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Bravemansgame primed for Gold Cup test

Brasvemansgame, leftBrasvemansgame, left
© Photo Healy Racing

Last year’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Bravemansgame is approaching his peak in his bid to go one better.

While he is among the outsiders this year having failed to win in three outings, trainer Paul Nicholls believes he has valid excuses for all those reverses.

As he is a horse who tends to go well fresh, Nicholls has not run him since the King George on Boxing Day and is hoping a gallop around Kempton on Tuesday will put him spot on for his big date in just over a fortnight.

“He got beat in soft ground at Wetherby first time out and we then went to the Betfair Chase, again in testing ground, en route to Kempton, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get him right for Kempton,” said Nicholls.

“To be fair to him, at Kempton he ran a really good race and in my view him and Shishkin would have been first and second. (Harry) Cobden has got his opinion and Nicky (Henderson) will have his opinion but I don’t think there’s much between him and Shishkin to be honest.

“He still got interfered with when Shishkin had his hiccup, if that hadn’t happened he still probably would have won but then he got stopped dead, and then still picked up and galloped all the way to the line.

“Harry thought he ran a solid race, I still don’t think we had him at his best because of the circumstances in the autumn. He’s right back there now, he looks great, Harry schooled him on Tuesday and he jumped good.

“He’s going to Kempton tomorrow for a little away day when he’ll work with Captain Teague but I’m very happy with him now. I think 20-1 is a massive each-way price. When I look at some of the horses ahead of him in the betting, I think he’s great value.”

Another of Nicholls’ big hopes this year is Ryanair Chase contender Stage Star, winner of the Turners Novices’ Chase last year.

He began the season with a fine weight-carrying performance to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup but pulled up on New Year’s Day in very soft ground and he has not run since.

“Stage Star won the Turners last year and goes for the Ryanair. He needs to be fresh, he needs to be right and he’s not the easiest in the world to train as he has a few little issues but when he is right, he is very good,” said Nicholls.

“He won the Paddy Power Gold Cup off top weight very nicely indeed, even though he made a horrific mistake at the last, he galloped all the way to the line.

“I wish now I hadn’t run him on New Year’s Day obviously, but it didn’t work out. The ground had gone testing, he had top weight, he made a couple of mistakes and I don’t think he was quite at his best, but I was struggling to find any option in this country to get a run into him because he has to go left-handed.

“He’s had a few little issues, he’s had lots of physio and he’s back where we want him now, he doesn’t need an away day because he goes well fresh.

“Hitman will also run in the Ryanair but Pic D’orhy will go straight to Aintree. He’s a very smart horse, undoubtedly, and I think Banbridge deserves to be favourite (for the Ryanair) based on his defeat of Pic at Kempton.

“Hitman was third last year and is no forlorn hope. He ran well the other day when he wasn’t fully wound up but he jumped the second last upsides Shishkin.”