Paul Nicholls sends a couple of star novices to Wincanton on Saturday, while he also holds a big chance in the feature handicap chase at Aintree. Here are his views on all his runners...
"Best Chance: Mick Pastor - 13:50 Wincanton. There was a lot to like about the way he cruised home at Newton Abbot in September and he was again impressive at Exeter last time. He should be fine on the ground at Wincanton."
Tiger can go well at Aintree off this mark
He also had entries at Wincanton and Auteuil this weekend but the Grand Sefton was the logical choice after he took to the National fences like a natural when he finished third in the Aintree Foxhunters in April. Cat Tiger and his owner/rider David Maxwell enjoyed a brilliant spin that day, leading two out and only being caught at the elbow. He's a horse that goes well fresh and must have a fair chance running off a mark of 135.
Obvious chance for Knappers who has had plenty of schooling
Gala de Corton was a bit disappointing at Kempton last month on his first run since surgery to sort out an issue with his breathing. At this early stage of his career he is still a little backward and badly needs more experience.
Knappers Hill was a top bumper horses last season, winning on all three starts including the Grade 2 Weatherbys Bumper at Aintree. He then made a successful debut over hurdles a month ago at Chepstow where his jumping at times was a bit novicey. Knappers Hill has had plenty of schooling at home since then, is getting better with practice and had another pop over our hurdles on Thursday morning. He has an obvious chance.
Mick is an interesting contender
Mick Pastor has taken really well to fences, has bags of pace and is now unbeaten in four starts since going chasing. There was a lot to like about the way he cruised home at Newton Abbot in September and he was again impressive at Exeter last time. He should be fine on the ground at Wincanton.
Have just walked @wincantonraces with @Dan_WCooper and after their sterling effort watering we both agree the chase track is good, good to firm in places and therefore too fast to run Bravemansgame . @CobdenHarry will switch to Mick Pastor.? Paul Nicholls OBE (@PFNicholls) November 5, 2021
This will bring Mustard on and it's a confidence booster for Eglantine
Cut The Mustard is fit and well after a wind op over the summer but while she was consistent last season she is still high enough in the handicap given that she has not won a race for 20 months. A run over hurdles at Wincanton should put her spot on for a return to fences next time.
Eglantine du Seuil has done quite well over the summer, winning twice over fences before she had a bit of a bad experience last time at Newton Abbot. Although she was lame afterwards she is fine now and I'm looking at this race as a confidence booster for her over hurdles.
Ground not soft enough unfortunately
Highland Hunter & Truckers Lodge are now NON-RUNNERS
Here is what Paul had to say about their chances before declaring their withdrawal:
Highland Hunter took well to chasing last season and ran to a decent level when fifth in the Midlands Grand National on only his fourth start over fences when the ground was not as soft as he would like. As he is a thorough stayer I'd like to run him in this before a crack at the Coral Welsh National. But it all depends on how I find the going when I walk the course on Friday.
While Truckers Lodge had winning form good ground in the past he is another who prefers more testing conditions these days and is still in the grip of the handicapper. With the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow very much in our sights for him again I've been wanting to get a run into Truckers Lodge for the past month but have had to withdraw him twice at the last minute because conditions were just too quick for him. Wincanton has done plenty of watering this week so I'm hoping there will be enough ease in the ground for him to run.
Ready to run but has a tough task
He usually takes a couple of races to come to hand but once again enjoyed a rewarding season highlighted by his success in the Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh in February on soft ground. Christopher Wood is ready to start back but looks to have a tough task against some smart rivals in this Grade 2 hurdle.
Good starting point but he'll improve for the experience
He is a nice type related to some useful horses and worked pleasingly at home on Thursday morning. This is a good starting point for Fame And Fun who is ready to go and like all of my bumper horses will improve for the experience.
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