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Press Release 16th December 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark

Nicky Henderson insisted he was ‘pleasantly surprised’ after Shanagh Bob maintained his unbeaten record by taking a step up in class in his stride with victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham today.

Arriving on the back of a debut win under rules at Plumpton the Mahler gelding was sent off the 15-8 Favourite to add to that tally in the Grade Two contest.

Despite being one of the most inexperienced runners in the field the Joe Donnelly-owned five-year-old found himself right in contention on the run to the last alongside long-time leader Moon D’Orange and the hat-trick seeking Destroytheevidence.

Responding well when called on for his maximum effort Shanagh Bob started to get the better of the argument during the closing strides of the three-mile test before emerging victorious by a length and a quarter under Nico de Boinville.

Henderson said: “He has come from one ordinary novice hurdle at Plumpton into a Grade Two. I was looking for a three-mile race for him and stumbled across this.

“You always felt as if he was learning. He looked like he kept finding ways to get beaten. He is a really lovely, honest, hardy person that has got his whole life in front of him.

“He just needs to learn a bit. He doesn’t know what he is doing yet, and I don’t think he knew what he was doing there to be honest with you.

“Nico said he doesn’t think he is there yet, but he tries very hard. It is a long way from Plumpton to here in one step. I’m pleasantly surprised.

“I was even more surprised when the early call over came over for this race and he was favourite. I’m not sure I saw that at Plumpton, but there you go.

“The more he does the better he will get. That was a great race to win, but he will be a chaser at the end of the day.

“Nico has gone down the positive route on a young horse that doesn’t know a lot. He has been brave on him as well as helping him all the way. He only looked as if he was going to win at the end. He has done very well, and I can only think there is a lot of improvement to come.

“He is very hardy and takes everything in his stride. The other morning he was just having a breeze and me and Charlie (Morlock) both agreed that he had sharpened up a lot from Plumpton.”

Following the race Shanagh Bob was trimmed into 20-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, which Henderson last won with subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bob’s Worth in 2011, which is likely to be his long-term target.

Henderson added: “This is the road to it (the Albert Bartlett), but let’s see how things go before we jump into that water as there is a long way to go before that.

“I thought this was a crazy step, but it has worked, and he has got to stay in this company from here on in. If he can make the Albert Bartlett that would be lovely. I know Joe (Donnelly, owner) would like to, and so would I.

“You’d hope we would have all bases covered (in the novice hurdle division). We are lucky that they are a good bunch.”

The concluding contest of The November Meeting, the Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Mares' Handicap Hurdle (2m 4½f) went to Nurse Susan (11-2) for the Dan and Harry Skelton combination.


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