Horse Racing: Paul Nicholls sends strong signal after sparkling weekend

It's business as usual at Ditcheat Stables.



*Some Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing / Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you will lose your stake under traditional Antepost rules.

The 2020/21 National Hunt season stepped up a gear over the weekend with a high-quality fixture at Chepstow, one that was ultimately dominated by Paul Nicholls, who kicked off his bid to regain the trainers’ championship from Nicky Henderson in great style.

Nicholls saddled eight winners across the two-day meeting – four on Friday and four on Saturday – and was also among the winners at Newton Abbot on Sunday. Fergal O’Brien had held the lead in the trainers’ championship before the weekend, but Nicholls’ flurry of winners has seen him quickly sweep past, holding an advantage at this very early stage that he’ll be determined to maintain in the weeks and months ahead.

One horse who could help him do just that is McFabulous (h147p), who barely came off the bridle when completing a hat-trick in Friday’s Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow. He’ll be well worth his place in a higher grade on his next start and must be considered one of the most promising young horses in Britain – it’s possible he could go right to the very top once sent chasing.

Thunder Moon still major player for the 2,000 Guineas

St Mark’s Basilica (Timeform rating 122p) has clearly been held in high regard by his connections – he was sent off favourite for the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes when still a maiden – and he finally showed us all why with a very smart performance to win Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, sticking to his task well to beat stablemate Wembley by three quarters of a length.

That victory means he is entitled to be at the head of the ante-post betting for next season’s 2000 Guineas, though a rematch with the placed horses and some of those who finished further down the field will be something to savour.

They include Thunder Moon (118p), who shaped a bit better than the bare result back in third. Again impressing with how he went through the race, he made his effort earlier than the other principals on the outside and then tired late on in the conditions, the scenario rather different to when running out a decisive winner of the National Stakes at the Curragh on his previous start.

It’s worth remembering that he had both Wembley (runner-up) and St Mark’s Basilica (third) behind him on that occasion. He remains open to more improvement and is likely to make a leading miler next spring. Future racing quotes for next May’s 2,000 Guineas look very fair.

Oisin Murphy Ascot October 2020

Jockeys title a thriller in strange campaign

The jockeys’ championship could yet go down to the wire in both Britain and Ireland, with less than four weeks of action still to go. Admittedly, Oisin Murphy (120) holds a fairly healthy advantage over William Buick (108) in Britain, but it’s a much closer run thing across the Irish Sea, where Colin Keane currently leads Shane Foley by 80 winners to 76.

There was a particularly interesting development in Ireland over the weekend, with Keane riding his first winner for Aidan O’Brien at the Curragh on Sunday. There were mitigating circumstances for the booking – Ballydoyle’s regular riders Seamie Heffernan (suspended) and Wayne Lordan (injured) were both out of action – but any additional support from Ireland’s most powerful stable in the coming weeks would clearly be a big boost to Keane, who has already ridden nine winners in October to Foley’s four.

By contrast, the momentum in Britain seems to be with the chasing Buick, who has ridden 16 winners in the last 14 days. Murphy’s total during the same period stands at 10, so it will be interesting to see whether Buick can close the gap any further ahead of what promises to be a fascinating conclusion to the most unusual of seasons.


*Some Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing / Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you will lose your stake under traditional Antepost rules.

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