Nicholls bags big two at November Sale.
Two four-year-old Irish point-to-pointers who topped yesterday's Tattersalls Ireland November Sale at Cheltenham will be going into training with Paul Nicholls.
The former champion trainer brought the hammer down for Grey Getaway with a bid of £190,000, and within 10 minutes bloodstock agent Tom Malone spent the same sum on Muckamore, before revealing the gelding would also be heading to Nicholls' Somerset yard.
Racegoers packed into the Tattersalls pavilion after racing to witness the auction, which turned over more than £3m in just over two hours of selling. Of the 44 lots offered 40 found a home, creating an average price of £77,375.
Sales at Cheltenham are predominantly about young horses, of which the majority have run one or two times in Irish point-to-points as a way of advertising their ability to gallop and jump. Ironically the two horses who headed the sale were both beaten into second on their racing debuts, but were adjudged to be full of potential by their buyers.
Muckamore, whose family members include the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle winner Jezki, finished second of nine runners at Loughanmore on Saturday, beaten four lengths by Beyond Redemption - the last-named gelding was also offered for sale and made £140,000.
Grey Getaway, a relative of G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup winner See More Business - who was trained by Nicholls - finished second at Dromahane on Sunday behind Wherewouldugetit. The last-named had walked the ring earlier in the session and made £90,000 to a bid from trainer Andrew McNamara.
Cheltenham Racecourse chairman Robert Waley-Cohen saw his colours carried to victory during the afternoon's racing when The Young Master won the opening amateur riders' chase. Last night the chairman became a buyer when bloodstock agent David Minton, acting on his behalf, paid £180,000 for the mare Elusive Belle, who had been placed in two bumpers for Peter Fahey's stable.
Minton said: "She has shown ability and is ready to go novice hurdling for Robert. She will go into training with Nicky Henderson. She's got size, scope and a pedigree."
Other well-known buyers at the sale included Colin Tizzard, who bought four-year-old Irish pointer Bold Conduct with a bid of £150,000, while jockey Robbie Power, who is riding at The November Meeting, took on the role of vendor when another pointer, Picanha, entered the ring.
Power and his cousin, Andrew Latta, bought the gelding last year for €24,000 before he had been broken in. They gave him an education, got him fit, and then ran him in a point-to-point which he won. Last night his value leapt up to £110,000 when he sold to Malone, who said: "I bought him on spec, and have just sold him to owners Liz Prowting and Hannah Bishop, who will put him into training with Richard Phillips."
MISTER COULD BE MASTER FOR THE PRESS
Cheltenham was bathed in sunshine at noon today, but for stay-at-home punters who will watch the action on television there is a feast of coverage to peruse in the day's press.
Finding the winner of the feature event, the BetVictor Gold Cup, has clearly been testing tipsters, but they are not as one. Eighteen-runner handicaps tend to attract a variety of opinions
Benatar, whose photo adorns The Sun's racing pullout cover, has been declared a non-runner, but the paper's readers are given a strong steer towards Mister Whitaker, who is trained by Mick Channon. Tipster Steve Mullen advises readers to, "Take the Mick in the BetVictor Gold Cup."
David Yates, Newsboy of the Daily Mirror, interviews Channon, a Flat trainer, who says of his handful of jumpers: "We only mess around at it, but when you get a good one it does concentrate your mind." 'Channon eyes gold with mighty Mister' is a headline in The Daily Telegraph.
Mister Whitaker headed Rather Be when the pair were first and second in last season's Close Brothers Novices' Chase at The Festival, but the Racing Post's cover headline suggests the placings could be reversed today. It declares 'There's no place we'd Rather Be', a tip for the Nicky Henderson-trained runner who is ridden by Jerry McGrath. Rather Be is napped by Chris Cook of The Guardian, and McGrath will be hoping he is right, for the jockey tells the Racing Post's Lewis Porteous: "To this day I can't let Cheltenham in March go. I can't get over how he got beat that day."
McGrath has a chance to bury the memory because Henderson's stable jockey, Nico De Boinville, is sidelined with a thumb injury. In his column in The Sun, De Boinville writes: "These are tough times. I'm the world's worst when it comes to being injured. I got to Cheltenham yesterday and just sat in the car for five minutes before I could bring myself to get out."
The Daily Star's Jason Heavey refers to the BetVictor Gold Cup as, "a devilishly difficult handicap", yet he puts his pen behind the Nicky Richards-trained Guitar Pete. "The northern raider could be music to the ears of punters," writes Heavey. Kalondra is Sam Turner's tip in the Daily Mail, while Baron Alco is the selection of Rob Wright in The Times. 'Have faith in Frodon' is the Daily Express's suggestion.
Reflections of yesterday's action include reviews of victories by Count Meribel in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase, a treble for jockey Paddy Brennan, and the return to action of triple Cheltenham Festival winner and Randox Health Grand National hero Tiger Roll. It is not often a winner at The November Meeting is overshadowed by a horse who finishes fourth, but that was the case for Josies Orders, who won the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap Chase, with Tiger Roll three places behind.
'National hero Tiger is focused on the Festival,' is a Daily Mail headline, while the Racing Post offers 'Festival aim for Josies and beaten Tiger Roll'. Riding Cheltenham's cross-country track requires nerve, horsemanship, and a sat-nav, yet Josies Orders' rider, Mark Walsh, tells Jon Freeman of i: "It's an absolute joy to ride for Enda [Bolger] in these races. All I have to do is steer."
It is early in the season to be discussing rides of the year, but Jim Old, the former trainer now assisting Nigel Twiston-Davies, reckons Mark Grant has it won. He sat tight when the stable's Count Meribel blundered the second-last fence, and Old tells Greg Wood of The Guardian: ". . . to sit on was one thing, to pick him up and go again was the ride of the year."
The Western Daily Press devotes a two-page spread to a colour shot summing up the thrill of racing at Cheltenham - runners hurtle towards the camera, led by the Brennan-ridden Red Hot Chilly - and the same paper naps Mister Whitaker. Channon, a former England footballer, may only be messing around at training jumpers, but the press seems to think he does it rather well.