04 November 2023

Bravemansgame still on course to defend King George crown

04 November 2023

Paul Nicholls remains confident Bravemansgame will put up a staunch defence of his King George crown despite suffering defeat in his bid for back-to-back victories in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.

Britain’s leading staying chaser was a comfortable winner at Wetherby 12 months ago before trouncing his rivals in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

He went on to finish second to Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and third in the Punchestown Gold Cup and was slightly odds-on at 10-11 to make a successful reappearance in the hands of Harry Cobden.

With Ahoy Senor faltering, Bravemansgame took over the running heading out onto the second circuit and some prodigious leaps in the back straight looked set to propel him to another big-race success.

He appeared to be getting the better of the Mouse Morris-trained Irish raider Gentlemansgame all the way up the home straight, but a bad mistake at the final fence took the wind out of his sails and his race-fit rival took full advantage, getting on top to prevail by a length and three-quarters.

Coral eased Bravemansgame to 2-1 from 7-4 to provide Nicholls with a 14th King George win over the festive period, but the Ditcheat handler is defiant.

He said: “I was pleased with him, he just got a bit tired on the ground and the other horse had obviously had a run.

“This time last year, you’d get away with horses needing the run a little bit on better ground, on this ground you don’t.

He'll take a step forward and the King George will be a different ballgame

“He’s not been away, he’s not had a gallop anywhere. He’s done exactly as he did last year, he’ll take a step forward and the King George will be a different ballgame.

“We always almost expect too much first time out. Everything that we’ve run first time out on that ground has just taken a bit of a blow. If it had been good ground like last year, it wouldn’t have happened.

“Harry said he missed the last and just went for his girths. We’ve given the winner 6lb, our targets are the King George and the Gold Cup and it hasn’t made any difference to how he’ll run in the King George at all.

“That is as deep a ground as we’d run him on and Harry just said fitness caught him out on the day. We don’t like losing, but he’s run very well.”

Ahoy Senor finished last of five as a hot favourite for last year’s Charlie Hall and again disappointed, this time being pulled up by Derek Fox.

Lucinda Russell’s eight-year-old will be given the opportunity to bounce back at Newbury on December 2.

Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant, said: “Derek said he was tired. I wish he’d run better, but he’ll go to the Coral Gold Cup.”

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