Nicky Richards has made no secret of the regard in which he holds Ribble Valley and the Westerner gelding made it two out of two over hurdles at Wetherby on Wednesday. A dual bumper winner last term, the six year old won easily on his jumping bow at Hexham this month and had no trouble following up under a penalty at the West Yorkshire track. Brian Hughes pulled his mount off the rail going down the backstraight before making good headway before the home turn. Previous winners Proschema and Sir Valentine soon came under pressure, while Ribble Valley hit the front at the third last. Pulling clear between the final two flights, he crossed the line eleven lengths in front. Despite the fact both his hurdle wins have been gained on testing ground, Brian Hughes is adamant he will improve for better ground. In terms of the future, perhaps his connections will consider the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle at Ascot (20th December) or wait for the Grade 2 Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle at Haydock (18th January). Alternatively, they may run him in another novices' hurdle under a double penalty. The Greystoke trainer has handled some very smart horses over the years but Ribble Valley is potentially one of the best he has had in recent times.
Earlier this month, Donald McCain unleashed Navajo Pass over hurdles at Bangor and looked an above average juvenile. The same connections are also responsible for Goobinator - ironically, the pair were bought at the same yearling sale at Newmarket in 2017 - who won by thirteen lengths in the opening juvenile hurdle at Wetherby. Rated 82 having won over twelve furlongs at Southwell, he displayed signs of greenness on his jumping bow but there is no mistaking his ability. Pulling away after the second last, the Noble Mission can only improve for the experience. Perhaps he will return to the same track for another juvenile hurdle (27th December) under a penalty.
There is no doubt the two most successful features in One Jump Ahead have been the Talking Trainers and Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers sections. The former produced 5 winners on Wednesday, whilst Clondaw Caitlin (12/1) was yet another winner for the latter. Seventh in a mares' bumper at Aintree in October on her Rules debut, the Court Cave filly improved on that performance to win a similar event at Wetherby. Always to the fore, she stayed on strongly inside the final quarter of a mile to beat another ex-pointer Meep Meep Mag by a length and a quarter with the pair eight lengths clear of the remainder. Ruth Jefferson endured a lean spell during the Autumn but has sent out two winners this month (Buster Valentine won at Market Rasen - her first winner since June).
Overall, it was another very good day for One Jump Ahead followers with Big Shark (6/4), Clondaw Caitilin (12/1), Dhowin (12/1), Ecu De La Noverie (7/4), Goobinator (4/1) and Ribble Valley (13/8).
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