Making Headway proved well named as he made all the running to secure his spot at the Cheltenham Festival by taking the Betfair Racing Podcasts Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero’s six-year-old has been highly tried since scoring at Carlisle on debut, finishing second in a Grade Two at Haydock before heading to the highest level at Aintree on Boxing Day.

He finished fourth on that occasion and back in calmer waters, he was sent off the 6-4 favourite in the hands of Henry Brooke as he showed his quality to land a decisive one-and-a-quarter-length success.

“We were a bit worried when Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O’Neill’s horses were being backed, but we’ve always liked him and he’s so straightforward and wants further,” said Greenall.

“It’s hard to do that from the front and he’s looking about and it’s tough for Henry to know what speed he is going. It didn’t look to be that quick, but Josh text me to say they were going 29 to 30 miles per hour – on heavy ground, that is probably quick enough.

“As soon as they have come to him and given him some company, he has gone on again and he had his ears pricked crossing the line.”

Stable star Iroko provided the Greenall and Guerriero team with their first Cheltenham Festival success in last year’s Martin Pipe and that is one of the options available to their latest star novice.

Greenall added: “We will get him entered in the Coral Cup and the Martin Pipe and I think a step up in trip will bring about a better performance. Hopefully the handicapper will base the race on him and his mark shouldn’t alter.

“Iroko had that season juvenile hurdling and was a lot more streetwise and that would be my only concern about going to Cheltenham with Making Headway.

“We were probably in two minds before today whether we would go to Cheltenham because he is a rawer type – Iroko being more of a French type running in those good juvenile hurdles – but to be fair to this lad, when he went up in grade at Haydock and Aintree he looked flat out but jumped very well, which I think is a sign of a very good horse, so he would have that in his favour.”

Alan King described the Betfair Serial Winners Fund Handicap Hurdle as Emitom’s “Gold Cup” as he registered his second Newbury triumph.

The 10-year-old had to battle hard to see off 3-1 favourite Kyntara, with King believing the game veteran is unlikely to compete in the Pertemps Final at Prestbury Park next month.

“He was brave and since we’ve had him, he’s only disappointed me once,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“We probably over-faced him in the valuable race up at Haydock – it was too competitive and he never really went a yard.

“We gave him a little break and he bumped into a proper horse of Jonjo’s at Ludlow (Saint Davy) and we were very happy with him leading into this.

“He likes Newbury and this was his Gold Cup. He’ll want plenty of time and had a tough old race today, so we will give him a month and we haven’t really looked beyond today.”

Edwardstone bids to get his season back on track in the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

Winner of the Arkle at Cheltenham and the Tingle Creek at Sandown two years ago, Alan King’s stable star kicked off this season by chasing home the Nicky Henderson-trained Jonbon in successive races.

As a result, Edwardstone was stepped up in trip for last month’s Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, but faded tamely after racing keenly and came home a well beaten last of four finishers.

King believes the decision to hold up the 10-year-old in a bid to conserve his stamina may have backfired and he is looking forward to seeing him return to two miles on Saturday, albeit in testing conditions.

“All is well, he seemed to come out of that run (at Kempton) in good form and he’s done plenty of work since,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“I need to get him out and the ground is the same for all of them. He’s got form on heavy ground, I’m not saying he’s at his best on it, but he has gone on it and I’m very keen to run him.

“Kempton was disappointing and we don’t really know why, whether we disappointed him by taking him back, I’m not sure, but I’m inclined to put a line through that and we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”

Edwardstone is entered in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival but King added: “I’m not even thinking about Cheltenham, I want to get Saturday out of the way and then we’ll see.”

His biggest threat this weekend appears to be Boothill, who won a couple of lucrative handicaps at Ascot in the autumn before falling as favourite for Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase over the Christmas period.

Trainer Harry Fry has been pleased with his nine-year-old since, but will check on the ground before confirming his participation on Saturday.

He said: “He seems in good form with himself, he was thankfully none the worse for his fall and has schooled well since.

“It was obviously frustrating at Kempton, but we get to go again and this has always really been the plan. We are just mindful though that conditions could be testing enough, so we’ll just see when we get there how it’s riding and go from there.

“We took him out earlier in the season on heavy ground at Sandown in the Tingle Creek, so that’s the only slight reservation I have.

“He’s got form on soft, but heavy is a different ballgame.”

Editeur Du Gite won that Desert Orchid Chase in December, but subsequently finished last of five when defending his crown in the rescheduled Clarence House at Cheltenham, and Gary Moore has indicated he is likely to sidestep the race due to the ground.

The Venetia Williams-trained Funambule Sivola is out to secure a third successive victory in this Grade Two contest, but will need to bounce back from a disappointing run of form.

With Calico declared a non-runner, the field is completed by Joe Tizzard’s Amarillo Sky, who makes his first competitive appearance since finishing fourth in last year’s Clarence House.

Dan Skelton believes there are “no negatives” as he prepares to send Protektorat into battle against Shishkin in Saturday’s Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury.

Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin will be a warm order to open his account for the campaign, having looked the likely winner of the King George VI Chase before unseating Nico de Boinville two fences from home.

However, in Protektorat he faces a high-class and race-fit rival who Skelton is confident heads into the Grade Two contest in rude health.

He said: “He’s in great form and we were always going for this race. Shishkin has turned up and we can’t choose our opposition, but we’ll give it a good go.

“We’re very happy with our horse and there are no negatives.”

Protektorat only ran three times last season, with a brilliant victory in the Betfair Chase followed by a fourth-placed finish in the Cotswold Chase and fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The nine-year-old disappointed when defending his Betfair Chase crown at Haydock in November, but bounced back when finishing third under a big weight at Cheltenham the following month before chasing home leading Gold Cup contender L’Homme Presse in the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield three weeks ago.

With his charge having been beaten in the last two renewals of the blue riband at Cheltenham, Skelton is happy to campaign him a little more aggressively this term, adding: “He seems in great form and why not run him?

“You can sometimes get to the end of a horse’s career and wish you’d ran them a bit more, so we’re happy to give it a go.”

Henderson is similarly pleased with Shishkin’s preparation, as the former star two-miler looks to establish himself as a genuine Gold Cup contender.

“Nico rode him out on Saturday morning and schooled him Wednesday morning. He jumped five fences and there was no point in him jumping any more,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“I do think he is in good form and he was very sharp Wednesday morning. Nico said he felt in terrific form and we’re happy on that score.

“He’s pretty versatile in terms of ground, I don’t think you would want him in very, very soft ground, but we don’t have much option. He has to go here, as there is nowhere else to go and he needs a race.”

Whether Shishkin would have held off the fast-finishing Hewick had he completed the King George course is open to question, but Henderson said: “I think he would have won. Whatever the result, it was a very good run for what was effectively his first run of the season.

“Nico, from what he told me, felt he would have won. Obviously, he didn’t see the unfolding of the race after the last like we did and the Irish horse (Hewick) came home with a right rattle down the outside.

“He should come on for that and he needs to have another run if he is to run in the Gold Cup, which we are hoping to do.

“It’s the ideal race, as Newbury is a lovely track and it’s nice and local for us.

“With Protektorat running, he will probably be guaranteed a good gallop and it will be handy just to get a lead, I suppose. He’s very happy leading and Nico was very happy to send him on in the King George, as he felt the race needed keeping honest – so he would be very happy if he did end up in front.”

Shishkin will line up with form figures of R and U, having refused to start on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot prior to his fine effort before coming to grief at Kempton on Boxing Day.

While not counting his chickens, Henderson is hopeful there will be no pre-race antics on Saturday.

He added: “He can be a character and the odd thing about him is at the beginning of the season, I suppose when he’s very fresh in that build-up period, he can be a bit of a plonker.

“When he’s stroppy, he’s stroppy, but he only really does it at the beginning and now where we are with a race under his belt, he’s no problem at all.

“I won’t say I don’t see any problems, as you always have it in the back of your mind, but he was very good at Kempton on what would be quite a tricky start for him, going away from the stables and paddock.”

Paul Nicholls has saddled a record 10 previous winners of the race, with his Gold Cup heroes See More Business (2000), Kauto Star (2007) and Denman (2008) among those on the roll of honour.

This time around, the Ditcheat maestro saddles last year’s runner-up Hitman, who has finished tailed off in each of his two starts so far this term.

“He needed the run at Cheltenham last month after his latest wind op and has come on nicely for the outing,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I’m hopeful he can pick up some place money before another crack at the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.”

Kim Bailey’s Does He Know and the Anthony Honeyball-trained Sam Brown are the other hopefuls.

Testing conditions will be the order of the day at Newbury on Saturday but no problems are anticipated if the forecast proves correct.

While more rain has fallen at the Berkshire track than was expected earlier in the week, no inspection is currently planned.

“We’ve had 45 millimetres this week, which is more than we were anticipating on Monday ahead of entries,” clerk of the course George Hill told Sky Sports Racing.

“We were expecting 25-35mm in total after entries but we’ve had more and we’ve seen a few tracks caught out already, but luckily we’re OK as we stand at the moment.

“The going is heavy, soft in places at the moment. We’re expecting 2-7mm, the forecasters are saying, but the heaviest of that will be this afternoon, so we’ll monitor that. It is due to finish by 5pm, so fingers crossed we only get what is forecast and we don’t end up with more, as we’re looking forward to tomorrow.

“I don’t think it will have a chance to get holding or tacky, I think it will ride as described or a little better, given we could have a dry 18 hours.

“The track is in very good condition, we’ve got fresh ground on both tracks and we vertidrained the track last week, which helped us out massively ahead of this heavy rain.

“Obviously, the Betfair Hurdle has filled for the first time in four years, which is fantastic, it’s great to have the Willie Mullins horses, they arrived in the early hours of the morning safe and sound.”

Unfortunately, Saturday’s meeting at Warwick has been called off due to a waterlogged track.

The fixture was due to feature both the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase and the Listed Warwick Mares’ Hurdle, in which Cheltenham candidate You Wear It Well was set to run.

However, a total of 36mm of rain fell at the track on Thursday, leaving the course unfit for action.

Clerk of the course Tom Ryall said: “We had 36mm in total yesterday, it started about 4am and carried on through to midnight.

“When we came in this morning, parts of the back straight where it runs parallel with Gog Brook are waterlogged, as that was put on red alert last night, while the owners and trainers car park has flooded and that has spilled onto the track.

“We are basically about 50 per cent under water, so there is really no hope of racing.”

Uttoxeter were also due to race on Saturday, but that fixture has been abandoned.

The course is waterlogged, with further rain forecast.

Friday’s meeting at Kempton got the go-ahead after a morning inspection, while the other scheduled jumps fixture at Bangor was called off on Thursday afternoon.

Nicky Henderson has admitted it is “guesswork” as to whether Shishkin will stay the Cheltenham Gold Cup trip – but that will be where he heads if successfully navigating his Betfair Denman Chase assignment at Newbury on Saturday.

The 10-year-old proved he has the capacity to stay three miles when winning the Aintree Bowl last spring, while he was in the process of running a huge race in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day before unseating Nico de Boinville two from home.

However, the extra quarter-mile the cream of the staying division have to master in the blue riband has caught many a top chaser out down the years. And the Seven Barrows handler concedes it is a question that will only be answered on the day itself, despite feeling confident it will be within Shishkin’s compass.

Henderson said: “It’s going to be guesswork because he’s not been that far. He’s not even in the Ryanair, so I assume we think he must stay something otherwise he won’t be going anywhere.

“I would be pretty confident about that and I know it is difficult to say. I know if you get three miles round Kempton it doesn’t mean anything, but what do you do. There’s a good race at Aintree yes, but if he gets home at Newbury and he does well then you have to go (to the Gold Cup), don’t you.”

The dual Cheltenham Festival winner has spent the majority of his career campaigning over two miles, winning both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Arkle at that distance in the Cotswolds.

Connections explored stepping up in trip following a lacklustre display in the 2022 Tingle Creek and after roaring back to his very best in the Ascot Chase, he finished second in the Ryanair at the Festival before proving successful at Aintree when downing Ahoy Senor.

It is a move that has somewhat caught Henderson by surprise and he said: “No you didn’t really dream (of Shishkin being a Gold Cup horse), because not surprisingly, after Supremes and Arkles you think he is a two-miler.

“Then we went two and a half and two-mile-five when he won at Ascot which was his first time over a trip and it became very obvious he is a stayer.

“He ran in the Ryanair which wasn’t very good, but he came back and ran in the three-miler at Aintree which was very good and I think he proved he stayed there.

“Since then we have continued down that road and the beginning of this season was always going to be all about the King George.”

He went on: “Where things went a bit wrong was the Ascot fiasco when he didn’t want to jump off, so consequently he had to go into the King George without having his prep race, which always frightened me.

“To be fair it didn’t make a great difference and he ran a great race no matter what the result might have been.

“It was just one of those incidents, it’s not as if he did anything wrong and he jumped beautifully all the way.”

Shishkin has been partnered in all 19 starts under rules by De Boinville who he unceremoniously unshipped with the King George at his mercy on Boxing Day.

A further spill at Doncaster over the Christmas period saw the 34-year-old sidelined with a broken collarbone and after a return to the injury list following a premature comeback, Henderson hopes to have his number one back to full fitness to be aboard Shishkin once again.

He said: “We had a little comeback about 10 days ago and he wasn’t quite ready, but he has been riding out since Saturday – he came in and work on Shishkin then – and has been in every day and schooled a few times.

“He’s in good form, I just want him to have a couple of rides to be ready for Saturday, I hope.”

Harry Fry has his eyes fixed on two of Newbury’s biggest prizes of the season with Boothill and Altobelli on Saturday.

Two-mile chaser Boothill is set for a clash with Edwardstone, Editeur Du Gite and dual winner Funambule Sivola in the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase.

Boothill won twice at Ascot early in the season, missed the Tingle Creek due to the heavy ground and was a faller last time out in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.

“We are looking forward to running Boothill on Saturday in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury,” said Fry.

“He was last seen at Kempton where he fell at Christmas, but thankfully he was none the worse for that fall and we are hoping he can put that firmly behind him on Saturday.”

Altobelli, a second-season hurdler, has been placed in two big-field handicaps at Ascot, first when second to Dan Skelton’s Knickerbocker Glory and then when third to Luccia in the Betfair Exchange Trophy and he is chasing more of the sponsor’s money this weekend.

“Altobelli is all set to run in the Betfair Hurdle having run well in two competitive handicap hurdles at Ascot so far this season,” said Fry.

“The experience of those races won’t be lost on him and, with hopefully slightly slower underfoot conditions, that can only play to his strengths and he can be competitive, all being well on Saturday.”

Ben Brookhouse has not lost faith in his star bumper performer Brechin Castle, who is set to warm up for a trip to the Cheltenham Festival with an outing at Newbury next month.

A £165,000 recruit from the Irish point-to-point field, the six-year-old bolted up on his debut under rules at Sedgefield before successfully transitioning to Listed class at Cheltenham in November.

He met with defeat for the first time when filling the runner-up spot in another Listed event at Ascot before Christmas, but was far from disgraced in finishing second to Dan Skelton’s exciting mare Let It Rain, to whom he was conceding 11lb.

“I think it was one of his best runs, to be fair,” Brookhouse said of his Ascot performance.

“We were giving 11lb to the winner and when she won it wasn’t a massive surprise to me because I did think she was the one to be worried about, because of the weight we were giving her.

“We gave 4lb to everything else and gave them a good beating, it was just giving 11lb to the Skelton horse that proved too much for us.”

Next on Brechin Castle’s is the Betfair Bumper, the finale on Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle card on February 10, and Brookhouse would relish a rematch with Let It Rain should it happen.

He added: “He had a small break over Christmas and New Year out in the paddock with his rugs on and the plan would be to go to Newbury in February in preparation for Cheltenham.

“He seems in great order for his break. He put on weight and didn’t lose any muscle or anything. He just did exactly what we wanted him to, which was refill the petrol tank.

“If we bump into the Skelton horse at Newbury she is not a four-year-old anymore, so she won’t get the four-year-old allowance, and she’ll have a 4lb penalty for winning a Listed race, so all of a sudden that 11lb we gave her is nigh on non-existent.”

Brechin Castle is a 33-1 shot for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March, and while he will undoubtedly have to contend with a formidable Irish contingent come the Festival, a return to winning ways at Newbury may well make him Britain’s leading candidate for the Grade One contest.

Brookhouse said: “He’s got course form at Cheltenham, he’s had plenty of racing and plenty of experience. You could argue he’s exposed, but all he can do is beat what’s put in front of him and the only chink in his armour was he was beaten trying to give 11lb to a nice filly.

“Weight stops train, let alone horses, so we can’t blame him for that. He was giving 4lb to several other horses who at the time were considered the best young bumper horses in the country and I don’t want to sound confident or cocky, but he was pulling away from the third at the finish and he wiped the floor with them.”

The Noel Fehily Racing Syndicate could be doubly represented in next month’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, with both Hansard and Kamsinas in line for the lucrative handicap.

Gary Moore’s Hansard showed his liking for the Berkshire track when landing the Gerry Feilden in November, since when he has finished a creditable fifth under a big weight in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot.

Kamsinas looked a potential star novice for Fergal O’Brien after landing a Grade Two prize at Haydock on his penultimate start, but having since come up short in the inaugural running of the Grade One Formby Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree on Boxing Day, he is set for a switch to handicap company.

“The plan at the moment remains for them both to run at Newbury, as long as everything stays okay between now and then,” Fehily confirmed.

“Hansard won the Gerry Feilden on his second to last start and I think the track suits him, so the Betfair Hurdle is very much the aim for him.

“Kamsinas won a Grade Two at Haydock, he was beaten in a Grade One last time out, but I think this race could just suit the likes of him as well. He is a novice and is hopefully still improving.”

Neil King is also considering another crack at handicap riches with his stable star Lookaway.

The seven-year-old completed a hat-trick of novice wins when beating Kamsinas in Grade Two company at Cheltenham towards the end of October.

He then performed with credit against seasoned campaigners when second in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle back at Prestbury Park, only being headed on the run-in by Iberico Lord.

Lookaway filled the same position behind Captain Teague in the Grade One Challow at Newbury over the festive period and Britain’s most valuable handicap hurdle is now one of his upcoming options.

“We have the three options for him now following his huge run in the Challow Hurdle; we either go to Cheltenham Trials Day, back to Newbury for the Betfair Hurdle or the Sidney Banks Hurdle at Huntingdon,” said King.

“I thought Trials Day would come too soon after the Challow but he has come out of the race so well, I don’t think he had as hard a race as we anticipated, he is in great form.

“We will review entries and ground conditions and make a decision as to where we go next, but the Betfair Hurdle is very much an option.”

With a total prize fund of £155,000 up for grabs on February 10, the Betfair Hurdle has predictably attracted a strong book of entries.

Nicky Henderson has six of the 40 possible contenders, with the aforementioned Iberico Lord joined by Betfair Exchange Trophy one-two Luccia and Impose Toi, plus Under Control, First Street and Doddiethegreat.

Paul Nicholls has Elite Hurdle hero Rubaud and Long Walk Hurdle fifth Blueking d’Oroux, while Willie Mullins has three of the four potential Irish raiders in Alvaniy, French recruit Ocastle Des Mottes and Onlyamatteroftime.

Olly Murphy’s Go Dante is one of four early co-favourites with the sponsors and Betfair spokesman Barry Orr commented: “It’s a cracking list of entries and that’s reflected in the market at 8-1 the field.

“Last month’s Betfair Exchange Trophy, which was won by Luccia, could hold the key to this race, with eight of the nine runners entered here.

“The winner looked a different proposition at Ascot and she would be considerably shorter if taking up this engagement, while Onlyamatteroftime, Impose Toi and Altobelli will all be in the mix.

“Rubaud would also be an interesting contender having disappointed in this race last season as a novice but rated 19lb more in this renewal.”

Challow Hurdle runner-up Lookaway has a return to Newbury for the Betfair Hurdle or the M1 Agency Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon as possible options en route to the Cheltenham Festival.

Neil King’s seven-year-old has become a real unsung hero of the novice hurdling division this term and although his winning streak has come to an end of late, Lookaway has still turned in high-calibre performances.

Stepping up in trip for a first taste of Grade One action on the back of his Greatwood Hurdle second, the Grade Two scorer pushed Paul Nicholls’ Captain Teague all the way in a thrilling event to end 2023.

King was thrilled with the performance and having only been put up 1lb by the assessor, he admits the Betfair Hurdle will be tempting, despite the Listed Sidney Banks – over a similar trip to the Challow – seeming a more obvious route to Prestbury Park.

“I thought it was a massive run from him, just with the wrong result,” said King.

“I was thrilled with him and it was just the wrong result. He’s come back home in really good form, I’ve ridden him out this morning and he’s in lovely form.

“He’s only gone up 1lb which has to be a bonus, so we could think about an entry in the Betfair, but maybe the Sidney Banks would be a more obvious target on the way to Cheltenham.”

Once at the Cheltenham Festival, King will need to decide whether to run in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over a course and distance Lookaway has already tasted success this term, or tackle the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over an intermediate trip.

“I’m sure for the Festival the Ballymore is probably going to be better than the Supreme,” said King.

“But as everyone is saying, if the ground comes up the state it is now, then maybe the Supreme is not such a daft idea.

“If it was typical Festival ground, then two-miles-five is going to be better for us.”

The Jukebox Man will not be seen again until the spring following his fine third in Newbury’s Challow Hurdle.

Owned by football great Harry Redknapp, he was bought for £70,000 after impressing in the pointing field and since being beaten by the well-regarded Gidleigh Park on his rules debut, he has barely put a foot wrong for trainer Ben Pauling.

Two novice hurdle victories saw him stepped up in class for the final Grade One of 2023 and although failing to come away with victory, the six-year-old was less than two lengths adrift of eventual winner Captain Teague after being involved in a prolonged battle with both the Paul Nicholls-trained scorer and runner-up Lookaway up the Newbury straight.

That gives Pauling confidence that he has a special performer under his care and after being given plenty of time to recover from his Challow exertions, The Jukebox Man will be prepared for big-race targets in the spring.

He said: “We are really lucky at the moment to have some smart young horses, but he is definitely up there with the best of them.

“He’s particularly suited by that sort of ground and I’m not saying he does not have the speed or class for better ground, but I think he handles the soft very well.

“I thought he ran a lovely race and jumped particularly well and travelled strongly. Although four of them finished within two lengths of each other, rather than say the race wasn’t that strong, I think you probably have four nice horses.

“Lookaway brought very strong handicap form to the race and the others are very unexposed horses who have done nothing wrong in their preparation and are hopefully going to be smart horses for years to come.”

Pauling continued: “He won’t run again now until the spring. I just feel the Challow is always a gruelling enough test and I don’t think we can say this year is any different.

“Amazingly, he has come out of it very well indeed and is as fresh as a daisy. However, I think we will be saving him for something in the spring, whether that is Cheltenham, Aintree or even Perth.

“We will look to run once or twice max before the end of the season and although I think he will stay three miles very well, ground will probably determine which route we went really.

“I think he will definitely stay three, but if it came up soft I wouldn’t be afraid to leave him at two and a half and I think he is an absolute belter. He has a brilliant attitude, loves his job and I think he is going to be a very smart horse for the future.”

It was an exciting few days for both Pauling and Redknapp and although they fell short in the Challow, they received the perfect compensation package at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when Shakem Up’Arry landed the valuable Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase by an emphatic seven and a half lengths.

It was a long-awaited victory for the 10-year-old, who had been sent off favourite for the corresponding race in 2023 and had also placed over the course and distance at the Cheltenham Festival.

“He has always been knocking on the door of a big one without quite finding what is needed to get his head in front,” continued Pauling.

“Whether that be at the Festival or whenever he ran, he always seems to turn up, but has just fallen slightly short.

“We just gave him a tinker with his wind in the summer and whether it is that or not, I’m not sure, but it looks to be paying dividends and it is great for both Harry and the horse to get on the board in a big one and reap the rewards for almost Harry’s patience really.

“Harry couldn’t have been much happier, he was gutted not to be there, but he has always adored this horse – I think because he is named after him. He has owned him with me since he was a three-year-old and amazingly he turned 10 the other day which is frightening.

“He has always been fond of this horse and it was lovely to see him go and do it.”

Jeriko Du Reponet cemented his place as the favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with a comfortable success in the Coral Committed To Safer Gambling ‘Introductory’ Hurdle at Newbury.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, the four-year-old was the talking horse of the autumn following a dazzling display at a Newbury gallops morning and confirmed that promise with a facile victory over course and distance on his Rules debut earlier this month.

Returning to Newbury as the 2-5 favourite to enhance his reputation amongst better company, Jeriko Du Reponet was asked a few more questions before ultimately answering them in good style.

James Bowen, replacing the injured Nico de Boinville, kept close tabs on Gary Moore’s Officer Of State as the five-strong field meandered round Newbury and always had that rival covered heading up the home straight.

At two out he was joined at the head of proceedings by Alan King’s 95-rated Flat performer
Paradias, with Hughie Morrison’s Secret Squirrel also not far away.

Jeriko Du Reponet and Paradias jumped the last in unison, but it was the class of the Seven Barrows inmate that took over on the run to the line as he cruised clear to win by one-and-three-quarter-lengths from a staying-on Secret Squirrel, with Paradias back in third.

The winner was shortened into 5-1 favourite from 7-1 with Coral for the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival, while Paddy Power were unchanged as 6-1 market leader.

“I didn’t really want to make the running on my own as he is still inexperienced and thankfully Gary Moore’s horse went forward,” James Bowen told Racing TV.

“We hacked around, but once I gave him a squeeze he really quickened for me. I was never really in doubt but once I did squeeze him he gave me some feel. He’s good.

“He was good then and he is obviously quite a smart horse and I was very happy with him.”

Jeriko Du Reponet’s success was the second leg of a quick-fire double for Henderson and Bowen at Newbury, as Spring Note made every yard of the running to land the Play Coral ‘Racing-Super-Series’ For Free Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

The 11-4 favourite barely saw a rival up the home straight as she surged to an emphatic 16-length triumph.

Bowen added: “To be honest I didn’t realise I was that far clear. I winged out the gates and went a good gallop all the way and probably put the race to bed between the last two hurdles.

“She was definitely slowing down up the run-in and I didn’t want anything to come and nab me but obviously I was really far clear – she has done it really well.

“Possibly the race may have fell apart, she ran over three miles last time and that didn’t suit her, but obviously a drop back in trip helped.”

Nico de Boinville will miss key rides aboard highly-touted duo Willmount and Jeriko Du Reponet at Newbury on Saturday following a fall at Doncaster on Friday.

The 34-year-old was riding 13-8 favourite Therapist for his boss Nicky Henderson in the La-Z-Boy At KC Sofa’s Fillies’ Juvenile Maiden Hurdle when coming to grief at the second-last flight, suffering a suspected collarbone injury.

It continues a mixed Christmas period for the rider who tasted success aboard his star mount Constitution Hill and hot Triumph Hurdle prospect Sir Gino at Kempton, but was unseated from Shishkin at the second last when leading Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase.

De Boinville told Sky Sports Racing: “I think it’s a collarbone job. I’ve got to go to the X-Rays and see how we are.

“What can you do, you can’t cry about it.”

Fresh from a first Grade One victory at Aintree on Boxing Day, it is fellow Seven Barrows rider James Bowen who will take De Boinville’s place aboard Willmount in the Coral Challow Hurdle and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite Jeriko Du Reponet in the Coral Committed To Safer Gambling ‘Introductory’ Hurdle.

Bowen also picks up the ride on Steal A March for the King and Queen on the Newbury card, with David Bass taking Bowen’s place aboard outsider Brave Jen in the Challow.

Nicky Henderson is counting on the experience of Willmount coming to the fore as the exciting novice bids to maintain his unbeaten record in the Coral Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

Bought for £340,000 after impressing in the pointing field, Willmount performed as expected in his bumper season, winning twice at Doncaster for former trainer Neil Mulholland and creating a taking impression in the process.

Switched to Seven Barrows in the off-season by his owner Olly Harris, he picked up from where he left off for his new handler, registering a bloodless 13-length victory on his hurdling bow at Newbury in November.

He is now tasked with becoming Henderson’s third winner in the final Grade One of the calendar year and is in fact just the second runner he will saddle in the race since Champ’s success in 2018.

“We’re running him because he has a bit of experience and we wanted to split up him and Jeriko (Du Reponet), which was the main idea,” said Henderson.

“He’s a pretty sensible sort of horse and he behaves like he has been at it a while, which he has been in fairness. He had a point-to-point and then two bumpers and one run over hurdles and he knows what he is doing, I hope.

“I hope he’s a horse with a bright future, but it’s a good race – a very competitive race.”

It will be the first time Willmount will race beyond two miles under rules and although Henderson admits he may end up campaigning over further in the future, the trainer does have slight concerns about the prospect of testing ground at the Berkshire venue.

On the step up in trip, he added: “I don’t think it is imperative, I must admit. He doesn’t scream to you that he wants further, but I hope he will cope with it.

“The ground would be the biggest concern. This will be very hard work, I anticipate.”

Paul Nicholls is the race’s most successful trainer and has dominated the contest in recent years, winning the last three renewals.

Denman, Stage Star, Bravemansgame and Hermes Allen all feature on the roll of honour and the Ditcheat handler has a strong hand once again with both Champion Bumper third Captain Teague and the unbeaten Farnoge attempting to uphold the champion trainer’s fine record in the contest.

“We have two nice chances in a red-hot renewal of this Grade One which we have won for the past three years and the more it rains, the better for both my runners,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“Captain Teague ran well when a close second last time at Cheltenham under a penalty. He is an exciting prospect and will gallop all day.”

On Farnoge, he added: “He is unbeaten for us having won his bumper last season and both starts over hurdles and has earned a shot at the Challow as I don’t think he is far behind Captain Teague.

“He made all the running at Ascot, the form looks useful, he stays well, keeps on winning and soft ground will be ideal for him.”

Another heading to the contest with a lofty reputation is Jonjo O’Neill’s Johnnywho, who is unbeaten both between the flags and under rules and sports the green and gold of owner JP McManus, while Ben Pauling’s The Jukebox Man is yet to put a foot wrong since finishing runner-up to Gidleigh Park in a bumper and runs in the colours of Harry Redknapp.

Masaccio was just touched off by a smart Seven Barrows operator in Jingko Blue over course and distance earlier this month and represents the Alan King team that won this in 2016 with Messire Des Obeaux.

Meanwhile, Neil King has elected to step Lookaway up in trip after his three-race winning run came to an end when a gallant second in the Greatwood Hurdle.

“I thought we had the best handicapped horse in England going into the Greatwood, but Mr Henderson had one better, but he ran a terrific race to finish second,” said King.

“He’s been in very good form since, we just gave him a little break afterwards to get ready for Newbury but we had plenty of time on our hands, so he is raring to go now.

“After the Greatwood, both Jack (Quinlan) and I feel that stepping him up in trip might be the way forward to seek out a bit of improvement in him and as a Grade One we need to improve.

“It looks a competitive renewal, but he deserves his place in the line-up and I’m sure if he was trained by Mr Henderson or Mr Nicholls he would be half the price that he is.”

Course runner-up Brave Jen is a second runner in the race for Henderson, with Ella Pickard’s Bullets Hill completing the line-up.

Gidleigh Park is set to get some valuable Cheltenham experience on his next start following his impressive victory at Newbury on Wednesday.

The Walk In The Park gelding looked an above-average prospect when dominating his rivals in a Chepstow bumper in the spring and has only given that theory more weight since being sent over hurdles.

Harry Fry’s charge made an excellent start to his jumping career at Exeter last month and doubled his tally in some style under a penalty, pulling upwards of nine lengths clear of his rivals.

Paddy Power trimmed Gidleigh Park’s odds for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival to 14-1 from 25s, and the five-year-old is set to get an early sighter of Prestbury Park on Trials day at the end of January.

“I was delighted with him as it’s another step up the ladder and more experience,” said Fry.

“All being well, he’ll now step up in grade at Cheltenham on Trials Day – there’s a a Grade Two novices’ hurdle for him there.

“It’s exciting that he’s progressing the way he is and long may it continue.

“We’ll keep asking the question and see if he’s up to it. We’ll take it a race at a time, but those races are there as stepping stones to the big spring festivals and hopefully he’ll justify his place.”

Pink Legend caused a minor surprise when beating odds-on favourite Galia Des Liteaux in the Make Your Best Bet At BetVictor Mares’ Chase at Newbury.

Trained by Venetia Williams, the nine-year-old put a disappointing display at Aintree on her seasonal return well behind her with a fine round of jumping under the excellent Charlie Deutsch.

She looked to face a tall task against Dan Skelton’s 2-5 favourite, a good winner at Market Rasen last time out, but Deutsch took the race by the scruff of the neck at halfway and dictated matters thereafter.

She was there to be shot at over the final two fences but two more accurate leaps meant both the favourite and Rose Of Arcadia could never quite get on terms, with Pink Legend winning by a length and three-quarters.

Winning owner-breeder Francis Mahon explained he had planned to be breeding from her by now, but the intervention of his trainer meant she stayed in training.

“She shouldn’t really be in training but it’s down to Venetia that she’s won another four races,” said Mahon.

“About 18 months ago I started to think she was a nice breeding prospect, she’d been second in the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham (to Elimay) but Venetia said ‘why would you want to retire a horse who is running as well as she ever has?’.

“She got her way and since then she’s won four races and been placed again in the Mares’ Chase (third to Impervious). I think we might go for the Lady Protectress (at Huntingdon) next, she’s won that before, and then Cheltenham again.

“With Charlie now, every time he rides something I think he’s going to win, especially on a steeplechaser.

“She’s won over two miles so when it turned into a bit of a sprint, I thought we were always going to win and she never touched a twig.”

Mahon is hoping for a notable double as Pink Legend’s full sister Eleanor Bob runs in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

He told Racing TV: “On Saturday Eleanor Bob has a nice, low weight at Haydock and she’ll love the heavy ground, she’s a full sister to Pink Legend.”

Gidleigh Park enhanced his growing reputation with a stylish performance in the BetVictor EBF Stallions ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Harry Fry’s imposing five-year-old arrived in Berkshire having won a bumper and a novice hurdle and was sent off the evens favourite, despite facing some similarly promising individuals.

A little keen in the early stages, Johnny Burke was eager to keep a lid on his mount before the race began in earnest, but he was always travelling strongly and won by nine lengths from Fire Flyer.

Paddy Power cut the winner to 14-1 from 25s for the Ballymore at Cheltenham in March.

Fry said: “This was a step up in trip and Johnny said he was a little bit keen and landed flat footed at a couple down the backm but as the race developed he got better.

“He’s a lovely young horse going the right way. His form keeps working out well and all being well we’ll go to Cheltenham on Trials Day for the Grade Two novice hurdle there.

“This was just his second start (over hurdles). The Challow is in 10 days but I just felt we needed to take it one step at a time.”

Burke doubled up on Anthony Honeyball’s Park Princess (2-1 favourite) in the bumper.

Brave Kingdom (15-8) took his record under rules to five wins from just six outings with a battling display in the JM Finn Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Trained by Paul Nicholls, he lost his unbeaten record in a Grade Two novice hurdle at Sandown in December 2021 and while he regained the winning thread back in calmer waters, was forced to miss the whole of last season through injury.

He reappeared with a win at Plumpton and followed up when seeing off Pulling Stumps by a length and three-quarters.

Winning rider Harry Cobden said: “I was always confident I’d get there because it’s very tiring ground and a very long straight.

“Horses like him that have had such a lay off can bounce on their second run, but he was relaxed today and I feel like this could be quite a smart horse, when I pulled him out he picked up nicely and there’s a nice handicap in him somewhere.”

Dan Skelton’s Etalon (3-1 joint-favourite) and Jonjo O’Neill’s Fortunate Man (9-1) were other impressive winners on the card.

Page 2 of 5
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.