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Ratings Update: Sound placement from Nicholls and a Kelso revelation

Ratings news can come from the most unexpected places. Eight days before the Cheltenham Festival, Keith Melrose reveals a novice that can compete for championship honours.

When the judge called Neptune Collonges as the winner of the 2012 Grand National, among Paul Nicholls’ first words were “That’s Henderson beat!”, as the realisation dawned on him that the £547k first prize would take him beyond his main rival’s reach and safely towards a seventh straight trainer’s championship.

Some might have smirked at the single-mindedness, but it’s through such an attitude that Nicholls has reached where he has. In the same way that Alex Ferguson, one of his great idols, doesn’t need to be best remembered for the FA Cups he won, Paul Nicholls sees trainer’s championships as the main aim ahead of individual races, even when it's the Grand National. The results are almost always to the benefit of his owners and horses, too.

Following Rocky Creek in the BetBright Chase (which is more valuable than any Festival handicap), Nicholls also trained the winner of the latest weekend’s big handicap. For how many horses out of the 11 to run in the Greatwood Gold Cup was it The Day? You’d wager few besides Sound Investment (156), who overhauled Bennys Mist on the run-in under a singularly determined ride from Sam Twiston-Davies.

The Greatwood is seldom a strong Grade 3, as is implied this year by exposed 11-year-old Simply Wings taking third, though the first two, who came 17 lengths clear, are worth crediting with improvement. If connections wish, Sound Investment could have a try at graded races later this spring, while the runner-up (who incidentally has had ‘Topham’ written all over him for much of the season) put up a clear career-best and can count himself unlucky to have run into one that had been trained to the minute.

Where Bennys Mist has the Topham, Soll (145) presumably has the Grand National in his sights. Whatever your thoughts on that one’s Aintree chances, you can’t deny his placement has been deft and after winning the veterans' chase at Newbury on Saturday he’s now second-top (behind Rocky Creek) on our adjusted figures among those likely to turn up in the National. He’s evidently well handicapped and worthy of consideration, but it should be remembered that he, unlike others, has been given the office to show it.

***

With the chances being that Wayward Prince’s (131§) win in the Grimthorpe will prove little more than a dead-cat bounce, the main interest from the Doncaster card is likely to come from Call The Cops, winner of the preceding handicap hurdle. For a ready success on his first try over three miles, Call The Cops has been given a rating of 142p. Even with a 5-lb penalty for the Pertemps Final, he’ll still come out ahead of stable-companion Dawalan, whom many see as a contender, on our figures.

***

That the Premier Kelso Hurdle produced a small field and a Northern-trained winner should come as little surprise; there's many a precedent there. That the winner is now the joint-highest rated novice of the season might make a few more sit up and take notice. It’s arguably the ratings story of the week with Cheltenham little more than a week away.

Glingerburn essentially smashed up a couple of smart juveniles in Bristol de Mai (148) and Intense Tango (140), conceding significant amounts of weight to both (Timeform reckon that juveniles at this stage of the season get a little more help than they should). For that he’s been rated 157+, the same as L'Ami Serge (who has a 'p'), which will surely make connections wonder, even just momentarily, whether they should have taken them out of the Supreme at the latest forfeit stage.

Still, the Nicholls-esque, long-term planning should see Glingerburn as one of the leading contenders at Aintree, in either the Top Novices’ or, less likely but still suitable, the Mersey over two and a half miles. Given he’s been racing at Doncaster and Kelso, both flattish tracks with long straights, the course there seems bound to suit.

 
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