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Paul Nicholls: My Saturday runners at Aintree, Chepstow and Sandown

Paul expects former high-class juvenile hurdler Hinterland to go close today

Paul Nicholls on Hinterland;

"In Captain Conan and Third Intention, he meets two very smart rivals. But if he relaxes and runs to his potential, then I expect to see a much improved effort from Exeter. In fact, I think he will go close to winning."

Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls saddles no less than a dozen runners on Saturday at three meetings across the country and here you can read the trainer's exclusive thoughts on each...

12:25 Chepstow - Toby Lerone

Won both his points but ran an ordinary race on his racecourse debut in a bumper. There was a bit more promise in his fourth over course and distance last time on his hurdling debut. Got a bit tired in the closing stages there, but hopefully that experience and run will have sharpened him up. It probably needs to have, even though this race has cut up a bit at the overnight stage.

13:00 Chepstow - Curtain Razer

Gave Ruby a nasty fall when coming to grief early on over hurdles at Newbury last week. With that in mind, it may seem odd that we put him straight over fences so soon afterwards. But, if anything, he overjumped at Newbury, has shown no ill effects from the tumble, has always schooled well over fences at home, and we have always viewed him as a chaser. After all, he is a half-brother to Irish Grand National winner Hear The Echo, and won both his points in 2011.

He has had more than his share of setbacks since that very good hurdling debut at Exeter, but he has ability and we didn't really have a chance at Newbury to see if his summer breathing operation had done him any good. Fingers crossed we will here. I think chasing will be the making of him.

13:25 Sandown - Sam Winner

Was obviously a high class juvenile a couple of seasons ago, but proved luckless in both his chase starts last season, jumping well in the main and looking like scoring an emphatic victory before falling at the last at Exeter and then coming to grief three out at Cheltenham next when still going strongly. He has had a year off the track - he had a small fracture in his knee - and chasing will again be on the agenda in the future. Whatever he does here he will improve enormously for the race, although sometimes these races don't turn out to be as competitive as they appear at first and he could be fairly treated on his old hurdling form.

13:30 Chepstow - Sin Bin

Showed decent form when winning two of this three bumpers, including here on his debut, and made a very pleasing hurdling debut back here over 2m4f when second to Shotgun Paddy. May have just needed the run that day and this well-related sort can hopefully show improvement here. That said, he is probably more of a chaser of the future, than a hurdler of the present, and this looks a more competitive race. But I think he is quite a decent prospect all the same, and he will go well here.

13:55 Sandown - Hinterland

High-class juvenile hurdler who gave us a decision to make after he made an impressive and successful reappearance off a mark of 141 over hurdles at Chepstow in October. But that decision was made for us when Ruby came down to school him afterwards, when he really was quick and accurate at his fences. But it is fair to say that his chasing debut didn't go to plan at Exeter, as he ran too free, didn't really settle and got into a fight for the lead and then had little left in the closing stages.

He will be ridden very differently today. We know he is much better than that and the key to him is to get him to settle, which should be easier in this better race, even though there are only five runners. But the downside of that is that this is a much better race. And in Captain Conan and Third Intention, he meets two very smart rivals. But if he relaxes and runs to his potential, then I expect to see a much improved effort from Exeter. In fact, I think he will go close to winning.

14:05 Chepstow - Royal Charm

Has had all sorts of problems since winning his first two chase starts at Exeter two seasons ago, so I was thrilled with his reappearance second over 2m4f here over hurdles back in October, where he seemed to respond well to the fitting of cheekpieces. If he can build on that run, then I think he is not that badly handicapped off 135 over fences, and the longer trip will hopefully not be a problem. Has schooled well over fences at home and will love the heavy ground. I think he will go well.

14:10 Aintree - Join Together

Is clearly a very smart horse on his day, but it is fair to say that he is a bit of an in-and-out performer who disappointed at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, and again, to a lesser degree, on his reappearance. He had a breathing operation in the summer and he had been working really well before his comeback at Ascot, only to run below par again there, although he wasn't totally disgraced in seventh. If he can return to the form of his 12 length defeat of Mossley at Cheltenham over this trip last season, then I think he will run well. The longer trip and soft ground should be ideal, and I am hoping that the fences concentrate his mind and renew his enthusiasm. If they do, then he is a big runner here.

14:40 Chepstow- Rangitoto

Looks to have lost his confidence over fences, falling at Taunton and making plenty of mistakes on his reappearance here in October, so we switch him back to hurdles to try and get that back. That is the main purpose of the exercise today but I think the handicapper has given him a real chance off 125 in conditions that should suit. So definitely don't rule him out.

15:05 Sandown

Tingle Creek - see main story

15:20 Aintree - Rebel Du Maquis

Has to bounce back from three below-par runs but at the least the handicapper has given him a chance and he is now on the same mark as when winning at Stratford by 11 lengths in May last year. So if the rain stays away, then he has place prospects. But you can't be too confident given his two performances this season - although a blunder three out last time didn't help his chances there one bit - and the level of opposition. I'd be very worried about the ground for him as well, but we take our chance. And sometimes you get away with it, as we did with Grandioso at Wincanton on Thursday.

15:40 Sandown - Tempo de Cotte

I actually still own him and I can confirm that he is for sale! Was tried in cheekpieces and blinkers when racing in France - he joined us after winning over 2m6f at Auteuil in September - but he raced without either when fourth at Plumpton last month. That was a fair effort, particularly as he choked in the ground that day. So we run him in a tongue tie here. And if that works, then I think 3m6f on soft ground, off a mark of 124, could just see him competitive, especially as this race has cut up a bit. However, the trip is clearly an unknown, and we are still getting to know him.


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08 December 2012

Paul Nicholls


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