An exciting season is coming up for Paul and the team at Ditcheat with the following horses potentially making the headlines in 2019-20...
"Bryony Frost gets a great tune out of Frodon who is likely to bid for a repeat in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree before heading for the Betfair Chase at Haydock a month later. "
My leading chasers...
Adrien Du Pont - "too keen for his own good"
Tends to be a bit too keen for his own good which can make life difficult off a mark of 149 but he looked good when winning in smart style over three miles at Kempton with the help of a patient ride from Harry Cobden. There is more to come from Adrien Du Pont who is only seven and could start his season at Ascot in October.
Brio Conti - "aiming him for the BetVictor Chase"
Came back better than ever from a long time off with a leg injury and surprised me by winning at Ascot before an excellent fourth in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham. He won on his only start over fences a couple of years ago and we will look at a graduation Chase for him before aiming him for the BetVictor Chase at Cheltenham.
Black Corton - "remarkably tough, genuine and classy"
Is not the easiest horse to place because he is so consistent but he keeps improving and surprising us. He is a remarkably tough, genuine and classy performer who ended his season with a deserved triumph in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown. He then came tantalisingly close to landing the Galway Plate giving 22 lbs to the winner. He has enjoyed a short break since then and could be heading again for the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Diego de Charmil - "can regain the winning thread"
The cards didn't fall his way last season, in part because he is not well handicapped. I also felt that his breathing had become an issue so he has had surgery to improve things. So I am hopeful that he can regain the winning thread this winter with ground conditions in his favour and I am toying with the idea of trying him at two and a half miles at some stage.
Dynamite Dollars - "ready to run early in January"
An exciting first season over fences was ended by a minor leg injury which was a big blow after his victories in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Chase and a brace of Grade 2 wins. With the latest scans on his leg encouraging he is back in training and should be ready to run early in January. The Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February looks an obvious target.
Frodon - "a magic horse for us"
He has been a magic horse for us and is an absolute joy to train, full of enthusiasm in everything he does and capped an unforgettable season with a game victory in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival. Bryony Frost gets a great tune out of Frodon who is likely to bid for a repeat in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree before heading for the Betfair Chase at Haydock a month later.
Kapcorse - "future lies in staying chases on soft ground"
We have had to be patient with Kapcorse who is a huge horse and needed a fair bit of time to mature and strengthen. He came good in the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase at Newbury with a good ride from Bryony Frost and as he gains more experience I'd say his future lies in staying chases on soft ground.
Magic Saint - "still have faith in him"
A good looking ex-French chaser who jumps very well but didn't live up to expectations on a couple of occasions after winning cosily at Wincanton. We decided to give him an op in the summer to improve his breathing and are hopeful that will make a difference this winter. I still have faith in him.
Politologue - "can again be competitive
He has had an operation over the summer to help his breathing and is likely to stick to two miles this season after a fantastic run to finish second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. I was immensely proud of him that day and he then put up another game performance in the Melling Chase. We will not be in a rush with Politologue who can again be competitive in Grade 1 chases and could start in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham before going for the Tingle Creek at Sandown before Christmas.
Secret Investor - "more to come from him"
He is a novice over fences until November 1 so we might try to take advantage of that before maybe sending him to Down Royal for the Grade 2 Skymas Chase. Secret Investor is not the easiest to train but a change to more positive tactics over fences saw him sign off with wins at Wincanton and Ayr. Hopefully there is more to come from him this season over two and a half miles.
Novice chasers of particular promise...
Danny Whizzbang - "created quite an impression"
An ex Irish point-to-Pointer he won his only two starts for us last season and created quite an impression when making all the running over three miles on the second occasion at Exeter, readily drawing clear to earn a rating of 139. He is another of ours to have done well over the summer and can make an impact over fences on soft ground over a trip.
Grand Sancy - "improved beyond recognition"
He improved beyond recognition last season, winning four times over hurdles including the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at our local track Wincanton under an inspired ride from Harry Skelton. Tough and hardy, Grand Sancy has done well over the summer and given his hurdles rating of 152 he looks a ready made exciting prospect for chasing at which he should excel.
Greaneteen - "in good form again"
A nice prospect who missed the whole of the previous season after arriving from France and won well on his second start for us at Exeter before following up at Fontwell. A minor injury caused him to miss the rest of the season but he is in good form again now and I am hoping he can make up for lost time as I think he is a smart young horse with plenty to offer. I might give him one run over hurdles before he goes chasing.
Malaya - "pays more attention"
Ended up on the ground on her first two starts over hurdles last season, before putting matters right in style with a tidy success in the Imperial Hurdle at Sandown in March. While Malaya has never had the greatest respect for hurdles her schooling suggests that she already pays more attention when it comes to jumping fences. I do think she has the ability to be an exciting chaser.
Master Tommy Tucker - "has a serious engine"
I had high hopes of Master Tommy Tucker a year ago but they came to nought when he hurt himself in a fall on his chasing debut at Chepstow in October as he looked poised to win. I'm thrilled that he has fully recovered following knee surgery and is ready to make up for lost time this winter. We know from the previous season that he has a serious engine.
Southfield Stone - "talented and thoroughly likeable"
He enjoyed a busy and productive campaign last winter, learning his trade all the time in winning a bumper and three times over hurdles including the Grade 2 Dovecote at Kempton. Talented and thoroughly likeable, he has the size and scope to make a decent chaser and could start over fences at Newton Abbot on October 13.
Trevelyn's Corn - "he is stronger now"
He was always going to be a chaser after winning his sole point-to-point in Ireland for Colin Bowe in heavy ground so we decided to be patient with him over hurdles last winter as he developed physically. Trevelyn's Corn impressed in winning over two-and-a-half miles at Wincanton in March before I made the mistake of running him over the wrong trip at Aintree. He is stronger now, has had a wind op over the summer and should be an exciting recruit to fences after a possible seasonal debut in the Persian War Hurdle at Chepstow next month.
Truckers Lodge - "interesting candidate for long distance chases"
He enjoyed a productive first season for us, winning well over hurdles at Exeter and Chepstow, before a pleasing enough switch to fences in May. Truckers Lodge looks an interesting candidate for long distance chases once the rain comes and could be ideal for something like the Welsh National at Chepstow at Christmas once he has two more runs to qualify.
Two handicap hurdlers to watch...
Christopher Wood - "will go handicapping"
Ended a decent first campaign for us over hurdles with a mark of 140 and will go handicapping with the Greatwood at Cheltenham a likely target. Christopher Wood was useful on the flat for Michael Bell, was progressive after joining us and ended the season with an excellent third behind Pentland Hills in the four year old hurdle at Aintree. He has since had a wind op to improve his breathing.
Scaramanga - "travels strong in his races"
Showed a good attitude after joining us from James Fanshawe, was extremely consistent in four starts for us and looked unlucky to finish second at Ascot in March behind Legal History in a valuable juvenile handicap hurdle. Scaramanga could be one to follow as he looks to be well handicapped on a mark of 133 and could be one for the four year old hurdle at Chepstow. As he travels strongly in his races we might also consider having a crack with him on the flat.
Novice hurdlers to note...
Ask For Glory - "lovely young prospect"
He is a lovely young prospect, a winning pointer who made quite an impression when surging clear of the opposition on his debut for us in a bumper at Chepstow at Christmas before finishing in midfield in the Champion Bumper. Ask For Glory has always enjoyed his schooling sessions, looks assured at his hurdles and we have high hopes for him.
Cat Tiger - "interesting novice"
He is a maiden over hurdles despite being one of the highest rated four year old chasers in France last year. Cat Tiger was bought at the Arqana November sale by David Maxwell who then rode him to victory in a £57,000 Grade 3 Chase at Auteuil a few days later. He has had plenty of time to acclimatise at Ditcheat since then and looks to be an interesting novice this season.
Eritage - "bags of promise"
Exciting and scopey he joined us after a taking debut success in an all weather French bumper in July, 2018. He showed bags of promise in two starts for us, winning well from the front on the second occasion, and should be a ready made contender for novice hurdles.
Enrilo - "exuberant type"
He is an athletic, exuberant type who jumps very well and should make a smart novice this season after a rewarding bumper campaign which offered plenty of promise for the future. Enrilo enjoys life, won nicely at Worcester and Kempton and had no luck in-running on his only defeat at Ascot in a Listed bumper. He is one to keep an eye on.
Flic ou Voyou - "displaying a willing attitude"
Strong and powerfully built he joined us as a three year old store and has developed into a striking young horse. He rewarded our patience by winning two soft ground bumpers last season, displaying a willing attitude and looking to possess plenty of stamina. I do like Flic ou Voyou, who is one of a number of really nice bumper horses who are now going hurdling.
Silver Forever - "already jumps brilliantly"
She is another of ours who enjoyed a rewarding bumper campaign with impressive victories at Chepstow and Ascot before running a massive race in defeat in the Listed mares' final in February. Silver Forever already jumps brilliantly, we know she stays well and we could start her over hurdles at Chepstow next month in the race won by Post Trish a year ago.
Zyon - "plenty of promise"
A big, raw gelding, he shaped with the plenty of promise when beaten less than two lengths by the smart Emitom at Ascot. A minor injury then ended his season but he is fine now, has done lots of schooling over hurdles and should come into him own over staying trips.
A pair of exciting juvenile hurdlers...
Mick Pastor - "interesting recent newcomer"
An interesting recent newcomer owned by JP McManus, he won on his only start over hurdles by six lengths at Auteuil in May. He has settled in well at Ditcheat and though we don't yet have any firm plans for him one possible option would be the juvenile hurdle at Cheltenham's Open meeting.
Sir Psycho - "looks a useful recruit"
He joined us in April from Ireland where he showed a fair amount of promise in finishing third, beaten only two lengths, in a ten furlong maiden at Leopardstown for Edward Harty. Sir Psycho is an athletic type by Zoffany, has been schooling well and looks a useful recruit for juvenile hurdles.
Timeform's Three to Follow at Ditcheat in 2019-20
Star Performer – Getaway Trump (Timeform rating h153p)
There are certainly more established names at Ditcheat than Getaway Trump – Clan des Obeaux, Cyrname and Frodon to name but three – but it would be no surprise if he joined that trio as a Grade 1-winning chaser between now and the end of the season. Even his trainer has expressed surprise at the giant strides that he made over timber last term, but there was plenty of substance to his form, and his Timeform rating of 153p (achieved when winning a Sandown handicap on his final start) was surpassed by only Klassical Dream among the 2018/19 crop of novice hurdlers. Nicholls is excited to see him over fences in the months ahead, and understandably so, with no reason why he shouldn’t develop into a serious contender for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Handicapper – Brio Conti (Timeform rating h146 c130P)
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Brio Conti made a successful chasing debut at Carlisle in November 2017, with the leg injury mentioned by Nicholls meaning that we didn’t see him on a racecourse again until February. He showed that all his ability remains intact in four starts over the smaller obstacles last term, though, winning at Ascot before producing an even better effort in defeat on Timeform ratings when fourth in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham. The decision to go back over fences with him is a logical one – both his pedigree and physique point to him making a better chaser – and he remains an exciting prospect in this sphere, one who is sure to be competitive in high-end handicaps from a BHA mark of 145.
Dark Horse – Greaneteen (Timeform rating h128p)
Having missed the final months of last season due to injury, we share Nicholls’ hope that Greaneteen can start making up for lost time in 2019/20. Sixth on his debut for Nicholls in a Sandown novice hurdle last December, that form worked out extremely well – five of the 10 runners won next-time-out – and Greaneteen did his own bit for the cause when winning both his two subsequent starts, progressing to a Timeform rating of 128p in the process. The ‘p’ denotes that he remains open to more improvement over hurdles, but it is easy to see why Nicholls is keen to go chasing sooner rather than later with Greaneteen, a rangy gelding who wouldn’t be the first horse from Ditcheat to take his form to a new level when tackling fences.