Paul Nicholls: Media day round-up
Get an all-in-one round-up from Paul Nicholls' media day, where he gave us the latest on several members of his team.
Arpege D'Alene (right) has a firm target laid out for him at Cheltenham
The idea with (Arpege D'Alene) is to go to Ascot for the Reynoldstown and then he goes to the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival. The way he stays four miles will suit him really, really well.
My view with him has always been to go to Reynoldstown as a prep for Cheltenham, then Cheltenham and the Scottish National – almost do what we did with Vicente did last year.
One thing that this horse will do is gallop and stay for ever and he's been crying out for a real trip. That's unless it's very, very soft as he doesn't want it bottomless but the forecast now is for 10 days or so of better weather which would be handy.
Cheltenham-wise, the four-miler has been the target from the start and Will Biddick will ride.
He ran in (Game Spirit) last year but is obviously not the horse he was. Altior is the one to beat but old Dodge always runs well.
He's a funny horse because he did well over hurdles but he was never a star and the first year he went chasing he was okay, ran fourth in the Arkle, but the year after that he ended up winning those three Grade Ones, winning the Champion Chase and got to a level that he's not achieved before or since.
Sometimes horses do do that. He looks great at the moment but he's obviously not quite what he was. He'll run on Saturday because he's hard to place now and then I suspect at Cheltenham he'll end up running in the Grand Annual, dropping back to a handicap.
He runs in the bumper on Saturday. He's had two runs in bumpers. He was third on his debut at Taunton when it was a bit of a farce of a race, they sprinted literally over a furlong, then he ran at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and was only beaten a length and a half by two fillies who weren't penalised.
That was a mile six and he ran on really well that day and wants two miles which he gets on Saturday. He's by Buck's Boum who is Big Buck's full brother and a sire I like.
He'll be a great novice hurdler next season but two miles on Saturday will suit him well. He'll run well at the weekend. He's not a horse who we're really looking to going to the Cheltenham Bumper with and I suspect if he runs well this weekend, he'll be put away and go novice hurdling next year.
He's a nice young horse.
Le Mercurey is always better off in a small field on a flat track. He ran very well at Aintree before Christmas when beaten by Many Clouds. We just ran him a little bit negatively and Sean [Bowen] thought if we'd taken Many Clouds on we would have finished a lot closer to him.
He's the sort of horse who can spring a surprise. He beat Bristol De Mai at Ayr last spring with blinkers on first time and he goes well fresh. He is capable of running to a very high level and he can be a little bit in and out.
The bigger field at Ascot last time didn't suit him but a small field on Saturday, three miles and a flat track will suit him well. On form we're playing for third place money but he is capable of running above himself in a small field on a flat track.
At Cheltenham he was beaten three and a half lengths by Moon Racer and he couldn't have got in any more trouble if he tried.
It was one of those races where they all got in a muddle turning in, some went left, some went right but it was a bit of a funny result really. He got an awful run. He got blocked and stopped and the race never worked out, he ran a bit keen. He then went to Wincanton and won again and he's had a nice break since then.
He's got a mark of 136. Who knows if that's good bad or indifferent because he hasn't run since but if you've got a novice on a mark like that you'd hope to think they'll progress further than that.
It's a hard job running in a race like that for a horse like him because he hasn't got the experience and it's a good fast, furious gallop so they have to be at their very best jumping wise so you're at a disadvantage experience wise but with a horse like this who knows where he might end up.
One thing is sure, he's going to be a really smart chaser in time and we like him a lot.
Silviniaco Conti is not going make it to the Ascot Chase as he's not quite right. He is all right, though, and he will run again this season. We will possibly aim him at Aintree as he needs a bit of decent ground.
He's not easy to keep right nowadays. Next weekend will come too quick and he needs a month or two to get his condition on. He definitely wont go to Cheltenham, he will go to Aintree, if anywhere.
He'd obviously be an outsider (in the Ascot Chase) but I can just see the race cutting up. He's always been running well in all those good races. He had a breathing operation after his run before Christmas and then came back at Kempton and ran very, very well.
He always runs well and always picks up good prize money and he's in no man's land. I could run him on Saturday at Warwick in a handicap where he'd have 11-12 but you're balancing running against Grade One horses where you're badly in at the weights or running in handicaps off top-weight.
He's done well, a tough genuine horse who always gives us a bit of fun and he's worth running in those big races.
He was only beaten a length and a half by Footpad which is good form. He would have been second in the Elite Hurdle [but for falling]. He ran a good race but was just flat out all the way and just paid the price at the last. Then he was fifth at Sandown under 11-12 and wasn't beaten that far but he was nowhere near his best and he's not the biggest horse to be carrying 11-12.
He's had a nice break since then and I just think he's a horse who will be better in the spring; as the spring improves he's going to get better.
Last year he surprised us a little bit by winning the Adonis at Kempton, he was dropped right out last, they went quick and he stayed on strongly. We haven't actually ridden him like that since then and I think that's what we might have to do on Saturday.
He's crying out for a real fast run handicap where we can just drop him in a little bit.
He did a nice piece of work with Movewithetimes last week, could hardly split them, and the race might just suit him on Saturday. I know he's a lot better now than when was he went Sandown.