It is a definite case of quality over quantity for the rearranged Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Gordon Elliott has not shied away from running two of his stable stars, with Gerri Colombe and Conflated both part of the line up.

Gerri Colombe has been defeated only once in his career, suffering a narrow loss to The Real Whacker in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham in March but he has passed every other test – including a seven-and-a-half-length success in the Mildmay at Aintree.

He makes his return for the campaign at Down Royal and Elliott is happy with how he has fared since he was last seen.

“It’s his first run of the season. He didn’t do much wrong last year, he went from strength to strength,” the trainer said.

“He looks strong, he’s in good form, he’s not a good work horse and doesn’t do anything very flash but he’s a typical big, staying chaser. He’s in good form and we’re happy with him.”

Conflated, a nine-year-old gelding owned by Gigginstown House Stud, also enjoyed Grade One success last term when taking the Savills Chase at Leopardstown before finishing third behind Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

His first effort this season was a beaten run at Punchestown in October but Elliott expects him to come on for that experience.

“Conflated was a Grade One winner last year. He’ll have come on from Punchestown and we’re really looking forward to running him,” Elliott told Down Royal.

“He needed it badly. He’d been a little bit delayed after a setback and we said we’d give him a run to get him fit and you’ll see an awful lot of improvement in him.”

Henry de Bromhead will field the other two runners in Envoi Allen and Minella Indo, the latter of whom has already hit the ground running when winning the Punchestown race in which Conflated was last of five.

Last year’s winner Envoi Allen has also had a start this term, but his was not a winning one as he finished third in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park in late September.

Richard Thompson of owners Cheveley Park Stud said: “He was a bit disappointing last time out, a bit rusty.

“He has those days, but I’m told he’s in great form and he obviously won this race last year.

“He’s won eight Grade Ones now, he’s a three-time Cheltenham winner and has been fantastic for us.”

De Bromhead added: “Envoi Allen is in great form so we’re hoping for a good run. We were disappointed obviously not to win at Gowran but the form has been franked (with runner-up Gentlemansgame winning the Charlie Hall Chase).

“With hindsight it was a good run and he will definitely improve fitness-wise.”

Minella Indo’s Punchestown victory was just his second since winning the 2021 Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

“Minella Indo was brilliant the last day and will also hopefully improve from his recent run. He was pretty good in Punchestown, we’re happy and hopefully he will also give a good account of himself,” said his trainer.

“He only had a couple of runs last season and the Gold Cup was obviously disappointing, but the day at Tramore was incredible.”

Charlie Appleby’s Local Dynasty heads the market on his all-weather debut in the relocated Virgin Bet November Handicap.

The contest usually brings the curtain down on the turf Flat season at Doncaster, but persistent rain has left Town Moor saturated with areas of pooled water forcing a switch.

Newcastle have therefore stepped in to host the event on their all-weather track, changing the complexion of the race somewhat as entrants were likely expecting soft ground when they factored this contest into their plans.

Godolphin’s Local Dynasty heads the betting, a son of Dubawi trained by Appleby who was a Listed winner last season but is without a win this campaign, though he has been running in hot company.

The three-year-old has since been gelded and makes his first start after the procedure, with the run also his first away from the turf in his seven outings to date.

Appleby said: “Local Dynasty is a solid horse and we feel that conditions at Newcastle are there to suit.

“He ran well in two big handicaps at Royal Ascot and Newmarket earlier in the season and should be a player over this trip.”

Julie Camacho’s Beraz is also unfamiliar with the Tapeta but has figured well for his stable in four starts since leaving behind a brief hurdles career with Dan Skelton.

The winner of two Flat handicaps and second in another, Beraz seems to be on the up and the switch to Newcastle has permitted his participation as he would not have been a runner at Doncaster.

Camacho’s husband and assistant Steve Brown said: “We would not have run Beraz on heavy ground but, once the race was switched to the all-weather, we were keen to have a go.

“We are happy with where he is at the moment. He has improved all year and shown himself to be a horse with a fair level of ability.

“We have been trying to progress quietly with him and Saturday will be a bigger test. It looks a very competitive race, as you would expect, but I think we are on for a big run.”

Also running is Edward Bethell’s Chillingham, a four-year-old last seen finishing fourth in the Silver Bell at Hamilton and the runner up in the Ripon Bell-Ringer before that.

Andrew Balding has a contender in the top-weight Teumessias Fox, King Power Racing’s Lope De Vega four-year-old who has collected prize money at Group level and was most recently seen partaking in the Racing League.

George Boughey and Amo Racing are represented by Mr Alan, fifth in the turf running of this race last year and competitive in autumn handicaps this year.

William Haggas runs Laafi, Harry Eustace has entered Mustazeed and Richard Fahey will saddle Furzig, with Jim Goldie’s popular veteran Euchen Glen also running.

Connections are keen to take advantage of a chance change of plan with Hansard, who will bid for JenningsBet Elite Hurdle glory at Wincanton on Saturday.

The able five-year-old has won two of his four starts for Gary Moore and bounced back from a disappointing outing when sent off favourite for the Dovecote at Kempton with a creditable fourth in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in the spring.

Owned by the Noel Fehily Racing Syndicates, he was being aimed at Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hurdle later this month, but having seen his intended prep race on the Flat at Nottingham washed out, there has been a change of heart and Hansard will now head to Wincanton for his seasonal return.

Fehily said: “We were gearing up to run him on the Flat with the plan of going for the Greatwood, but then we didn’t get the chance to run him on the Flat and this race presented itself, so we thought this may be a better starting point. We’re rolling the dice here and we’ll see how we get on.

“He’s a horse we like and he’s only had four runs over hurdles. He’s won two and was obviously fourth in the Grade One at Liverpool. He’s a nice horse and hopefully he can progress a little bit this season and we can have some fun with him.”

There is a maximum field of five for a race won last year by Paul Nicholls’ Knappers Hill and the champion trainer is set to be well represented once again by Rubaud.

The mount of Harry Cobden arrives having won his last three starts and impressed at Kempton on reappearance, with his handler hoping to tee up a shot at Constitution Hill at the Sunbury track on Boxing Day.

“An improving young horse with a bright future, he has plenty in his favour after a classy success at Kempton on his seasonal debut in a Listed event last month when he gave weight to all his rivals,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“He continues to work stylishly at home and is at his best going right-handed on a flat track like Wincanton. I’ve left off the hood he has worn on his last three starts because he doesn’t need it any more.

“The ground should be fine for Rubaud who has a first-rate chance and could well be taking on Constitution Hill at Kempton over Christmas.”

Knappers Hill himself has a fine chance of scoring at the meeting for the second year running when he lines up in the Boodles “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase.

Although only second on his chasing bow at Chepstow, he is by far the classiest operator in the field for the Grade Two event and is fancied better than his initial outing over the larger obstacles.

Nicholls continued: “He’s a classy horse, has won 10 of his 17 starts, and jumped nicely when second on his chasing debut at Chepstow.

“That was a pleasing start, he has come on bundles since then and has strong claims in this.

“I remember Silviniaco Conti getting beaten in the same Chepstow race before winning the Rising Stars at Wincanton.”

The unbeaten Doyen Star and highly-regarded Givega will make their fencing bows in opposition, while Irish raider Captain Conby impressed at Killarney in the summer before bumping into Willie Mullins’ Sharjah in a Grade Three at Tipperary.

It will be trainer Eamon ‘Dusty’ Sheehy’s first runner at Wincanton and he said: “It’s probably a stronger race than I thought it might have turned out to be, but I’m looking forward to running him and we will see where he fits in the pecking order.

“He jumps his fences good and I do believe he has improved a little bit from his Tipperary run. We’re hoping for the best.”

West Indies captain Hayley Matthews has been rewarded for her superb recent form by being crowned the ICC Women's Player of the Month award for October 2023.

Matthews held off determined challenges from Bangladesh spinner Nahida Akter and New Zealand all-rounder Amelia Kerr to claim the award, after a dominant period of play against Australia during the month.

The 25-year-old smashed scores of 99*, 132 and 79 in a Player of the Series performance during the T20I component of the West Indies' tour of Australia

Matthews also chipped in with an excellent spell of 3-36 during the second match of that three-game series to help the Caribbean side to a memorable victory.

The all-rounder then backed up those efforts with strong contributions during the ODI leg of the Australia tour, with scores of 20 and 23 during the two completed 50-over contests to cap off a huge month for the West Indies star.

Matthews remained Down Under following the series to compete in the domestic WBBL competition and was thrilled to accept her award from Australia.

“I’m very grateful to have received the ICC Women’s Player of the Month award for October," Matthews said.

"I love pulling on the West Indies jersey. Every time I do wear that maroon and gold, it definitely adds an extra layer where you can go out there and perform well, not only for yourself and for the team, but in knowing how much cricket means to the people of the Caribbean and how much it can bring people together.

“It was pretty special going out there in Australia and being able to perform the way that I did, but knowing how many people’s faces I was able to put a smile on back home in the Caribbean, that’s what means the most to me.”


Sense Of Duty will return to the scene of her finest hour as she bids to end the year on a high in the Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Wentworth Stakes at Newcastle.

The six-furlong Listed event has been switched from its original home of Doncaster to Gosforth Park and could prove a fitting place for William Haggas’ speedster to return to winning ways having brought up a four-timer over course and distance in the Chipchase Stakes in the summer of 2022.

Injury has curtailed her progress since then, but she has graced the track twice this autumn and now drops in class having last been seen on British Champions Day in Group One sprinting action.

“She had a long break and ran well at Newbury on reappearance over an inadequate trip, but to be honest was probably a little bit disappointing at Ascot,” said Richard Brown, racing manager for owners St Albans Bloodstock.

“She was very impressive when she won the Chipchase at Newcastle so going back up there to the same course and distance, we will see if history could repeat itself.

“William’s horses are in great form and it would be great to put her away with a win under her belt.”

Nick Bradley’s syndicates have a trio of fillies entered for the race, headed by the Grant Tuer-trained Sophia’s Starlight.

The three-year-old has won four times this year and went close last time out when second in the Listed Boadicea Stakes at Newmarket in mid-October.

“Sophia’s Starlight is probably first string, we think she’s a very good filly and she’ll win a Group race, she’s one we’re excited about going forward,” said Bradley.

“At Newmarket she ran very well, she was just a bit unlucky. Had this race been on turf in heavy ground I’d have been quite bullish, obviously it’s switched but in our mind she’s still our first string.”

The Karl Burke-trained Secret Angel runs for the same ownership group, another three-year-old who finished 10th in the same race as Sophia’s Starlight last time out but has some taking form at stakes level on her CV otherwise.

“Cliff (Lee) takes the ride, she needs to put her last run behind her,” Bradley said.

“I was keen to run here as it’s her last opportunity to try to win a stakes race in the UK, I think on her best form she’d be there or thereabouts.”

Glorious Angel makes up the Bradley runners, another filly trained by Tuer and one who has been the runner up on her last three outings.

“Glorious Angel has been running really well on the heavy ground as of late, she’s a game, game filly and she tries her heart out,” the syndicate manager said.

“She’s been a bit unlucky, she’s been second three times but she’s made 30 grand in prize money so the owners aren’t complaining.

“Again, if it was on heavy ground I’d fancy her chances, she’s proven on the all-weather but I think to a slightly lower level than her heavy ground form.

“She tries her heart out and if she finishes in the first three, I’ll be buzzing.”

David O’Meara’s Aberama Gold and Hugo Palmer’s Brad The Brief are others with leading claims.

Connections are hopeful Stage Star will give his legion of owners plenty to shout about when the Cheltenham Festival hero returns in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday week.

Trained by Paul Nicholls, the seven-year-old is 5-1 favourite with the sponsors ahead of his return in the prestigious handicap that is the feature of Cheltenham’s three-day November meeting.

It is at Prestbury Park where Stage Star enjoyed some of his finest moments over fences last term and having carried a huge weight to victory on Festival Trials Day, returned in March to claim the Grade One Turners Novices’ Chase with a fine front-running display.

His course form gives his ownership team plenty of hope ahead of his seasonal reappearance and although disappointing when a heavy favourite on his final start of the 2022-23 campaign at Aintree, he is yet to finish outside of the first two when running between October and December.

“He’s in good form and obviously likes the track,” said Dan Downie of Owners Group, owners of Stage Star.

“He’s ready to go and this has been the target for a while. It’s going to be tough and he’ll be carrying a lot of weight, but Paul is happy with him and we’re looking forward to running him.

“We looked at a few options, but he does need to go left-handed, so we were a bit short on where we could go, But we know he loves the track so we thought this would be a reasonable starting point for him.”

The Leeward Islands Hurricanes and the Trinidad & Tobago Red Force will contest the final of the 2023 CG United Super50 Cup after the Hurricanes booked their spot with a dominant 155-run win over the Barbados Pride at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy on Thursday.

The Hurricanes won the toss and chose to bat first, posting a formidable 290 all out off 49.4 overs thanks to half centuries from Jahmar Hamilton, Justin Greaves and Hayden Walsh Jr.

Hamilton top scored with a 61-ball 76, his third fifty of the competition, including six fours and four sixes while Greaves, the leading run-scorer in the tournament, got his fourth consecutive 50-plus score with 63 off 76 balls including five fours.

Walsh Jr, batting at number eight, got his second fifty of the tournament with a rapid 45-ball 57 including one four and five sixes to propel the Hurricanes to their massive total.

Off-spinner Kemar Smith, brother of former West Indies batsman Dwayne Smith, got his maiden five-wicket haul for the Pride with 5-43 off his 10 overs. Dominic Drakes and Raymon Reifer provided good support with two wickets, each.

The Pride reply got off to the worst possible start when Hurricanes skipper Alzarri Joseph bowled destructive opener Kyle Mayers off the second ball of the innings for four.

Barbados then quickly lost the wickets of Zachary McCaskie (6), Shai Hope (19), Shamarh Brooks (13) and Kraigg Brathwaite (11) to find themselves reeling at 61-5 in the 13th over.

Roston Chase tried his best to restore some order to the innings with a fighting 36-ball 35 but it wasn’t enough as the Pride were eventually bowled out for 135 in just 30.2 overs.

Joseph was brilliant up from with the new ball for the Hurricanes with 3-30 from his five overs while left-arm spinner Daniel Doram continued his own good form with 3-33 from his 10 overs. Kofi James (2-36 from seven) and Hayden Walsh Jr (2-13 from 3.2) also bowled well to seal the win.

This is the Leeward Islands Hurricanes’ first trip to the final of the Super50 Cup since 2019 where they lost to the West Indies Emerging Players while this is the Red Force’s third straight trip to the final.

They won the title in 2021 against the Guyana Harpy Eagles before losing the final to the Jamaica Scorpions last year.

The final will take place at the same venue on Saturday.

The Hurricanes and the Red Force previously met in the fourth round of this year's tournament with the Red Force winning that game by three wickets.


With the high of last year’s Fast5 Netball Series debut still fresh in her mind, Amanda Pinkney is cautiously optimistic about the prospects of not only improving her performances, but also the possibility of Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls challenging for a medal on this occasion.

Though the Sunshine Girls lost all five games played and ended at the foot of the six-team ladder without a point last year, Pinkney celebrated the minor victory of being named Player of the Game in the Jamaicans narrow 27-28 loss to South Africa.

Pinkney, who play both goal-shoot and goal-attack positions, also had the distinction of ending that tournament as the player to score the most three-point goals, a feat which she knows she is very much capable of repeating.

“Last year was really good year for me, it was my first time participating in the Fast5 competition and it was a really good eye-opening experience in terms of the level of competition and the pace of the tournament. Some high for me was the connection that the players had and also when I received the Player of the Game award, that really showed me that I am very much capable of doing great things if I remain focused,” Pinkney told SportsMax.TV from the team’s base in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“At that same tournament, there were some concerns about the team’s readiness, but we weathered the storm and gradually improved each game, and we gave it our best. So, it is just about focusing on our responsibilities, both individually and collectively as a team and once we do that, I know we will be much more competitive this year,” she added.

The Sunshine Girls will indeed require some degree of consistency to complement their speed and agility, as they are expected to again face some stern tests against Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malawi and England in the fast-paced six-team tournament scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

With Jhaniele Fowler being absent, New South Wales Swifts star Romelda Aiken-George will lead from the front, with Gezelle Allison, Pinkney, and former England Under-21 Rhea Dixon, who recently became eligible to represent Jamaica, expected to complement her shooting prowess.

Adean Thomas, Theresa Beckford, Kimone Shaw, Crystal Plummer, Abigale Sutherland and Abbeygail Linton, complete the team coached by former captain Nicole Aiken-Pinnock and Shawn Murdock.

For Pinkney, 24, copping an historic gold at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in El Salvador earlier this year, provided the necessary impetus to fuel her ambitions for this tournament and beyond.

Simply put, Pinkney has a desire to become a staple in the Sunshine Girls team going forward and to do so, she is well aware that she will have to work diligently to improve her craft.

“My goal is to perform better than I did both at last year’s Fast5 and also at the CAC Games. I want to showcase strong teamwork, to improve my individual skills. So even after this tournament, I intend to take the lessons and experiences back to Jamaica and continue putting in the work because I am hoping that I can get a contract in one of the international netball leagues,” she shared.

But, for now, the immediate focus of the soft-spoken player is to exude the necessary confidence and willpower to assist the Sunshine Girls medal ambitions in Christchurch, as she knows that maintaining the enthusiasm is essential to trigger further development to bring about the much-needed excitement and fulfillment she desires.

“Things are going good so far, I honestly can’t complain, I think I’m more ready for Fast5 this season than before because I have so much confidence in myself and my teammates and I know that we will do much better than the last season,” Pinkney declared.

“I know the teams won’t come easy, but we definitely won’t back down. Like I said, I think this year I got more practice for the competition and not only that, but the combination that we practiced I think that will make the difference from last season. So, it might seem far-fetched but I’m also hopefully that we will win the tournament,” she ended.




This year’s Bahrain International Trophy looks like being the strongest to date with a strong international contingent lined up.

The contest has been upgraded to Group Two level following last season’s renewal and the prize money, which has been increased to $1million, has attracted runners from five different countries.

Among them is John and Thady Gosden’s Israr, a Shadwell owned and bred colt who has been in good form all year.

The four-year-old was second in a Group Three at Newbury and the Listed Ebor trial at York before winning the Group Two Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July – beating 2021 Derby winner Adayar.

He finished his domestic campaign with another second-placed run, this time in the Cumberland Lodge at Ascot, and now heads out to Bahrain in hope of collecting more prize money there.

John Gosden, who trains Israr alongside his son, Thady, said: “We are confident Israr will run a really nice race over the mile and a quarter, it’s a very competitive field but so it should be.

“It’s an exciting, lovely race, well timed in the calendar and the prize money has been increased so that makes it even more attractive. We’ve been second in it, so we are itching to win it one day.”

Of Shadwell’s fortunes throughout the season, Gosden added: “They have had an incredibly successful year. It is a huge achievement on the part of everyone at Shadwell to be leading owner and a lot of that success has been down to the older, homebred horses, such as Israr.

“Since Sheikh Hamdan died, his daughter Sheikha Hissa has taken hold of the operation and her father would be extremely proud of her.”

Also set to represent the UK in the race is Richard Fahey’s Spirit Dancer, co-owned and bred by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the winner of the Group Three Strensall Stakes at York.

Daniel and Claire Kubler have an entrant in Astro King, twice a winner this season including in the 34-runner Cambridgeshire at Newmarket in late September.

Above The Curve has been entered by Joseph O’Brien whilst his father Aidan could saddle Point Lonsdale, with Noel Meade putting forward a further Irish runner in Layfayette.

There are two French-trained horses on the list in Andre Fabre’s Birr Castle and Andreas Schutz’s French 2000 Guineas winner Marhaba Ya Sanafi, whereas the home team is represented by Fawzi Nass’ Calif and Qaader.

Finally, there is a significant Godolphin challenge for the race as Charlie Appleby intends to run Canadian International winner Nations Pride and Highland Avenue and Saeed bin Suroor will saddle last year’s winner Dubai Future and Real World.

Allaho made the perfect return to action when making every yard of the running in the Clonmel Oil Chase.

The nine-year-old had not been seen in action since slamming Clan Des Obeaux over three miles in the Punchestown Gold Cup back in 2022.

However, he has made his name as a chaser over intermediate trips, winning the extended two-and-a-half-mile Ryanair at Cheltenham twice in succession in devastating style.

A problem with his spleen meant he missed the whole of last season and he was having his first outing for 561 days, but Paul Townend was clearly not worried about fitness on the 1-4 favourite.

Out early for one of Willie Mullins’ stable stars, he was a little sticky at one or two fences on the way around but was never really in any danger.

With French Dynamite pulled out because of the ground, stablemate Janadil was the only real opposition and while he did close up on the run to the second last, two safe leaps ensured there was to be no drama and Allaho won by nine lengths.

Betfair and Paddy Power left the winner unchanged at 4-1 to win a third Ryanairm while Coral are a far more generous 7-1 from 8s.

“He was a bit rusty early on and uncompetitive for the first couple of fences, but I wasn’t going revving him up. He certainly didn’t feel any smaller and is a big horse to try to organise, so you just let him do his thing,” said Townend.

“He is massive and I was chatting to Rachael (Blackmore) not that long ago – as she won the Ryanair (in 2021) on him – and he just covers so much ground. You think you are just lobbing along but he puts other horses under so much pressure.

“He took plenty of blows today and it is hard work with everything finishing tired. He was entitled to get tired having been off the track for so long, but it is job done and there is plenty to work on.

“It is brilliant to get him back and his engine looks to be there. It is job done and Willie can make a plan after this.”

Allegorie De Vassy began her season with a win in the T.A. Morris Memorial Irish EBF Mares Chase, although she was made to work hard by stable companion Instit.

Sent off the 8-11 favourite, Willie Mullins’ Allegorie De Vassy made a mistake and the first and jumped the second very big before settling into a rhythm.

In the meantime Danny Mullins had Instit travelling well in front and and the pair were out to repeat their victory over their better-fancied stable companion at Fairyhouse in April.

Paul Townend began to get serious on the market leader two from home and was all out with a narrow advantage at the last, which she met on a long stride to seal the deal.

She ended up winning by two and a quarter lengths with Henry de Bromhead’s Maskada, winner of the Grand Annual, a little disappointing in fourth.

Townend said: “She ended off last year poorly and couldn’t have started better this year. There’s plenty to work on and I thought the two mares (Allegorie De Vassy and Instit) ran well, and the two will come on for it.

“On the whole, she’s a very good jumper, but for whatever reason she just gave the first a good clout and got careful for a fence or two. She was big after that for a couple but warmed up and when I needed her down the straight, she came through.

“She was beaten by a very good mare at Cheltenham (Impervious) and that probably left a mark for the rest of the season. She’s back now and we’re delighted with her.”

Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy tuned up for what they hope will be a fruitful two days at Down Royal with a double.

Farren Glory, thought good enough to make his hurdling debut in a Grade Two at Fairyhouse last April, put that experience to good use when making all the running in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.

He beat fellow 13-8 joint-favourite Irish Panther by almost 10 lengths.

Kennedy said: “He jumped a bit big at a couple but I’m very happy with him overall. He was keen but I think he’ll settle in behind a couple of horses.

“He did plenty with me the whole way around but still picked up well and galloped to the line. He is a lovely horse and I was impressed with him.”

Stuzzikini (9-2) then cruised to success in the Clonmel Oil Service Station Handicap Hurdle, beating Kim Muir winner Angels Dawn by 31 lengths.

“To be honest, I was always happy. I got there plenty soon on him as he can pull up in front but there was nothing to bring me along any further,” said Kennedy.

“I thought he loved that ground and hopefully he can keep going the right way.”

Ben Pauling hailed the achievements of jockey Luca Morgan after the champion conditional announced his retirement from the saddle.

The 22-year-old has long been associated with Pauling’s Naunton Downs operation and enjoyed a stellar 2022-23 season which saw him not only lift the conditional jockeys’ title at Sandown in April, but also partner his sole Listed winner when steering Fiercely Proud to success at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

However, with an injury over the summer only adding to the stresses of Morgan’s career-long battle with the scales, he has now made the decision to hang up his boots and bow out.

“It’s a very sad day for all of us to be honest and Luca has been a huge part of the team for four years,” said Pauling.

“He’s not just been an able jockey who has delivered for us on so many occasions, but he has been a massive part of the team at home and has always been a very popular member and we have always loved watching his successes.

“I personally and everyone at home has taken massive satisfaction from seeing him win the conditional jockeys’ title. It was a dream of his from a young age and it’s a proud moment for all of us that we were able to achieve that with him.”

It is a decision Pauling knew was always around the corner and the handler is now keen to support Morgan in whatever way he can as he embarks on a new career out of the saddle, confident he will continue to thrive away from the racecourse.

He added: “He had an injury in the summer and it has been apparent that he had been struggling and we’ve had many conversations about it. He has really given it his best shot.

“We always knew there would come a time when his weight would get the better of him and I think we all dreamt of having this season and maybe one more.

“My thoughts are primarily with Luca and it is not an easy decision for a young man of his age who has only ever wanted to be a jockey. But he is a very intelligent young man and very quick witted and he will only go from strength to strength in whatever he does next.”

He went on: “We will be there for him in whatever he wants to do and if we can be a part of that going forward, we would be thrilled.

“It’s a sad day, but one we knew was coming at some point and it’s just a shame it has to happen.”

The Cheltenham Festival-winning handler praised Morgan’s “brave decision”, pointing out his talent as a jockey can never be questioned as he bows out at the peak of his riding powers.

“It is exceptionally brave and those of us who have never had to fight with our weight will never understand the stresses that can put on you personally, mentally and physically,” said Pauling.

“So it is a brave decision and it is the right decision and he goes out as champion conditional.

“Everyone can see the ability and talent that he has and he will be remembered for that.

“I’m hugely grateful for the days he has given me, my team, my wife Sophie, who adores him, and our owners. There have been some great times and he will be fondly remembered.”

Editeur Du Gite returns to the handicaps ranks at Exeter where he will attempt to show his class and carry top-weight to victory in the Betway Haldon Gold Cup.

Gary Moore’s nine-year-old has always been a useful operator in the two-mile chasing division but took his form to the next level last season, causing a surprise in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton before shocking again in the rearranged Clarence House Chase on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day.

He downed both Energumene and Edwardstone in the latter of those victories and was sent off a 13-2 chance for the Champion Chase at the Festival in March, finishing fourth before ending his campaign when well held in the Celebration Chase.

He has been freshened up during the summer months following that catalogue of stiff assignments and now returns with the task of conceding over a stone to his rivals.

“He’s a good horse and a very genuine horse who always does his best for you,” said Moore.

“I just hope the ground isn’t too soft down there, that is one thing that won’t help is carrying all that weight in that type of ground.

“The stiff track will suit him, he is just going to have to give a lot of weight away.

“He’s fit enough to go there and do himself justice anyway, we will just have to see if he’s as good as he was.”

Although beginning the season in handicap company, Moore envisages a return to graded action before too long as the Lower Beeding handler plots a route back to the big two-mile chasing contests in the spring.

He added: “That will be the plan as that is the way his handicap mark is heading him now. There’s not a lot else otherwise.

“He fooled me twice last year going right-handed and also going in soft ground, which he had never done before.

“He will need to improve a little bit more, but if he could do what he did last year, that will be good enough for me anyway.”

Paul Nicholls has won this four times in the last 10 years, including with dual victor Greaneteen 12 months ago.

This time it is Solo that is entrusted with upholding Ditcheat’s honour and his rider Harry Cobden is optimistic he can replicate the best of his novice chase form from last season.

He said: “He had one season where he didn’t win anything over fences, but he was quite highly campaigned and then last season he won a nice novice chase at Sandown and then he won the Pendil at Kempton Park.

“His jumping improved no end last season and he was brilliant when I rode him around Kempton. He was very good at Sandown as well, which is a good jumping test.

“I’m not saying he is going there with loads in hand, but Paul historically does well in this race and that is why I think he has got a nice chance.”

The pick of Solo’s form has come over two and a half miles, but Cobden does not envisage any problems dropping back in distance at the Devon venue.

“The trip should suit him as it is a lovely, galloping track so I can’t see that being an issue” he added.

“The ground is going to be fairly testing at Exeter on Friday, but it was fairly soft at Sandown when he won. He has got a good few things going for him.”

Mouse Morris successfully completed a raiding mission in the Charlie Hall Chase last Saturday and looks to repeat the dose with Indiana Jones, who like Gentlemansgame runs in the colours of owners Robcour.

It will be the handler’s first runner at the track and he said: “I had to look on the map to see where it was!

“We decided it was worth a go as it’s a big pot. He probably wants a bit further but it’s a stiff enough track, so he should be all right.

“He would have come on a good bit from the run in Cork, so we’ll see how we go.”

Joe Tizzard’s War Lord finished third in the race last year and returns following wind surgery hoping to go closer, while he is joined in the line-up by stablemate Elixir De Nutz, who was a Tolworth Hurdle winner in his younger years and was beaten only a nose in his previous appearance at this track.

Venetia Williams’ Brave Seasca completes the field of six heading to post.

Adrian Heskin harbours hopes that Magical Zoe is the horse who can kickstart his career back in Ireland ahead of Friday’s Bottlegreen Hurdle at Down Royal.

Heskin has moved back home following the ending of his retainer with owner Max McNeill in the UK and would love a headline horse to propel him back into the big time.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead, Magical Zoe won at this corresponding meeting last year and was then absent until beating all bar Jamie Snowden’s You Wear It Well at Cheltenham in the Dawn Run.

Magical Zoe has already won this season but faces a tough ask against the geldings – in particular Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point.

“She was very good in Gowran on her reappearance and we’re looking forward to the weekend,” Heskin told Down Royal racecourse.

“I’m very lucky to have her. She’s owned by a couple of good friends of mine in Paddy and Scott Bryceland, so she’s a very important mare to me and all of us.

“We couldn’t have dreamt she’d have done what she’s done so far, but we’re really enjoying having her and really appreciate it.

“She’s massive for me because you need a horse like her to keep your name up in lights, so hopefully she’s able to do so.

“She won first time out, she went to this meeting last year and won the mares’ novice there and then she lost nothing in defeat at Cheltenham finishing second. I think she’s been very well handled by Henry and the team, he’s picked his targets and the majority have worked out well.

“Hopefully she continues to impress us.”

Magical Zoe takes on Irish Point, a Grade One winner at Aintree as a novice last season and Andy Slattery’s Sir Allen.

A total of 12 line up in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Feathard Lady Mares Novice Hurdle, with Elliott’s Brighterdaysahead set to go off favourite as she tries to maintain her unbeaten record in the Grade Three.

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