**KNOW THE BEST HORSES IN TRAINING (BEFORE THEY RACE!)**
Saturday 5 December 2015
A Day To Forget
Saturday was a day to forget for Paul Nicholls - out of 14 runners across 3 meetings he was only able to manage 3 third places and there will be some long faces down at Ditcheat.
If we look back to last season Nicholls was a standing dish every Saturday from the beginning of November onwards and on this corresponding day he picked up 4 winners at Aintree, Sandown and Chepstow.
I'm not sure exactly what is wrong with his Saturday runners at the moment - Southfield Theatre was beaten a long long way out and you couldn't put that down to just the going being softer than ideal - he surely should have been more competitive than that. I thought Vibrato Valtat was a bit free on the way to the start as he seemed to run away with Sam Twiston Davies. In the race itself he had it set up for him if he was good enough to win - but he wasn't and it was a disappointing run.
As I said in Friday's post I was at Aintree yesterday and there were some top performances. I was particularly impressed with the Irish runner Jer's Girl in the first race who was up against Alan King's duo Forgiving Close and Mystery Code. Apart from this race Alan King only had 1 other national hunt runner yesterday and that was at Sandown in Simply A Legend who won. This listed race has only been run 3 times and King won it in both 2012 and 2014 and was 2nd in 2013 - so he meant business. Despite that Jer's Girl brushed them aside like they weren't there and was eased down for a 10 length success and she is a horse that you need to keep on the right side of in future engagements.
The race itself was run in honour of Everton FC great Howard Kendall and part of the winning prize for the trainer was a signed EFC shirt by all the current players - however they didn't bank on Gavin Cromwell being a Liverpool supporter and he was cheekily asked by Gordon Brown if
could have the shirt for a fiver, Cromwell responded by saying he could have it for two quid!!
Nick Williams, regular as clockwork, farms the month of December. Tea For Two ran away for an impressive 10 length win for Lizzie Kelly the day before at Exeter in a Class 2 novice chase and Williams third runner of the month, Agrapart, won the Class 3 hurdle and in doing so doubled the winning distance of Tea For Two for Lizzie Kelly and he looks a decent sort.
Onto Sunday now and both the trainers we are following have runners
12.50 - Bon Chic doesn't want it overly soft and was withdrawn when it was heavy a few weeks back. She is said to perform better on good but despite that she ran on soft at Ascot first time out and performed with credit to finish 2nd to Thomas Brown which the stable were happy with. The plan is to campaign her with the Listed mares novice chase final at Cheltenham in April in mind. Harry Skelton takes over today and although it's soft ground again the race doesn't look like it will take a great deal of winning and looks a match between her and Kalane but is not one for a bet as she is too short.
2nd - Bon Chic came up against what could turn out to be a useful prospect in Kalane and was unable to go with her,
2.00 - Al Ferof has been a top performer over the years with Paul Nicholls and starts afresh here. Dan Skelton reports that his preparation has gone smoothly and his record first time out is good. The going shouldn't be a problem and he has a good wins to runs ratio. Although his last two wins came in the Amlin Chase at Ascot he missed that to avoid meeting Vautour and he comes up against the Amlin second Ptit Zig. The chances are he will improve for the run but Skelton knows him well from his days with Nicholls and whatever happens his next race will be the King George.
1st - Started the season with another win for this popular grey who was always in control when he got to the front. Next stop King George.
2.00 - Ptit Zig was a Grade 1 hurdle winner but chasing was always been the long term plan and he won 4 chases on the bounce between November and January last season. Consequently he started this season on a rating of 157 and he went over to Down Royal in the Grade 2 Powers Irish Whiskey Chase over 2m 4f on yielding to soft. Paul Nicholls thinks he will stay 3m. The initial plan for the first half of the season had been the King George but that appears to have been revised to this race. He has a tendency to jump out to his right and his jumping was a bit sketchy at Down Royal and Ascot last time out. He did well against Vautour though at Ascot as he was 12lb inferior ratings wise and he was also conceding 5lbs and at one point it looked as though he may win. His job isn't as difficult here and the biggest problem may be a lack of confidence following yesterday's dismal results, but he looks the one to beat.
Fell - Ptit Zig was hesitant at nearly every fence and lost ground, when thrown at the last he hit it hard and came down. This will have dented his confidence even more and any King George ideas will probably be shelved now. If he is to make it in this grade then he needs to jump more fluently.
2.35 - Lac Leman wears a hood for the first time but Nicholls is not averse to reaching for the various types of head gear and he must use them more than any other trainer in the UK. Lac Leman ran just the once last season finishing 4th of 9 in a Claas 4 novice hurdle at Taunton on soft. He ran very free and pulled hard there and it is hoped that the hood will calm him down and that the breathing operation he has had in the interim will help. We have seen several of Nicholls novices this season come out and win well after having initial problems last season but this is a fair old race and may not prove as easy to pick off. -
12.30 - Silsol ran 4 times last season winning twice at Newbury and Ffos Las on soft and heavy so has no trouble with conditions and bids for a 3 timer in 4 weeks while the going is in his favour. He is the highest rated hurdler Nicholls has sent chasing this year. He is solid, dependable and jumps well and the plan has always been to campaign him in the north as the stable are high in the novice chase department. He won on his return at Carlisle beating Maximiser and today's rival Seeyouatmidnight and he is 10lb worse off with him so has it all to do.
2.15 - Vivaldi Collonges is said to stay forever and this trip may prove too short on his return. Nicholls is confident he will win races this season but I think it will be on another day and I'm giving him a miss this time.
I am concious that my bets aren't going too well but they are limited to the two stables that we are following. Im going to give some thought as to how I can improve things and I may look at putting up some horses from other stables in addition.
Ptit Zig - 1 point win at 9/4 with 888sport
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