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Bravemansgame in rude health ahead of Cheltenham Gold Cup

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Last year’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Bravemansgame is approaching his peak in his bid to go one better.

While he is among the outsiders this year having failed to win in three outings, trainer Paul Nicholls believes he has valid excuses for all those reverses.

As he is a horse who tends to go well fresh, Nicholls has not run him since the King George on Boxing Day and is hoping a gallop around Kempton on Tuesday will put him spot on for his big date in just over a fortnight.

“He got beat in soft ground at Wetherby first time out and we then went to the Betfair Chase, again in testing ground, en route to Kempton, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get him right for Kempton,” said Nicholls.

“To be fair to him, at Kempton he ran a really good race and in my view him and Shishkin would have been first and second. (Harry) Cobden has got his opinion and Nicky (Henderson) will have his opinion but I don’t think there’s much between him and Shishkin to be honest.

“He still got interfered with when Shishkin had his hiccup, if that hadn’t happened he still probably would have won but then he got stopped dead, and then still picked up and galloped all the way to the line.

“Harry thought he ran a solid race, I still don’t think we had him at his best because of the circumstances in the autumn. He’s right back there now, he looks great, Harry schooled him on Tuesday and he jumped good.

“He’s going to Kempton tomorrow for a little away day when he’ll work with Captain Teague but I’m very happy with him now. I think 20-1 is a massive each-way price. When I look at some of the horses ahead of him in the betting, I think he’s great value.”

Another of Nicholls’ big hopes this year is Ryanair Chase contender Stage Star, winner of the Turners Novices’ Chase last year.

He began the season with a fine weight-carrying performance to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup but pulled up on New Year’s Day in very soft ground and he has not run since.

“Stage Star won the Turners last year and goes for the Ryanair. He needs to be fresh, he needs to be right and he’s not the easiest in the world to train as he has a few little issues but when he is right, he is very good,” said Nicholls.

“He won the Paddy Power Gold Cup off top weight very nicely indeed, even though he made a horrific mistake at the last, he galloped all the way to the line.

“I wish now I hadn’t run him on New Year’s Day obviously, but it didn’t work out. The ground had gone testing, he had top weight, he made a couple of mistakes and I don’t think he was quite at his best, but I was struggling to find any option in this country to get a run into him because he has to go left-handed.

“He’s had a few little issues, he’s had lots of physio and he’s back where we want him now, he doesn’t need an away day because he goes well fresh.

Hitman will also run in the Ryanair but Pic D’orhy will go straight to Aintree. He’s a very smart horse, undoubtedly, and I think Banbridge deserves to be favourite (for the Ryanair) based on his defeat of Pic at Kempton.

“Hitman was third last year and is no forlorn hope. He ran well the other day when he wasn’t fully wound up but he jumped the second last upsides Shishkin.”

Albert Bartlett on the cards for Captain Teague

Captain Teague is more likely to take his chance in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle than contest the Baring Bingham at Cheltenham, unless the ground is testing.

Barring a deluge during the Festival, Paul Nicholls thinks the three-mile contest will be right up the street of the six-year-old, who finished third in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago.

He has added the Grade One Challow Hurdle to his record this season and given how strongly he stayed on that day at Newbury, Nicholls can see him coming home powerfully up the hill.

“He’s obviously a smart horse. He won on his debut in a bumper at Plumpton then went to Cheltenham where he finished third, not beaten far,” said the Ditcheat handler.

“On his debut over hurdles he won the Persian War at Chepstow, then ran well at Cheltenham when he was second. I think Harry (Cobden) learned quite a lot about him and he didn’t jump as well as he might.

“He went to the Challow at Christmas when he stayed on dourly and won very nicely. He’s obviously smart, he’ll work with Bravemansgame on Tuesday at Kempton, it will be nothing flashy but he hasn’t run since Newbury so it’s a day out.

“He’s in the two races, the Baring Bingham and Albert Bartlett. It will come down to the ground, so it will be a late decision. I’m convinced the way he stays on in his races, that trip (three miles) will suit him well and he’ll stay on up the hill.

“No final decision yet but if the ground is normal Cheltenham ground, we’re slightly favouring the Albert Bartlett. He’s on a par with Stay Away Fay who won it last year and possibly has a little more boot than him. He’ll make an awesome chaser next season.”

In the same Johnny de la Hey colours is Teeshan, well fancied for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper after winning easily on his debut for the yard at Exeter recently.

“We’ve taken the decision to go to the bumper, he’s obviously a talented horse. What he beat, who knows, but last year Captain Teague was in a similar situation having won his bumper at Plumpton and he finished third and won a Grade One hurdle this year. On his homework he’s very much on a par with Captain Teague,” Nicholls added.

“We don’t know much about him but everyone will after the bumper. He loves soft ground and I’d say next year he’ll end up doing what Captain Teague has done, that sort of route. He’s a very smart, young horse. He’s so laid back, the occasion won’t bother him.

“Quebecois is a nice horse who will run in the bumper too. He’s a half-brother to Brindisi Breeze (who won the Albert Bartlett for Lucinda Russell). He’ll be a lovely novice hurdler next year and he’s a seriously nice horse.”

Liari looks like running in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle with a big weight, rather than taking on the best in the division in the Triumph Hurdle.

“Liari is a nice horse, a juvenile and he’s won all three,” said Nicholls.

“He’s got two options, the Boodles on the first day off a mark of 134, and he’s in the Triumph.

“Sir Gino is rated 145 so he’d have to improve the best part of 10lb to compete with him, so I suspect if he goes anywhere, he’ll run in the Boodles

“The other option is to wait for the Grade One at Aintree but that would mean clashing with Kalif Du Berlais, if he goes there.”

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Free Daily Race Pass (Result)

AINTREE 15:30

Friday 12 April
4. JONBON (FR) 1st
Nico de Boinville silk Nico de Boinville
Nicky Henderson
1. CONFLATED (IRE) 2nd
J. W. Kennedy silk J. W. Kennedy
Gordon Elliott, Ireland
Go to full race

LATEST HORSE RACING RESULTS

16:30 DUNDALK

J:
T:
All 9 ran.
QUICK RESULT

16:18 FAKENHAM

1st David Noonan silk 2. COASTGUARD STATION (IRE) 7/24.5
2nd Caoilin Quinn silk ½ 3. AVILES (FR) 10/34.33
J: David Noonan  
T: Henry Oliver  
All 5 ran.
QUICK RESULT

16:05 AINTREE

1st Ciaran Gethings silk 15. ARIZONA CARDINAL 20/121
2nd P. Townend silk 1 2. JAMES DU BERLAIS (FR) 6/17
3rd Harry Cobden silk 1 9. KANDOO KID (FR) 10/111
4th Micheal Nolan silk sh 13. CELEBRE D'ALLEN (FR) 28/129
24 ran. NRs: 17 
FULL RESULT

15:43 FAKENHAM

1st Jamie Gambin silk 3. THE WISE TRAVELLER (IRE) 11/112
2nd Charlie Todd silk ¾ 5. CHATTY CHICH 85/403.12f
J: Jamie Gambin (10)  
6 ran. NRs: 6 
FULL RESULT

15:30 AINTREE

1st Nico de Boinville silk 4. JONBON (FR) 11/102.1f
2nd J. W. Kennedy silk 1. CONFLATED (IRE) 12/113
All 7 ran.
FULL RESULT

15:08 FAKENHAM

1st Charlie Hammond silk 6. TIP TOP TONTO (IRE) 7/18
2nd Charlie Todd silk 7 2. CLARAROSE (IRE) 9/110
All 7 ran.
FULL RESULT

14:55 AINTREE

1st M. P. Walsh silk 5. MYSTICAL POWER (IRE) 11/102.1f
2nd J. W. Kennedy silk ½ 1. FIREFOX (IRE) 9/43.25
J: M. P. Walsh  
6 ran. NRs: 7  8 
FULL RESULT

14:33 FAKENHAM

1st Gavin Sheehan silk 5. INGENNIO (FR) 5/23.5
2nd James Best silk 2. JACKS TOUCH (IRE) 15/28.5
All 5 ran.
FULL RESULT

14:20 AINTREE

1st Harry Skelton silk 6. KATEIRA 5/16cf
2nd Nico de Boinville silk 5. JANGO BAIE (FR) 9/110
3rd Harry Cobden silk 21. INTHEWATERSIDE (FR) 7/18
4th J. W. Kennedy silk 8. WHAT'S UP DARLING (IRE) 14/115
T: Dan Skelton  
19 ran. NRs: 15  18  7 
FULL RESULT
Go to Horse Racing Results