Nicholls eyes Doncaster hat-trick

PAUL Nicholls is planning to fire a twin assault at the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

Warriors Tale, right, was narrowly beaten in last year's Sky Bet Chase by Wakanda (second left) who was powered to victory by Henry Brooke.
Warriors Tale, right, was narrowly beaten in last year's Sky Bet Chase by Wakanda (second left) who was powered to victory by Henry Brooke.

The 10-times champion trainer has saddled two previous winners of the prestigious handicap – formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase – with Colourful Life scoring in 2005 and Big Fella Thanks triumphing in 2009.

Nicholls came mighty close to adding to his tally 12 months ago, with Warriors Tale beaten just a head into second by the Sue Smith-trained Wakanda who returned to winning ways when landing Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase last Saturday.

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However the resurgent Nicholls says Warriors Tale, now owned by Trevor Hemmings, is set to return to Town Moor this weekend in a bid to go one better.

Nicholls also has Art Mauresque and Favorito Buck’s entered.

However, with both horses owned by Mrs Johnny de la Hey, only one is likely to line up.

“I suspect if Art Mauresque runs then Favorito Buck’s will wait,” added Nicholls.

“Warriors Tale was beaten a short-head last year and loves good ground.

“I suspect those two (Art Mauresque and Warriors Tale) will run.”

Meanwhile Arkle Trophy favourite Lalor is the star name among 10 entries for the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase, one of the Sky Bet Chase’s chief supporting contests.

Kayley Woollacott’s stable star made a sparkling debut over fences at Cheltenham in November, but he could finish only third behind the Harry Cobden-inspired Dynamite Dollars in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown on his next start.

Lalor could renew rivalry with his Sandown conqueror Dynamite Dollars, trained by the aforementioned Nicholls.

Other hopefuls for the Grade Two contest include Alan King’s Ballywood, the Mick Channon-trained Glen Forsa and Knocknanuss from Gary Moore’s yard.

The only Irish-trained contender is Denis Hogan’s mare Moyhenna, who has finished second on each of her two starts over fences to date behind two high-class Willie Mullins inmates in Camelia De Cotte and Pravalaguna.

Hogan, who also entered the hat-trick seeking Moskovite in the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle, said: “They are just speculative entries at this stage. I saw the races were reopened so we’ve put them in and we’ll have a look.”

Others in contention for the mares’ race include North Yorkshire famer Peter Atkinson’s Irish Roe, runner-up to Maria’s Benefit to last year, and Phil Kirby’s star mare Lady Buttons.

However Catterick-based Kirby says Lady Buttons is more likely to remain over fences in a Listed chase at Huntingdon on Friday.

Kirby said: “The plan is to go to Huntingdon at this stage. I put her in at Doncaster as there were only five in on Monday and the top-rated wasn’t very high.”

Fergal O’Brien will assess ground conditions before deciding which of Coolanly and Aye Aye Charlie runs in the River Don Novices’ Hurdle.

Coolanly won a Grade Two at Cheltenham in November before finishing fifth in the Challow Hurdle behind Champ.

Aye Aye Charlie also has the option of taking on more established hurdlers in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham which is headed by the Sue Smith-trained Midnight Shadow.

Today’s meeting at Catterick is subject to an inspection at 8am due to the threat of frost. Ground conditions were described as good, good to firm in places.