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Press Release 16th March 2023 Cheltenham


Thursday 16th March

Day three of The Festival begun with a British-trained success as Stage Star made all for a three and a quarter length success in the Grade One Turners Novices’ Chase.

It was a first Festival success for Paul Nicholls, the 13-times UK champion Jump trainer, since 2020 and his 47th overall.

Paul Nicholls said: “We were a little bit unlucky yesterday with a couple but that was brilliant. It was a different track today on slightly better ground and that was always going to suit us. I said to Harry today be positive, bowl along in front and ride him like the best horse in the race and he gave him a peach of a ride.

“I thought travelling into the straight he was going well and I knew what Harry was doing but to go and win like that from a horse that we started in bumpers, which is a new thing we do to bring horses through, to get to that point was fantastic. It is good for everybody at home and Harry. I’m delighted.

“I knew what Harry was doing turning in. He had made all the running and he just sat up on him to give him a little breather turning in and fill his lungs up and he quickened up like he did the last day.

“I think if we went back and rode that race again yesterday (on Hermes Allen) we might have done things differently but it was not to be and we are not going to look back but we are going to look forward.

“Today I said bounce out be positive and dictate it from the front and he is so good at doing that. That is a good horse who is improving so I’m thrilled.

“I’m thrilled he has come back from last year’s disaster (in the Ballymore) and that he has gone really forward. That slightly better ground on that track suits ours.

“He will be aiming for the Ryanair next year and that is what I’ve always thought. He would get three miles but he has got plenty of boot and he jumps well. I was always hoping he might be a Ryanair horse after his last run but he had to win today to be a Ryanair horse.

“He can only get better. That (last run here) shows that he acted on the track and he was so impressive that day and the form has worked out well.

“It was good for Harry (Cobden) today as he needed a confidence booster and that is a massive plus for him as he was quite down last night as it didn’t work out for him. It is good for him.

“We’ve only got 15 or 16 runners for the whole week and you have to make everyone of them count and one has now so it is onwards and upwards now.

“We’ve had a great time here over the years but it is hard to get those horses back but we are building them up again. We have got heaps like him to come through and I think the next few years will be positive. It is hard to win here and we haven’t got the numbers the Irish trainers have and we are up against it all the time but we can only do our best.”

Harry Cobden said: “He was very straightforward today. We managed to keep him as quiet as possible going out because he doesn’t really like crowds - he’s quite responsive to the crowd.  He was quick down to the first fence and we sort of made our own fractions from there.

“I watched his last race here [in January] back last night, funnily enough, and I thought that if this horse powers his way up the hill in the same way that he did at the last meeting, then he’s sure to have a good chance. He was very good. I managed to dictate it in front, and he was there at the last - he was very long, but he came up out of my hands, actually. Powered clear.

“He’ll stay further as well, I would have thought. He wasn’t stopping at the end. It depends what the handicapper does. I’d say he’d be a Ladbroke Trophy horse, but he doesn’t like the cut-in at Newbury; he didn’t like it in a three-runner chase, but if he had a few to follow it might be a different story. But he’s a good horse and he’s improving all the time.

“I was confident. I didn’t have to use too much to keep my position, if that makes sense.

“He’s a difficult ride, actually - he hangs left, but most of the time I’m riding him off the rail, or winging the fence.”

Karl Budge, who owns a share in Stage Star at £59 with the Owners Group, said: “I think we paid £59 to buy into him. We have just the one share but I think there is about 3,500 people in it. We were here last year when it lashed it down on the Wednesday and it didn’t happen for him so it is lovely to be back again this year.

“It is fantastic for the Owners Group and it is lovely for us to be back as it is more than 30 years since our last Cheltenham winner as a family. We had Danish Flight, who was trained by JImmy Fitzgerald win the Arkle in 1988, and Smooth Escort, who was trained by Di Haine win the National Hunt Chase in 1991. They were both great days.

“I would say we were more hopeful than confident coming into today. We thought Mighty Potter was a good thing and Appreciate It is a good horse so this is fantastic and Paul has not had the best of weeks so it is fantastic to see this happen.

“It is just as much fun being here as a syndicate winner as it was being involved in a winner with the family. It is lovely to have another winner on the board.

“When we won the Arkle me and my wife had gone on our honeymoon to Thailand the day before so we missed Danish Flight winning that. At least Danish Flight helped to pay for it. We didn’t get chance to watch the race but we got a phone call 30 seconds afterwards telling us we won the race.

“We were here for the four-miler with Smooth Escort which was a great day. The wins might be more than 30 years apart, but it is still just as much fun.”

Laura Morgan, trainer of the runner-up Notlongtillmay (40-1), said: “I’m gabsolutely delighted. It’s a massive step up in grade for him today. I felt a bit silly coming here but he’d done everything easily in the build-up. I was a bit worried that the track might not suit or the ground might go against him – as he’d only won on flat tracks – so I had lots of concerns but he’s run a mighty race. I’m delighted with him and hopefully there’s more to come from him next year as well.

“The owner is Alan Rogers, is an ex footballer, so he was giving it large in-running! He was very bold over his fences but he’s only a novice so I very much think he’s one for next year. The dream is certainly to be one place along next year!”

Gordon Elliott, trainer of third home Mighty Potter, said: "That was a bit below par and bit disappointing. Davy (Russell) said he was going as quick as he could all the way and could never really get to grips with the winner, who was really good."

Willie Mullins, trainer of fourth-placed Appreciate It, said: "I am disappointed he did not improve a bit for the step up in trip but Harry Cobden dictated matters from the front and that has made the difference at the end of the day."

1.30pm Turners Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f

  1. Stage Star 15-2
  2. Notlongtillmay 40-1
  3. Mighty Potter 4-6F


7 ran

Distances: 3¼, ¾

Time: 5m 1.94s

3rd winner at The Festival for jockey Harry Cobden

47th winner at The Festival for trainer Paul Nicholls

2nd winner at The Festival for owner Owners Group



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