Nicholls feels ‘Stage’ is set to be a big Star

Stage Star maintained his unbeaten record this term with a clear-cut success in yesterday’s Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

tepping up to Grade One company, Paul Nicholls’ charge was sent off at 5/4 favourite after impressing with wins at Chepstow in October and at this track last month.

Harry Cobden was happy to sit in third for much of the extended two-and-a-half-mile trip as High Stakes set out to make all with Lossiemouth racing on his heels.

All seven runners looked to have a chance turning for home, but as Lossiemouth started to toil, it was evident Stage Star was travelling much the better as he grabbed the initiative at the penultimate flight.

Cobden then kicked on and Stage Star cleared the last in style to come home six and a half lengths clear of West Balboa with Gordon Elliott’s Gringo D’aubrelle back in third.

Nicholls was winning the race for the fourth time and the second successive year after Bravemansgame’s triumph in 2020, and Stage Star could now follow a similar route to his stablemate who went on to finish third in the Ballymore in March.

“He stays and is a proper horse. He would not want to go three miles yet – he has too much speed for that,” said Nicholls. “We might follow the same route that Bravemansgame did last year. He is straightforward and that was a really taking performance. I’m delighted with him.

“That is by far the best performance he has given. He has got better and fitter and has learned his job. Harry was quite surprised at how well he won. He said he had so much speed.”

The Richard Bandey-trained Saint Palais defied his diminutive size to justify 7/4 favouritism in a decent renewal of the Mandarin Chase in the hands of Harry Banniste.

The three-and-a-quarter-mile race, won in the past by the likes of Jodami, Master Smudge, Night Nurse, Zongalero, Ten Plus and Party Politics, may have lost much of its lustre in recent years, but is still a good test, and a stiff one this year, having it been officially described as soft and heavy in places.

Yet the four-year-old took advantage of his weight allowance to score by a length and a quarter from Gericault Roque.

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