Tag Archive for: Winter Million

The Galloping Bear is National hero for Ben Clarke

The Galloping Bear produced a game staying performance to defy top-weight in the racehorselotto.com Surrey National Handicap Chase at Lingfield.

The nine-year-old, trained by Ben Clarke, kept on gamely on the run to the line at the end of the three-mile-five-furlong trip to lift the spoils on his second start following a wind operation.

His comeback run, after a 258-day absence, resulted in a fall at the third-last flight in a novice hurdle at Chepstow last month – but the successful hunter chaser and point-to-pointer showed he had regained his form.

Ridden by Ben Jones, The Galloping Bear (12-1) was always in the front rank and found extra after the last to see off the late challenges of Defuture Is Bright (20-1) and Echo Watt (33-1), by two and a half lengths and two and three-quarters. Both placed horses were receiving lumps of weight from the winner.

Clarke, who was assistant to Anthony Honeyball before starting out on his own with a string of 15 horses, said: “On pedigree and everything he had shown us at home and in point-to-points – the first time he could be well above average was when he won an intermediate point at Buckfastleigh and went through the line quicker than anything through the day and I thought, ‘Crikey! We might have something all right’.

“I’m thrilled to bits. His pedigree suggests he’d stay and he certainly has.

“His last run at Chepstow was supposed to be his last little prep for a Welsh National and we ended upside down. That was not ideal. We still would have run him but he scoped dirty two or three days before. He is the best horse we have and we certainly wouldn’t risk a horse like that on a marginal scope.

“We had him in the Peter Marsh, but with Royale Pagaille running, he would have been running out of the handicap.

“Maybe the Grand National Trial at Haydock next month is where we go next. He will probably go up a few pounds and will probably be rated around 140. The key to him is soft ground – he has to have that. The area Nationals are what he is all about.”

Two For Gold denies Dashel Drasher in Fleur De Lys Chase

Two For Gold rallied in admirable fashion to deny Dashel Drasher in the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield.

Kim Bailey’s nine-year-old pipped Jeremy Scott’s stable star to take the £78,045 first prize at odds of 10-1 in the hands of David Bass.

After jumping the last with a narrow lead, Two For Gold was headed in the final 100 yards by Dashel Drasher but fought back bravely as the winning post approached and got back up to get the nod by a short head.

Dashel Drasher had cut out most of the running after taking over Lieutenant Rocco and Bristol De Mai, who were the first to go on.

Lieutenant Rocco harassed Dashel Drasher for much of the journey, but he was the first beaten. Master Tommytucker was creeping into the race when he took a bad fall at the third-last fence and it was subsequently confirmed he had tragically suffered a fatal injury.

With Itchy Feet never able to get in a blow, it was left to Two For Gold, Dashel Drasher and Bristol De Mai to fight it out. The latter had to settle for third place, three-quarters of a length behind the first two, who served up a thrilling finish.

To rub salt into the wounds, Dashel Drasher’s jockey Rex Dingle was handed a four-day ban (February 6-9 inclusive) for careless riding.

“I said to my assistant this morning that we need a horse to rescue us this season and what is the chance of this happening today,” said Bailey.

He is funny old horse. He is a quirky individual and he has given the owners a huge amount of fun.

“When they announced this race, we said straight away that this was the race we wanted to go for. He loves soft ground and this meeting has been abandoned enough times to work out it was going to be heavy ground, which would suit him.

“He has done his job for the season if that’s the case. We’ll find something else for him, but he is a tremendous horse.”

Paying an emotional tribute to Master Tommytucker, Harry Derham, assistant trainer to Paul Nicholls, wrote on Twitter: “I adore this sport but sometimes it can be gut wrenchingly cruel. So sad for Tony Fear & Louise Cabble who bought Tommy into the world & have loved him since.

“Brave & bold he’d have run into a brick wall for you. I’ll always remember you at your terrifying best. Sleep well Tommy.”

Brewin’upastorm rallies to pick up Lingfield prize

Brewin’upastorm pounced late to claim the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Hurdle for Aidan Coleman and Olly Murphy in a thrilling three-runner affair at Lingfield.

The nine-year-old fell when going with every chance in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day – but put that misfortune behind him to land a valuable prize at the inaugural Winter Million meeting.

Starting as the 13-8 joint-favourite alongside Gavin Cromwell’s Darver Star, Coleman’s mount was at the rear of the field for much of the contest as Gary Moore’s Goshen led, with Darver Star appearing the one going best as things started to hot up.

But approaching the penultimate flight Brewin’upastorm was galvanised into contention by Coleman, avoiding Goshen’s errant jumping and pulling clear after a good jump at the last to beat Darver Star by a length and a quarter. Goshen was a nose back in third.

Murphy said: “We left Cheltenham gutted and you can see from the way he finished there, we had good reason to think he would have won.

“I didn’t enjoy watching that at all today. Darver Star had the run of the race and Goshen was going right. You always have to ride Brewin’upastorm with a little bit of room and Goshen was going everywhere we wanted to go and was a right inconvenience, but that’s horse racing.

“He’s a good horse and has done me proud and it’s nice he’s turned up on the big day. Yes, there’s only three runners but that’s not our fault and well done to Lingfield for putting on fantastic prize-money. I’m over the moon.”

He added: “It is more likely that we will bypass Fontwell and the National Spirit and I’d imagine we’ll probably freshen him up and go straight to Aintree for the Aintree Hurdle.”

Coleman said: “He was probably very unlucky in the Relkeel and he has made amends today.

“He handled the ground well enough and you have to be delighted with that.”

War Lord wins the battle for Lingfield honours

War Lord gained handsome compensation for his fine run in a Grade One on his previous start with a hard-fought victory in the Cazoo Novices’ Chase at Lingfield.

The Colin Tizzard-trained seven-year-old had finished a long way second behind Edwardstone in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown – but showed he is pretty smart in his own right as he made it three wins from four races over fences.

Il Ridoto made the running in the four-horse affair with War Lord always on his heels in second place under Brendan Powell.

Taking closer order in the straight with three fences to jump, War Lord (11-10 favourite) had to work hard to overtake the long-time leader before landing the spoils by three and a quarter lengths. Faivoir edged Il Ridoto out of second place by a length.

War Lord was cut to 33-1 from 50-1 with Coral for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “He deserved it. He has done nothing wrong all season. He is quite a progressive young horse. We have Doncaster next week in mind – we were always going to enter and just see where. I wouldn’t say this race has cut up, but the front three were all, on ratings, much of a muchness. I think he has done it quite nicely and I think he is getting better.

“He earned his right to run in a Grade One and he lost nothing in defeat. We were chuffed to bits he finished second that day and we dropped back down to a Grade Two. He is a two-and-a-half-mile hurdler so we can step up in trip when we need to, but just on this ground, we don’t need to yet.

“He has got two options at Cheltenham – the Arkle and the two-and-a-half-miler. As the ground dries out, we won’t be afraid to step him up, but at the moment, he jumps so well and he’s slick and he travels, so we don’t need to.

“The boys are keen to have a go (at Cheltenham), I’m keen to have a go and he’s earned the right to be there as well. He is three out of four and second in a Grade One, so he deserves to be there. We will wait and see. The guys are enjoying planning all the races, as much as I am.

“I might enter him for next Saturday (Lightning Novices’ Chase), as he has not had a hard race. I might enter him up at Doncaster just in case that cut up to two or three – I won’t tell them that yet. I will just press the button and tell them at 12 o’clock!

“He jumps and travels and done it well. He’s a good chap.”

The Tizzard stable and Powell completed a double when Triple Trade (7-2) outfought Shearer by two lengths in the Winter Million Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

Our Jester ran out a convincing winner of the Winter Million Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Hughie Morrison’s six-year-old pulled clear of his rivals early in the straight to quickly put the two-mile race beyond doubt in the hands of Tom O’Brien.

Our Jester (5-2) got off the mark in a bumper at Ascot in November on his third start and took a big step forward in a competitive heat.

Always prominent the Garswood gelding set sail for home on the final bend and went on to score by three and a quarter lengths from the Nicky Henderson-trained Swapped. German challenger Estacas, the 15-8 favourite, was a neck away in third.

O’Brien said: “He is huge and that was my worry. It is tight around here, so I wanted to get out handy and luckily we have done that.

“It looked as if there would be a lack of pace, with a lot of speed horses in there, and my lad is a jumper of the future, so I wanted to be up there and luckily it was the right place today.

“Hughie was confident. He got beat twice last year and he obviously took time to strengthen up and he has done, he has done very well. It is a great race to win and great from Lingfield to put it on.”

There was a sting in the tail for O’Brien as he was banned for five days for careless riding. He will be out from February 6 to 10 inclusive.

Ballygrifincottage (7-4) wore down High Stakes in the closing stages to win a thrilling race for the Winter Million Novices’ Hurdle.

The seven-year-old, trained by Dan Skelton, made his stamina count as he knuckled down for Harry Skelton to see off his gritty opponent by a length and a half.

The pair pulled clear eight lengths clear of the third-placed horse, the 11-8 favourite Fameaftertheglory.

Harry Skelton and Ballygrifincottage (right) on their way to winning the Winter Million Novices’ Hurdle
Harry Skelton and Ballygrifincottage (right) on their way to winning the Winter Million Novices’ Hurdle (Steven Paston/PA)

It was only Ballygrifincottage’s second start under rules following his third place in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on his debut for the Skelton stable last month after being sold out of the point-to-point sphere.

His rider said: “They went so quick, I couldn’t go with them. I was off the bridle going to the first, to the second, but three miles on that ground, I just let him warm up, let him warm into it and he came onto the bridle then with a circuit to go.

“Whatever we do over hurdles will be a bonus. He has quite a lot of experience. He is an older horse, he is a six-year-old. We would never normally start our novices off over the trip we have with him, but he has got that experience and he can cope with it. There is a lot to look forward to.”

Lower Street powers home to land Winter Oaks at Lingfield

Lower Street came from last to first to land the £100,000 Coral Winter Oaks Fillies’ Handicap, the feature event on day two the Winter Million at Lingfield.

The 10-furlong contest had attracted a healthy line-up of 14 runners, and Martin Dwyer was sitting right at the back of the pack aboard David Simcock’s charge as the field turned for home.

Arenas Del Tiempo lead the way into the final couple of furlongs but they were lining up to challenge in behind, with Precisely the first to go for home before Pretty Sweet and then Umm Hurai.

However, Lower Street (10-1) was flying down the outside and hit the front inside the distance, holding another fast-finisher in Enfranchise by a length at the line, with Pretty Sweet back in third.

Simcock said: “As soon as we saw this race, that is why we went to Southwell to get up in the weights to make sure she definitely got in.

“They have gone hard there – really hard – and that is the first time she has had that in a race. She was almost outpaced early doors and the Johnston horse who finished second was next to her, so they have probably gone too quick in front.

“Since the autumn, Lower Street has really progressed. She was far worse off at the weights with some of those horses from the trial at Southwell two starts back and this shows how much she has come forward.

“The plan before today was to have a break and then come back for fast ground in the summer. Whether that changes I don’t know, but the likelihood is that she will have a break.”

He added: “This is a great prize and the whole thing (Winter Million) is a really good concept. I wasn’t here yesterday but the crowd today is good with a real friendly atmosphere.”

Celtic Art came home in front under Hollie Doyle
Celtic Art came home in front under Hollie Doyle (Steven Paston/PA)

Celtic Art (100-30 favourite) continued his fine start for new connections when lifting the Betway Handicap.

Previously trained by Paul and Oliver Cole, the five-year-old was bought for £39,000 at the December sales and after finishing second on his first outing for Jeremy Scott on New Year’s Eve, he went one better in landing this £50,000 prize.

Hollie Doyle sent him for home over a furlong out and he was always just doing enough to repel the challenge of the admirably consistent Protected Guest by half a length.

“After he was second here first time out for us, I thought this race would be a nice target. It is so rare that a plan comes together but thankfully it has,” said Scott.

“I asked Hollie what she would do next. She said he is clearly enjoying the game, so we will have a look at the programme book and see if there is anything suitable in the near future.”

Dingle was part of a double for Richard Hannon and Sean Levey
Dingle was part of a double for Richard Hannon and Sean Levey (Steven Paston/PA)

Richard Hannon and Sean Levey teamed up for a double with Dingle and Kodias Sangarius.

Dingle (100-30) got the best an exciting three-way finish in the Read Katie Walsh On Betway Insider Handicap, beating Marion’s Boy and Totally Charming a head and a neck in a photo.

Kodias Sangarius’ victory in the Play Coral Racing-Super-Series For Free Handicap was a similarly tight affair, with the 12-1 shot just shading Little Prayer by a nose with Lucky Man a further neck back in third.

The MansionBet Proud Partners Of The AWC Handicap was another to produce a well-contested finish, with Shoot To Kill (14-1) seeing off 2-1 favourite Diderot by a neck for trainer Robyn Brisland and jockey Darragh Keenan.

War In Heaven (9-4) obliged favourite-backers in the Betway Novice Stakes, with Jim Crowley and Laura Mongan taking the closing MansionBet Beaten By A Head Handicap with Mount Mogan (20-1).

Moore has high hopes for Hudson on day one of Winter Million

Hudson De Grugy has the benefit of a course and distance victory to his name as he bids to scoop the first prize in the Sovereign Handicap Hurdle on day one of the Winter Million meeting at Lingfield on Friday.

The five-year-old put up a game performance when beating Calico by two and a quarter lengths on heavy ground last month, and with similar conditions guaranteed at the Surrey venue, trainer Gary Moore goes there with an air of quiet confidence.

Hudson De Grugy has been raised 3lb for that success, but Moore is optimistic the horse is up to it, in an event that carries a prize fund of £100,000.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing him run. Hopefully he’s got a reasonable chance,” said the West Sussex handler.

“He’s gone up in the weights a bit, but hopefully he’s improving enough to counteract that. He won over the course last time and conditions shouldn’t be a problem.”

Lucky Max bids to take his unbeaten run this season to four. The six-year-old, trained by Sean Doyle, is one of three Irish contenders in the £100,000 event and heads to Surrey in great form after two victories at Cork and one at Clonmel.

Doyle is hopeful his upward trajectory can continue, with his mark having risen from 96 in Ireland to 136 in England so far this term.

“He’s just improved and improved, we don’t know how much improvement is left in him but he’s definitely up to that mark now,” said the County Wexford handler.

“It’s the next step for him now, we want to step him up and see if he’s good enough to compete at that level.

“We’re going to find out more about how good he is on Friday.”

Emmet Mullins is the other Irish trainer tempted by the prize money on offer at Lingfield and he has a pair of entrants in the same race.

Carrarea – to be ridden by Paul Townend and vying for favouritism with Metier – has gone close twice in hurdle events this season and was beaten just a head at Fairyhouse in November on his handicap debut.

“It was a good run by Carrarea last time. It was his first run in a handicap, so hopefully the experience should help him,” Mullins told Sky Sports Racing.

“Paul is over there for Ascot on Saturday so it was good to take advantage of that.”

Sevenna Star is the other Mullins challenger, a horse previously campaigned on the Flat by John Gosden and John Ryan and one who is yet to lose his maiden status over obstacles.

“He was a good younger horse in his day on the Flat, but he’s had his issues and problems,” he said.

Irish trainer Emmet Mullins is two-handed in the Sovereign Handicap Hurdle with Carrarea and Sevenna Star
Irish trainer Emmet Mullins is two-handed in the Sovereign Handicap Hurdle with Carrarea and Sevenna Star (PA)

“Hopefully, we seem to be getting on top of them in the last month or so. Mike (O’Connor, jockey) is a good young rider and has had a bit of success for me in the past.

“Picking between the two is a tricky one. Sevenna Star has had his issues, Carrarea has more potential but with the ground, the weight and Mike’s claim, maybe Sevenna Star could run into a pace, hopefully.”

Of former crack novice Metier, trainer Harry Fry said: “It was nice to see him bounce back in the big handicap hurdle at Ascot before Christmas and this race has been very much on the radar since then.

“Everything about the race should suit him well and we are looking forward to seeing him back on his favoured heavy ground.”

Paul Nicholls runs the lightly-raced Hacker Des Places for the first time since his sixth-placed effort in a Kempton handicap hurdle on December 27, a run which followed a 365-day injury-enforced absence.

“He was far from disgraced on his return at Kempton over Christmas after a long time off with an injury,” Nicholls said on his Betfair blog.

“He tired late on that day as I expected when a lack of peak fitness told and it wouldn’t surprise me if he needs this run too and will improve for it.”

Nicholls also has a contender in the two-mile seven-furlong Cazoo Hurdle, with Calva d’Auge looking to bounce back from a beaten effort at Newbury in November and rediscover the form that saw him win three times last season.

Paul Nicholls' Calva D’Auge
Paul Nicholls’ Calva D’Auge (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He is a hardy character who has done very well for us, winning four of his last six starts, but there is a price to pay as he has edged up to a career high handicap mark of 146,” the trainer said.

“So he is not the easiest to place now but he is reliable, stays well, handles any ground and will run his usual honest race.”

Phil Kirby will saddle probable Grand National-entrant Top Ville Ben for the same race, a horse more readily associated with steeplechasing as he has not started over hurdles on British turf since 2018.

His last run resulted in a good third in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day and while a tilt at Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase was next on the agenda, the softer going at Lingfield appeals to the trainer.

“It’s a good opportunity and good prize money,” he said.

“He goes there in good form and his last run was a good run.

“I’m worried the ground is going to dry up in the Sky Bet Chase for him so this fills a bit of a hole.

Top Ville Ben
Top Ville Ben (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’ll like the ground and it’s a small field, he should have a good chance.”

Kirby also has a runner in the weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Novices’ Chase, with Bushypark due to make his third start over fences in the two-mile-seven-furlong event.

The gelding was a five-times winner over hurdles and made a victorious start to his chasing career with a debut success at Kelso in early December, but a subsequent run at Haydock later in the same month resulted in a well-beaten third.

Kirby could find nothing amiss with the bay following that performance and has every hope he will return to form at Lingfield.

“We were a bit disappointed with him last time, I thought he went there in very good form and the form has worked out from Kelso as the second-placed horse has come out and finished second in a Grade Two (Doyen Breed),” he said.

“He seems in good order, there’s nothing come to light so hopefully he can bounce back and he goes there in good form.

“He’s a tough little horse and I don’t think the race coming up quite soon will be an issue.”

Nicholls’ Broken Halo is well-fancied for the same race after his taking 19-length success in a novice race at Exeter on New Year’s Day, a performance that was his second start over fences.

“He was always going to be a chaser and he won very nicely on his second start over fences at Exeter on New Year’s Day, despite the trip being shorter than ideal for him,” Nicholls said.

“While this race is a step up in class for Broken Halo, he handles deep ground, is a stout stayer, and could run tidily.”

Kerry Lee is hoping the testing conditions will benefit Financier when he takes his chance in the racehorselotto.com Handicap Chase.

The nine-year-old returns to a two-mile trip after finishing seventh at Ascot on his seasonal debut when stepped up to two miles and three furlongs in the Howden Handicap Chase.

“He seems to be at his best on very soft ground and over two miles,” Lee said.

“It will be very sticky by Friday if there’s no rain but if anyone is going to handle that, he will.

“He seems to be very well at home and we’re trying to play to his strengths.

“He’s an absolute gentle giant, he’s about 18 hands and he’s just the most gorgeous horse.”

Redknapp hoping to find back of the net with Shakem Up’Arry and Bowtogreatness

Harry Redknapp is preparing for a big weekend with Shakem Up’Arry and Bowtogreatness set to carry his colours at Haydock and Lingfield respectively.

After running out an impressive winner at Haydock last month, Shakem Up’Arry will return to Merseyside for the Grade Two Patrick Coyne Memorial Altcar Novices’ Chase on Saturday.

The eight-year-old carried high hopes as a novice hurdler, with his best performance coming when second in last year’s Tolworth, albeit beaten 12 lengths by Metier.

Harry Redknapp (left) at Newbury on Wednesday
Harry Redknapp (left) at Newbury on Wednesday (Simon Milham/PA)

The former Tottenham Hotspur manager said: “I’m looking forward to a big weekend! I have Shakem Up’Arry and Bowtogreatness, who both won last time out.

“Shakem Up’Arry is a nice horse. He came to Newbury a couple of years ago and we thought we would win, but we bashed into a horse called Shishkin! He jumped the last upsides, and then he changed gear and went away.

“He is a nice horse and he is going chasing now. He would have won first time up at Ffos Las – he was absolutely cantering when he fell. He came back a couple of weeks ago at Haydock and beat a horse who had won quite comfortably the last time (Casa Tall).

“So, I’m looking forward to it. I like him.”

Redknapp’s Ffos Las scorer Bowtogreatness will bid to double his tally in the £30,000 Winter Million Novices’ Hurdle on the third and final afternoon of the Winter Million festival at Lingfield on Sunday.

He added: “Bowtogreatness won at Ffos Las last time and he is a nice horse, too.”

Both horses are trained by Ben Pauling, who said: “Shakem Up’Arry had the option of going to Lingfield, but the race there looks just as hot and we decided we’d go to Haydock.

“All his best form has been over two miles, but every jockey that rides him thinks he’ll stay two and a half. He seems in very good order and I think this looks a good opportunity.

“Bowtogreatness is a nice horse. He came from Ireland with a big reputation and just didn’t really find his groove in bumpers last year.

“This year he’s a completely different horse and I hope he’s quite useful.”

Lucky Max seeking four-timer in Sovereign highlight

Irish raider Lucky Max will bid to extend his winning streak to four on the opening afternoon of the Winter Million at Lingfield on Friday.

Sean Doyle’s charge has been victorious in all three starts this season, with an October success at Clonmel followed by back-to-back triumphs at Cork.

Lucky Max’s hat-trick has earned him a steep rise in the weights – starting from a perch of 96 to competing off 136 in the £100,000 Sovereign Handicap Hurdle.

“He’s going to Lingfield on Friday, it’s a great pot,” said Doyle.

“He’s improved loads from race to race, his hurdling has got sharper.

“Lingfield is very like Cork – it’s a grand, level track and he’s best on level tracks so we’re very excited about going with him.”

The Sovereign Handicap Hurdle is the most valuable race on Friday’s card and has unsurprisingly attracted a strong field.

Metier winning last year's Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown
Metier winning last year’s Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lucky Max is one of three Irish challengers along with the Emmet Mullins-trained pair of Carrarea and Sevenna Star, while the home team is headed by Harry Fry’s Metier – last year’s Tolworth Hurdle hero.

Gowel Road (Nigel Twiston-Davies) and Hudson De Grugy (Gary Moore) also feature in a 12-strong field.

Love Envoi (Fry) and Nurse Susan (Dan Skelton) defend unbeaten records in the opening Winter Million Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, while Rainyday Woman (Paul Nicholls) bids for a fourth successive victory.

Recent Exeter scorer Deja Vue (Anthony Honeyball) leads the way in the Winter Million EBF Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase – and Wetherby winner Eclair D’Ainay (Skelton) is at the head of the weights in the racehorselotto.com Handicap Chase.

On the Blind Side bids to bounce back to winning ways
On the Blind Side bids to bounce back to winning ways (Adam Davy/PA)

An intriguing field of five runners are set to contest the £50,000 Cazoo Hurdle, with Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side setting the standard on ratings.

The 10-year-old is taken on by Calva D’Auge (Nicholls), Dan McGrue (Brian Barr), Emitom (Warren Greatrex) and high-class staying chaser Top Ville Ben (Phil Kirby).

Fantastikas (Twiston-Davies) bids for a second course and distance win in the weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Novices’ Chase, with Broken Halo (Nicholls) chief among his opponents.

Top-weight The Edgar Wallace (Kim Bailey), Neil The Legend (Henderson) and Chambard (Venetia Williams) all merit consideration in the concluding Winter Million Handicap Chase.