even though many National Hunt trainers are reluctant to send their top-class horses to Ireland this caution certainly does not apply to Nicky Richards.
His top two-mile chaser Simply Ned was a close second to Min at the inaugural staging of the two-day Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
And Richards, whose late father Gordon trained the legendary One Man, will be hoping that Simply Ned can go one better in tomorrow’s Dublin Chase – provided racing in the Irish capital does not fall victim to the weather.
Richards, based in Cumbria, has grounds for optimism despite the consistent Simply Ned, owned by David and Nicky Robinson, turning 12 on New Year’s Day.
The ever-popular horse has won the last two renewals of the Grade One Paddy’s Rewards Club ‘Sugar Paddy’ Chase that Leopardstown hosts each Christmas.
“He’s there and ready for action – he’s come out of the Paddy Power race grand and everyone knows he’s a veteran now, but he’s a hardy, tough old horse,” said Richards.
“He’s done bits and bobs and we’re well happy with him – he did a nice bit of work on Saturday and we’ve sort of been sticking to the same routine with him. He’s in grand fettle and he’ll beat more than beat him as he always does.”
While Richards is not setting out his stall for the Cheltenham Festival like so many, the fact plenty of two-milers might choose to dodge Altior and run in the Ryanair Chase may see him line-up against Nicky Henderson’s superstar steeplechaser.
“He’s just the sort of horse who seems to keep his form very well in the first half of the season. Even in his younger days his form seemed to tail off in the second half and I’m not ruling out Cheltenham, but we’ll see how he is after Saturday, get that out of the way and take it from there,” said Richards.
“There’s basically only one race for him at Cheltenham and it’s a very stiff ask taking on Altior, who is as good as we’ve seen for a very long time. However, a lot of the other big guns are looking for an escape route by not taking him on in the Ryanair Chase.”
Despite his excellent record in Ireland and beating Footpad last month, Simply Ned still appears to be unheralded by some.
“I don’t know if he’s been underestimated – we don’t ever shout or brag about our horses,” added Richards.
“They do the talking and he certainly has. He’s been the most consistent animal and won twice over there and he has nothing to prove and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Meanwhile, this month’s Grand National Trial at Haydock is the likely next port of call for Welsh Grand National runner-up Ramses De Teillee.
A winner at Chepstow in early December, David Pipe’s charge returned to the Monmouthshire circuit to chase home Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Elegant Escape over Christmas.
Pipe said: “It was a great effort in the Welsh National – and we have been waiting to run him – but he wants soft ground, and there are not many races for him. He was in the Peter Marsh the other week, but we decided to wait.
“We weren’t sure if he would get the three-mile five-furlong trip in the Welsh National, but he got that well. Whether he gets the Grand National trip, no one knows.”
Ramses De Teillee could be joined at Haydock by stablemate Daklondike, who unseated there in the early stages of the Peter Marsh Chase won by Sue Smith’s Wakanda, while Pipe also provided an update on plans for his dual bumper winner Eden Du Houx.
He added: “Daklondike may go for the Grand National Trial as well at Haydock, or he could go the week later for the Eider at Newcastle. He’s quite a quirky individual, and it was frustrating what happened up at Haydock –and even more frustrating to go up 3lb.
“Eden Du Houx may go to Newbury for the Listed bumper on Betfair Hurdle day.”
Top Flat rider Oisin Murphy – who partnered the now retired Roaring Lion to big-race success last season – returns to domestic action at Lingfield today.
It follows a successful stint riding in Japan, which culminated with a stunning five-timer at Tokyo last weekend.
Yorkshire racecourses put among country’s elite: Page 3