Greystoke trainer Nicky Richards looks to have another top prospect on his hands following Ribble Valley’s “smooth as silk” win at Carlisle.
The David Wesley Yates-owned seven-year-old faced just three rivals in the Intermediate Hurdle, but they included Nickolson, the apple of trainer Olly Murphy’s eye, who has the Gerry Feilden at Newbury as his next target, and Ribble Valley couldn’t have won the race any easier.
“It was a nice starting point — he’s started and let’s have a good season,” said Richards immediately after the horse’s impressive victory.
It was only his fourth run over hurdles so he is very inexperienced, said the trainer, but the hope remains that one day Ribble Valley will be able to compete at the real top level.
Jockey Brian Hughes said: “He would have loved the ground not to be as soft, but you can’t have it all ways. He took a good blow up the run in, but that’s why I pushed him out, just to give him the full benefit of the race.
“He goes straight to the Fighting Fifth (at Newcastle on 28th November) now so we will roll the dice there. He’s a horse that Nicky and his owners have always thought the world of. He’s a pleasure to ride.
“He’s actually more relaxed this year. Last year he was very raw and he was always trying to please you with every stride he took, but we didn’t go very quick there and he has lobbed his way round. His jumping would be better if we were going on a stride — he’s an exciting horse.”
Molly Dingwall, who has been general manager of Carlisle racecourse for two-and-a-half years, said they were “absolutely ecstatic” to be back racing following the coronavirus imposed lockdown.
“It was a long summer of not racing — racing is what we do here. We are a year-round course so to be back, and to be back for the jumps was excellent. We are absolutely thrilled.”
She said to make the track COVID secure they have got two-metre social-distancing everywhere and in the jockey’s weighing room they have taped out areas where they get changed.
“We have had to redo showers and have put in Perspex screens so they can utilise the showers.
In catering, you have to be sat down to eat or drink, and everyone (before they can enter the course) has to go through a whole questionnaire from the BHA and do an online learning module.
“There’s a lot more admin involved now, but obviously we want to do our best and our part for the racing industry to be as safe and secure as possible for all our participants.”
The number of owners allowed, based on the room that is available, is around the 150 mark, and last Thursday about 120 had made the trip out.
“People have to register that they would like to come and we work from there. We have been very fortunate that we have got owners who want to come up and watch their horses run, which is great.
“They have got lots of external room and room inside with the two-metre social-distancing throughout.”
Normally, Carlisle could expect a crowd of between 2,000 to 3,000 for a Thursday autumn jumps fixture, and Molly said it was “gutting” not to have a crowd, but they were just really, really pleased that they can be back racing and supporting the racing community again.
“We love our crowds here,” said Molly, but they have to wait on the government instruction and do their best during the time they can’t have a crowd.
She added that since racing had restarted at Carlisle, they had seen some incredible runners with top stables having sent up representatives.
“We have been very fortunate and the support had been incredible from trainers, owners and jockeys, alike, so we are very thankful for that and hopefully that continues,” said Molly.
Last Thursday, 26 horses travelled over 200 miles to race at Carlisle.
“It’s a real credit to the grounds team, who work tirelessly out there during all weather to make the ground as great it has been.”
When asked what makes Carlisle such a special steeplechase course, Molly said: “We are a fair track, all our fences are jumped on the up, so you don’t jump down hill, although there is quite a big downhill stretch, which really suits a nice novice chaser. It’s got a nice stiff finish — it’s competitive and it’s just a great track.”
Tomorrow, the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase will take centre stage on a seven-race card at the course and all eyes will be on the Olly Murphy-trained Brewin’upastorm who won at Carlisle in October, last year, beating Good Boy Bobby in a Beginners’ Chase.
“I’m looking forward to him going up in trip. He’s going to have to step up from his novice chase campaign, but I don’t see any reason why he won’t. I’ve always had a lot of belief in him and the Ryanair (at the Cheltenham Festival) is a long-term aim,” said Murphy.