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Hermes Allen lands Grade 2 prize on chasing debut

3 minute read

Paul Nicholls was understandably “thrilled” with the performance Hermes Allen put in to land the Grade 2 Coral John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury

HERMES ALLEN winning the Coral John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury in England.
HERMES ALLEN winning the Coral John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury in England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The six-year-old had looked like a high-class prospect when winning the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at the Berkshire venue last season but subsequently disappointed when well-beaten in both the Ballymore at Cheltenham and the Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

However, he showed his true colours once more and returned to the scene of his greatest success over hurdles with a sparkling chasing debut in Grade 2 company.

The progressive Nickle Back raced enthusiastically out in front and although he produced some sketchy leaps throughout, Sara Humphries runner looked to have his rivals in trouble turning for home. However, his early exertions soon began to take a toll and Hermes Allen responded to Harry Coden's urgings, drawing clear to score by a comfortable six and a half lengths from his five rivals.

Speaking of the winning 13/8 market leader, Nicholls told Racing TV: "It was a proper race today, which you'd expect, and I'm thrilled with that. He jumped well, travelled well, learnt a lot and galloped on well,"

"Harry was thrilled with him, he said he was very clever jumping, especially late on, and that's just what you want from a novice chaser first time.

"I've said quite openly, we missed a month's work with him, and I've been chasing my tail to get him ready, to be honest. It's only a fortnight ago that I thought we'd get here, luckily, we were able to gallop him here on the gallop's morning, he's schooled well, and we've just about got away with it.

"He will improve fitness-wise, but he's just got natural ability. His form in the first half of last season was very good, then he lost his way a bit, but he was struggling with his breathing all season and I think that caught up with him in the spring. He's the finished article now."

Paddy Power were understandably impressed with the performance and make the Nicholls-trained runner 8/1 from 16/1 for the Turners Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in March.

Earlier on the card, Gordon Elliot enjoyed a first Newbury winner when Wodhooh maintained her unbeaten record over hurdles in the 'Bet In-Race' With Coral Fillies' Juvenile Hurdle.

The Irish raider was sent off 2/5 to keep her unbeaten record over obstacles intact and landed the Listed prize in commanding fashion, easing clear of the front-running Max Of Stars in the hands of Jack Kennedy to score by two and three-quarter lengths.

Elliott said: "I'd say four or five runners is all I've had here, but it's great to come over and have a winner for a great bunch of owners.

"She's got a lovely attitude, she doesn't do anything fancy at home or on the racecourse, but she keeps winning, and Jack said she felt better today than she ever felt off a fast gallop. The thing I love about her, from the second-last to the line, I don't know if he even had to hit her, it was just hands and heels, and she keeps finding a bit."

A trip to Chepstow could be on the cards with Elliott adding: "We've got a bit of black type for her now and we might look at something like Chepstow for the Finale Juvenile Hurdle. There's Leopardstown at Christmas, but I'd say easier ground suits her a bit better. I think she has to

improve a lot on that form to be a Triumph Hurdle filly, but she knows how to win and when they keep winning, there's nothing like it."

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