Richards puts faith in Skippers Brig

Trainer hopes upstanding gelding can help turn the tide for him at Cheltenham

Nicky Richards has admitted that his relationship with Cheltenham, which many consider his sport's holy of holies, is ambivalent. It is, after all, a 500-mile round trip from his part of Cumbria to Gloucestershire, a long way to go just for the sake of it. The southbound M6 is definitely not one of the regular routes for the trainer's horseboxes.

His last winner there came more than two years ago, when Middleton Dene won a hurdle race in October 2007. The horses based at Greystoke, high above Penrith on the fringe of the Lake District, travel better north and east. In terms of numbers and percentages, Richards has an outstanding record at places like his local track Carlisle, Ayr, Kelso, Perth and over the Pennines at Catterick and Newcastle.

On Saturday, though, he is likely to send one of his most progressive chasers to Prestbury Park for a factfinding mission. Skippers Brig, a comfortable winner at Ayr last week, will face the toughest task of his upwardly-mobile career against a full field of battle-hardened rivals in the Boylesports.com Gold Cup.

The eight-year-old has tested the water at Cheltenham before, when outclassed behind Wichita Lineman in the long-distance novices hurdle at the 2007 Festival. But chasing was always going to be the gelding's game, as he has proved since with four wins from six outings on the northern circuit. Now it's time to head south again.

"He took his latest race very well, has never left a scrap of food since he ran," said Richards yesterday, "and I'm more than tempted to let him take his chance on Saturday as he's so fresh.

"I do think he's a very talented horse. Every jockey that's ever ridden him has always thought the world of him, but some mornings you see him on the gallops and think he's a big old slow devil, then you just give him a squeeze and he's suddenly working pretty impressive. "

The caveat for Saturday is the ground; Skippers Brig, who carries the colours of long-time Greystoke patron David Stevenson's Ashleybank Investments, revels in soft going and every drop of rain that falls this week will aid his cause. "The heavier the ground, the better for him," added Richards.

Skippers Brig, an ante-post 14-1 chance for the £150,000 two-and-a-half miler, will carry no more than 10st 11lb, for though the participation of one of the joint top-weights, Saturday's Warwick winner Our Vic, has yet to be decided the other, Gwanako, was confirmed yesterday as a starter. Gwanako, last seen unseating Christian Williams at Ascot last month, is the longest-priced of the three in the race from the Paul Nicholls stable. The other two, Poquelin and Chapoturgeon, second and a faller in last month's Paddy Power Gold Cup over the same course and distance, are challenging Atouchbetweenacara, trained by Tim Vaughan, for favouritism.

The Champion Hurdle is one of the few top-level blanks on Nicholls' CV and the champion trainer has never come closer to filling it than with Celestial Halo in March. The five-year-old was just pipped by Punjabi in a three-way photo and is favourite to take his revenge when the pair meet again on Saturday in the Boylesports International Hurdle.

This time Celestial Halo has race-fitness on his side; he warmed up with an impressive return to action at Wincanton last month, while Punjabi's trainer Nicky Henderson has already indicated that his charge will improve for the outing.

One of the Flat season's outstanding tees was crossed yesterday with the formal retrospective disqualification of Celebration Mile winner Delegator, robbing him and his Godolphin stable of a valuable Group 2 victory and reducing the blues' worldwide wins total for the year to 202. A prohibited substance was found in a routine sample taken from the three-year-old after the race at Goodwood in August and although no sinister motive was ascribed, his losing the race and runner-up Zacinto's promotion were inevitable.

Turf account: Sue Montgomery

Nap

Hector's House (2.20 Sedgefield) No world-beater but ran a well-regarded rival to a length in a better race two weeks ago.



Next best

Rebeccas Choice (12.50 Sedgefield) Too keen on his seasonal comeback but is on a handy mark if one of the most experienced of the young riders in today's field can keep him settled.



One to watch

Quartz de Thaix (V Williams), who showed himself a progressive novice chaser on Saturday, is one to keep on side in handicap company.



*Where the money's going

Planet of Sound, second at Ascot last month, is down to 8-1 from 14-1 for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Stan James.



*Chris McGrath's Nap

Ballybach (2.40 Fontwell).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?