Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 22 February 2018

Master Minded emerges as 'new' threat to Long Run

Chris McGrath

paul nicholls has been wondering where he might find a horse to tackle Long Run, now that the new champion has deposed his stalwarts, Kauto Star and Denman. To judge from events here yesterday, he has had one all along.

Master Minded, whose defeat at Cheltenham last month implied that he might himself be past his best, produced one of the finest performances of his career when tried over two and a half miles in the John Smith's Melling Chase, always coasting and easing nine lengths clear of Alberta's Run.

Nicholls reproached himself for persevering over two miles with Master Minded at Cheltenham. "He was flat to the boards all the way, and made that horrible mistake two out because he was trying to keep up," the trainer said. "It's clear that he needs this longer distance now and we now have a new horse to take on Long Run."

Next season Master Minded will be aimed at the King George VI Chase at Kempton, a race won four times prior to Long Run's emergence by Kauto Star. "Kauto has got the video and the t-shirt," Nicholls said. "Now it's Master Minded's turn."

Clive Smith, who owns both horses, is not yet entertaining the possibility that Kauto Star and Master Minded could end up in the same race. "You never know," he said. "We will have to see how Kauto Star runs at Punchestown next month, but the first time he runs a bad race he'll be retired."

Nicholls has almost certainly sealed his sixth consecutive trainers' championship this week, regardless of his quest for a first win in the big race today. But he will be reluctant to count any chickens after seeing Mon Parrain looking home and hosed in the John Smith's Topham Chase over the National fences, only to be reeled in late by Always Waining.

The winner, trained by Peter Bowen, was emulating his success in the same race last year and only just missed the cut for the National. Another Welsh horse, Saint Are, gave Tim Vaughan the biggest moment of his career so far in the John Smith's Sefton Hurdle, while Paul Nolan's Quito De La Roque overcame the drying ground under Davy Russell to thwart a 50/1 shot, Sarando, by over a neck in the novice chase.

"He's tough work and an idle old devil, but every time I ask him, he almost tries too hard," said Russell afterwards.

"When I gave him a squeeze to jump, he over-jumps like he did at the second-last but he landed and gathered himself together."

Murphy added: "He's a big, raw horse and we weren't sure about the undulations of Cheltenham so we came here instead. I'm not sure where we'll go next with him, but he's one to look forward to for next year. We'll dream away for the summer."

Barry Geraghty, who was handed the ride on David Pipe's Or Noir De Somoza in the National following an injury to Tom Scudamore, produced a flawless performance on Battle Group to take the John Smith Handicap Hurdle, while Daryl Jacob book-ended the day with wins on Topolski and Tempest River -- the former denying a brave challenge from the Sean Byrne-trained Oilily. ( ©Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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