Bravemansgame compared to legendary Denman after Newbury success

PAUL Nicholls compared Bravemansgame to the legendary Denman after the exciting prospect landed Newbury’s Grade One Challow Hurdle.

Bravemansgame was an impressive winner of the Challow Hurdle at Newbury under Harry Cobden.

Denman, the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, is a former winner of this three mile hurdle which has produced a number of future champions.

And jockey Harry Cobden was able to dominate the race on Bravemansgame who runs in the colours of John Dance, who enjoyed so much success on the Flat with Karl Burke’s Laurens, and Bryan Drew.

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An easy winner over course and distance last time out, the five-year-old faced a different calibre of opponent this time.

This was Bravemansgame asserting in Newbury's Challow Hurdle under Harry Cobden.

But the joint-favourite was soon in an early lead – with Does He Know, who was helping to keep him honest, a casualty down the back straight when he ran out on the approach to a hurdle.

Star Gate, Evan Williams’s fellow market leader, and Alan King’s The Glancing Queen both appeared to be going well three out – but every time they looked close enough to challenge, Cobden let out a bit more rein in front.

On the approach to the last it became obvious the winner was in front, and he pulled an impressive 10 lengths clear of Star Gate.

The winner is now favourite for two of the novices hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“That is the best novice we have got. He travels, he jumps and he does everything right. He is straightforward. He is not lazy, and he just makes my job very easy,” enthused Cobden.

“To be fair we didn’t go that quick, but we quickened up well. He is probably not as slow as I thought he was.

“I wouldn’t call him an idle horse, but he doesn’t do loads in front.

“The last three he has come down to each hurdle and pricked his ears. He has come out of my hands at the second last. He gives himself a chance.

“I think he goes well left-handed. Cheltenham is obviously undulating, but all the others have got to do it as well.

“He is probably, looking at it now, my best chance of getting a winner at the Festival I would say. In the decent Graded races, and I know it’s early doors, he would be the best chance I have going into it.”

Nicholls was completing a treble on the card and needs just one more winner to reach his century for the season, before New Year’s Day.

He had not won this race since Denman almost 15 years ago. “It is hard to draw comparisons with Denman, because he was a superstar, but at the same stage of his career he is heading that way,” he added.

“I really could see him being a lovely chaser. He is a relentless galloper that jumps well and does everything nicely. He will definitely be a better chaser.

“He wasn’t cheap, but if you look at all those horses that have been winning at Leopardstown the last few days they have all cost fortunes. Tom Malone (bloodstock agent) and I liked him as an individual at the sales. He was a big, scopey chasing type of horse that I would call ‘my sort of horse’ that just needed time. He is a lovely horse.”

Meanwhile Jonjo O’Neill-trained Annie Mc ran out a convincing winner of the Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase – the feature race at Doncaster’s Christmas meeting.

Since completing a hat-trick at Bangor in February, Annie Mc has been highly-tried in the Marsh Chase, the Old Roan Chase and the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

But O’Neill spotted an opportunity for the six-year-old who duly obliged to pick up the Listed prize in the hands of Richie McLernon.

While Annie Mc’s long-term future is as a broodmare, O’Neill sees no reason to retire her just yet. “I hadn’t planned on it being her last season. She wants to race – and while she is in good form, we will drive on,” he said.

“You would have to think about the new mares’ race at Cheltenham as a target now if the ground was right.”

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