By Graham Clark
Paul Nicholls showered Greaneteen with plenty of praise following his “amazing performance” in the Betway Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter today before issuing a “bring it on” call to those willing to take him on in next month’s Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown Park.
The Ditcheat handler likened the eight year-old’s victory in the feature Grade Two contest at the Devon track off a mark of 168 to that of the mighty Denman, who from a figure of 174 carried 11st 12lbs to glory in the 2009 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
Having claimed the extended two mile one prize off 17lbs lower in 2020, the Great Pretender gelding could finish fourth in the race 12 months ago off his current mark, but there was to be no repeat of that performance as he turned in a dynamic display today.
Sent straight into the lead, the 7-2 chance attacked every fence with plenty of zest in what was an almost flawless display of jumping from the triple Grade One scorer to form the highlight of a 10.4-1 treble together for Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden.
The Joe Tizzard-trained War Lord was the first to feel the pinch with the seven year old feeling the pinch rounding the home turn, and with Us And Them already out of the race, it soon become a three way battle for victory.
That number dwindled to two with 7-5 Favourite Third Time Lucki making a serious error that cost him all chance of victory leaving just Nicholls’ other runner, Dolos, to challenge Greaneteen.
Try as he might Dolos could not close the gap on his higher rated stablemate with seven lengths splitting the pair at the line to earn the winner what Nicholls believes is the credit he finally deserves.
Harry Cobden, above, and Paul Nicholls, below give Steawrt Machin their verdicts
Nicholls, celebrating a record-extending eighth Haldon Gold Cup victory, said: “I’m half not surprised as I had said in the paper that he has been working better than ever and he seems stronger than ever. We were very happy with him and he was very fit.
“Last year I had problems with him and I didn’t have him ready and I knew I had to use this as a prep for the Tingle Creek. Today, if we were coming here, we were going to have him ready, and he was.
“I said to Harry if there is no pace just jump off and go a good gallop as all he does is stay. That was a great weight carrying performance. Dolos has run a blinder as he was ready for his life but he is not the level of the winner.
“When he winged the third last he just kept on galloping. That was a seriously good performance and puts him right up there. He has never really had the credit he deserves.
“I honestly believed he would win today as I had seen a lot at home. He went to Lambourn the other day with Frodon to do a piece of work and Frodon was still finishing when he had finished.
“Bryony said to me ‘I’m not sure Frodon is quite as good as he was, but I said ‘the other horse might just be very good and you have come up against a good one. It was probably the best he has ever worked and Harry couldn’t stop talking about it.
“Off 168 it is amazing performance in a handicap. Denman won what was the Hennessy of 174 and that is nearly up there with that. I had one bet today and that was him.”
Following the race Greaneteen was trimmed from 5-1 into 3-1 for the defence of his Betfair Tingle Creek Chase crown at Sandown Park on December 3rd with the race sponsor and Paddy Power.
Nicholls added: “He will go straight to the Tingle Creek now then we might go Champion Chase then on to Sandown (Celebration Chase).
“He was only beaten two lengths in it (Champion Chase) and he is twice the horse he was two years ago.
“Whether Shishkin goes to the Tingle Creek you can never be too bothered about one horse and Willie has a smart two-miler. This horse loves Sandown so bring it on.”
Like Nicholls, winning rider Cobden he was equally taken by the performance.
Cobden said: “I’m delighted. Me and Lorcan (Williams, on Dolos) had a good chat beforehand on what plan we were going to make as there was no speed in the race. He is a fair horse.
“He is not a big horse either and that was plenty of weight but he stays well. I probably should have gone quicker earlier on. He is just a good horse.
“Last night I was thinking he could do it as we took him away for a gallop and he set the back of the hill alight in Lambourn.
“Twelve months ago he wasn’t fit and it was Hitman’s race to have but he got chinned up the run in by Eldorado Allen. He has been trained differently. This is a good pot as that is £80,000 in the bag before the Tingle Creek.
“It is good to win and to have three winners on a day like today is fantastic.”
Trainer Philip Hobbs gave Grade One-winning hurdler Thyme Hill a mark of “eight and a half” out of ten following his decisive success on his debut over fences in the Betway ‘Future Stars’ Silver Bowl Novices’ Chase at Exeter today.
The eight year old demonstrated that he could easily be as good over fences as he was hurdles when making his first outing over fences a triumphant one in the three mile contest, which was won in 2015 by subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River.
Stalking his two rivals for much of the race the 1-2 Favourite gave his supporters a moment of worry when parting the birch at the fifth last, however the market leader was soon back on the bridle under Tom O’Brien to mount his challenge.
Moving on with eventual runner-up Flash Collonges rounding the final bend, Thyme Hill, who landed the Grade One Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2021, soon found himself out in front after jumping the first two fences in the home straight.
Despite getting the last wrong it failed to halt the momentum of the Kayf Tara gelding, who passed the post 17 lengths clear of Flash Collonges.
Hobbs said: “I’m delighted and very pleased. The ditch down the far side he slipped a bit. The last fence he was probably in front too long but overall it was very good.
“He was a little bit green to start with and jumped a bit big but those are the sort of things you come to expect. He will learn a lot from it.
“He will be a bit more streetwise next time. He (Tom O’Brien) was delighted in every way and thought he will have learnt from the experience and we will go from there.
“You are bound to (feel pressure) as we were nearly going to go novice chasing last season but we thought we could win the Stayers’ Hurdle but we were second in that.
“He schooled over fences first time two years ago so we have been thinking about it for a long time but since he was so good over hurdles we went for longer than maybe we should have done.
“We’ve had a good start so hopefully we can go on to better things. I’d say that performance was eight and a half out of 10.”
Thyme Hill, who filled the runner-up spot in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, was trimmed into 12-1 from 16-1 by the same firm for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at next year’s Festival following today’s success.
Although not ruling out an outing in the Grade One Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, the Minehead handler admitted he would prefer to find an option at a lower level first.
He said: “Now he has done that today we can work back from Cheltenham in March and go from there. There will be options but where we go next I’m not sure.
“It would be nice to go to Cheltenham to get an experience over fences there and he is ready to do that after today.
“It (the Kauto Star) would be one to look at but we are early November already and if he was to go there he would nearly have to go straight there. I think I’d rather go somewhere where there are less runners.”
Equally delighted with the display was winning rider O’Brien.
O’Brien said: “He showed great scope and a good liking for chasing so roll on the next day. He put down at the last but he was coming out of my hands everywhere else. I just made his mind up for him at the last and he got me out of trouble.
“I love the scope he had. When he was at home he was just ballooning them a bit but he was different on the track.
“One click and he was gone coming for home. My plan was to have company but one click and he was gone.”
The victory was the first leg of an 11-1 a double for winning trainer Hobbs after Masters Legacy (7-1) edged out Sizeable Sam by a neck in the Betway ‘Challenger’ Stayers’ Handicap Chase under Micheal Nolan.
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and fellow owner Ged Mason celebrated a winner 24 hours after touching down from a trip to watch the Melbourne Cup in Australia when Outlaw Pete landed the opening Betway Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter today.
Having finished fourth in the extended two miles and five furlongs contest 12 months ago the six year old gelding, who is also part-owned by Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench and The Stewart Family, made light work of his rivals to bounce back to winning ways.
The 4-7 Favourite, who filled the runner’s-up spot in the Grade Two Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow last time out, made the most of a drop in class when coasting to glory by 19 lengths to initiate doubles for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden.
Nicholls said: “He is a nice horse that is improving. He has needed all the time that he has had. I was toying with the idea of upping him grade at Cheltenham next week but I wanted to give him one more confidence-boosting run then step him up in grade.
“There are some good races for him. He had a breathing issue after the race last year which we have now sorted out. He was probably a bit short that day (at Chepstow) and we just rushed him a bit.
“He looked like winning but he blew up jumping the last so we knew he would improve today. The big thing is he is relaxing a bit. He will be a super chaser next season.
“He might win a nice graded race over hurdle. He could be good enough for the Challow Hurdle (at Newbury).”
Lallygag might have a way to go to match the exploits of his Grade One-winning brother Lalor, however owner David Staddon believes there could be a “nice prize” in him following his success in the Extra Places Every Day at Betway Novices’ Hurdle.
After opening his account at the Devon track 17 days ago, the gelded son of It’s Gino made all for a facile nine and a half-length success in the extended two mile one contest to complete quick-fire doubles for Nicholls and Cobden.
Staddon said of the successful 8-13 Favourite: “You never know what can happen with horses. You fancy them as favourite then something goes and happens but he didn’t give me a minute’s concern at all.
“He hasn’t quite got the same frame as Lalor as he is not quite so big but he might grow a bit more as he is only five. He is a nice horse and I’m happy with him.
“I think he is more of a hurdler than a chaser but I dare say we will go chasing with him. There could be a nice prize over hurdles. Something like the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury could be for him.
“We ran Lalor in that (Betfair Hurdle) but the day we ran him it was ankle deep in mud and he said I ain’t going no more in that!
“It is nice having a horse with a record like this as it can’t get much better than what it is.”
The Height Of Fame (7-2 Favourite) continued her transition from being a “nightmare” to a real money spinner after completing a four-timer for the campaign when fulfilling trainer Keiran Burke’s long term plan in the Betway ‘Challenger’ Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
After dead-heating with stablemate Maroochi at Newton Abbot last time out the improving daughter of Fame And Glory secured victory in her own right when staying on well to score by a length and a half under Gavin Sheehan - much to the delight of Burke.
He said: “She was so backward as a youngster in every way shape and form. She was a nightmare to be honest with you.
“Her jumping was awful and she was one of the most embarrassing horses I’ve sent out and the owners said exactly the same.
“As time has gone on she has got better and better and I think it was just confidence with her. The cheekpieces just help her concentrate. It has just come together and she has probably got herself handicapped by running so terribly.
“She has improved again there. That was the plan and we have done that so we will sit back and see. If you told me last year we would have a four-timer with you I would have said you were mad.”
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