chase hero Notachance and ex-French Ascot winner Enqarde, for Dr Richard Newland.

Enqarde also has the option of heading back to Ascot for another three-mile handicap on Saturday, but his trainer is favouring both the left-handed track and move up in distance.

“It will probably be Haydock,” said Newland.

“He did jump slightly left (at Ascot), and I just think also the extra trip will probably suit him.

“Obviously, three miles (and) four furlongs on very heavy ground at Haydock is going to be hard work for any horse.

“But yes, he’s in good form, so I can’t see why we wouldn’t have a go at it.”

There are 13 in the mix for the Prestige, with Jeremy Scott’s dual Wincanton winner Sizable Sam and Young Buck, for Paul Nicholls, catching the eye.

Jennie Candlish’s Mint Condition, a narrow runner-up at Warwick last time, also has an alternative entry in the other Grade Two on the card – the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle.

In potential opposition there, among 13 entries, are last year’s winner Emitom – for Warren Greatrex – shock 2020 Stayers Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar, for Rebecca Curtis, and Pipe’s course-and-distance winner Main Fact.

Amigos has Haydock in sights again

The Two Amigos may be set for a second crack at Haydock’s Grand National Trial next month following his excellent effort in the Welsh Grand National.

Nicky Martin’s smart staying handicap chaser was fourth on Merseyside last February, having finished fifth at Chepstow.

If he heads to the north-west again, this time it will be after a gallant runner-up performance behind Secret Reprieve in Wales on Saturday.

Martin reports the nine-year-old to have taken his latest Welsh National exploits in his stride.

“He’s absolutely perfect. He’s very chirpy,” said the Somerset trainer.

“He’s just a complete legend, because he’s so small and he tries so hard.

“He’ll get his big day, one day, hopefully.

“He’ll probably go to the Grand National Trial again, I would imagine. I think it will be a bit like last year with him.”