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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sceau Royal out to prove himself Elite again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testing ground may scupper Lavelle’s Sefton plan

Ground conditions will dictate whether Manofthemountain will tackle Aintree’s Grand National fences in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase on Saturday.

Winner of the Grade Two Silver Trophy at Cheltenham in the spring, the eight-year-old blew away any cobwebs when filling the runner-up spot on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow last month.

Trainer Emma Lavelle believes that effort will have left Manofthemountain cherry-ripe for a big-race assignment, but warns he will only head for Merseyside if the ground is suitable.

She said: “The ground needs to dry back a bit for him to be going for that.

“It’s always been the plan and then it rained a lot, just in random places as well – there are plenty of tracks that are still riding quick.

“He was in good order at Chepstow, but he was a bit fresh and was always going to come on for it, which he’s done.

“If the ground is all right Aintree is the plan and if not we’ll probably go for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham (on Saturday week) instead.”

TauntIrish Prophecy winning at Tauntonon Races – November 12th
Irish Prophecy winning at Taunton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lavelle is also targeting a major weekend prize at Wincanton, with dual course winner Irish Prophecy firmly on course for the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase.

“The ground there looks perfect for us,” the trainer added.

“It’s going to be a more competitive race than the one he won last time, but he jumped well and travelled well and did it all right that day.

“If he can do it in the same way on Saturday it would be great.”

Sceau Royal and Goshen top Elite field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bravemansgame needs ‘genuinely good ground’ at Wincanton

Paul Nicholls is keen to run the exciting Bravemansgame in the John Romans Park Homes ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase at Wincanton – but the prospect of quick ground has him worried.

A Grade One winner over hurdles last season, Bravesmansgame made a seamless transition to fences on his return at Newton Abbot last month, beating subsequent Charlie Hall winner Fusil Raffles in the process.

Nicholls immediately earmarked this weekend’s Grade Two. Yet despite an inch of rain at the track on Sunday, the ground is still officially good – with no appreciable rain forecast.

“It’s the plan to run, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the weather,” he said.

“I’ll walk round with Clifford (Baker, head man) on Friday. If it’s genuinely good he’ll run – but it needs to be genuinely good ground.

“It’s a fantastic race – and Wincanton deserves the support of some good horses in it – but I just hope to God it stays really good ground, and we can run him. I’ll just keep an eye on how much it dries up.

“I might be trying to persuade Dan (Cooper, clerk of the course) to put some water on by the end of the week – because with big races like the ‘Rising Stars’ and the Badger Ales we need really good, safe ground.

“I wouldn’t want Dan’s job – mine’s difficult enough, but I definitely wouldn’t want his job!”

Regarding Bravemansgame’s impressive debut over fences, Nicholls said: “He was very good – the good thing about him is that he jumps well. If you’re going to be a good novice chaser you’ve got to jump well.

“I was thrilled with what he did the other day. He’s in good shape – I’m desperately keen to run, so let’s hope the ground is safe enough.”

Cooper said: “I’ve walked it twice, and it is pure and simple good ground – with no variance whatsoever.

“It’s not going to be a day for soft-ground horses, with a dry outlook and maybe a millimetre or two in a blustery shower which won’t change things.

“It’s good ground, and we’re moving rails to get fresh ground.”

Bravemansgame is one of 10 entries for the Grade Two which include stablemates Calva D’Auge and Mick Pastor.

Captain Tom Cat, Coconut Splash and Faivoir are other possibles.

Former footballer Tabb thrilled by charity race performance

Former Premier League footballer Jay Tabb is planning his next race-riding experience, after finishing sixth in the Thorner’s Of Somerset Racing Welfare Charity Flat Race at Wincanton.

The 37-year-old played at Crystal Palace, Brentford, Coventry and Reading during his career as a midfielder before learning to ride at the Northern Racing School and taking up a role with trainer Philip Hobbs in 2019.

Hobbs provided Tabb with a ride on Umndeni for his competitive debut on Sunday, with the gelding slightly caught on the back foot at the start before running on to finish sixth.

“To finish sixth, I’m absolutely delighted,” said Tabb.

“It was the best experience ever – I would recommend it to anyone who works in racing.

“I would love to do that again, because it is such a buzz. A realistic aim is to ride in a point-to-point in the spring.

“I’m delighted to work in the industry and get the chance I did today. I’m lucky to do what I’m doing, and to find something I love after football is really good as well.”

Tabb likened anticipation before the race to the pre-match butterflies he used to experience.

“Driving in this morning was the first time I’ve had the same feeling as driving to a football match,” he said.

“It is very similar in the fact that you are on your own and you are getting there earlier than all the fans, so the butterflies are building up a long time before the race is taking place.

“It was quite nice actually, listening to the radio and thinking how the day would go.

“At the end of the day you are performing for someone, so it is the biggest thrill you can get.”

Trainer Paul Nicholls enjoyed a one-two in the contest, with his staff taking the top two slots at their local track.

Sarah West was victorious aboard Celestial Force, beating Wise Glory and Hannah Roche by just a nose.

“I used to ride in point-to-points but I haven’t done that for 10 years, so I was a bit rusty – and I was still quite nervous, because I didn’t want to let the team down,” said West.

“It’s all a bit surreal really, but I think it all went to plan. I was hoping to make all the running, but I did end up near the pace.

“Turning into the straight I kicked on, then I realised it was my colleague (Roche) upsides me – and I thought ‘I can’t let her by’.

“There was only a nose in it, but it felt like a dead heat – for everyone concerned at the yard, we couldn’t have had a better result.

“I think it was the fact that Celestial Force had a bigger head – that’s why he stayed in front. It was really exciting and it was great to have the chance to ride in it.”

Former footballer Jay Tabb all set for charity ride

Former Premier League footballer Jay Tabb will experience another kind of sporting thrill when he takes to the saddle for the Fitzdares Racing Welfare Charity Flat Race at Wincanton on Sunday.

The 37-year-old enjoyed a 16-year career as a midfielder, working his way through Crystal Palace’s youth academy before undertaking spells at Brentford, Coventry, Reading and Ipswich alongside gaining ten caps for the Republic of Ireland’s under-21 side.

Upon retirement Tabb, who was introduced to racing and racehorse ownership by a teammate, learned to ride at the Northern Racing College in Doncaster (now the National Horseracing College) and began working for leading National Hunt trainer Philip Hobbs in 2019.

“I got into racing through one of my old teammates who used to, whenever we travelled away for matches, watch racing on TV so I used to watch it with him,” he said.

Jay Tabb at Stratford Racecourse
Jay Tabb at Stratford Racecourse (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Then we got involved in a couple of syndicates and we managed to get our own colours and own our own horse.

“Whenever we’d go to the yards to watch them train on the gallops I always thought ‘it’d be amazing to try that’.

“When the football finished I thought I’d give it a go and go up to the Northern Racing College but before that I’d never had any experience riding horses.”

Though both sports require a high level of fitness and discipline, Tabb quickly became aware of how football and riding place different physical demands on the body.

“In all sports you can be fit in that discipline but when you go to another sport you find it to be totally different, that’s what I found with riding horses,” he said.

“The jockeys on TV make it look easy but it definitely isn’t when you’re on a horse, at first it was hard getting used to being in that position for a while.

Tabb (right) playing for Brentford
Tabb (right) playing for Brentford (PA)

“At the moment the fitness side of it seems to be going well, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the equicizer and I’d like to think I’m as ready as I can be.”

Hobbs has two horses earmarked for Tabb to ride in the race, with veteran chaser Rolling Dylan a possible mount alongside seven-year-old gelding Umndeni.

“I think it’s between Rolling Dylan and Umndeni, they’ve both got entries as well this weekend and next week so I think whichever one doesn’t take up his entry I will probably ride at Wincanton,” Tabb said.

“I’ve been sitting on them this week and getting to know them, they’re both really nice horses and nice rides so whichever one I’m on I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

Betfred Midlands Grand National Day – Uttoxeter Races
Rolling Dylan ridden by Tom O’Brien

“I’m really good friends with all of the jockeys down there so as soon as I know exactly what I’m riding for definite I’ll see who’s been riding him and have a chat with them on the phone and see what the best way to go about it is.”

Tabb intends to ride out in his racing saddle and breeches in preparation for a competitive run in the race, but his priority is to enjoy the experience and contribute as much as possible to Racing Welfare.

“First and foremost I just want to make sure we get down to the start and jump off and then anything from then is a bonus,” he said.

“Both of the horses I’m possibly riding are good horses and have had good careers so I’d like to think I have a chance of having a nice race, but I think the most important thing is raising money for the charity and enjoying the day and enjoying the experience.

Tabb during his time at Coventry
Tabb during his time at Coventry (Dave Thompson/PA)

“All the riders are raising money for the same charity and it’s a great charity, hopefully we can raise as much as possible.”

Tabb is not the first sportsperson to take up riding after a successful career in another discipline, with Wincanton also the scene of one of Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton’s early rides before her fifth-placed finish aboard Pacha Du Polder in the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Daniel Cooper, Wincanton’s clerk of the course, said: “We are excited to have yet another sporting professional take on the popular Somerset racetrack on Sunday, having seen Victoria Pendleton riding here previously, plus not forgetting our close association with cricket pros Jamie and Craig Overton as ambassadors for the course.

“We understand that preparations are going well for Jay, but the pressure is now on during these final few days to stay fit, healthy and watch his diet!

“Most importantly, the money already being raised for the Racing Welfare charity is exceeding expectations and donations, and together with a large auction on the day could well result in a record-breaking amount of money raised on a single raceday here at Wincanton.”

Donations to Tabb can be made via –

McCain continues in flying form with across-the-card four-timer

Donald McCain continued his fine start to the jumps season with an across-the-card 143-1 four-timer on Thursday.

A treble at Carlisle with Hart Of Steel (10-1), Malpas (13-8 favourite) and Armattiekan (11-8 favourite) and victory for See The Sea (11-10 favourite) at Wincanton from just six runners took his tally for the campaign to 40.

The Cholmondeley handler sits in third place in the trainers’ championship behind Fergal O’Brien and Paul Nicholls on prize-money.

“It’s been a great day’s work. Everyone has been working their socks off. It’s hard work at the moment, but I’ve got a great team at home and days like this are good,” said McCain.

“It’s just grand. Everyone’s working very hard and it’s always easier to get up in the morning when things are going well.”

Title-chasing Harry Cobden hits Wincanton treble

Harry Cobden kept himself in the race for the jockeys’ championship by riding a treble at Wincanton on Monday.

The 22-year-old began the day 13 winners behind reigning champion Brian Hughes’ tally of 126 for the season, with Harry Skelton splitting the pair on 120.

Skelton made significant inroads with a four-timer at Stratford, where Hughes also got on the scoreboard, while Cobden landed three of the first four races in Somerset – moving him to the 116-winner mark with three and a half weeks of the campaign left to go.

He said: “I had four nice rides today and had three winners and a third, so I’m very happy with that.”

Confirmation Bias passes the stands in front at Wincanton
Confirmation Bias passes the stands in front at Wincanton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Cobden teamed up with boss Paul Nicholls for his first two winners, with Confirmation Bias and Danny Kirwan both impressing.

Confirmation Bias was the 7-4 favourite for the opening Racing TV Extra ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle and displayed a willing attitude to see off Gold Link by a length and three-quarters.

“It was nice to see him put his head down and gallop right to the line today,” Cobden continued.

“It was a good, solid performance and I think he appreciated the better ground.”

The Cobden-Nicholls combination hit the mark again an hour later, with 5-4 shot Danny Kirwan making virtually every yard of the running and pulling 14 lengths clear of market rival Beyond The Pale in the Bet At Novices’ Hurdle.

Cobden said: “He’s a classy horse and is probably just a bit better than the horses he was up against today on this sort of ground.

“He’s a nice, big, imposing type who should be an exciting chaser next year.”

The rider completed his hat-trick aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained Kauto The King (3-1) in the Dot Tolson Memorial Handicap Chase.

Runners in action at Wincanton
Runners in action at Wincanton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

On his chances of landing the jockeys’ championship, Cobden added: “You never know in racing, anything can happen.”

There was a shock result in the concluding Visit Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, with Catchin Time scoring at huge odds of 125-1.

Ridden by 7lb claimer Peter Summers, the Laura Hurley-trained 13-year-old cruised to victory – his first since February 2017.

Summers said: “I’ve been riding for six years now and that’s my first winner. It’s only my second ride under Rules.

“It is a really special day for me. He is a lovely little horse.”

Alminar back to winning ways at Wincanton

Alminar came back to form in style at Wincanton with victory in the MansionBet 5 Days Til Cheltmas Handicap Chase.

The 9-1 outsider of the party was in control over the final couple of fences for trainer Nigel Hawke and jockey Kieren Buckley, powering 10 lengths and five clear of Premiumaccess and Putdecashonthedash.

Buckley said: “He’s had excuses for some of his defeats, as after winning in the heavy at Chepstow we stepped him up in class and he couldn’t handle it.

“He gave me no feel last time, but was a different horse today. The ground was good to soft and he bounced off it, jumping brilliantly. He could be one for the big handicap chases in the summer.”

Richard Phillips was on hand to welcome Minella Whisper who resisted the strong challenge of odds-on Sandford Castle to take the Follow @mansionbet This Cheltmas Novices’ Handicap Chase.

The 15-2 winner was making his debut over fences, and Phillips said: “The owners have been so patient with him and I’m delighted for them. He won over hurdles, but then had a tendon issue and has been nursed back. I was pleased with his run in a jumper’s bumper that teed him up for today.

“He enjoyed that chase debut and it was a lovely introductory ride by Daniel Hiskett.”

The Lydia Richards-trained Certainly Red landed the Mansionbet Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle under Marc Goldstein. The extended three-miler was the longest hurdle race ever run at Wincanton.

And there was plenty to like about the winning effort of Go Dante in the Happy 41st Birthday Hazel Rofe Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Sent off the even-money favourite, the Olly Murphy-trained five-year-old had no trouble justifying his short price, scoring by seven and a half lengths from Kahina Rules.

Murphy said: “He has never been on grass in his life, so I was a bit nervous he might be a bit green, but he has done everything nicely.

“I’m not sure if we will see him again this season – Aintree might be a tiny possibility, but he won’t be running under a penalty anywhere. He is a big, raw horse who jumps great. He will be a lovely novice hurdler for next season.”

Goshen roars back into Champion Hurdle picture

Goshen reignited his Champion Hurdle claims with an impressive victory in the Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Out of luck after falling at the final flight with the Triumph Hurdle at his mercy 12 months ago, Gary Moore’s five-year-old blew the opposition away with a devastating display as he returned to his best form of last season.

He settled well for Jamie Moore, who allowed Navajo Pass to give him a lead until the business end of the race.

Kicking on after jumping three from home, the 100-30 victor quickly put daylight between himself and his rivals.

Song For Someone, the 11-10 favourite, appeared to struggle to compete with the early pace, but came through to finish a never-nearer second – 22 lengths behind the easy winner. Navajo Pass was third.

Goshen was cut to 5-1 from 16-1 for the Champion Hurdle with Paddy Power, and to the same price with Coral from 20-1.

Moore senior said: “I was very pleased, over the moon.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I had him in a good place and fair play to Jamie. He told me when he worked him on Tuesday he would win.

“I was just hoping he would do what he has done today.

“It has to be the Champion Hurdle next. It has always been the target since last year. We’re hoping we can go there with every chance.

“Hopefully there’s a little bit of improvement to come from him.

“He settled lovely today. He doesn’t have to make the running, He just wants his own space.”

Jamie Moore suffered heartbreak with Goshen at Cheltenham last year
Jamie Moore suffered heartbreak with Goshen at Cheltenham last year (Simon Cooper/PA)

Equally thrilled was the winning jockey, who said: “It was a very rewarding performance. Just pleased to get him somewhere near his best for dad and the owners.

“We wouldn’t have run him if we didn’t think he was right. His last bit of work on Tuesday was very good and we’ve been happy with him. We wanted to go to Sandown a couple of weeks ago and it was called off. It’s good we’ve got a run into him.

“Dad has tried a different training regime with the horse and it’s worked. The horse has enjoyed it and we’ve got him fit in different ways.”

The jockey knows more still might be needed at Cheltenham, however.

“We’re going to look forward to the Champion Hurdle, but it’s going to be no easy task,” he said.

“Epatante didn’t run great at Kempton, but it shows horses aren’t machines. Goshen came back today and she could come back at Cheltenham.

“We’re going to wait and hope he’s in good form on the day.”

Navajo Pass tests credentials again in Kingwell

Donald McCain is keen to discover whether Navajo Pass can back up his surprise Haydock victory in Wincanton’s Betway Kingwell Hurdle.

Sean Quinlan steered Navajo Pass to an all-the-way success as the outsider of three in Grade Two company last time out, winning by four and a quarter lengths from dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air.

Saturday’s Wincanton feature is another Grade Two event, and McCain believes a good run will solidify the five-year-old’s form from Merseyside.

Navajo Pass, ridden by Sean Quinlan, on his way to winning The New One Unibet Hurdle
Navajo Pass, ridden by Sean Quinlan, on his way to winning The New One Unibet Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

“He’s in good nick – we’re going to go for it,” said the Cheshire trainer.

“We were delighted with Haydock, and it’s the obvious next race for him – there are no other races for him, to be honest.

“We’ll go and take a punt and we’ll see.”

McCain is mindful that Buveur D’Air’s run in The New One Hurdle was his first after a 420-day break – and he will hold off on making spring Festival plans until after this weekend.

“You could question the form at Haydock, so we’ll see if that stacks up before we worry about anything else,” he said.

“We’re always looking to go somewhere in the spring, but he is still a young horse.”

Song For Someone, last year’s Kingwell winner, also lines up in Somerset.

Tom Symond's Song For Someone
Tom Symond’s Song For Someone (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Tom Symonds-trained six-year-old was a half-length winner of the 2020 renewal, which was relocated to Kempton after Storm Dennis left Wincanton unable to host the meeting.

That victory was the first of a current three-race unbeaten spell for the chestnut, who this season has won the Coral Hurdle at Ascot and the International Hurdle at Cheltenham – both of which are Grade Twos.

Symonds expects this weekend’s rivals to pose an even greater challenge, but hopes his stable star can continue his ascent and smooth a path to one of the big spring hurdle prizes.

“Fingers crossed, he’s in good form,” he said.

“We’re really pleased with how he’s been since the International, but he’s got to step up again and give his penalties away.

“He’s really well, but it’s going to be hard work for all of them in the ground. It will be interesting to see how he goes against Navajo Pass – and with Goshen running again, we’re looking forward to it.

“Provided the script is read right then we’ll look at either Cheltenham or Aintree in the spring, but we’ll see what happens here first really. That’s how we’ll go forward with him.”

Song For Someone (left) and Goshen (right) during the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham
Song For Someone (left) and Goshen (right) during the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gary Moore’s Goshen will also take his chance as a tilt at Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle hangs in the balance.

The five-year-old looked a runaway winner of the Triumph Hurdle last season when unseating Jamie Moore at the last flight, but has struggled to rediscover his best form in three subsequent runs – the first two of which were on the Flat.

As Song For Someone triumphed in the International Hurdle in December, Goshen made his hurdling return but appeared out of sorts when finishing a near 30-length last of 10.

In the aftermath he was reported to be suffering from a fibrillating heart, but Moore has now clarified that was not the case.

“He never did have a fibrillating heart,” he said.

“That was a misunderstanding, so we can forget that. It was a mix-up in conversation.”

Cheltenham still remains the target – but a below-par Kingwell run could see that plan altered.

“We hope he’ll go very well – he’s very well at home,” said Moore.

“Saturday will tell us everything, unless there’s plenty of excuses.

“The next step will hopefully be the Champion Hurdle, but if he doesn’t give a good account of himself at the weekend, then we’ll have to think of something else.”

Completing the field are Paul Nicholls’ Friend Or Foe, William de Best-Turner’s outsider Calgary Tiger and Evan Williams’ Esprit Du Large – who reverts to hurdles after experiencing mixed fortunes during a spell over fences.

Rose blooms as Tizzard returns to winning ways at Wincanton

Colin Tizzard’s underwhelming season showed chrysalis-like signs of a much-needed late blossom with Rose Of Arcadia’s triumph in the EBF Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle at Wincanton.

Tizzard and his son and assistant Joe have seen several of their team run into the money over the past month, but were still without a victory since December.

Rose Of Arcadia, sent off the 5-6 favourite, put that right with a narrow success – which may yet be a portent of better to come in the remaining weeks leading up to Cheltenham.

Under Jonjo O’Neill Jr, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned six-year-old always travelled best in the heavy ground and stuck on gamely to repel the strong challenge of Fable by a neck.

Joe Tizzard confirmed the winner will be an intended runner in the series final at Newbury.

“Jonjo said she was doing too much, and that she must have a big engine,” he said.

“She had a wind op after Ffos Las, and ran well last time in a race that looks strong form. All being well, she’ll have another (run) before heading to Newbury.”

Paul Nicholls appears to have an exciting prospect in Lucky One, who outclassed his rivals with an impressive display from the front under Harry Cobden in the Southwest Syndicate Novices’ Hurdle – the first leg of a double for trainer and jockey.

The almost black gelding came home 20 lengths and 19 clear of fellow 5-4 joint-favourite Natural History and Lilly Pedlar, prompting Nicholls to predict big things from him as a future chaser.

“He used to pull himself into submission, but then settled at Southwell since when we’ve done a lot of work on him,” he said.

“If he consents to settle he’ll be some chaser next season. He’s going to be a good horse if we keep him right.

“I might look at a race up at Kelso or wait for Aintree in the spring. He’ll go in any ground.”

Harry Cobden guides Sametegal to victory
Harry Cobden guides Sametegal to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nicholls and Cobden went on to complete their double when Sametegal posted his first victory in almost five years, the 6-5 favourite repelling Porlock Bay by a hard-fought half-length in the Stewart Tory Memorial Open Hunters’ Chase.

Nicholls said: “He hasn’t won for five years, but he has been running consistently. I opted to go hunter chasing and his aim will be Aintree as he is good around there.

“He was brilliant at the last today. He never finishes strongly, but it was great to get his head in front.”

Numitor and Tom Scudamore clear the last to win the Watch Racing TV In Stunning HD Novices’ Handicap Chase at Wincanton
Numitor and Tom Scudamore clear the last to win the Watch Racing TV In Stunning HD Novices’ Handicap Chase at Wincanton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Numitor is proving a captain of industry for trainer Heather Main and her husband James, and the giant grey made light of 11st 12lb to power home in the Watch Racing TV In Stunning HD Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Measuring 17.3 hands, he crossed the line six lengths and a length-and-a-quarter clear of Jackson Hill and Dublin Four, under Tom Scudamore.

James Main said: “We’ve been very patient with him, and I think there’s improvement in him yet. He has no problem handling that ground.”

Jonjo O’Neill’s flurry of good form continued with Time To Get Up’s win in the Dick Hunt Handicap Chase, giving the trainer’s son his 50th winner of the season.

Time To Get Up completed a double for Jonjo O’Neill Jr with victory in the feature Dick Hunt Handicap Chase at Wincanton
Time To Get Up completed a double for jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr with victory in the feature Dick Hunt Handicap Chase at Wincanton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The 10-1 shot jumped past eventual runner-up Shanty Alley at the second-last and pulled clear in the manner of an improving stayer to back up the yard’s 100-1 double at Warwick the previous day.

O’Neill Jr said: “He’s a fine, big chasing type – and although by Presenting, loves the easy ground. He’s a nice prospect to look forward to.”

The Johnny Farrelly-trained And The New benefited from Jordan Nailor’s fine ride from the front in the Watch Race Replays At Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – providing his rider with a 40th career success.

Kingwell looming as next appearance for Goshen

Goshen and Song For Someone could both be rerouted to the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton following the abandonment of the hurdle races at Sandown on Saturday.

The Gary Moore-trained Goshen was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart when disappointing as the hot favourite for the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, a race won by Tom Symonds’ stable star Song For Someone.

The pair looked set to renew rivalry in the Listed Contenders Hurdle this weekend – and while the weather has scuppered those plans, the rematch may only be delayed rather than cancelled, with both trainers identifying the Kingwell Hurdle on February 20 as a possible alternative.

Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season's Triumph Hurdle
Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season’s Triumph Hurdle (Simon Cooper/PA)

Moore said: “It’s disappointing we won’t be going to Sandown, but the ground must be bad for them to call the hurdle races off this early.

“It’s been a nightmare of a season for him (Goshen) really.

“The Kingwell Hurdle has got to be the next option, then if that doesn’t happen, you’re looking at the National Spirit at Fontwell the following Sunday (February 28).

“Fontwell wouldn’t be perfect as it’s getting close to Cheltenham, but I want to find out if he’s good enough to go to Cheltenham, more than anything. I can’t really go to Cheltenham off the back of what he’s done this season, but I might have to.

“He’s had no season really, but I am very happy with him at the moment.”

Song For Someone won the rescheduled Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton last season and has continued in the same vein this term, winning the Coral Hurdle at Ascot prior to his narrow victory over Silver Streak at Cheltenham.

Like Moore, Symonds is keen to get another run into his charge ahead of a possible bid for Champion Hurdle glory in March.

Song For Someone is making his mark this season
Song For Someone is making his mark this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We had three options – the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, which we avoided, the Contenders at Sandown, which has been taken out of our hands and the next one on the list is the Kingwell,” said the Herefordshire-based trainer.

“I’ve just been discussing it with the owners and there are only four races left for him to run in this season, really – you’ve got the Kingwell, the National Spirit, the Champion Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle.

“We’ll probably take in two of those, if all goes well and he’s well.

“It’s annoying he can’t go to Sandown, but I’d rather ring the owners with bad news about the ground than the horse.”

Asked whether Song For Someone could head straight to the Champion Hurdle, Symonds added: “It’s a possibility, but we were hoping to run him somewhere again beforehand.

“We don’t want to wait for Aintree and then the ground comes up firm. I know it’s unlikely that would be the case.

“We’ll just have to see what happens over the next couple of weeks. It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Sedgefield abandoned – after four inspections

Sedgefield was forced to abandon Monday’s meeting after a fourth inspection of the course – which took place at 12.30pm, the initial scheduled time of the first race.

Hopes rose for much of the morning that temperatures would increase sufficiently to allow the seven-race card to go ahead, having dipped to -2C overnight.

But they never did so, as the winter sun faded and cloud cover moved back in – with frost still in the ground.

After an initial inspection on Sunday afternoon, the announcement of another at 8.30am – put back to 10am – and then two more, the abandonment was finally confirmed on Sedgefield’s official Twitter feed.

It read: “Unfortunately racing today is abandoned.”

Clerk of the course Michael Naughton said: “The stewards took everything into account, and it was just the odd patches that were still frozen. It wasn’t worth taking the risk for safety reasons.

“It had improved, and the sun is back out again. In another hour we may have been OK, but we couldn’t put it back any further and have another inspection.”

In the hours up to 12.30, it was clear several trainers were not prepared to let their horses take part – with 26 non-runners announced because of the going.

Naughton added: “It was just patches of the course that were giving us problems.

“The majority of the course was OK. There were a couple of patches where the clouds went against us. At one point cloud cover came over, and it started cooling down again. Everything that could go against us did go against us.

“There was nothing more we could do. A lot of people made the effort to get here, so we thought we’d push it to the wire if we can and see what we could do.”

There were mixed outcomes from two inspections elsewhere on Monday morning, for Wednesday’s racing.

Exeter’s card was abandoned because of waterlogging, after 17mm of rain since Sunday morning.

Warwick may yet go ahead, however, as standing water receded – but the meeting will be subject to a second check at 2pm on Tuesday, with further rain forecast.

In Ireland, Tuesday’s meeting at Limerick has been called off because of waterlogging.

There will be an inspection on Tuesday morning for Thursday’s card at Wincanton, where there is standing water and further rain forecast on heavy ground.