As if champion trainer Paul Nicholls doesn’t already hold an embarrassment of riches at his Ditcheat yard, his Ghizao catapulted himself to favouritism for the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March with an authoritative display at Newbury on Wednesday, writes Elliot Slater.
A decent novice hurdler last term, Ghizao stepped up on his chase debut when runner-up to Kilmurry in October, by returning to the same course a month later to win in decisive fashion by 10 lengths from Captain Chris. Stepping up another level for the class 3 Andover Novices’ Chase, the Tiger Hill gelding was meeting Captain Chris on 10lbs worse terms but still won with something in hand to confirm that he is definitely on the up. Nicky Henderson’s ex-French Surfing ran creditably to take third.
Bookmaker reaction to Ghizao’s success in the hands of Timmy Murphy was instant, most firms now making the six-year-old the 6/1 ante-post favourite for the Arkle, although Boylesports offer the cheltenham gold cup betting odds at the moment at 7/1. Corals were clearly the most impressed of the major players and slashed Ghizao’s Cheltenham odds to as little as 4/1!
On a day when armchair viewers and Newbury racegoers saw about 1% of the action due to an absolute ‘pea souper’ of a fog that descended on the Berkshire track, Paul Nicholls well and truly ruled the roost, sending out a 96/1 four-timer which also included the novice chase victory of Pride of Dulcote, the emergence of novice hurdle winner Rock On Ruby as another potential Nicholls star of the future, followed by an imperious performance from the mighty Big Bucks in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle, winning as he pleased to make it 10 wins in a row and cement his position as the hottest favourite of all (World Hurdle 8/13) for Cheltenham 2011.