Andy Stephens kept a close eye on all the action in Britain and Ireland on Saturday and tells us five things we learnt.
1. Nicky Henderson has that loving feeling:
As Nicky Henderson was saying “I Do” in Scotland on Saturday afternoon his horses were collectively saying “I Will”.
The champion trainer was a rare non-runner at his beloved Kempton as he had journeyed across the border to get married to long-time partner Sophie Waddilove.
Henderson joked beforehand that the vicar would have to be “very fast” for him to see the early action at the Sunbury venue but he will have found some way to monitor how his team were faring and it seems safe to assume the results will not have put a damper on his evening celebrations.
He enjoyed a treble at Kempton with William Henry (7-1), Jenkins (7-2) and Chef Des Obeaux (11-8), while at Warwick he was on the mark with Mr Whipped (6-4) in the Grade Two Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle.
"I've not heard from Nicky since this morning,” Toby Lawes, his assistant, said at Kempton after William Henry had landed the Lanzarote Hurdle. “He should be all married and done and he is probably just having a good party now."
His honeymoon period may well include plotting big-race targets for Mr Whipped, who is three out of three over hurdles after being purchased for £160,000.
“He’s a big baby and this track would have been plenty sharp enough for him,” said winning rider Nico De Boinville before declining to speculate as to what his best trip will be.
2. Jefferson policy of Waiting Patiently rewarded:
Malcolm Jefferson has not been in the best of health but it seems certain the fluent success of Waiting Patiently in the 32Red Casino Chase at Kempton will have put a smile on his face.
Jefferson has always given his horses time to find their feet and his deft touch has been instrumental in Waiting Patiently climbing the ranks.
Last season, as a novice, the gelding gifted with a high cruising speed and polished jumping technique beat Politologue but his trainer resisted big prizes and continued to go softly, softly.Ground conditions will dictate whether Waiting Patiently runs at Cheltenham (Racingfotos)
This was the day the boy became a man, with Brian Hughes typically biding his time on the seven-year-old before inviting him to stamp his authority on some some classy rivals from two out.
God’s Own and Smad Place were perhaps not at their best but it was still difficult not to impressed with how Waiting Patiently put them in their place conceding weight.
The winning time was 5sec quicker than the useful Mercian Prince recorded, over the same course and distance, earlier in the card. His mark seems certain to soar into the mid 160s and who knows what is left under the bonnet.
Ruth Jefferson, daughter of Malcolm, is a chip off the old mark and talked in measured terms about future targets for Waiting Patiently. The Betfair Ascot Chase on February 17 will be next provided there is enough give in the ground and underfoot conditions will also dictate whether he runs at the Cheltenham Festival, when he will be entered for Betway Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase.
He varies between 8-1 and 16-1 for the former race, and is between 5-1 and 10-1 for the latter - depending on whether you want the non-runner no-bet option or not.
3. Getabird has gears:
Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci have suffered their share of setbacks this season but the pair may well start the Cheltenham Festival with a bang courtesy of Getabird.
Mullins was non-commital over what race the exciting six-year-old will contest at the meeting after his nine-length defeat of Mengli Khan in the Grade Two Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown but the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle - the first race of the Festival - is surely the most likely option. He is now the general 4-1 favourite.Mullins was delighted with Getabird's jumping (Racingfotos)
The other option is the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, for which he is 10-1 with Betfair, but the unbeaten Getabird did not look short of speed on Saturday - making all at a good tempo and quickening up smartly for a couple of taps to beat Mengli Khan with plenty in hand.
Mullins has used this race as a stepping stone to Cheltenham glory for Mikael D'Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) and was clearly impressed.
"Jumping the way he did, that brings the Supreme into the picture,” he said. “After his first run I was a little bit worried, but certainly the way he was there he'd be well able to jump with any novice.
"The speed he showed was very good. He got a nice bunch of horses off the bridle and we're on the way up, I think. I don't know yet if he'll go straight to Cheltenham. We'll see how he comes out of it."
Mullins won three races on the card, while Jessica Harrington saddled her third winner in six days after an extremely quiet spell. Her return to form will be music to the ears of those who retain faith in Gold Cup winner Sizing John.
4. Redicean is speedy but needs to pick feet up:
Alan King has saddled two winners of the Triumph Hurdle and has another live candidate in Redicean, who had little trouble defying a 6lb penalty in the juvenile hurdle that opened the card at Kempton.
Redicean had looked a good prospect when winning in deep ground on his debut and looked to have a straightforward task but the way the 8-13 favourite zoomed clear after the field had been well bunched two out was impressive.
He clearly has plenty of speed for a horse who stayed well on the Flat and his rating of 86 on the level compares favourably with King’s previous two winners of the Triumph - Penzance (2005) and Katchit (2007).
Redicean is now a best-priced 14-1 with Boylesports (as low as 8-1 elsewhere) to emulate that pair at Cheltenham but his jumping was again not without blemish and he is going to have to improve in that department to beat such as Apple’s Shakira and We Have A Dream.
5. Champion shows no sign of wilting:
Richard Johnson was a notable absentee at Kempton and Warwick but those who took the hint and backed him at Wetherby were amply rewarded.
The champion jockey won on Noble Robin (5-2), Hogan’s Height (4-1), Westend Story (2-1) and Newbery New (11-4). He was also runner-up on So Lonely in the finale.
Johnson now leads Harry Skelton by 20 in the jockeys’ championship and, having already had 633 rides this season, nobody can dispute he is again putting in quite a shift as he seeks a third successive title.
That is more than 100 more than the next prolific jump jockey in the riding stakes, Brian Hughes, and almost 400 more than such as Nico De Boinville, albeit the latter had a spell out this term with injury.
In terms of prize-money won, Johnson, closing in on £1 million, still trails fifth-placed Sam Twiston-Davies - which reflects the 40-year-old has had few top-class horses to partner among his 129 winners this campaign.