Lucky 15 February 22nd

Wednesday 6.30pm  Limini simply oozed class in putting Apples Jade away. Look forward to reading the post-race comments and observing the Ante Post fall out. If I was Rich Ricci, which I can assure you all I’m not, my first thoughts would be to put Limini in the Champion hurdle and run Vroum Vroum Mag in the Mares hurdle but then again I would run Douvan in the RyanAir and Un de Sceaux in a really sub-standard Champion Chase!

Paul Nicholls Cheltenham team after the Lucky 15 info!

Thursday Lucky 15

Lacking a few runners in the handicaps to be too adventurous!

Huntingdon 2.00                    SIR ANTHONY BROWNE                    7/4 BetFred                   

Thurles 3.00                            MOULIN A VENT                                14/1 Coral 7/2 general

Huntingdon 3.10                    ACTINPIECES                                      9/2 PP 4/1 general

Huntingdon 4.55                    BOAGRIUS                                          7/4 BetFred     

and here’s why

 Huntingdon 2.00                    SIR ANTHONY BROWNE I don’t normally go with penalised runners in novice hurdles but the three main contenders are all penalised and the rest are uninspiring. Trainer Alan King has always held Sir Anthony Browne in high regard and I think he has more scope than Crievehill, surely destined for handicaps then fences, and Glaring whose debut win could have been a flash in the pan.

Thurles 3.00                            MOULIN A VENT        Good Grade 3 2m 4f Novice hurdle on Soft to Heavy ground. Last time out Moulin a Vent was beaten just nine lengths by Death Duty and in receipt of a few pounds from his rivals I think he has the form for jockey Sean Flanagan to steer him home for trainer Noel Meade.

Huntingdon 3.10                    ACTINPIECES A mares Listed chase and I’m going for the “steady Eddy” here. Desert Queen is the class act but has a few ideas of her own, the Nicholls mare may be the best in time but Actinpieces jumps, travels and stays and could even be improving for Pam Sly.

Huntingdon 4.55                    BOAGRIUS The Million in Mind boys like their winners here and Boagrius was a little unfortunate last time with a couple of scruffy jumps at the last two and then the jockey dropping his whip! Gavin Sheehan can put things right and notch another winner for the upwardly mobile Warren Greatrex.

Wednesday Lucky 15

Doncaster 3.15                       SKIPTHECUDDLES                   Non Runner   4/1 general backed to 7/4!!

How frustrating is that!!                          

Doncaster 3.45                       COURTBYSURPRISE                5th 4/1

Halved in price but put his feet in the water and never got competitive hindered by poor fencing.

Ludlow 4.10                            THE GAME CHANGER            1st 4/1

Dropped out in last by jockey change, Tom Scudamore. Keen but no move until leaving back straight. Still green but led between last two flights and won decisively. Progressive hurdler but could be some chaser!!

Ludlow 5.20                            GULSHANIGANS                     2nd 7/2

Ran adequately but couldn’t cope with the Skelton’s favourite Theatrebar.


Here’s the Paul Nicholls guide to his Cheltenham team plus an Acapella Bourgeois update.

Arpege D’Alene                 He’s a bit frustrating. He won’t finish last in the four-miler – I know he got beat Saturday but it won’t make any difference to his chances. He missed the last two fences there and was a bit on his own; three miles at Ascot was a bit sharp for him and, watching again, he’ll definitely be better going left-handed. He really wants 30 runners and loads of cover. He’s going to go to Cheltenham and then to the Scottish National and both will suit him. Quirky is an understatement.

Bouvreuil                    I would like to run him but he’s had a few niggles. He’s not the easiest in the world to train but goes well fresh so there’s no point running him now. If he gets there in one piece he’s definitely with a chance. I also think he’d be awesome in the Topham so you could think we’ll wait for that. We’ll see.

Brio Conte The boys race would be the plan providing he gets in off his mark of 135. It’s a 0-145 but the way things are going now you might struggle. He was good at Doncaster last time and wants good ground. If he got in he’d have a chance.

Caid Du Berlais                       He’s in the BetBright at Kempton on Saturday and has quite a good weight if it doesn’t rain all week. He really wants good ground and could go there but if not will run in one of the handicaps at Cheltenham. He’s a winner waiting to happen and I think he wants three miles. Over two and a half they go too quick for him but he’s in everything.

Coillte Lass                           She’s done very well this season. She won won three novice hurdles then the last day, with a 7lb penalty was only beaten seven lengths by Vroum Vroum Mag. She wasn’t beaten far, ran really well, and she’ll run in the mares’ novices hurdle. She can’t do any more than she’s done. We haven’t had too many good mares but we’ve got a few this year and she’s one of them.

Diego Du Charmil              He won last year’s Fred Winter. He came first time out this year and won the four-year-old handicap at Chepstow, then came back a bit too quickly and the ground was too soft over Christmas. Won very nicely at Musselburgh but has gone up now to a mark of 150. He’s only got one entry, in the County Hurdle. He wants decent ground so he’s a possible to go there but the other race I have in mind for him is the Scottish Champion Hurdle. He’s going to be a really exciting chaser for us next season.

Dodging Bullets                                 Won the Champion Chase two seasons ago but has struggled since and is obviously not as good as he was. He ran ok the other day at Newbury and has dropped down to a mark of 151 which gives him half a chance and he’ll go to the Grand Annual which is a race that will suit him nicely. There’s no point running him in the Grade Ones at the moment but he’s come out of Newbury really well and the Grand Annual looks ideal and he’ll be competitive against a different grade of horse he’s been running against of late.

Dreamcatching                      He entered the equation for Cheltenham after winning at Wincanton on Saturday. He has an entry in the Fred Winter and a mark of 131. We’ve won the race for the last two seasons and back in 2015 our horse won off 131 and last year off 133 so he’s around the right mark. He won a bumper in France last summer and was third on his debut at Auteuil. We fancied him at Kempton over Christmas but he ran very free and didn’t get home. He wasn’t right at the time either, we hadn’t had him long and he wasn’t properly acclimatised. He was much better on Saturday where he bolted in and looked progressive.

El Bandit                               He has several entries but will run in the Pertemps Final. He’s been a really progressive horse who won four or five on the trot including the Persian War at Chepstow. He came back fresh and well the other day and won the qualifier at Musselburgh where we didn’t think he was really ready. He’s gone up four pounds for that and has to progress again but is the sort who’ll run really well in the final. He’ll be a very exciting chaser next season.

Le Prezien                            He’s in everything, pretty well – I took him out of the JLT but he’s in the Arkle, the Grand Annual and the two-mile-five handicap chase. If Altior wasn’t in the Arkle I’d be very keen to run him; he’s won at Cheltenham already over two miles and I’m sort of convinced two miles suits him better when they go a good gallop. He doesn’t look as well as some in his coat but he’s a good horse. I don’t think he ran his race at Sandown the other day. He’ll definitely run in something at Cheltenham – hopefully one of the handicaps.

Lifeboat Mona                   She’s only been beaten once over hurdles and has been very progressive. 20/1 is a big price for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, I’m not saying she’ll beat the big ones but she’s done everything we’ve asked of her so far and is a good mare.

Movewiththetimes    A really smart horse who we like and he’s going to be a proper chaser next season. He’s done very well this year and was only just beaten the other day in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. To be honest with you, he ran very green from the back of the last, probably the first time he’s ever been asked a question. We’re thrilled with him. He’s got several entries at Cheltenham – the Supreme Novices’, County Hurdle, all the handicaps in fact. He went up 10lb for winning the other day which he was bound to, so we’ll have to look and see what race is best for him. He ran very well behind Moon Racer and Ballyandy at Cheltenham in November in what was a muddle of a race, which would’ve gone against us, and he got into more trouble than you could ever imagine possible. On that form he’d have a right chance if he ran in the Supreme – a fast-run race on slightly better ground will suit him and I think he’s a really smart horse.

Old Guard                            Old Guard had a good time at Cheltenham last year – he likes the place, always runs well there. Obviously he went chasing, fell at the first at Newton Abbot, jumped terrible when he won at Exeter – so we’ve just abandoned that for now. He’s run some really good races but has paid for it, being up the handicap a little bit. He ran well behind Modus in the Lanzarote off top weight, staying on really strongly over 2m5f, so we thought the Coral Cup would be a great race to run him in. Hopefully he won’t be top weight and is off to the Coral Cup unless Andy (Stewart, part owner) persuades me to run him in the World (Stayers’) Hurdle. Andy loves having runners in the good races but to be honest with you, unless the ground was fast he’d be certain to run in the Coral Cup. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him this season.

Pacha Du Polder                                He runs in the Foxhunters and Bryony Frost rides him. He won well at Bangor the other day and on decent ground will run well again. He’s going to be fresh this year.

Politologue                          This is one of our big hopes. He holds a couple of entries but I’ve taken him out of the Arkle and he does run in the JLT. He’s really progressive, three from four over fences this year, and just had a canter around Kempton last week having had a hard enough race at Haydock before that which was a very good run. He’s rated close to 150 which is a smart mark for a novice over fences. He ran a little free at Haydock and has always been a bit buzzy in the preliminaries, which is the complete opposite to what he’s like at home. We put a hood on him the last day at Kempton and he was very relaxed, Sam Twiston-Davies was thrilled with him, and the one thing with him is he’s a grand jumper. The ground won’t worry him much and Cheltenham has been his aim all season. He’s a really nice horse for next year, too.

Romain De Senam            This is an interesting horse. He has two entries – the Grand Annual and the Novices’ Handicap Chase. He’s almost certain to run in the latter. He was beaten a short-head in the Fred Winter last season, that day he stayed on strongly and he obviously wants two and a half miles over fences. He won well at Leicester and I ran him a bit quickly over two miles after that, which was a bit sharp for him. He’s been running in small-field novice chases, he wants a real fast-run race where he can use his jumping and stay on into the race. He’s on the right mark to be winning and he’s crying out for two and a half in a fast-run race.

Saphir Du Rheu                 Something of a frustrating horse but came good at Kelso last week, where he bolted up as he should have done. He jumped really well there and is just starting to get his act together a little bit. When he won a Grade One at Aintree we thought he was going to be a superstar over fences but he just lost his way a little. His last few runs have been good. He jumped really well at Cheltenham and stayed on strongly over a trip that was too short for him the time before. He’s a little in no man’s land as he has a high mark and I’ve entered him in the Ultima Handicap Chase on the first day but he’s almost certain to run in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Andy Stewart is dead keen to run there and it is hard to argue he’s a certainty in a handicap of 11st 12lb. On all known form he’s not going to trouble the main ones but he’s the sort of horse who’ll run a tidy race and finish fifth or sixth. He has plenty of ability and we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s in at Aintree after Cheltenham but that may come too soon and we’ll wait another year but there is a really decent race in this horse somewhere and at long last he’s getting his act together.

Zarkandar                            He won the Rendlesham on Saturday, won well, jumped well. He’s been a great horse – he won the Triumph Hurdle six years ago and runs in all these Grade Ones. He had a leg problem 18 months ago after he won in France, would’ve won at Aintree in November, then went a bit flat. I recauterized his palate; sometimes these older horses just need the palate fine-tuned again and bingo, he was right back to his best. It wasn’t the greatest race in the world but he won well and Harry (Cobden) said he had plenty left in the tank. He’s going to run in the World (Stayers’) Hurdle as long as the ground is ok. Two years ago he was third when he made a horrific mistake at the second last. He’s back in form and I’m sure he’ll run a really good race.

*********************************************** Soft ground key to Acapella February 22 2017, 10:04

The Sandra Hughes-trained seven-year-old produced a brilliant front-running display to land the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan last Sunday, coming home with 32 lengths in hand. While some have suggested the Network gelding may have been given a little too much rope by his rivals, the Irish handicapper was impressed enough to raise his mark by 15lb to 158, making him the highest-rated horse in the RSA Chase on March 15. “We know the ground is the key to him. I think he’d make it hard for any horse running against him in that ground. I’m training him for Cheltenham and I might even travel him, but he won’t run unless the ground is soft. Going to Cheltenham you need to have every box ticked. We’re not interested in going there just to have a runner and this horse is too good to risk. We have options. Punchestown could come up a bit softer this year with it being a bit earlier, so we’ll see how we go.”


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