Old Guard: achieved a high level of form over hurdles
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
By Stuart Riley 11:37AM 7 OCT 2016
EXCITEMENT brews when a horse trained by Paul Nicholls with half-decent form over hurdles makes its novice chasing debut, such is the champion trainer’s reputation over fences.
When that horse is Old Guard – who was more than half-decent, winning the Greatwood and International before finishing fourth behind Faugheen in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle – the excitement gets ratcheted up a few notches. And when as fine a judge as the ten-time champion has already made comparisons with Champion Chase winner Dodging Bullets, things reach fever pitch.
“Old Guard has been schooling well and Newton Abbot is a great place to start off,” said Nicholls. “I wanted to run him somewhere small to give him a bit of experience before looking for something bigger.”
The Nick Williams-trained After Eight Sivola achieved the most over hurdles of his four rivals in today’s Eggy Birthday Novices’ Chase at Newton Abbot, with a best Racing Post Rating of 128 – some 31lb inferior to that achieved by Old Guard.
More hopes on card for champion trainer
Later in Friday’s card, Nicholls saddles San Benedeto, two from two since switching to fences, in the £34,000 Weatherbys Racing Diaries Intermediate Chase and said: “He’s a really nice horse and this is an interesting race. Dan [Skelton] and Philip [Hobbs] both like their horses, so it’ll be a race to watch.
“San Benedeto is fresh, likes a flat track and he’s got his ground, so there’s plenty in his favour.”
Nicholls also runs another future novice chaser, Alcala, in the Weatherbys & Paul Ferguson Jumpers To Follow Handicap Hurdle.
The trainer said: “There’s a question mark over the trip but I wanted to give him one run over hurdles before putting him over fences, and the good prize-money here makes it the right place to start. All being well you’ll see him over fences next.”