#startracking Saturday February 13th noon

Fingers crossed for a result in the Betfair Hurdle.

Top Gamble is subject to a 15p in the £ rule 4.

Here’s some on-line thoughts from racings top names.

Dan Skelton talking on Coral Blog Cheltenham Plans In terms of some of our intended Cheltenham Festival runners, Sir Mangan, Superb Story and Three Musketeers will all go straight to Cheltenham. It looks like we’ll run North Hill Harvey in the Supreme, where Mister Miyagi will also run. I’m not sure which race Its’afreebee will go to. It will probably be the Supreme, Neptune or the Conditional Hurdle. Al Ferof goes straight to the Ryanair.

Pain Au Chocolat is stuck between a rock and a hard place as there are two novice chases he can run in. One is up at Ayr where he’d carry a double penalty and another is at Fontwell which wouldn’t suit him. There is a shortage of options for him so I’m going to run him over hurdles again, and there’s a race for him next week at Kelso or alternatively at Wincanton in the Kingwell. Then he’ll go back over fences at Aintree. Stephanie Frances goes straight to the Mares race at Cheltenham. The Novices Handicap Chase will probably be the target for Willow’s Saviour depending on how he goes next week. The JLT will be the target for Three Musketeers and The Pertemps for Sir Mangan. In the Coral Cup there will be a bundle of entries. Kasakh Noir will run in the Fred Winter and could be joined by Ashoka. We’ll see what the handicapper does. Superb Story is definitely going for the County Hurdle and Churchtown Champ will go for the Albert Bartlett. We’ll have a few in the Conditional Jockeys’ race and Workbench is being aimed at The Grand Annual. Value At Risk who ran a nice second on Thursday will be an entry in both the Coral Cup and the Conditional Hurdle. Savello, Zarib, Long House Hall, Work In Progress, are all others that will have entries.


It’s a really good day at Newbury on Saturday, Betfair Hurdle day, with some high-class and competitive racing.

My decision to ride BLAZER (3.35) in the Betfair Hurdle wasn’t an easy one. It was a tough call, particularly between him and Modus, but the prospect of very soft ground just swung it in Blazer’s favour for me. Blazer won well at Leopardstown on Saturday, he travelled well through the soft ground, he coped well with conditions. This is a massive step up in grade, that Leopardstown race may not have been the strongest race, and the Newbury race is one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the year, but he goes into the race a potentially well-handicapped horse.  The Irish handicapper raised him 12lb for his Leopardstown win, and he gets to race at Newbury under just a 5lb penalty. Blazer has things against him though. It is a quick turnaround, just seven days. It would have been better if the Leopardstown race had been a week earlier. And, while it looked like he won fairly easily, any horse racing on that heavy ground at Leopardstown last weekend would have known that he had had a race.  That said, it was a two-mile race, not a three-mile race, so that helps. Also, Willie Mullins is happy with him, and he is a robust sort, he’s tough, he strikes me as the type of horse who could pull out reasonably quickly. Modus obviously has a big chance, he is a classy and progressive horse. I just thought that he struggled a little on the heavy ground at Taunton last time, and conditions could be similar at Newbury. All five horses owned by the boss, JP McManus, have chances, even though the other three are available at big prices.  If Waxies Dargle could reproduce his Greatwood Hurdle run, that would bring him right into it. Champagne At Tara ran well last time at Cheltenham in a slowly-run race that didn’t suit him, and Matorico would also enjoy a truly-run race.  It is a very competitive contest. Sternrubin is tough and progressive, War Sound looks classy, and you could make a case for lots of others. There is more than just Blazer and Modus in it, but it would be great if one of us could win it.

In the first race on the card, the two-mile Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively At Betfair Novices’ Hurdle, I ride newcomer HEREWEGO HEREWEGO (12.30). I don’t know very much about him, but he is well-bred, by Kalanisi and a half-brother to Puffin Billy, Zuzka and Tycoon Prince. Alan’s horses are flying, so hopefully this fellow will run well.

I’m aboard GAYEBURY (4.45) in the last, the listed Tap Tap Boom Bumper.  He is a nice horse, he was first past the post on his racecourse debut at Ffos Las in December, only to be disqualified and placed second, with the front two clear, but he made amends on New Year’s Day at Exeter, when he made all. This can be a very good bumper. Barters Hill, Buveur D’Air and Altior finished first, second and third in it last year, Definitly Red beat Tea For Two in it in 2014, and Shutthefrontdoor beat Village Vic by a short head in it in 2012.  There are only seven runners this year, but all seven have plenty of potential.

I’m off to Exeter on Sunday – if it passes its inspection.  I ride BRELAN D’AS (2.10) in the opener, the Bathwick Tyres Barnstaple ‘national Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle. He is another horse I don’t know too much about, but he handled very soft ground at Auteuil in September when he wasn’t beaten far in a conditions hurdle and he won last time by 30 lengths.  Paul likes him, so hopefully he can run well.

I ride SCOOP THE POT (3.10) in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (series Qualifier). He ran a good race on his debut this season to finish third behind Unowhatimeanharry in the conditional riders’ race at Cheltenham in November.  Scoop The Pot was raised 4lb for that, but he still meets the winner on 11lb better terms here.

He is lightly-raced, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on, stepping to nearly three miles for the first time.

Paul Nicholls on Betfair The views on my six runners on Betfair Super Saturday

Newbury 13:20 – Emerging Talent A gorgeous looking horse who showed the benefit of a little operation to improve his breathing with a highly impressive victory at Exeter in the mud on New Year’s Day.

That persuaded me to make an entry for Emerging Talent in the Betfair Hurdle later on this card.

He had questions to answer after his earlier defeat at Chepstow so I was thrilled with the way he came home strongly in the closing stages at Exeter. I’ve been really happy with Emerging Talent, the ground should be ideal and he looks to have Dan Skelton’s Meet The Legend to beat.

Warwick 13:30 – Vivaldi Collonges I put him back in this race at the last minute on Friday morning when I saw it had cut up badly. With only three likely runners it is worth having a go even though Vivaldi Collonges has a stiff penalty to carry for winning at Kelso earlier in the season. He then struggled a bit in a competitive handicap in deep ground at this track. He jumps, he stays well and is in good form at home so why not support a race like this with decent prize money.

Newbury 13:50 – Keltus Ran his best race for some time when keeping on steadily in finishing third over two miles, five furlongs at Kempton on Boxing Day. He looked to be crying out for three miles that day and gets the chance to prove it here. While he has form on soft ground I hope it will not be too deep for him at Newbury.

Newbury 14:25 – Rocky Creek Finished second to the highly rated Don Cossack in a Grade 1 Chase at Down Royal but then didn’t enjoy himself at Aintree over the National fences early in December and dropped out quickly after being hampered by a faller at the ninth. A small field of runners here should suit Rocky Creek who has done plenty of hard graft over the past month, and tends to run his best races at this time of year on a flat track. He should go tidily.

Newbury 15.00 – Dodging Bullets Has made great strides at home since recovering from a niggling splint problem that put his training routine on hold for the best part of two months. Dodging Bullets has been back in strong work for a while now, looks fantastic in his coat, absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to see in action again in this race which should put him spot on for the defence of his title in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

He is as ready as I can get him after an interrupted preparation. In fact I don’t think I have ever had him quite as well and fit going into his first race of the season. While I hope and believe he can win this I’d add that he is bound to improve for the run.

Newbury 15.35 – Modus Was beaten at Taunton over Christmas but there were excused as some of ours were not firing at the time, the ground was as bad as I’ve known it at Taunton and he was carrying a double penalty.

Modus has really thrived since then as I’ve stepped up his training routine and is the best I’ve ever had him. No question. I can understand why Barry Geraghty has chosen to ride Blazer as Modus may not have given him a great feel at Taunton under such a big weight. But he is a different horse now, without a shadow of a doubt and has a massive chance in this valuable handicap. He stays, he wants a fast run race, has a great racing weight, is in terrific order and looks fabulous at the moment. I’m delighted that Nick Scholfield has the ride on Modus as he has done all the schooling on him from day one and really believes in him.


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