Paul Nicholls is hopeful that Greaneteen can warm up for next month’s Grade One Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown Park with a good run in the Grade Two Betway Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter tomorrow (Tuesday 2nd November).
The seven year old really came of age as a chaser last season, winning the Haldon Gold Cup on his reappearance and signing off with a magnificent victory in the Grade One bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown in April, when taking the scalp of the two-time Champion Chase winner Altior.
Nicholls revealed today that he views the Betway Haldon Gold Cup as a perfect prep race for Greaneteen, who will follow a route to Sandown Park for the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase which has been previously taken by Ditcheat stars such as Kauto Star and Azertyuiop. Bryony Frost takes the ride on Greaneteen, who will be bidding to become the first back-to-back winner of the Haldon Gold Cup since Edredon Bleu in 2002 and 2003.
The 12-times champion Jump trainer said: “Greaneteen won the race last year and progressed really well through the season. He ran a great race in the Champion Chase when only beaten a couple of lengths into fourth and then went on to win a Grade One at Sandown at the end of the season.
“He’s now rated 168 which is a big difference from last year, but he’s in good shape and I’ve always used this race as a stepping stone for the Tingle Creek for my better horses. Politologue, Kauto Star and Azertyuiop all took the same route and this is a prep race for Sandown as there’s not much else you can target for that.
“I think he always needs a prep run to be seen to his best and compete at the very highest level as he’s always a bit fresh and keen first time out and a run before the Tingle Creek is perfect for him – even though he’s got to carry plenty of weight.
“To run in a Tingle Creek you’ve got to be really bang on and unlike Frodon this horse is a bit different and he really needs it. This is a limited handicap and he’s not just coming here for a run, but it’s a huge task at the weights.”
Nicholls has a strong hand for the Grade Two contest, which he has landed on a record seven occasions, and also sends out the five year old Hitman, who is part-owned by former Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson and was last when third in the Grade One Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April.
Hitman, the mount of Harry Cobden, will be in receipt of 17lbs from his stablemate tomorrow afternoon and Nicholls feels that his performance will dictate plans for the season with the son of Falco.
He said: “He’s got the right profile for this as a second season chaser and he’s getting 17lbs off Greaneteen, so it’s a nice starting point for him. He’s very fit and well and I hope he’ll run very well.
“The trip is slightly shorter tomorrow but he’s not short of speed and it’s a stiff two and a quarter miles or so at Exeter, so it’s ideal for this horse and I don’t see it being a problem. You could argue that two and a half was just far enough for him at Aintree last season but obviously he’s a bigger and stronger horse now and will get two and a half.
“There’s a big 17 lbs difference between him and the top horse so he’s going to be needing to improve to be in the mix for the Tingle Creek, but it’s certainly possible.
This has been his target since the back end of last season and it will tell us more about the season.”
The ground at Exeter is currently Good to Soft, Soft in places at the time of writing and the Clerk of the Course Dan Cooper has provided a positive update on the ground.
He said: “We’re looking lovely and it’s a beautiful day today. There could be a millimetre or two of rain tonight but there’s no threat of a downpour between now and the big race.
“We had a mighty storm yesterday and it’s been an interesting month as we’ve gone from the words ‘Good to Firm’ to ‘Good to Soft, Soft in places’ on both the chase and hurdle courses.
“It’s been an amazing month really as we’ve gone from quick ground right through to this Good to Soft ground and the Soft in places is certainly more on the hurdle course than the chase course at the moment.”
1:55pm Betway Haldon Gold Cup (Limited Handicap Chase) (Grade 2) 2m 1f 109y
1 Greaneteen (FR) 7 11 10 Chris Giles/Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost
2 Hitman (FR) 5 10 7 Mason, Hogarth, Ferguson & Done/Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden
3 Eldorado Allen (FR) ts 7 10 7 J P Romans & Terry Warner/Colin Tizzard/Brendan Powell
4 Moonlighter 8 10 4 Huw & Richard Davies & Friends Racing/Nick Williams/Tom Scudamore
5 King d'Argent (FR) 6 10 4 Andrew Dick and John Stevenson/Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton
6 Zanza (IRE) 7 10 4 Louisville Syndicate Elite/Philip Hobbs/Tom O'Brien
6 declared runners