Racing: Paul Nicholls sure Unioniste can come of age

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PAUL Nicholls believes Unioniste can become the youngest horse to win the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup at Cheltenham today after being a late addition to the field.

The four-year-old was only first reserve for the big handicap chase at the 48-hour final declaration stage and needed one horse to be taken out before yesterday’s 9am deadline. North Yorkshire trainer Ferdy Murphy came to the Ditcheat team’s rescue when he withdrew Divers, who will run at Doncaster instead, which was his first preference. Conditional Harry Derham takes the ride and can claim 5lb, leaving Unioniste to shoulder just 9st 9lb.

“Ferdy was very helpful and we had a fair idea that we might get in,” said Nicholls. “I thought it was a really good performance the last day. He’s got a nice, light weight. I’m not worried about him being a four-year-old – another four-year-old of mine hacked up in a handicap chase at Newbury the other week. If you saw him jumping at home, you would think he was an eight-year-old. He’s got plenty of experience.”

Nicholls is also represented by Cristal Bonus, who made a successful reappearance in the Grade Two Ladbrokes Chase at Down Royal six weeks ago.

Alan King has high hopes for Walkon, who was runner-up to Al Ferof in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on the Old Course at Cheltenham four weeks ago. “He did not lose much weight for his Paddy Power run, and there was 12 lengths back to the third, so I have no complaints about going up 5lb, and if he is in the same sort of form, he is the one they all have to beat,” the Barbury Castle trainer said.

Nicky Henderson is double-handed with last year’s winner Quantitativeeasing and Nadiya De La Vega, who was third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Wolverhampton stage a mammoth 14-race afternoon and evening extravaganza and Infortual is the pick of the later action.

Meanwhile, racegoers will be hoping the weather won’t spoil an early Christmas present being offered by Musselburgh tomorrow when it’s free entry for all.

The East Lothian course will conduct a 3pm inspection today but with forecasters predicting wind, rain and milder weather over the weekend it’s hopeful racing will go ahead.

Racing kicks off at 12.20 with a maiden hurdle which Langholm trainer James Ewart will fancy his chances of winning with Lord Wishes. Ewart regards this youngster as one of the best horses in his care and though beaten over hurdles at Newcastle on his hurdling debut, Lord Wishes was unsuited by the very heavy ground at Newcastle and can gain compensation. Ewart can complete a quick double in the Novices’ Chase at 1.50 with Civil Unrest.



12.10 Tidal Way

12.45 Highland Lodge

1.20 Oh Crick

1.55 Coneygree

2.30 Unioniste (nap)

3.05 Zarkandar

3.40 Oscar Whisky


11.55 Simonside

12.25 Mr Puck

1.00 Molotof

1.35 Robbie

2.10 Easter Meteor

2.45 Vasco Du Ronceray

3.20 De Boitron


12.00 Bladoun

12.35 Spear Thistle

1.10 Ya Hafed

1.45 Court In Motion

2.20 Lamps

2.55 Rigadin De Beauchene

3.30 Westerly Breeze


2.05 Lindoro

2.40 Classy Trick

3.15 Bold Marc

3.50 Ofcoursewecan

4.20 Shirazz

4.50 Dazzling Valentine

5.20 Idol Deputy

6.20 Saga Lout

6.50 El Bravo

7.20 Rakticate

7.50 Infortual

8.20 On The Hoof

8.50 Mount Hollow

9.20 Above

The Stars

Saturday Yankee


2:30 Cheltenham


3:05 Zarkandar


2:20 Lingfield


7:50 Wolverhampton



12.20 Lord

Wishes (nap)

12.50 Angel Sun

1.20 Imperial Vic

1.50 Wild Geese

2.20 Docs Legacy

2.50 Monarch’s Way

3.20 Present Lodger


12.30 Beauboreen

1.00 Tipsy Dara

1.30 Rocking Blues

2.00 Overquest

2.30 Dizzy River

3.00 Poole Master

3.30 Goodacres Garden


12.40 Atriptomilan

1.10 Emerging Artist

1.40 Oscar Hill

2.10 No No Bingo

2.40 Tigresse Bleue

3.10 Royale Knight

3.40 Barton Gift


Lord Wishes

12:20 Musselburgh

Dizzy River

2:30 Carlisle