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It’s not just the price tag: Glorious Journey bags biggest win in Unibet Hungerford Stakes

18-08-2019 Emma Blackburn

Glorious Journey, a horse who never quite lived up to his seven figure price tag, belatedly  showed himself to be a leading performer at the specialist seven furlong trip with the biggest victory of his career in Newbury's Group 2 Unibet Hungerford Stakes (August 17).

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Newbury: Mulrennan spurns home comforts to steer Orlaith to Listed Byerley Stud success

17-08-2019 Emma Blackburn

Paul Mulrennan gave up a full card of rides at his home track - Thirsk - to travel from Yorkshire to Newbury where he was rewarded with victory on Scottish trained Orlaith in the day’s feature Listed Byerley Stud Stakes (August 16).

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Newbury Racecourse: Unibet launches pilot partnership with #GoRacingGreen - part of its new model for sport sponsorship

14-08-2019 A Correspondent

Kindred, through its Unibet brand, has today announced a significant investment in #GoRacingGreen, the project run by Debbie Matthews that aims to make racing accessible to those who suffer from mental health problems.

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Elsworth star Sir Dancealot poised for history-making bid in Unibet Hungerford Stakes

13-08-2019 Emma Blackburn

Sir Dancealot will attempt to secure himself a place in history at Newbury Racecourse on Saturday (August 17) when he aims to become the first horse in 50 years to win back-to-back runnings of the Group 2 Unibet Hungerford Stakes.

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August meeting: Unibet to sponsor Hungerford Day at Newbury racecourse

09-08-2019 Emma Blackburn

Unibet, part of the Kindred Group, one of the largest online gambling companies in the world, is to be the title sponsor of next weekend’s Hungerford Day at Newbury Racecourse - which features the Group 2 Unibet Hungerford Stakes run on Saturday, August 17.

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Newbury: Richard Hannon records 4,458-1 five-timer to reach 100 wins for the year

07-08-2019 Emma Blackburn

Richard Hannon hit a century of winners for the season in brilliant style when herecorded his first ever five-timer on a single card at Newbury on Tuesday at the track’sRacing to Recovery and a Brighter Future Charity Raceday.

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Eventing: Champagne win as Classic Moet Takes British Open title

05-08-2019 A Correspondent

Jonelle Price has won the Magic Millions British Open Championship CCI4*-S at Gatcombe Park aboard her 2018 Badminton winner Classic Moet (August 4).

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Al Shaqab extends sponsorship of Newbury's Lockinge Stakes to 2024

31-07-2019 A Correspondent

Al Shaqab has extended itssponsorship of the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes held at Newbury Racecourse in mid-May each year - witha new five-year deal.

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Salisbury Races: an evening for favourites - and favourite songs

30-07-2019 Harriet Hodgkinson

After their latest evening meeting (July 27), Salisbury Racecourse gave a lively crowd The Best of Wham.  However, the horses gave the bookies a less than joyful evening.

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Supreme New Zealand eventer Sir Mark Todd retires - to concentrate on racing

29-07-2019

Sir Mark Todd - almost certainly eventing's greatest ever athlete - has announced his retirement at the Camphire International Horse Trials in Ireland (July 28).

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PROFILE: Local jockey Trevor Whelan to ride Lil Rockerfeller in Cheltenham's Champion Hurdle

 

Trevor Whelan watches the replay screen after riding Oh Land Abloom in Newbury's Pertemps Natwork Handicap Hurdle - on 'soft heavy in places' ground (Nov 2015)Trevor Whelan watches the replay screen after riding Oh Land Abloom in Newbury's Pertemps Natwork Handicap Hurdle - on 'soft heavy in places' ground (Nov 2015)Trevor Whelan is stable jockey at trainer Neil King's yard at Burderop, near Barbury Castle.  This is his first season as a full professional jockey - last November he lost his claim as a conditional jockey: "This year will be my best year - I've been riding in better races."

We met in Marlborough on the day the Neil King trained Lil Rockerfeller was supplemented as a late entry to run in the Cheltenham Festival's Stan James Champion Hurdle - on Tuesday, March 15.  Trevor looks forward to the challenge.

It was a decision made after Whelan rode Lil Rockerfeller to win the Grade Two totepool National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on February 28 by nine lengths.  The Racing Post reported the race as being "a typically cool Trevor Whelan ride...with a prodigious leap at the final flight...to land the richest race in Fontwell's history."

That was both Neil King and Trevor Whelan's first win in a Grade 2 race.  The fee to supplement the five year-old gelding for the Cheltenham race is £20,000.   Lil Rockerfeller is now being quoted at between 40-1 and 33-1.

Neil King told the Racing Post: "I just feel this year the Champion Hurdle is a particularly open race. Our horse is a young improving horse. He is in great form. He will go into the race on the back of a win, which not many in the Champion Hurdle can say."

Lil Rockerfeller Lil Rockerfeller It will Trevor Whelan's second ride in the Cheltenham Festival.  Last year he rode in the race for conditional jockeys on Gold Cup day.  But in 2014 he broke his shoulder two weeks before the Festival.  He was riding twelve days later, but was still too sore  to race.  

Trevor describes Lil Rockerfeller as "A handy sized, strong  horse - he's grown in the past year.  A stocky lad - muscley and a good-looking horse." How does he think Lil Rockefeller will fare amidst the Festival buzz? "We're just hoping he'll run a solid race."

That morning, up on the Marlborough Downs, he had ridden out for Neil King in driving rain and strong winds: "It was", he said, "cold up there".  Trevor is pretty good at understatement!  He rides out at Burderop most days - except Thursdays when he finds rides with other trainers such as George Baker at Manton.

When he came to England from Ireland he worked as a conditional jockey first for Ian Williams near Redditch and for George Baker near Salisbury.  Then in 2011 he joined Neil King's yard at the St Gatien Stables, Newmarket and moved with King to Burderop in 2014.

Trevor, Samantha and his Lester Stobart awardTrevor, Samantha and his Lester Stobart awardHis time with Ian Williams was important.  It was there he met his wife Samantha who is from Leicester via Australia where she spent time as a track rider.  They live in Chiseldon - a short early morning drive from the Burderop yard. Trevor will have his 27th birthday next month.

I asked Trevor how he sees his career in racing.  He is a laid back fellow: 'It depends on the horses.  You can have a bit of luck.  I suppose it takes one good horse to promote you."

He achieved some excellent 'promotion' when he won the At The Races 2013 Jump Ride of the year award.  This award is one of the prestigious Stobart Lesters (named after Lester Piggott and sponsored by the Stobart Group.)

In November 2013 Trevor rode Persian Herald to win a two mile handicap hurdle at Fakenham - it was, the award judges said, a 'never say die' effort.  Trevor says, a bit quietly, "He was a pig of a horse".  Quite unusually, the pair had also won the day before at Leicester.

Trevor is a slight young man and I asked whether he had ever thought of riding under flat racing rules: "Not at the minute."  In October last year he did win the Alderbrook Stakes - Glorious Goodwood's annual race under flat rules but restricted to jump jockeys.

It might be tempting to switch rules as he does not have to struggle to keep his weight down: "It's a hard enough job without worrying about your weight.  I'm lucky I don't need that struggle."

Trevor with Minnie Milan at Neil King's open day (September 2015)Trevor with Minnie Milan at Neil King's open day (September 2015)He certainly likes the camaraderie of jump racing's weighing room: "It's good fun. But when it comes down to it - out of the weighing room everyone's serious - they do the job properly. You're a professional athlete at the end of the day - and you have to look like one."

So far this season Trevor has won 30 races - 29 over jumps and one flat race under National Hunt rules.  This compares with 34 wins in 2015 and 29 in 2014.  

He has rides from other trainers, but Neil King's yard is doing well this year - so he is well placed to overtake his 2015 number of wins.  The day before we met Trevor had ridden You Say What to victory at Exeter in a three miles Novices' Hurdle.  

Officially the ground at Exeter was 'Good to soft', but it was sticky - and he brought You Say What home to win by three-and-a-half lengths as a 6-1 chance.  Next season You Say What is expected to flourish over jumps.

Would Trevor go to the races if he was not riding? "I'd go to Cheltenham if I wasn't riding  - but if you're not racing you want to do other things."   But he will be racing at Cheltenham next week - keep an eye on Lil Rockerfeller and Trevor Whelan.

 

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Racing: Rain puts Salisbury’s final meeting of the season in doubt

Salisbury racecourse officials will hold a 7.15 am ‘precautionary inspection’ on Monday morning.  With the ground already soft and heavy in places, Saturday’s rain and expected rain on Sunday evening and Monday morning may prove too much for the course.

The Salisbury course’s season finale on Monday (October 13) is the Bathwick Tyres Reduced Admission race day.  The six races (first at 2.20pm, the last at 5.00pm) have attracted good entries.

Richard Hughes, champion flat race jockey in 2012 and 2013, will be riding the Hannon entries.  This season Hughes has been in a close fight for the title with Ryan Moore.

The Salisbury card's  2.50pm race for maiden fillies includes a horse named Evening Rain – fingers crossed.

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Reflected glory for Harry Meade as he wins the Retraining of Racehorses Championship at Barbury

Harry Meade & Sparky's Reflection (Photo: Adam Dale)Harry Meade & Sparky's Reflection (Photo: Adam Dale)Wiltshire-based rider Harry Meade took the £2,000 first prize in the Retraining of Racehorses Championship at the St James's Place Barbury Internaitonal Horse Trials at the weekend. 

Meade won with his versatile new ride, Sparky’s Reflection.

The bay gelding was originally trained over hurdles by Henrietta Knight, but has since had a varied career with his owner Amy Martin, including Pony Club, hunting, advanced eventing – and galloping along the Norfolk coast.

Harry Meade was very pleased at the way Sparky's Reflection performed: “Having come from Henrietta, he’s probably had as good a start as any eventer, and he’s been a real family horse with Amy."

“He might have been a lazy racehorse, but he’s a sweet, charming character and I’d like to see how far he can go in eventing.”

Zoe Wilkinson finished second on Craignure and racehorse trainers’ daughters Kristina Cook (Watergate) and Harriet Dickin (Tilt du Chatelier) came third and fourth. 

The RoR Championship bowl presented by Alan King (Photo: Adam Dale)The RoR Championship bowl presented by Alan King (Photo: Adam Dale)As Kristina Cook completed her clear showjumping round, she was clearly thrilled: "Wow - that feels like I've just won gold at the Olympics, Wally [Watergate] tried so hard, thoroughbreds are such a generous breed".

Ginny Howe led going into the final jumping phase on Creeslough, but the horse put in an abrupt stop at a fence on a slope.

The Retraining of Racehorse Eventing Championships is sponsored by RoR and the National Trainers Federation.  The prizes were presented by Barbury's home jumps trainer, Alan King.

Retraining of Racehorses is the official charity for the welfare of former racehorses. It aims to raise funds from the British racing industry to help support charitable retraining and rehoming of retired racehorses.



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Rio 2016: Minal's Tim Price joins New Zealand's eventing team after injury to Jock Paget's horse

Tim and Jonelle Price - in their Olympic stripTim and Jonelle Price - in their Olympic stripMinal based event rider Tim Price, in Rio with Ringwood Sky Boy as travelling reserve, has been drafted into the New Zealand team - it will be his first Olympic appearance.  

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Dalziell-Clout says they are an exciting and experienced combination and Ringwood Sky Boy - known at the yard as Oz - has good eventing form at the highest levels.
 
This last minute change in the team follows a freak injury to Marlborough based Jock Paget's horse Clifton Lush.  The horse cut his cheek on a pipe that had come loose outside his stable.  

The cut was healing well and Clifton Lush passed his trot up examination, but it was decided the horse needed more time to make a full recovery.

Tim Price checks the depth of the water on the Rio cross country courseTim Price checks the depth of the water on the Rio cross country courseA New Zealand website quoted Jock Paget: “Obviously it is very disappointing for me and Clifton Lush’s owners, but we’ve decided this is best for the horse."

"It’s been a real team effort from the Rio 2016 Veterinary Hospital and our own vet Christiana Ober – they have all given Lush exceptional care and attention.”

Tim now joins his wife Jonelle in the team along with Olympic veteran Sir mark Todd (based at Badgerstown) and Clarke Johnstone.

Tim Price will go out first for the New Zealand team.  He will be followed by Sir Mark Todd on Leonidas II and Clarke Johnstone with Balmoral Sensation.   

Jonelle Price and her feisty grey mare Faerie Dianimo will go last - a spot usually held for those with a good chance of an individual medal.

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Sally Randell becomes a licensed trainer - taking over Andy Turnell's Broad Hinton yard

It has been a long and frustrating few months.  Now Sally Randell Racing of Broad Hinton is official - and officially licensed.  

She has been assistant trainer to Andy Turnell and today (November 19) she declares Sir Albie for his National Hunt flat race at Haydock on Friday - he will be the first horse running in her name as his licensed trainer.

Sally Randell applied to the British Horseracing Authority for her trainer's license back in July.  She got her NVQ Level 3 in horse management and she did the required modules at the British Racing School in Newmarket - alongside Richard Hughes.

Like Hughes, Sally is a jockey turned trainer.  After five years with the Royal Artillery, she became the first woman to win Sandown's Grand Military Gold Cup - and after winning it twice more, retired from the saddle and started training point-to- pointers.

She came to the Broad Hinton yard a year after Andy Turnell suffered a stroke and had had to close the yard.   As assistant trainer, she helped re-open it and has been bringing more owners and horses to the yard.

Most of the Sally Randell Racing team - l to r: Emma Owen, Sally Randell, Gerald Burton, Sam Burton, Kate Leahy and Brodie HampsonMost of the Sally Randell Racing team - l to r: Emma Owen, Sally Randell, Gerald Burton, Sam Burton, Kate Leahy and Brodie HampsonIn those months she has been gathering a team to work under Andy and ready for when her license came through.  The yard will be sponsored by the Jigsaw women's dress chain.

Gerald Burton is her yard manager.  He was an amateur jockey for twenty years, worked as travelling head lad for local trainer Jim Old on the Barbury Castle downs, and started his own training yard for point-to-pointers.  In his spare time he enjoys training his children's ponies to race.

Emma Owen is Sally's racing secretary.  She has a degree in nutrition from Nottingham University.  She has her own small yard - Coldharbour Grazing near Faringdon. Her main interest is in breeding and hopes to expand the stud side of her yard over the next few years: "I also enjoy competing with my own two horses in British Dressage and British Eventing."
 
Brodie Hampson is an amateur jockey with a Category B licence  - which allows her to ride against professional jockeys in National Hunt races.  She started riding point-to-pointers while Sally was training them. On the flat she has had 30 rides with five winners and seven placings.  

Over jumps Brodie has had 38 rides with seven winners and ten placings: "Looking to the future I hope to progress to riding a lot more winners and riding for different trainers and owners - and hope to turn professional once I have achieved everything I would like to as a an amateur."

Sam Burton (Gerald's son) has worked for Roger Charlton at Beckhampton and for Louise Carberry in France.  He has raced ponies - and competed as part of the British team against Ireland in County Kerry.  He has been working with Sally for over a year, has his amateur dual licence and looks forward to riding in point-to-points and under rules for Sally Randell Racing.

Kate Leahy studied horsemanship and equitation in college and when she was 18 first worked in racing for an Irish trainer.  In May this year she began a fourteen week course at the British School of Racing - were she met Sally and was offered a job: "I am delighted to be a part of the team here at Sally's and next year I hope to take out my amateur licence."

James Best started racing on the flat - following in his grandfather's footsteps. But switched to the jumps and worked for Alan King and won an important amateur race at Cheltenham.  Now he is a freelance jockey and rode 'a few winners' for Sally last season: "Target for this season is to ride out the last few winners of my [conditional jockey's] three pound claim.  My aspiration for the future is to be in the top twenty jockeys in the country."

Tanya Charlton worked for eight years at Mick Channon's yard.  She started working at Broad Hinton this year: In the future, I hope to start riding again and become a full time yard manager and maybe assistant trainer."  

Laura Brown has worked in racing since she was sixteen - for Peter Taylor, Jeff King and then Andy Turnell.  She now works for Wiltshire Council - and does the Saturday shifts and rides out for Sally.
 
Who is the other very important person in the team, the man with all the experience?  Andy Turnell was a successful jockey for 19 years, a successful trainer for 34 years.  He trained winners of the Grand National, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Hennessy and Whitbread - as well as a fourth in the Derby.  He still likes to go racing and will still be involved in the running of the yard - as assistant trainer.

Coming soon:  Sally Randell Racing's horses to watch.

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Racing: local star Smad Place could wake you up on Boxing Day

 

Smad Place before the Hennessy Gold Cup (2015)Smad Place before the Hennessy Gold Cup (2015)The tough grey Smad Place is listed among the ten possible runners in the King George VI chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

Trained by Alan King at his Barbury Castle yard, the eight-year-old gelding Smad Place caused headline astonishment with his twelve length victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury at the end of last month.

Smad Place will have to equal the Hennessy-George VI double set in 1998 by Teeton Mill - another grey gelding.  Trained by Venetia Williams, Teeton Mill won the Hennessy by fifteen lengths.

The five-day entries for this year's King George VI include Cue Card - favoured after his win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. There are two strong Irish challengers - Don Cossack and Vautour.   And Sliviniaco Conti will be aiming to make it a hat-trick of victories in the race - a feat not achieved since Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.

Will we see Smad Place - owned by Mrs Peter Andrews - in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March?  One expert writing in the Racing Post reckons that if he loses on Boxing Day, Alan King will go for a shorter race at the Cheltenham Festival - perhaps the Ryanair Chase.

That Festival Grade One chase over two miles and five furlongs was won this year by the Alan King trained Uxizandre with AP McCoy aboard.

On Boxing Day many eyes will be on Smad Place to see if he can claim the King George in the challenging style of that other 'little grey horse' Desert Orchid who won it four times - the first time by fifteen lengths.

 

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Richard Hughes ends long and sparkling career as jockey to become a trainer...and eat breakfast

 

Lizzie Hughes: "Breakfast not for jockeys!"Lizzie Hughes: "Breakfast not for jockeys!"Richard Hughes did not get a winner on the last day of his 27-year career as a Flat jockey (August 1.)  Glorious Goodwood has been good to him - but not that good.  

However, on Sunday morning he did get a breakfast undoubtedly envied by all the colleagues - whether weight-watching jockeys or weighing room staff - who lined up in a guard of honour for him on his last day's racing.  During his career Hughes has ridden 2,240 winners.

His wife Lizzie tweeted a picture of bangers, black pudding and fried bread cooking on the stove under the caption: "Breakfast not for jockeys!"

Channel 4 Racing's tweet [Click to enlarge]Channel 4 Racing's tweet [Click to enlarge]As he told Marlborough News Online in March, he has had to know his weight every hour of the day - and at five feet ten inches tall it has been some task.  That effort  was behind eleven times champion jockey Lester Piggott's appreciation broadcast on Saturday by Channel 4 Racing:

"Having been a tall jockey myself I know only too well the challenges that Richard Hughes will have faced during his career.  Despite being as close to six foot as any Flat jockey would want to be, he has had an outstanding career."

"His style is elegant, his determination is steely and he is always so patient as a rider.  It was a pleasure to watch him all these years."

Now Richard Hughes' world moves from his home at Collingbourne Ducis and the Hannon training yards nearby, just over the border into Hampshire - to Danebury Stables at Stockbridge.  During their coverage of 'Hughesie's' last day as a jockey, Channel 4 Racing included a report on his new career by Clare Balding.

Channel 4 Racing tweets the 'guard of honour'Channel 4 Racing tweets the 'guard of honour'She asked Richard about the jockeys he wanted to use: "I'll have a few apprentices here - and give them a chance.  If I hadn't been given a chance I wouldn't be here.  I think that's important. It's an obligation to give young people a chance in racing."

He was less forthcoming about the established jockeys he would want to use.  But he did mention Ryan Moore, Pat Dobbs and Jamie Spencer. On Channel 4 Racing's Morning Line programme he had joked that he 'certainly' had a list of jockeys he does want to use and a list of those he does not want to use.

The stables are owned by Ken Cunningham Brown and include a round gallop on the site of the old Stockbridge Racecourse.  Hughes has a two-and-a-half year lease on the stables.  And his first task as a trainer will take him round the sales.

In his last column as a jockey for the Racing Post, Hughes signed off: "I will love being a trainer - in fact I can't wait to start - but I have also loved being a jockey...The fact is that I have enjoyed more than my share of luck as a jockey.  I am bowing out from a job I have adored, healthy, happy and surrounded by the people I love.  I'll settle for that."

FOOTNOTE:  In that Racing Post column, Hughes said he was seeking the help of a hypnotist in his bid to stop smoking.  He may need a hypnotist to get his appetitte back.  Sadly Lizzie's fry-up did not tempt trainer Hughes: "My appetite just wasn't there, which just goes to show."   Fry-up or no fry-up, the Racing Post is now reporting that Hills are offering odds of 5-1 that a Hughes-trained horse wins a Group 1 race in Britain or Ireland by the end of 2016.

 

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Rio grand! with a brilliant dressage score Brazilian Marcio C Jorge leads the Event Rider Masters on Barbury's third day

Team trainer Sir Mark Todd joins in the Brazilian rider's celebrationsTeam trainer Sir Mark Todd joins in the Brazilian rider's celebrationsThe third day (July 9) of the St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials saw the opening contest of the third leg of the inaugural Event Rider Master series.  Giving the home Olympic team a great boost, the top dressage score came from Brazilian rider Marcio C Jorge.  His score of 32.5 is also the best dressage score of the ERM series so far. 

His horse Lissy Mac Wayer thrilled the watching crowds with an accurate and expressive test to record a personal best.  The Brazilian team’s trainer Sir Mark Todd joined in the celebrations - delighted with the Brazilian's success so soon before the Rio Games.  

Another personal best came from Swedish rider Hedwig Wik on her debut in the ERM competitions.  After her 35.9 score with her horse Chippieh to take second position, she gave an emotional interview to ERM's Alice Plunkett - she was visibly moved by her horse’s performance.

ERM's Alice Plunkett interviews Marcio C JorgeERM's Alice Plunkett interviews Marcio C Jorge The delighted Hedvig WikThe delighted Hedvig Wik

Andrew Nicholson and NereoAndrew Nicholson and NereoNew Zealander Andrew Nicholson (Lockeridge) holds  third place on Nereo with a score of 37.6.  In fourth comes Izzy Taylor - a member of Team GB for the Olympics - and Be Touchable on 38.0.  Senior New Zealand team member Sir Mark Todd riding Leonidas is in fifth place on 40.1.

Anyone who missed today’s dressage can 'Watch Again' on www.eventridermasters.tv

Elsewhere on the Marlborough Downs, Barbury's usual schedule of competitions was underway in a hectic day of show jumping and cross country.  

William Fox-Pitt won the CIC2* Section C on Secret Night - the same horse he won with at Tattersalls in Ireland last month which was his first win since returning from a serious injury.

Flora Harris enjoyed a good afternoon at her local event, with a win in Section D of the CIC2*on Monart’s Masterpiece. She lives just two miles down the road at Julia Norman’s Windmill Stud at Uffcot:  “To come to Barbury and win is fantastic. This is the fastest I’ve been on him. He’s sensitive and tricky but so talented.  The course rode really well – the ground was quick, but not hard.”

William Fox-Pitt’s fellow Rio-bound British riders Gemma Tattersall (Quicklook V) and Pippa Funnell (Billy The Biz) head the CIC3* after the dressage and the show jumping. The CIC3* cross-country starts at 11.30am on Sunday (July 10).

       

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Newbury's Betfair Super Saturday gives Paul Nicholls' horses a chance to shine

 

Modus at Nicholls' Somerset yardModus at Nicholls' Somerset yardBetfair Super Saturday (February 13) is Newbury Racecourse's first major meeting of the year - and its Betfair Hurdle will be a major test for Modus trained by nine-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls at his Ditcheat yard in Somerset.  

The six-year-old chestnut gelding is at present the 5-1 favourite with Betfair to win the £155,000 race - won last year by the Gary Moore trained Violet Dancer.  The race is Britain's most valuable handicap hurdle.  Paul Nicholls won the race in 2012 with Zarkandar.

Modus - described by Nicholls as 'a good bumper horse' - was sold at the Cheltenham sale in May last year for £190,000 and is now owned by J.P. McManus.  He won his first two hurdle races for his new owner - Taunton (November 12) and Newbury (November 26).

On his third outing he came third at Taunton on December 30 when, in Paul Nichols' words, the ground was "Heavier, heavier and heavier in places."  He has not raced since: "I wanted him to settle in after his races.  He needs better ground, but he's lots of stamina."

Nicholls with Dodging Bullets (L) & Silviniaco Conti (R)Nicholls with Dodging Bullets (L) & Silviniaco Conti (R)In the Betfair Super Saturday meeting Nicholls also has Dodging Bullets running in the Betfair Exchange Chasse and Rocky Creek in the Betfair Denman Chase.

It will be the eight year-old Dodging Bullets' first run of the season.  Nicholls thinks he will lead the race: "I'm absolutely thrilled with him at the moment."  

Last season he won three Grade One races in a row.  This season he has been troubled with injury - going lame and throwing an enormous splint which confined  him to his box for a month.  He has now been fine for the last eight weeks: "I don't think we have ever had him quite so fit and well going into his first race of the season...He should be at the peak of his powers now."  

How he does in this first outing of the season will show how he is set for the Cheltenham Festival: "Hopefully this race will put him spot on for his bid to retain his title in the Queen Mother Champion Chase."

Rocky Creek goes in Newbury's Betfair Denman Chase Rocky Creek goes in Newbury's Betfair Denman Chase Rocky Creek is running in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday.  He has not run since 5 December when he was pulled up at Aintree, but Nicholls has every confidence he is now in good shape.  He has come first or been placed in ten of his fifteen steeplechase starts.

"He is a good solid staying chaser. He is also in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but is very unlikely to run in it as there are other races for him. Saturday's race is ideal for him as it is a valuable prize and he does like Newbury. He is a definite runner whatever the ground."

Another Nicholls' entry at Newbury on Saturday will be Capeland. He is a four-year-old French-bred bay gelding going in the meeting's bumper, the Tap Tap Boom National Hunt flat race.  He won his first outing in England, a listed race at Cheltenham on New Year's Day on ground that was officially 'Heavy - soft in places'. Nicholls is sure he will make a good chaser in the future.

Newbury expects the ground on Saturday will be "Soft - heavy in places - obviously it will be testing."

Paul NichollsPaul NichollsThe rain has taken its toll on the jump season with meetings abandoned and the size of fields reduced.  But Nicholls knows more than he need about the rain.  

On Saturday one of his yards suffered a flash flood that left up to three feet of water in the some of the boxes and horses had to be evacuated and after the water subsided, their bedding replaced: "It happens once every few years. It's just nuisance value - especially when it happens on a Saturday evening and there're no staff on."

On Tuesday morning 120 horses rode out from Nicholls' yards and he has as many as thirty horses that have not raced so far this season. He had a good start with a run of results in October: "Then it went a bit quieter."

He is looking forward to the Spring - and better ground: "I've never known a season like it.  Everyone needs better ground - it's going to be a busy spring for everyone."

Last year several of his star horses reached the end of their careers: "This is a massive transitional year - we've lots of four-year-olds - rebuilding doesn't happen over night."

Nicholls with Silviniaco ContiNicholls with Silviniaco ContiThe other horse on show on Tuesday during the press event at Nicholls' Ditcheat stables was Silviniaco Conti.  The ten-year-old chestnut is set to run in the Betfair Ascot Chase on February 20. 

Two times winner of Kempton's Boxing Day King George VI Chase, he was pulled up in the 2015 race.

He has an entry for the Grand National in April but is unlikely to take it up.  Nicholls said he does not really want him to go to Cheltenham.  But he will go to Punchestown and there is already talk of a Grand National entry for the 2017 race.

His season has been interrupted by sarcoids - especially a painful sarcoid under his nearside fore-leg that kept opening up. (Sarcoids are common skin tumour on horses.) 

The condition is now cured and Nicholls said: "He looks great at the moment.  He had a racecourse gallop last week at Wincanton and we have been cracking on with him."

After you have won money on all next Saturday's Newbury races, then rest assured that Silviniaco Conti looked in tip-top shape for his Ascot outing a week later.

 

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