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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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 racingtv.com 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.

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“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.

Sedgefield faces fourth inspection

Sedgefield’s meeting on Monday hinges on a fourth inspection at the track – at 12.30pm, which was initially the scheduled time of the opening race.

The course passed an initial check on Sunday afternoon, as frozen conditions began to improve, with a second inspection announced for 830am on Monday.

That was put back by an hour and a half, however, in the hope that temperatures would continue to rise – having dipped to minus 2C overnight.

The course was still not raceable, though, and it was announced a further inspection must take place at 11.30am.

That too was inconclusive, and a Tweet on Sedgefield’s official feed read: “We’re doing everything we can to help our fixture go ahead so we’ll be having a further inspection at 12.30pm.”

The ground is described as heavy for the scheduled seven-race card.

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 is 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.

Blank day for British jumps cards on Wednesday

There will be no jumps racing in the UK for a second successive day after Wednesday’s meetings at Wincanton and Catterick were both abandoned.

With Kelso and Leicester’s Tuesday fixtures called off, jumping fans have been starved of action this week.

Wincanton initially inspected at 8am on Tuesday but pushed that back to 4pm as the course showed signs of improvement after a heavy covering of snow which arrived on Sunday.

However, the problem then was that thawing snow left areas of the track waterlogged.

“We held an inspection at 8am and couldn’t pass it due to a lot of snow lying, so decided to go again at 4pm,” said clerk of the course Daniel Cooper.

“We thought we’d be OK – but what has happened is the thaw has created standing water across the track, and the vulnerable areas have quite a lot. Even the areas that tend to be OK are slushy, and we can’t get through that.

“What caused the abandonment is the storing of the snow, and the snow has stayed with us a lot longer than thought. We’ve had everything thrown at us this winter.”

At Catterick, the thaw did not arrive in time – and the fixture was abandoned after a 3pm inspection.

A Tweet on the track’s official account read: “Unfortunately tomorrow’s card has been abandoned. Following 4 nights of hard frost and no improvement in conditions today the forecast slow rise in temperatures gives insufficient time for the track to be raceable.”

British jumps racing is scheduled to resume at Fakenham and Wetherby on Thursday.

But the West Yorkshire track must pass an initial inspection at 9am on Wednesday to assess the thawing of frozen areas of waterlogging in the back straight.

Dawson City rolls back the years in Somerset National

Veteran chaser Dawson City battled to victory for Polly Gundry and Millie Wonnacott in the Somerset National Handicap Chase at Wincanton.

The 12-year-old, who was second in the extended three-and-a-quarter-mile contest in 2016 and third in 2018, was given a patient ride and saw off The Kings Writ after the pair jumped the last virtually together to triumph by three-quarters of a length.

A delighted Gundry, who also joint-owns Dawson City, said of her 13-2 winner: “I thought he still wanted to do it and in the right situation when they go a good clip in soft ground he can still do it.

“I shouted so much, and hopped up and down so much that I saw stars! I rang my co-owner Kim Franklin and she was in floods of tears watching.”

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Dawson City will now bid to add to his 2018 and 2019 triumphs in the Devon National at Exeter next month.

Gundry, who is based at Ottery St Mary, added: “This was a prep run for the Devon National, which he has won twice.

“It would be good for him to run well in it again at the age of 12. Three-miles-six is more his cup of tea and he does like Exeter.”

Mack The Man returned to winning ways for Evan Williams and Adam Wedge when reverting to the smaller obstacles in the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.

The 10-11 favourite in a field of four, the seven-year-old passed River Bray over the final flight to cross the line three-quarters of a length ahead – teeing up a Betfair Hurdle tilt, after being brought down at the last in the big Newbury handicap 12 months ago.

Adam Wedge and Mack The Man (left) clear the last at Wincanton
Adam Wedge and Mack The Man (left) clear the last at Wincanton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Wedge said: “He has gone and got a bit of confidence today and it is a lovely little race to come back over hurdles in.

“I don’t see why he couldn’t go for a nice handicap again. He should be off a good weight in the Betfair.”

Fabrique En France was victorious in the Timeform Premium Ratings Available At racingtv.com “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle, steered by Aidan Coleman to a two-and-a-quarter-length success at 11-4 for Olly Murphy.

And having won what was the opener, Murphy and Coleman closed the meeting in similar fashion, landing the Racing TV Extra 4 Screens Live “Newcomers” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race courtesy of 5-4 shot Sure Touch.

Sure Touch could be a nice prospect for trainer Olly Murphy
Sure Touch could be a nice prospect for trainer Olly Murphy (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Assistant trainer Ger Tumelty said of Sure Touch: “It was our first runner for Mr (Robert) Waley-Cohen and his family and it was great to get off the mark. He is a horse with a lovely pedigree.

“He travelled well and picked up nicely. He was a little bit green and he didn’t do a whole pile when he got there, but that’s a good sign.

“I’d say he won with a little bit up his sleeve. I’d like to think further down the line better ground would suit him in the spring.”

Hopes rise for Haydock

Officials at Haydock are “pretty hopeful” Saturday’s meeting will go ahead after the course surprisingly passed a Thursday morning inspection.

Prospects of racing at the Merseyside venue appeared bleak on Wednesday, with the ground already described as heavy, waterlogged in places and further rain expected from Storm Christoph.

It was widely expected that a fixture featuring four Grade Two races would be abandoned after clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright called an inspection for 8am on Thursday morning.

However, despite a further 35 millimetres of rain falling on Wednesday, and many parts of the north-west suffering from flooding, Tellwright reported conditions at Haydock to be raceable.

He said: “It is remarkable – we’re fit to race today.

“I suppose we can take certain quantities of rain – and beyond that, it’s just going down the drain.”

A further precautionary inspection has been called for 8am on Saturday morning because of the threat of frost.

Tellwright added: “We’ve called a precautionary inspection for Saturday morning, just to cover us for the forecast frost.

“We’d be pretty hopeful that shouldn’t be an issue. It (the course) is under frost covers. They won’t work as well as they would on dry ground, but we’ll cross our fingers and expect to race.

“In terms of rain, we’re forecast the odd shower, but nothing in the context of what we’ve had in the previous three days.”

Elsewhere, both Ludlow and Wincanton passed 8am inspections for Thursday’s seven-race cards.

At Ludlow, the ground is heavy, soft in places, on the hurdles course and soft over fences – while at Wincanton it is heavy all round.

Friday’s card at Ffos Las was abandoned following an inspection on Thursday morning, with the ground waterlogged, while racing at Musselburgh the same day is subject to a precautionary 8am check, with freezing temperatures the concern.

Haydock reprieve – but Saturday inspection called

Haydock’s meeting on Saturday will be subject to an inspection on race-day morning after the course passed an initial check on Thursday.

An inspection was called for 8am on Thursday, with the ground already described 24 hours earlier as heavy, waterlogged in places and further rain expected from Storm Christoph.

The track passed that early assessment of conditions, but a second inspection was announced for 8am on Saturday before a fixture featuring four Grade Two races – and the possible return of dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air – can go ahead.

The remaining threat to the feature card is from a forecast cold snap, according to a Tweet on Haydock’s official account.

It read: “Today’s inspection has passed for Saturday’s Peter Marsh Chase raceday. The track is currently fit to race. Another precautionary inspection is due at 8am on Saturday due to risk of frost.”

Elsewhere, both Ludlow and Wincanton passed 8am inspections for Thursday’s seven-race cards.

At Ludlow, the ground is heavy, soft in places, on the hurdles course and soft over fences – while at Wincanton it is heavy all round.

Friday’s card at Ffos Las was abandoned following an inspection on Thursday morning, with the ground waterlogged.

Jacob fondly recalls ‘the boss’ Robert Alner after Wincanton five-timer

Daryl Jacob made special mention of his former boss, the late Robert Alner, as he reflected on the first five-timer of his career at Wincanton.

Jacob joined Alner on his arrival from Ireland, and the Dorset trainer played an important part in the early stages of his riding career. He will forever remember those days in the early 2000s, progressing from point-to-points to his first Grade One triumph on The Listener in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in 2006.

Alner was paralysed in a car accident in 2007 but carried on training in a joint licence with his wife Sally, until they retired in 2010. Alner died last February, aged 76.

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“I’ve had a few four-timers when I was riding for the boss and Sally Alner point-to-pointing. They were always very good days, and days I will never forget. They were the grass roots,” said Jacob.

“The boss would have been looking down yesterday and he would have been very proud of me – especially being at his local track as well.”

Appropriately, the first of Jacob’s five winners on Saturday was for Alner’s son-in-law Robert Walford, on Ede’iffs Elton in a staying handicap chase.

“The boss had plenty of nice winners at Wincanton, and I had a nice winner for Rob Walford there yesterday. That was great as well,” he said.

“He was part of our old set-up down at the Alners with the boss and Sally, so it was very pleasing to ride Rob a winner at his local track as well.”

That victory got the ball rolling – with Alan King’s Messire Des Obeaux, the Paul Nicholls-trained Capeland, Ben Pauling’s Anightinlambourn and Jackson Hill, from Milton Harris’ stable, doing their bit to complete Jacob’s golden day.

“All the horses performed well. I had some nice rides going into the day, so it was great it all came together,” he added.

“It’s a nice feat – five winners for five different trainers and lovely horses. I was particularly impressed with Messire Des Obeaux. It was fantastic for him to win the Dipper after all the injuries he’s had.

“I just think credit to Alan King and his team for what they’ve done for this horse. He’s still retains plenty of ability.”

Nicholls celebrating following magnificent seven winners

Paul Nicholls reflected on another memorable Saturday after saddling seven winners across the three jump meetings in Britain.

Fixtures at Chepstow, Kempton and Wincanton were in doubt at the start of the morning following the recent cold snap, but Nicholls will have been relieved to see all three go ahead, allowing him to send out 18 runners in total from his Ditcheat base.

Nicholls was at Kempton, where he saw Barbados Buck’s (2-1 favourite) land a novice hurdle, before claiming Grade Two honours with both McFabulous (10-11 favourite) in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle and Master Tommytucker (2-1) in the Ladbrokes Silviniaco Conti Chase.

All three Kempton winners were partnered by Harry Cobden.

On Coral Welsh Grand National day at Chepstow, Bryony Frost was seen to excellent effect aboard the Nicholls-trained Pozo Emery (7-2) in the opening maiden hurdle, before doubling her tally for the 11-times champion trainer with Storm Arising (6-1) in a handicap hurdle.

Nicholls also claimed a double at his local track of Wincanton, with Harry Skelton steering Flash Collonges (7-4) to success in a novice hurdle and Capeland (6-1) striking gold under Daryl Jacob, who enjoyed a five-timer on the card.

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Speaking after the conclusion of racing at Kempton, Nicholls said: “We hadn’t had a winner in 2021 and now we’ve had seven in one day!

“We hadn’t had many runners so far this year, before today. It’s good to keep the strike-rate going.

“If you run 18, you would like to think four of them would win and we’ve had seven, so we are chuffed. If they are fit, healthy and well, you want them to perform well.

“All of these that have run today will have a flu jab on Monday and won’t run for three weeks to a month. We are never that busy in January. We still have a few to run, but we will be selective.

“The team will be readied and revved up to run from February through into March and April.”

Assessing some of his winners, he added: “I thought McFabulous ought to win and I was sweet on Master Tommytucker. I know he was lucky with the favourite (Imperial Aura) coming down, but our horse is a nice horse when he is right.

“We’d had three lovely novice hurdlers win in Pozo Emery, Flash Collonges and Barbados Buck’s and they are for the future. Whatever they achieve over hurdles is a bonus as they will all be great chasers.

“It is exciting times. We have a great team working behind the scenes at home and a great team of patient owners.”

Nicholls usually enjoys some winter sun in the Caribbean early in the new year, but those plans have gone by the wayside this season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Normally I’m away for a couple of weeks, but obviously we can’t go this year. I’d rather be here than watching the racing on television, though.

“I’d usually have gone to Barbados on Wednesday and I’m always there this weekend watching it with Andy Stewart over one or two glasses of champagne! He’s had two winners today with Barbados Buck’s and Pozo Emery, so it would have been riotous!

“With everything that’s going on in the country, I’d have been mortified if I was out there and there was a problem back home and I couldn’t get back, so I’m better off at home making sure we all keep safe and everyone keeps on top of things.

“This is a lovely start to the new year. If we can keep going until the end of the season, we ought be able to crack the 172 (171 is the record number of winners in a season for Nicholls).

“Although me and Clifford (Baker, head lad) might be 58 and 60, we are still as enthusiastic as ever and we absolutely love it – long may it continue.”

Messire delivers in Dipper heat

Messire Des Obeaux showed his two younger rivals the way home in the Paddy Power Dipper Novices’ Chase at Wincanton.

Winner of the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve of 2016, Alan King’s charge went on to be placed at both the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree the following spring, before injury kept him off the track for almost three years.

His return from a 1,034-day hiatus at Huntingdon last February was not devoid of promise, but it nevertheless looked as though his best days may perhaps be behind him.

However, following a heart-warming success on his chasing debut at Wincanton last month, the nine-year-old returned to Somerset for a Grade Two contest saved from the abandoned fixture at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day – and proved up to the task in the hands of Daryl Jacob.

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Settled at the rear of the three-runner field for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, Messire Des Obeaux could be spotted travelling best rounding the home turn, and it was just a question of what he would find when push came to shove.

In the end he showed he had plenty in the locker, with a flying leap at the final fence sealing a near five-length verdict over Dan Skelton’s 1-2 favourite Protektorat.

Speaking from home, King said: “That definitely brought a smile to my face – I’m delighted.

“He wasn’t going to run in the race if it was run at Cheltenham as that would have been way too soon – he wasn’t even entered for it. The race only came into the equation after it was moved and if he hadn’t run here, he’d probably have gone to Huntingdon for a novice handicap.

“He seems as good as he ever was. I can’t think of bringing one back from that long off the track to win, not at that level anyway.

“He is a good horse and that is the reason we persevered and persuaded the owners to bring him back, as they were going to retire him in France. I begged them to bring him back for another crack. A lot of work has gone in to get him back, from my vets and all the team here.

“It doesn’t always come off, so it’s lovely when it does.”

Daryl Jacob enjoyed a memorable afternoon
Daryl Jacob enjoyed a memorable afternoon (Simon Cooper/PA)

Considering future plans for his charge, the trainer added: “We’ll take it one day at a time. We’ll probably enter him for the Festival, but I am a little bit nervous about taking horses that have had leg problems to Cheltenham, just with the undulations and everything.

“I’m not saying he won’t go there, but I would be slightly worried about it.”

Messire Des Obeaux starred in a remarkable five-timer on the card for Jacob.

The leading rider also struck gold aboard Robert Walford’s Ede’iffs Elton (7-2 favourite), the Paul Nicholls-trained Capeland (6-1), Ben Pauling’s Anightinlambourn (3-1) and Jackson Hill (7-1) from Milton Harris’ yard.

Green light for British jump fixtures

There will be a full programme of racing in Britain on Saturday after National Hunt meetings at Chepstow, Kempton and Wincanton all survived morning inspections.

After passing an initial check on Friday afternoon, a further inspection was announced for 8am ahead of the rescheduled Coral Welsh Grand National fixture at Chepstow.

And following a frost-free night, clerk of the course Libby O’Flaherty was thrilled to be able to give the green light.

She said: “We had no frost overnight or this morning. I’m so delighted we’re going ahead.”

Kempton’s Lanzarote Hurdle card is also headlined by two Grade Two events – the Ladbrokes Silviniaco Conti Chase and the rescheduled Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford called an 8am inspection due to a continued risk of snow showers and low overnight temperatures, but said shortly afterwards: “Racing goes ahead.

“We got down to minus 1C overnight. It was more the threat of snow that I was worried about, but we’re good to go.”

Wincanton’s fixture, which features the rearranged Grade Two Paddy Power Dipper Novices’ Chase, was also given the all-clear just before the scheduled 8am inspection time.

Messire Des Obeaux delights King with comeback win on chasing debut

Alan King was thrilled to see Messire Des Obeaux roll back the years with a heart-warming victory on his debut over fences at Wincanton.

Winner of the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve of 2016, Messire Des Obeaux went on to be placed at both the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree the following spring, before injury kept him off the track for almost three years.

His return from a 1034-day hiatus at Huntingdon in February of this year was not devoid of promise, but it nevertheless looked as though his best days may perhaps be behind him.

Back from a subsequent 10-month absence for the Like Racing TV On Facebook Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, Messire Des Obeaux was a well supported 7-2 chance under Daryl Jacob and fenced fluently throughout the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

He held a clear lead jumping the first fence in the home straight – and while 15-8 favourite Coconut Splash was closing him down on the run-in, King’s charge had enough in the tank to score by two and a quarter lengths.

“That gave me a lot of pleasure,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

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“It’s been a long way back, but the team have worked really hard to get to this point, and we’ve felt for some time that he’s retained an awful lot of his ability.

“We’ll see how he is after this race – there are no plans. It was a special moment watching him win today.”

King admits there was a time when he thought Messire Des Obeaux might never return to competitive action.

He added: “He got a tendon injury at Aintree and went back to France afterwards, and it took a hell of a long time to get him back.

“At one stage he was going to be retired, but I pleaded with the owners to send him back to me to see if we could get him back. Thank goodness they did.

“We’ll enjoy today and hope all’s well in the morning.”

Sizable Sam (left) clears the last at Wincanton
Sizable Sam (left) clears the last at Wincanton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Sizable Sam looks a smart recruit for Jeremy Scott, judged on his all-the-way success in the Watch On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.

The Warwick bumper winner was runner-up on his hurdling debut at this venue last month, and comfortably went one better in the hands of Matt Griffiths as the 4-5 favourite

Scott, whose former stable star Melodic Rendezvous won an Elite Hurdle and a Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, said: “The soft ground probably wasn’t ideal, but he’s won in spite of that and hopefully he’s an exciting prospect.

“I’m not sure how much he’ll do this season. All trainers say they’ll be better when they jump a fence, but I think in this case he probably will be.

“It’s nice to have a horse like him.”

Flagrant Delitiep was one of three winners for Harry Cobden
Flagrant Delitiep was one of three winners for Harry Cobden (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Harry Cobden boosted his hopes of being crowned champion jockey for the first time with a treble on the card.

The rider teamed up with boss Paul Nicholls to win with Brewers Project (6-5 favourite) and Friend Or Foe (9-4 favourite) over hurdles, while the middle leg of his hat-trick came aboard Robert Walford’s Flagrant Delitiep in the Use The racingtv.com Tracker Handicap Chase.

With reigning champion Brian Hughes out of luck at Catterick on Tuesday, Cobden closes the gap to seven winners (74 to 67).