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Noble gets Nicky's vote

Noble Alan is capable of running a big race in the Vote A.P. Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday -- according to Nicky Richards.

The 2009 Scottish Champion Hurdle winner has taken to fences well and beat Kalahari King at Kelso in November.

He was third on his last start at Ascot where a mistake at the second-last fence cost him valuable ground.

"Turning in it looked like he was going to take a big part in the finish," said Richards.

"The winner (Woolcombe Folly) came round the outside and while Brian (Harding) did exactly what we told him to do, I might have been better off just leaving it up to him.

"He hit the second-last just as they were quickening up and that cost him a few lengths.



Surprised

"The plan is to run him in the big race if the ground is good off just 10st 6lb.

"You've got to put them in the deep end sometime and you may as well find out in a £150,000 race.

"It will be interesting to see if he'll get the trip but everything points to that he might do.

"Skippers Brig finished third last year and this lad would have a bit more class than him.

"There's one thing, I'll be surprised if anything travels better than Noble Alan in the first two-thirds of the race, it's the last half-mile that will be interesting.

"We've been taking the horses to the beach keeping them fit, trying to work in between the tides.

"The lads are working very hard, as they will be in every yard, and they are certainly earning their money."

Richards also revealed his belief that Skippers Brig is highly unlikely to return to action at Cheltenham this weekend.



Doubtful

The nine-year-old was last seen finishing third in the Boylesports Gold Cup 12 months ago and held three entries over the two-day meeting.

However, even if the fixture survives the weather, Richards believes the ground will be too quick for his charge.

"He's very doubtful to run because he wants soft ground," said the Greystoke handler. "They are calling it good ground down there.

"The plan is to run him in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown over Christmas but I'll need a race before that, or at least a racecourse gallop.

"He might go to Haydock for the Tommy Whittle or he'll have another gallop somewhere, he's already had one at Aintree.

"He's very well in himself. He may be just about to turn 10 but he's got very few miles on the clock and we're nowhere near the bottom of him.

"I'm sure he'd run a very competitive race if we get him to Ireland."


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