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Chantry House back in business at Wetherby

Chantry House put himself “back on track” for the big spring festivals with a return to winning form in Wetherby’s Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Chase.

Jockey Nico de Boinville could reflect on a retrieval mission successfully completed as last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third put behind him a 14-length defeat on his second chase start at Cheltenham in December.

Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old jumped economically and well to land the odds as 4-5 favourite, by three-and-a-quarter lengths from Coconut Splash.

Chantry House led early in the straight and stayed on well, earning a new quote of 10-1 from Paddy Power for next month’s Marsh Novices’ Chase back at Cheltenham.

De Boinville was not about to pinpoint that target, or any others, but pronounced himself very satisfied after winning with his only mount on the card.

“I was happy with that,” he said.

“He’s put Cheltenham behind him there. He jumped well, despite the ground. You couldn’t really be asking for too many big jumps, because he wouldn’t last home then.

“(But) his jumping was very measured, I think.

“I don’t know what the plan is – we’ll leave that to connections and the boss.”

Chantry House was conceding 6lb to an undoubtedly useful runner-up, and De Boinville added: “I thought that was probably the one, coming into this race, we were going to have to beat.

“That was good – back on track. That was the most important thing after Cheltenham the last day.

“He’s jumped and travelled well, which is what we were hoping for.

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“I think he’ll be better on better ground as well.”

Kerry Lee does have a specific Cheltenham race in mind for Ballybegg after the 10-11 favourite’s determined victory in the opening Every Race Live On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.

Following her 100th winner in Britain, the Herefordshire trainer was kind enough to suggest the correct soundbite, too.

“It’s Ballybegg for the Ballymore!” she said.

The six-year-old, who led almost throughout and then battled back strongly when headed to beat expensive recruit Papa Tango Charly by a head, remains a general 66-1 shot for his only Cheltenham entry.

But Lee said: “I think we’ll have to seriously consider it – as long as there’s some cut in the ground.

“I’ve been in the job long enough now to think ‘Well, when you have an opportunity you should take it’.

“You don’t get many horses you can consider running in a Grade One.

“When you do, and they’ve won like that, why not?”

Ballybegg and jockey Richard Patrick were following up their wide-margin win at Hereford last month.

Dual course winner Storm Control is set to return to Cheltenham next month
Dual course winner Storm Control is set to return to Cheltenham next month (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lee added: “It was a very nice performance – I don’t know how good he is.

“But the runner-up is a very decent horse on his day, and he clearly ran a very solid race.”

Lee is readying two more stable stars for Cheltenham, in Storm Control and Happy Diva.

“It’ll be Storm Control (Kim Muir), Happy Diva (Mares’ Chase) and this chap,” she said.

“I’ve only got 20 to run – so that’s not bad, is it? We like a bit of quality.”

Storm Control also has a Grand National entry – but well down the order after the publication of the Aintree weights on Tuesday, Lee is realistic about his prospects of making the cut.

“He is in the National, but I’m not sure he’ll get in,” she said

“I had a quick count down and thought ‘aah’.

“We’ll concentrate on Cheltenham.”

Lee and Patrick were denied a double when Umbrigado beat their Destined To Shine by two and a half lengths in the feature Sixt Car Hire Handicap Chase.

David Pipe’s novice, having just his third race over fences, was adding to last month’s victory at Fontwell under Tom Scudamore – and is another who may have Festival aspirations.

Scudamore said of the 7-2 winner: “That was really good. We always thought he would make into a nice chaser, and he’s beginning to do that.

“He saw that out well in tough conditions – he’s very versatile.

“He’ll improve for more experience.

“I imagine he’ll have entries at Cheltenham, but we’ll see – whether it’s Grand Annual or the two-and-a-half (Paddy Power Plate). It’s a shame that the two-and-a-half-mile novice isn’t there any more – that would have been the race for him.”

Nightboattoclyro and Robbie Dunne (leading) won the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby
Nightboattoclyro and Robbie Dunne (leading) won the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby (Tim Goode/PA)

Robbie Dunne made his first ride on Nightboattoclyro a winning one as Sam Drinkwater’s improving seven-year-old completed his hat-trick, up in grade for the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.

The well-backed 3-1 favourite collared front-runner West To The Bridge to prevail by almost two lengths, and Drinkwater said: “He’ll probably have one more run, then he’ll be a chaser next season.

“He won’t get in to Cheltenham, but there’s bound to be something for him at Aintree.”

West To The Bridge’s trainer Dan Skelton was successful with 9-2 shot Embole in the BoscaSports Racings Digital Display Handicap Hurdle – after which Jonathan England was suspended for 11 days for excessive use of the whip on runner-up Billy Ray.

Sandown goes ahead, but Wetherby abandoned

Sandown’s fixture this afternoon will go ahead as planned following an inspection – but it was not such good news for the meeting at Wetherby, as the weather continues to hamper the racing calendar.

The Esher track hosts the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and the rearranged Cotswold Chase, which has been saved from Cheltenham’s abandoned Trials Day card last weekend.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper tweeted: “Racing @Sandownpark is ON today having passed a precautionary inspection this morning. 2.5mm rain yesterday evening. Going remains Heavy, Soft in places.”

Bristol De Mai and Santini clash in the Cotswold Chase at Sandown
Bristol De Mai and Santini clash in the Cotswold Chase at Sandown (David Davies/PA)

The rain proved insurmountable at Wetherby, however, meaning the Cleeve Hurdle has again been lost, as it too had been carried over from Cheltenham.

The track tweeted: “Following the 5mm rain last night, the course has been left with areas of false & unstable ground and we have therefore had to take the decision to abandon today’s @WillHillRacing Cleeve Hurdle fixture.

“Apologies to everyone, but that sums up this winter!”

Pipe launches dual attack on rescheduled Cleeve prize

David Pipe fires a two-pronged assault with mud lovers Main Fact and Ramses De Teillee in the William Hill Cleeve Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday.

The Grade Two contest was rescheduled after Cheltenham was abandoned last weekend and it has an open look about it with Paisley Park not making the journey to West Yorkshire.

Main Fact was well-beaten behind Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, but Pipe felt he ran below par that day and is expecting a better performance.

Main Fact had won his previous nine races, six over jumps and three on the Flat, and had seen his hurdles rating rocket from 98 to 154.

Main Fact bids to get back to winning ways
Main Fact bids to get back to winning ways (Tim Goode/PA)

“Main Fact should like conditions. I’m not sure he put his true run in last time, so going back left-handed will suit and hopefully he has a chance,” said the Nicholashayne handler.

“Maybe he had an off-day at Ascot or that is as good as he is. We’ll find out this time.”

Ramses De Teillee won a pair of Grade Two novice hurdles last spring and switches back to the smaller obstacles after three runs over fences following a fruitless trip to Auteuil for the French Champion Hurdle in October.

“He’s a hard horse to place nowadays, so we thought we’d try him back over hurdles. He did well over hurdles last year,” said Pipe.

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Ramses De Teillee won over fences at Cheltenham back in November
Ramses De Teillee won over fences at Cheltenham back in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Again, he won’t mind the ground. Track and conditions should suit.

“They’ve both got their flippers on!”

Olly Murphy is giving Itchy Feet a confidence-boosting run over the smaller obstacles after he burst a blood vessel on his last start over fences at Ascot in December.

The Stratford trainer has been pleased the way Itchy Feet has been schooling and believes the seven-year-old has each-way claims.

Itchy Feet is having a confidence-boosting run over hurdles
Itchy Feet is having a confidence-boosting run over hurdles (Steve Paston/PA)

“He’s in good nick. He’s obviously reverting to hurdling and will hopefully get his confidence back,” he said.

“He’s a horse with a big engine and if things go right, he has a good each-way chance.

“He just didn’t jump with any fluency at Ascot. He just had a bleed on his last run.

“I just thought it (reverting to hurdles) was the right thing to do. If he had another fright over fences we might be in all sorts of bother, so that’s why we’re back over hurdles. He’s been schooling well. All his form reads well.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies has put Ballyoptic back over hurdles
Nigel Twiston-Davies has put Ballyoptic back over hurdles (David Davies/PA)

Ballyoptic also reverts to hurdling as he bids to win a third big prize at the West Yorkshire track.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding has won a Charlie Hall Chase and the Towton Novices’ Chase, but has made little show in three starts this term.

“He’s won a Charlie Hall at Wetherby and we’re looking forward to taking him back,” he said.

“He hasn’t run over hurdles in a long time, but we’re struggling to find races for him at the moment – where do you go with a horse rated as high as he is?”

On The Blind Side was not in the original race last weekend, but his trainer Nicky Henderson has given the go-ahead for the nine-year-old to take his chance a week later.

Henderson told Unibet: “He really is in a rich vein of form and hasn’t put a foot wrong at all since winning one of those jumpers’ bumpers at Newcastle around this time last year.

“I really like the way he knuckled down to win at Market Rasen last time when conceding 4lb to Lil Rockerfeller.

“This looks a decent race, but conditions are right for him and I’m hopeful of a big run.”

Sandown and Wetherby face morning checks

Sandown’s all-chase fixture remains under threat from waterlogging despite passing an inspection on Friday afternoon.

A precautionary inspection will be held at the Esher course at 8am, as more rain could fall overnight.

Twelve millimetres of rain on Thursday evening had resulted in waterlogged places in the home straight, forcing officials to have a look at 3pm on Friday.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper tweeted: “We have passed the 3pm inspection @sandownpark and will hold a Precautionary Inspection at 8am on Saturday given the potential for overnight rain. The Going remains Heavy, Soft in places.”

The six-race card features the Grade One Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and the Grade Two Cotswold Chase, transferred from Cheltenham’s abandoned meeting last weekend.

The Cleeve Hurdle was switched to Wetherby but that all-hurdles programme is subject to an 8am inspection.

The chase track was found to be an unraceable on Friday morning which meant the three chases, highlighted by the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase, had to be scratched.

The track tweeted: “Sadly, the steeplechase course has not improved enough & with further rain expected tonight, we have decided to cancel all steeplechase races for tomorrow & revert to the pre-planned all hurdle programme.

“The hurdle course has improved greatly & would be fit to race on today (Friday). The ground remains heavy. However, in view of the fact that there is rain forecast for tonight, we will stage a precautionary inspection at 8am on Saturday morning to check conditions again.”

Sunday’s meeting at Musselburgh must pass a precautionary inspection at 8am on raceday.

No problems are anticipated for the first day of a two-day fixture, but temperatures are expected to drop on Sunday, prompting a morning check.

Carlisle’s meeting on Monday is already subject to an inspection.

Officials will check conditions at 8am on Saturday as the course is currently waterlogged in places with sub-zero temperatures forecast over the weekend.

Sedgefield’s jumps card on Wednesday has been abandoned. The course is waterlogged and the forecast is described as “horrendous”.

Wetherby switches to Saturday hurdles card

Saturday’s meeting at Wetherby will be an all-hurdles card after the chase track failed an inspection on Friday morning.

The venue was due to stage three chases, highlighted by the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase.

However, the chase track is not fit for action, with two hurdles now added to the card instead, although the meeting must still pass an 8am inspection on Saturday if it is to go ahead.

The track tweeted: “Sadly, the steeplechase course has not improved enough & with further rain expected tonight, we have decided to cancel all steeplechase races for tomorrow & revert to the pre-planned all hurdle programme.

“The hurdle course has improved greatly & would be fit to race on today (Friday). The ground remains heavy. However, in view of the fact that there is rain forecast for tonight, we will stage a precautionary inspection at 8am on Saturday morning to check conditions again.”

Sandown’s Saturday card is also under threat, with a 3pm inspection scheduled for Friday.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper tweeted: “Following 12mm rain yesterday evening, the chase course is now waterlogged in places in the home straight. There will be an inspection at 3pm this afternoon to assess prospects after what should be a dry day.”

Sunday’s meeting at Musselburgh is subject to a precautionary inspection at 8am on raceday.

No problems are anticipated for the first day of a two-day fixture, but temperatures are expected to drop on Sunday, prompting a morning check.

Friday’s card at Chepstow goes ahead as planned after the track passed an inspection.

Carlisle’s meeting on Monday is already subject to an inspection.

Officials will check conditions at 8am on Saturday as the course is currently waterlogged in places with sub-zero temperatures forecast over the weekend.

Bristol De Mai has Cleeve and Cotswold options

Nigel Twiston-Davies has given Bristol De Mai entries in both the rescheduled Cotswold Chase and Cleeve Hurdle, because of uncertainties over the wintry weather this week.

Bristol De Mai is one of six possibles for the Cotswold at Sandown and one of 17 in the Cleeve at Wetherby – with both races switched to this Saturday, after Cheltenham’s Festival Trials card was abandoned last weekend.

Twiston-Davies is leaning towards the Cotswold but felt it wise to put him in the Cleeve as well during such a volatile spell of weather.

“Let’s see what the weather does. We’ve no idea yet,” said the Naunton trainer.

“We’d probably prefer to go for the Cotswold if it was on, but I’ll have to speak to the owners first, so I haven’t a clue at the moment.”

Santini is among six entries for the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown on Saturday
Santini is among six entries for the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown on Saturday (David Davies/PA)

The five other Cotswold entries are Lake View Lad, Native River, Saint Calvados, Santini and Yala Enki.

The Cotswold Chase is one of eight races on Sandown’s card, with officials still hoping to stage the meeting as scheduled after the hurdles course just passed an inspection on Tuesday.

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However, it is still possible the hurdle races could be lost and replaced with more steeplechase contests.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said: “It would be absolute borderline you could race here this afternoon – and we’re obliged, quite rightly, not to give up on it just yet.

“With an unsettled outlook with spells of rain – we’re expecting one Wednesday morning and showery thereafter – there will be another inspection at some point to decide where we go for Saturday.

“The absolute deadline to make it an all-chase card would be declarations morning on Thursday. If the weather intervenes significantly in the interim, that decision would be brought forward.

“We just felt, given the importance and value of the hurdles race on Saturday, it would be premature to give up on the hurdle races just yet.”

A final decision on the make-up of the fixture will be taken following an inspection at 8am on Thursday. The British Horseracing Authority has made a contingency to add two further chases to make an all-chase six-race card.

A favourable forecast over the next few days gives Wetherby clerk of the the course Jonjo Sanderson every hope the meeting there will go ahead.

Wetherby are optimistic of racing taking place on Saturday (
Wetherby are optimistic of racing taking place on Saturday (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We had a covering of snow overnight, but it turned to drizzle and is thawing away,” he said.

“The temperatures are supposed to rise to eight or nine degrees tomorrow, Thursday and Friday.

“We were absolutely fine on Monday and were back to a point where we were raceable after the waterlogging last week.

“All being well, the fact we’ve got three good days, plus Saturday, for this to drain through, we should be OK. The ground will be heavy all round, I should think.”

With Paisley Park an absentee, as expected, from the rescheduled Cleeve Hurdle, the Grade Two contest has a much more open look.

Lake View Lad could run at either Sandown or Wetherby
Lake View Lad could run at either Sandown or Wetherby (Richard Sellers/PA)

“Paisley Park would have put a few off at Cheltenham, and the fact Emma Lavelle has said she is not coming to Wetherby has opened the race up a bit more to make it a bit more attractive,” Sanderson added.

“We’re delighted to run the race, so it’s not lost. William Hill have stepped in and have added to their package. We’re grateful for their support of the race.”

Like Bristol De Mai, Nick Alexander’s Lake View Lad has an entry in the two races.

Among others in the Cleeve are Ballyoptic, Itchy Feet, Main Fact, On The Blind Side, Ramses De Teillee and Yorkhill.

Paisley Park heads straight to Cheltenham

Paisley Park will straight head to the Cheltenham Festival after trainer Emma Lavelle decided to miss the rescheduled Cleeve Hurdle at Wetherby with her stable star.

The Marlborough trainer has not entered the nine-year-old this weekend, preferring a racecourse gallop as preparation rather than running on very testing ground just six weeks before he bids to reclaim his Stayers’ Hurdle crown.

“On balancing up on what makes sense and what doesn’t, I just don’t think it makes sense to go up there and run on what will be incredibly testing ground,” said Lavelle.

“Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t as though Cheltenham wasn’t going to be testing (before it was abandoned last Saturday), but there were other reasons for wanting to go to Cheltenham.

“It would have been experience back there, having had his heart fibrillation (after last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle).

“We said if it was on we’d go (to Cheltenham). We’d have gone to Wincanton (if the race had been re-scheduled there on Thursday), but it was dubious if that was going to be on.”

Paisley Park will therefore head back to Cheltenham after just two runs this season, as runner-up in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle and then winner of Ascot’s Long Walk just before Christmas.

“We had a good discussion about it, and we all think it was the right decision to make,” added Lavelle.

“We’ll take him for a racecourse gallop somewhere to make him feel like he’s been to the races.

“It’s just frustrating. He’s mature, and we want to be going to the races with him, but there’s also a balance about going to the races with him and not bottoming him at this stage.

“What I think it will mean is it will extend our (options) hopefully the other end. I would hope we would then go on to Punchestown, Aintree or whatever.”

Harvey heads for Towton

Hurricane Harvey features among 14 possibles for the William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby.

The Fergal O’Brien-trained seven-year-old has won two of his three chasing starts to date, kicking off with victory over the well-regarded Emitom at Uttoxeter back in October.

He then found Ga Law too good in the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at Wincanton, beaten 22 lengths when conceding 8lb, but bounced back to victorious form when lifting the Grade December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster before Christmas.

O’Brien has entered Hurricane Harvey for the Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown as well, also on Saturday, but Wetherby remains the aim.

He said: “Wetherby is definitely his first preference. We’ve entered him in the hurdle at Sandown, just in case – but that might not be going ahead, it seems, and Wetherby would be the preferred option.

“We were delighted with him last time and we have been delighted with him all year, from his first win at Uttoxeter.

“It was good to get a nice win on the board with him the last day, and he’s a great horse for his owners.”

While Hurricane Harvey holds an entry for the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, his trainer is far from certain he will line up there.

O’Brien added: “He’s in the old four-miler at Cheltenham because, when the entries were made, it wasn’t clear if the Irish horses would be coming across or what the situation is going to be with amateur riders. It was more a precautionary entry really.

“We’ll discuss it all after Wetherby hopefully, but we may just look to Aintree or Punchestown with him – those flatter tracks might just suit him a bit better.”

O’Brien also has Good And Hardy entered in Wetherby’s Grade Two feature.

Nick Mitchell’s Milanford finished a length and a quarter behind Hurricane Harvey at Doncaster, and he is another in the mix –  along with the Nicky Henderson-trained Dame De Compagnie, who hacked up on her chasing bow at Ayr last month.

Colin Tizzard has entered his Kauto Star Novices’ Chase runner-up The Big Breakaway – with others of note including Sevarano, Full Back, Kiltealy Briggs and Port Of Mars.

Rain leads to inspection for Trials Day card at Cheltenham

Saturday’s high-profile fixture at Cheltenham is in doubt after officials called a precautionary inspection for 2pm on Friday.

Prestbury Park is due its usually informative Festival Trials Day – the track’s final meeting before the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse had to abandon racing on New Year’s Day because of waterlogging, and the same issue is causing concern this weekend for a card set to feature four Grade Two races – including the course’s Gold Cup trial, the Cotswold Chase.

Claisse said on Thursday morning: “The ground is currently heavy, having had 15 millimetres of rain overnight and 30 for the week so far, which exceeded what we thought we’d get before racing.

“We’re just about raceable at the moment, if we took a few fences out, but the forecast – upon which we made the judgment call this morning to hold a precautionary inspection tomorrow – has subsequently got worse.

“My levels of optimism are declining, but there’s always hope.

“We need less rain to fall than is forecast – what happens through the night will be key as to where we end up.”

Having endured freezing temperatures earlier in the week, Thursday’s Wetherby meeting was called off shortly before 8am due to waterlogging after heavy rain overnight.

As the jumps calendar suffers through the winter weather, Friday’s meeting at Huntingdon has already been abandoned, along with Sunday’s Fontwell fixture, Tuesday’s cards at Newcastle and Lingfield and Wednesday’s action at Leicester.

However, Lingfield and Newcastle will now stage jumpers’ bumpers cards in place of their planned fixtures on Monday and Tuesday respectively, while there will be an additional all-weather meeting at Wolverhampton on Sunday.

Doncaster’s two-day fixture is scheduled to begin on Friday, where clerk of the course Roderick Duncan said: “The ground is going to continue to ease. We’ve now had 11 millimetres of rain, but it’s not been raining as heavily as forecast.

“On one or two forecasts suggest there is a risk of wintry showers on Saturday morning. There’s not enough certainty for me to be over-concerned yet, and not all forecasts are saying that, but that is the only caveat at the moment.”

Frost claims Kelso’s Tuesday card

Kelso’s meeting on Tuesday has been abandoned due to a frozen track.

The Borders venue called an inspection for noon on Monday after a succession of cold nights.

Frost covers were laid over the vulnerable areas, but they were not enough to save the meeting when temperatures dipped to -3C.

Clerk of the course Matthew Taylor tweeted: “Fixture @KelsoRacecourse abandoned on Tuesday 26th. Track currently frozen and would need more than 24 hours to thaw.”

Wetherby’s meeting on Thursday must pass a 9am inspection on Wednesday.

Following last week’s rain and snow, parts of the back straight are currently flooded or frozen.

Temperatures will need to rise in order for conditions to improve and while a frost is expected on Monday evening, it should be warmer from Tuesday.

A tweet from the course read: “Sadly the course has several areas of frozen water still standing. Plus we’ve now got frozen ground too!

“Forecast is moderately favourable, but we have scheduled an initial inspection to assess progress at 9am on Wednesday morning.”

Nuts Well team have Wetherby under consideration

A Christmas outing at Wetherby is under consideration for Nuts Well after connections decided against running in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham.

One of just a handful of horses trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton and owned by her husband Ian, the nine-year-old charged home to cause an upset in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October.

Nuts Well was declared to run in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, but the meeting was abandoned due to flooding and he was not even entered for the race after it was switched to Prestbury Park last week.

“I’m not sure Cheltenham would be his track, to be honest,” said Ian Hamilton.

“Maybe if were a bit younger we might have had a go, but we’ve got a lot of sheep and cattle around at the moment and we can’t just go away and leave them two or three days. The horse has never stayed away overnight either.

“There aren’t many races for him and Ann and I are getting on! It’s a long way to drive to some of those places down south, but we might have to think about it at some stage.”

Considering immediate plans, Hamilton added: “We’ll probably look at Wetherby – either the Rowland Meyrick over three miles on Boxing Day, or probably more likely the two-mile race (Castleford Chase) the day after, as you’d think it will be soft or heavy ground.

“He likes better ground ideally. I know he won on soft at Aintree, but I don’t think it was as soft as they were saying.

“I think the ideal track would be Kempton, but it’s a long way and I don’t know if he’s good enough for a race like the King George and we’ve missed the entry stage for that anyway.

“I do think he’ll stay three miles no bother, especially if the ground is decent on a flat track.

“Aintree is ideal for him really, but they’re not racing again until April.”

Gilligan delighted to make Wetherby raid pay dividends

Irish challenger Born By The Sea made a successful raid on Wetherby with victory in the Sixt Car Hire Intermediate Chase.

Trained by Galway-based Paul Gilligan, the six-year-old was the outsider of three runners at 7-1, with little to choose between 11-10 favourite Geordie B and 6-5 shot The Mulcair at the top of the market.

With several jumping errors leading to a disappointing display from Geordie B, it turned into a straight fight between Born To Sea and The Mulcair – and it was the former who prevailed by three-quarters of a length in the hands of the trainer’s son, Jack.

“It was a great ride from Jack, he did everything asked of him. He won it nicely,” the trainer said of the performance, which was the jockey’s first winner on English turf.

“Jack’s my son, so that adds to it,” he continued.

“It’s even better when it’s your own lad riding, it’s just fantastic. He’s a better horse fresh, so it’s possible we’ll wait now and enter him in a good race at Leopardstown over Christmas.”

Sue Smith’s Joke Dancer emerged victorious in a photo finish to claim the Watch The Jumps In HD On RacingTV Handicap Chase.

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Joke Dancer soars over a fence at Wetherby
Joke Dancer soars over a fence at Wetherby (Mike Egerton/PA)

The 5-1 chance benefited from the application of cheekpieces and ran prominently throughout, finding himself heading the field alongside Rose Dobbin’s Some Reign over the last.

After wandering slightly off his path on the approach to the post, the gelding was joined by his challenger as he crossed the line and the judge was left to separate the runners, with Ryan Mania’s mount taking the race by short head.

Champion jockey Brian Hughes teamed up with trainer John Quinn to take the wetherbyracing.co.uk Juvenile Maiden Hurdle aboard 8-13 favourite First Impression.

The success was a first in the National Hunt sphere for the three-year-old, who was tackling hurdles for a third time after being previously campaigned by Quinn on the Flat.

“I’m very pleased with him, his jumping was better,” the trainer said.

“Brian said he’d have liked the ground a bit softer as it was drying up a bit sticky. I was pleased, he’s got his head in front now, which can only do him good. I’ll probably run him again around Christmas time.

“We hope he’s capable of winning a nice race in the spring, a novice handicap, a nice race somewhere. Until we get his rating and we run him again, we probably wouldn’t be making any hard or fast plans for him.

“I feel he’ll win a good pot somewhere along the line.”

Funambule Sivola was one of two Wetherby winners for Venetia Williams
Funambule Sivola was one of two Wetherby winners for Venetia Williams (Mike Egerton/PA)

A wind operation and a graduation to chasing seemed to make all the difference for Venetia Williams’ Funambule Sivola, who coasted to a seven-length success in the Watch Racing TV Anywhere Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Piloted by Charlie Deutsch, the 7-2 shot produced a smooth round of jumping to pull clear of Neil Mulholland’s 11-8 favourite Exelerator Express over the final fence.

Gemirande (17-2) later provided Deutsch and Williams with a second winner on the card when taking the two-mile Follow @racingtv On Twitter Novices’ Hurdle by three and three-quarter lengths.

Spectators outside the course grounds watch the action unfold
Spectators outside the course grounds watch the action unfold (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jumping the last level with 1-8 favourite Soaring Glory, the four-year-old was handed the race when his rival made a jumping error and fell, leaving the winner to gallop home unchallenged.

Elsewhere on the card, Ian Williams’ Sometimes Always (3-1) justified his place at the head of the market when taking the Visit injuredjockeys.co.uk For Christmas Cards Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle by six lengths under 3lb claimer Charlie Todd.

Division one of the EBF Stallions Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race went the way of Miss Lamb (5-1) for Jedd O’Keeffe and Joe Colliver, with division two claimed by Billams Legacy (3-1), ridden by Paddy Brennan for Fergal O’Brien.

Cyrname sparkles in Charlie Hall return

Cyrname oozed class as he made a triumphant return to action in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Paul Nicholls’ charge was last seen in February when he suffered a heavy fall at the final fence in defence of his Ascot Chase crown, but he put that memory well behind him at the Yorkshire track.

Cyrname, the highest-rated chaser in training, has been kept to right-handed tracks over the last couple of seasons, but going the other way around and tackling three miles for just the second time in his career, the 3-1 shot made no mistakes.

Harry Cobden only had to shake his mount up after the last and when he did, Cyrname (3-1) had plenty left in the locker easing home by two lengths from 2-1 favourite Vinndication, with Aye Right back in third.

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Cyrname disappointed when only second in last year’s King George VI Chase, but following his stunning comeback win, he is now 7-2 joint-favourite for the Christmas highlight with stablemate Clan Des Obeaux, who is going for a third win in the race.

“I’m thrilled to bits – that meant a lot,” said Nicholls.

“Everyone was saying he wouldn’t go left-handed and wouldn’t get three miles, but everything he does at home suggests he wants three miles and more.

“He’s a different horse now to what he was two or three years ago. To see him jump and travel like that today just shows he’s grown up.

“You couldn’t work him upsides another horse as he was such a tearaway, but now he’s so much more relaxed and you can ride a race on him.

Cyrname returns after a stunning performance
Cyrname returns after a stunning performance (Ashley Iveson/PA)

“I was slightly concerned as we hadn’t got him away for a gallop with the ground being so firm. He was fit and well, but he will improve.”

Regarding future targets, Nicholls said: “He’ll probably go straight to the King George now, although I always thought Leopardstown would suit him well, so I might even cover my options and give him an entry (in the Savills Chase).

“He wasn’t right when he ran at Kempton last year – you can put a line through that. Kempton will suit him well, we’ve got a nice bit of time now and if he’s there at his best, he’ll be a serious challenger.

“This opens up lots of doors – it doesn’t matter now if he goes left-handed or right-handed and he’d definitely go round Cheltenham.

“I’d say he’ll go to Kempton, then the Denman Chase at Newbury and then we can think about the spring.

“I don’t think he’s a Ryanair horse – I don’t think he’s quick enough. If we were going to Cheltenham, I think he’ll be running in the Gold Cup.”

Roksana returns to winning form with stylish Wetherby success

Roksana quickened up impressively to win the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby in fine fashion.

Dan and Harry Skelton have an impressive strike-rate at the West Yorkshire track and their well-backed 13-8 favourite further augmented their tally with a taking success.

Having been dropped out towards the rear, Roksana loomed up looking a huge threat at the third last and the only question was how much she had left in the locker.

Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar and Next Destination, having his first start for Paul Nicholls, both looked to be travelling well, but neither had an answer to the mare.

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Roksana put the race to bed in a matter of strides, scooting eight and a half lengths clear of Next Destination, with Kildisart in third and Lisnagar Oscar fourth.

Skelton said: “She’s magic. We were always going down the Mares’ Hurdle route last year as she’d obviously won it the year before. She ran well and we were looking forward to Aintree, but obviously Covid put a stop to that.

“We always knew three miles was going to come one day. We’re probably six months behind it happening for obvious reasons.

“I’m delighted with her today. She was getting the allowances and we’re under no illusions about how much the likes of Lisnagar Oscar and others are going to improve as the season progresses, but she did everything right.

“We’ll let the others scrap it out in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and we’ll perhaps aim for the Long Walk at Ascot. We might enter her in Ireland (Leopardstown) as well, just in case the restrictions lift for the Christmas meeting.

“We’ll see what the spring brings. The owners aren’t set on Cheltenham, so there’s every possibility she could miss Cheltenham and go straight to Aintree.

“It’s potentially her last season, but we’re under no illusions about how good a racemare she is and if we think there’s another good year in her, then she could come back.”

Roksana returns to the winner's enclosure
Roksana returns to the winner’s enclosure (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Nicholls said of Next Destination: “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with that – it was an awesome run.

“He’s been off an awful long time. I couldn’t take him away anywhere to gallop because the ground has been too firm, so that’s probably the first time he’s worked on grass since the last time he ran.

“He travelled beautifully and jumped beautifully – he’ll be a right chaser.

“We’ve schooled him over fences and I think that (novice chasing) will be the plan now.”

Mrs Hyde continues swift progression with Wetherby win

Mrs Hyde proved too strong for Grade One-winning mare Verdana Blue in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby.

Nicky Henderson’s 2018 Christmas Hurdle heroine was the 5-6 favourite to get back on the winning trail, having filled the runner-up spot behind Silver Streak in a Listed event at Kempton a fortnight ago.

Verdana Blue had upwards of 22lb in hand over her six rivals in West Yorkshire on official ratings, but came up short in the rain-softened ground.

The Brian Ellison-trained Mrs Hyde had won on the same Kempton card a couple of weeks ago and was a 6-1 shot to double her Listed tally in the hands of Daryl Jacob.

Verdana Blue loomed up ominously in the home straight, but Mrs Hyde refused to bend on the run-in and saw her off by a neck.

“She’s never stopped improving,” said Ellison.

“When she won at Southwell and Perth during the summer, she made the running, but after she got beat at Market Rasen we decided we’d drop her in and give her a chance. It worked at Kempton and it’s worked again today.

“Daryl said he got to the front a bit early today. The plan was to sit until the last and try to pick the favourite off.

“She’s won on soft ground today and won on good to firm. She’s tough.”

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Brian Ellison was delighted with Mrs Hyde's performance
Brian Ellison was delighted with Mrs Hyde’s performance (Brian Lawless/PA)

Considering future plans, the trainer added: “She’s won four of her last five races now and we might just give her a break.

“I know she’s won twice left-handed now, but I do think she’s better right-handed, so we could go back to Kempton or somewhere like that.”

Sean Bowen delivered Irish raider Hear No Evil with a well-timed challenge to claim the Price Promise At bet365 Handicap Chase.

The 16-1 shot was settled at the rear of the field for much of the three-mile contest, but came home strongly to score by nine and a half lengths from Grange Ranger.

It was a welcome boost for trainer Noel Kelly, who had to withdraw stable star Decor Irlandais from the Grade Two bet365 Hurdle later in the afternoon.

He said: “Decor Irlandais is here, but he pulled off a shoe. It’s a bit frustrating, but at least he didn’t break a tendon or something. It’s only a pulled shoe and it’s not the end of the world.

“We bought this horse (Hear No Evil) out of Dan Skelton’s yard. We said to Sean ‘take your time and if they go too fast, he’ll keeping plugging on’. He gave him a brilliant ride, I thought.”

Skelton’s Ashtown Lad displayed courage and class in equal measure to win a bet365 Novices’ Hurdle run in atrocious conditions.

Narrowly beaten over the course and distance on his previous outing, the 11-10 favourite was sent straight to the lead by Harry Skelton and jumped slickly and travelled strongly, despite the driving rain, on his way to a near three-length verdict.

A sodden Dan Skelton said: “He’s a very nice horse and he has a good attitude, obviously, to go from the front in that weather.

“He’s a chaser really and I always felt like this was a good horse.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do now. I’ll talk to Darren (Yates, owner) and decide.”

Minella For Me after winning at Wetherby
Minella For Me after winning at Wetherby (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Tom George and Johnny Burke combined to claim the bet365 Handicap Chase with 9-1 shot Minella For Me.

Carrying the colours of owner Simon Clarke, whose popular grey Nacarat won the Charlie Hall Chase on this card a decade ago, Minella For Me passed the post with five and a half lengths in hand over 100-30 favourite Guy.

Burke said: “He’s a very honest horse. He used to be quite keen, but he’s grown up a lot and is settling well and jumping well.

“He’s a good, fun horse for his owner Simon, who has been a great supporter of Tom.”

Burke went on to complete a double aboard Jonjo O’Neill’s 4-1 favourite Arrivederci in the concluding bet365 Handicap Hurdle.