Paul Nicholls: The views on my Saturday runners at Newbury and Newcastle

Paul Nicholls saddles Hennessy Gold Cup favourite Saphir Du Rheu at Newbury on Saturday afternoon
Paul Nicholls saddles Hennessy Gold Cup favourite Saphir Du Rheu at Newbury on Saturday afternoon
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Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls saddles the favourite in the day's feature race, the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, while he also has a great chance of winning the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. Read Paul's exclusive views on all his runners here...


Newbury 15:00 - Saphir Du Rheu

"I think the world of this horse who has had a great preparation for the Hennessy. His World Hurdle second at Cheltenham was out of the top drawer, he will love the ground, and could not have won more easily at Carlisle recently."

Newbury 12:45 - For Two

The trip was probably a bit too far for him at Carlisle last month where he flattered briefly before fading on his first race for almost 18 months.

For Two has come on a fair bit for that run and I've always thought of him as a chaser.

He jumps well at home and dropping back to two miles here should help, but so far he has been a bit of a bridle horse so I'd like to see him finish his race better this time.


Newbury 13:15 - Ceasar Milan

I'd love to win this race run in memory of the great commentator Sir Peter O'Sullevan. He was such a nice man, was always friendly to me from the days when I was riding, and he called the Hennessy which I won in successive years on Broadheath and Playschool in 1986 and 1987.

Caesar Milan needs to take a big step forward to win this after such a poor run at Stratford.

I can't deny that he was very disappointing there, though it is fair to say he usually needs his first run of the season. Maybe he is not as good as we once thought.

Conditions are much more in Ceasar Milan's favour this time. The more it rains, the heavier the ground, the better it will suit him.


Newbury 13:50 - Ibis Du Rheu

A half brother to Saphir Du Rheu he was basically too big and backward last season to train seriously. All of the family need time to mature so it was a question of minding him while he grew into his strength.

Ibis Du Rheu has grown up a lot, so I am expecting improvement now on his two runs last winter and this is a good starting point, though he is on a stiff enough mark for what he has achieved so far.

All being well will be tackling fences sooner rather than later.


Newbury 15:00 - Saphir Du Rheu

Of course it is not ideal that Coneygree's absence means that we have to carry top weight of 11St 12lbs. I am all too aware that no six-year-old has ever won the Hennessy with that weight, though I always see statistics like that as a challenge.

For instance no four-year-old had won the Paddy Power and no five-year-old had won a Champion Chase until we did it.

Despite the change in the weights Saphir Du Rheu is still running off his correct mark of 163. Yes, the race looks more competitive now but in theory it should be easier for him without the Gold Cup winner in the field.

Will the rise of 9lbs make a difference to Saphir Du Rheu? It is a fair question but I don't think so because he is such a big, scopey horse.

From a punter's point of view the value in Saphir Du Rheu has gone. But he doesn't know what price he is and I don't care what price he is.

I think the world of this horse who has had a great preparation for the Hennessy. His World Hurdle second at Cheltenham was out of the top drawer, he will love the ground, and could not have won more easily at Carlisle recently.

He has got to jump well at Newbury, he has to concentrate and everything has to go right for him. If it does then he has a big chance.


Newbury 15:35 - Stellar Notion

Another new one sent to us by Roger Brookhouse in the autumn. He had some decent form in the first part of last season. Two miles looks Stellar Notion's trip but like all of Roger's that came to us I suspect he will improve for the run.

We will see how he gets on here, then make a plan for the future.


*****


Newcastle 14:05 - Irving

I am maybe taking a bit of a punt running him again so quickly after his gritty victory at Haydock a week ago but he won this race in style a year ago and there is nothing else suitable for him this side of Christmas.

The minute Nick Scholfield jumped off his back at Haydock he said be sure to send him to Newcastle and why not?

Lorraine Morris, who rides Irving every day, could not he happier with him, the ground is soft, he schooled very well on Thursday morning, he is second favourite, and he is in good shape so he has to take his chance.


Newcastle 14:40 - Virak

Did us proud last season by winning four times in good company which makes life really tricky for him in handicaps now.

A mistake at a crucial time in the race at Ascot cost Virak on his seasonal comeback a month ago. I was happy enough with that run, he will enjoy the soft ground and Harry Cobden's 7lbs claim will help.


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