Racing: Duke stages one last sortie with Castle

THE TRAINER David Nicholson failed to reach 1,500 winners when his two runners were beaten at Plumpton yesterday, but will try again with Castle Owen at Market Rasen today.

Nicholson, who hands over the reins at Jackdaws Castle to Alan King tomorrow, ran Perk Alert, last of eight finishers in the Nabarro Bryant Novices' Hurdle and Pennybridge, who fell at the 10th in the Gerling At Lloyds Handicap Chase.

Nicholson said: "I shall be keeping busy, buying horses and such like. I'll make sure that I watch racing every day. I shall help Alan as much as I can and not hinder him. My best memory would be having three winners in a day at Cheltenham and Charter Party's win in the Gold Cup."

Last year's winner Northern Starlight is one of seven possible runners for Martin Pipe after 33 entries were revealed yesterday for the Tripleprint Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday week. Northern Starlight has 11st 1lb in the two-mile-five-furlong event, in which Mulligan has top-weight of 12st. Murphy's Gold Cup winner The Outback Way has 11st9lb. His trainer Venetia Williams has also entered First National Bank Chase winner Nordance Prince (10st13lb).

Ireland's sole entry is the Noel Meade-trained Native Estates (10st5lb). Also among the entries is the Ted Stanners-trained Dawn Leader (10st11lb), who runs in the colours of Tripleprint chairman George Ward. Ward said: "Our first aim was to get him in the handicap. At he moment he is sound and squealing and if we can get him there he will run. We would have liked Brendan Powell to take the mount but, of course he is still recovering from injury, so we will take the best available."

Ever Blessed is the 5-1 ante-post favourite with Coral for the Welsh National following his victory in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup. However, the seven-year-old is not a certain starter for the three-mile-five-and- a-half-furlong handicap chase at Chepstow on December 28. Trainer Mark Pitman said yesterday: "There are several options. We are in no rush to decide what we go for."

Ever Blessed has 11st 3lb in the stamina test, having been raised 19lb for his three-and-a-half length victory over Spendid at Newbury on Saturday.

Fiddling The Facts was third to Ever Blessed in the Hennessy and is 9lb better off for eight-and-a-half-lengths. Fiddling the Facts was beaten half-a-length by Kendal Cavalier in the Chepstow race last year and has 11st 3lb. Kendal Cavalier, 13lb out of the handicap when winning the race last December, has 10st 9lb this time.

WELSH NATIONAL: Coral: 5-1 Ever Blessed, 7-1 Fiddling The Facts, 8-1 Young Kenny, 9-1 Hollybank Buck, 14-1 Earthmover, Edmond, Esprit De Cotte, 16-1 Sweet Lord, The Last Fling, Him Of Praise, Kendal Cavalier, Star Traveller, 20-1 Rash Remark, Callisoe Bay, Feels Like Gold, 25-1 Jocks Cross, Flaked Oats, Forest Ivory, Call It A Day, Caroles Crusader, Earth Summit, Baronet, 33-1 others. William Hill: 7-1 Ever Blessed, Fiddling The Facts, 8-1 Young Kenny, 12-1 Hollybank Buck, The Grey Monk, 14-1 Esprit De Cotte, Feels Like Gold, Him Of Praise, Kendal Cavalier, Sparkling Cone, Star Traveller, 16-1 others.

n Russell Price has been stood down for 21 days after being knocked unconscious in a fall at Wolverhampton yesterday.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: No More Hassle

(Market Rasen 2.25)

NB: Dabarpour

(Wincanton 1.10)

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