CHAMPION trainer Paul Nicholls won his first Paddy Power Gold Cup as Al Ferof outstayed Walkon up the famous Cheltenham hill last Saturday.
The 2011 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner had a dream passage through the race. He jumped well and travelled better, coming through with fuel to burn to take the lead on the turn to home.
Only the valiant Walkon went with him, staying in contention right until the final fence, but Al Ferof took the obstacle in his stride and gamely ground out a lead of three lengths between himself and his challenger to seal the race.
Nicholls said: “He’s in the King George and we’ll have a chat with Ruby and see.
There is the Peterborough but I suspect John [Hales, owner] will want to go for the King George now and on that performance why not.”
He added: “Now he has the strength to stay helps.
Before he’s been a bit weak and might not have got a trip but he’s got there now.”
Back to domestic action, and it was very testing conditions at Hexham’s card on Tuesday and plenty of mud flying but Leyburn based jockey Barry Keniry was all smiles after riding a big priced double, thanks to a 125-1 winner, Gymdoli in the novices’ hurdle.
“He ran well in a bumper once when second at Carlisle, but twice he’s run over hurdles he’s absolutely hated it. I was out in front the whole way and he seemed to jump better. He’s tough.
“First time he was in behind and they rattled the hurdles and it frightened him.
“Then at Kelso he shouldn’t have run as it was far too hot and he got himself too dehydrated.”
The Irishman’s first winner came in the opening juvenile hurdle thanks to the George Moore trained Kealshore Again, who came home with ease and looks a smart recruit to the winter game.
Later in the afternoon James Reveley brought 7/4 favourite Samson Collonges with a late run to land the At The Races Novices’ Handicap Chase.
A winner over three miles and a furlong on his previous start, the Ferdy Murphy-trained grey was not inconvenienced by the drop to an extended 2½mi on heavy ground as he outpointed Sam Patch by two and a half lengths.
For the fourth straight Saturday champion trainer Paul Nicholls looks to land the feature prize of the weekend, and the Betfair Chase is a race he knows exactly what it takes, winning it four times with the mighty Kauto Star.
Although big boots to fill, Silviniaco Conti might just be up to the task, winning impressively last time out in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
The ground is due to be very testing with all the rain around at present, and some strong competition with former Gold Cup winner Long Run expected to line-up.
The big race aside, it’s a cracking card all day at Haydock and I’m really looking forward to the fixed brush hurdle at 2.30pm.
David Pipe has a few chances in the race and it will be interesting what he runs when the final declarations come out.
Knights Pass is due to run for the first time for the Pond House trainer. It will be a surprise if it isn’t wellbacked and will be a bigger surprise if it doesn’t go close to winning.