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"Very good horse" Stage Star primed for Newbury

Wed 23 Nov 2022

Connections hope they have found the key to Stage Star after two lacklustre displays to end last season.

The six-year-old returns to the scene of his Challow Hurdle success last December when he has a second start over fences in the Coral Racing Club Novices’ Chase at Newbury on Friday.

Having made a successful chasing debut at Warwick at the start of the month, the Paul Nicholls trainee steps into Grade Two company for the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

Dan Downie, racing manager to the Owners Group syndicate, believes a couple of sub-par displays in the Ballymore at Cheltenham and the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree are now well behind him.

“After Warwick it was a tentative plan to go to Newbury,” said Downie. “We’re happy with him and he has come out of the race really well.

“We know Newbury is a track he likes and operates on, so we’d be hopeful he will get there and run well.

“Ground-wise, good to soft will be fine. He handles most ground and wouldn’t want extremes.

“But he is pretty versatile. You wouldn’t run on pretty quick ground and wouldn’t want a slog on very heavy ground, but I would have thought the ground won’t be either of those.”

Stage Star could take on the likes of Wincanton’s ‘Rising Stars’ runner-up Mortlach and Listed Chepstow scorer Sebastopol, who are among the nine potential runners. Downie insists it will be a good barometer for the future after lowering the colours of well-regarded West Cork and Skytastic on his chasing bow.

He said: “This is a good test as, on paper, that looked like a good novice chase at Warwick, but this is going to tell us a lot more.

“He had treatment for stomach ulcers and various things over the summer and he had a wind operation, and it is hard to know which of those it was to account for his bad performances in the spring. Maybe it was both, I don’t know.

“But if he is in good form, he is a very good horse.”

Comparisons to Bravemansgame, who similarly won the Challow Hurdle for Nicholls and went on to win his first four chase starts last season, are obvious.

Downie added: “We’ve always felt he would be better over fences and Paul has always had him a year behind Bravemansgame in a way, following him. I’m not saying he is as good as that, but we always thought he would be a chaser.

“I’ve no idea if he will follow the Bravemansgame route – that’s up to Paul – but stepping him up in trip would be interesting in time as well.

“I think he has got everything there and he is a horse, clearly, when he is on the top of his game, he is quite hard to beat, but you go there knowing it is a very, very tough assignment for him.”

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