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Track Talk - 10th October


10 October 2023

The management team at Chepstow spent an informative morning at the yard of 14 times champion jump trainer Paul Nicholls last week. They went down to see his horses preparing for the impending winter season which kicks off with the Unibet Jump Season Opener at Chepstow this Friday and Saturday (tickets are still available).

Paul has been at the very top of the sport for almost 25 years and has saddled more than 3,600 winners. He rode more than a hundred winners as a jockey in the 1980s and one of his biggest was on the David Barons-trained Playschool in the 1987 Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

A broken leg curtailed Nicholls’ riding career, but training had always been the long-term aim and he worked as an assistant to Barons for two years, during which time the stable won the Aintree Grand National with Seagram.

In October 1991, he began training on his own account at Ditcheat in Somerset with just eight horses. He rose steadily through the ranks and his arrival in the major league came with three successes at the 1999 Cheltenham Festival, including the Gold Cup with See More Business.

Since then, the winners have never stopped flowing. He’s won four Cheltenham Gold Cups, an Aintree Grand National and 13 King George VI Chases at Kempton.

Four of his greatest horses were Kauto Star, Denman, Big Buck’s and Master Minded.

· Kauto Star, the best chaser since Desert Orchid and won two Gold Cups and five King George VIs at Kempton.

· Denman, who won a Gold Cup beating Kauto Star, and was second in three others.

· Big Buck’s, who won 18 consecutive races and was the Stayers’ Hurdle champion four times in a row.

· Master Minded, an exceptional two-mile chaser who won 13 of his 19 races for the yard, including two Queen Mother Champion Chases.

He’s been responsible for 262 winners at Chepstow, more than anyone else and he’ll be well represented at this week’s Jump Season Opener and may run the promising Captain Teague, third in Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper, in the Unibet Persian War Novices’ Hurdle. A number of Irish trainers including Gordon Elliott, Gavin Cromwell and Peter Fahey also have entries over the weekend which should help spice up proceedings.

Rohaan’s victory at Ascot last week was a welcome relief after a largely disappointing season. Wales’s leading sprinter showed a bit of his old spark in the Ayr Gold Cup last month, finishing a close seventh. The handicapper dropped him to a mark of 102, from a peak of 115 after winning his second Wokingham, and Evans entered him in a typical big-field sprint handicap at Ascot on Friday. Despite top weight of 9-12 and 15 opponents, he was the market leader at skinny odds of 2/1 to secure his fifth win on his favourite track. Drawn near the favoured stand side, he was as usual held up for the first half of the race, but his cause appeared hopeless as jockey Neil Callan was forced to sit and suffer behind a wall of horses in front of him. After what seemed an age a gap opened near the rails and Rohaan went through it willingly, ran on strongly and hit the front in the last few strides.

Evans admitted after the race that he had told Rohaan’s Irish owners the horse was on the way back, and they were present to see his faith justified. Connections have nothing to lose by going for the Champions Day Sprint over the same distance on the 21st. Rohaan was fourth in that in 2022, when in better form than he has been this year.

Four Welsh jockeys went to Fontwell on Saturday for one ride each and three of them finished second – James Davies, Sean Bowen and Connor Brace. None of their mounts were favourites, so it was a fair enough outcome but a long way to go.

On Sunday Bowen had several good rides at Uttoxeter. He was in the winners’ enclosure after the novice hurdle on Olly Murphy’s Booster Bob and half an hour later, he won a three-runner novice chase on Chasing Fire, who is in the same stable and the same ownership as the previous winner. The last race on the card went to Tim Vaughan and Alan Johns with Weaver’s Answer. It was the yard’s first win of the new winter season.

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