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Kauto Star Novices' Chase: Ahoy Senor taking on Bravemansgame an exciting prospect for trainer Lucinda Russell

Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame set for epic clash in Grade One Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day; trainer Lucinda Russell 'can't contain excitement' for Mighty Thunder's bid to win the Welsh National on December 27

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Trainer Lucinda Russell says Cheltenham in March is the ultimate aim for Ahoy Senor and they will likely include a Gold Cup entry if the horse performs well in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

While you are tucking into your Christmas fayre, spare a thought for Lucinda Russell as she braves the roads and makes the 444-mile journey south from Kinross to Kempton.

Her ultimate Christmas present will be victory for Ahoy Senor in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices' Chase and the sense of excitement is not dissimilar to that you would expect from a child peeling open their festive gifts.

Russell said: "Everything Ahoy Senor does at home he finds very easy and he has loads of ability. His work on the gallops is scintillating but he is a horse that needs more experience.

Welsh National live on Sky Sports Racing
Welsh National live on Sky Sports Racing

Watch every race of the Welsh National meeting from Chepstow live on Sky Sports Racing on December 27 from midday

"We could have shied away from Kempton and not taken on Bravemansgame quite so soon but when I ran him at Newbury, he showed up the home straight the kind of horse that he is and I think that in that race he kind of grew up.

"It's going to be a different ball game at Kempton on Sunday and those fences are going to come up quickly for him but we're not afraid to take on a good horse and we are not afraid to lose either. At the end of the day, we are creating the horse and it is a very good prize to win.

"I think he deserves to take his place there and it's all very exciting, but this weekend isn't the be all and end as we are very much thinking of his long-term future."

Russell has already carved her name in Scottish folklore with the victory of One For Arthur in the Grand National at Aintree in 2017 and she is no stranger to Grade One success either with Brindisi Breeze putting her name up in lights when landing the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012.

Also See:

Ahoy Senor ridden by jockey Derek Fox on their way to winning the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Chase during Ladbrokes Trophy Day, part of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury Racecourse. Picture date: Saturday November 27, 2021. See PA story RACING Newbury. Photo credit should read: Steven Paston/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
Image: Ahoy Senor, ridden by jockey, Derek Fox on the way to winning the John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury

It must have appeared an audacious plan to pit in the 16/1 winner of a two-and-a-half mile maiden hurdle at Ayr last March at the deep end in the Grade One Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle over an extended three miles at Aintree the following month but Ahoy Senor made a mockery off his starting price of 66/1 when making all for a seven-length success from Bravemansgame.

Russell reflects: "He won his point-to-point very impressively and he was runner-up in his bumper and then won his maiden hurdle at Ayr.

"We thought he was a very, very good horse and we didn't want to risk running him on anything but safe ground and we went to Aintree in search of that.

"We knew he would run at great race and I suppose we thought he might be placed as he had shown his ability at home.

"There were some talked up horses in the race and Bravemansgame came there with very good form and whether it was the end of his season we just don't know.

"Sometimes as trainers we can be slightly insulted by good horses going off at such big odds, but I thought it was very funny and the bookmakers had got it completely wrong."

Ahoy Senor taking Grade One honours at Aintree
Image: Ahoy Senor beats Bravemansgame (white cap) at Aintree in April

First stop this season was the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle in October and the Russell team were quite literally brought down to earth when Ahoy Senor unseated Derek Fox two out.

Russell said: "We went to Carlisle give him some experience and it was a bit of a rush to get him ready for the race.

"It was his first run of the season, and the trip was half a mile short for him, but we had to go there as the ground was right for him. He just slipped and unseated his rider, and it was just a novicey, babyish thing to do."

Back to the drawing board, Russell mapped out the Grade Two Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Chase over just short of three miles at Newbury in November for Ahoy Senor and he was not to disappoint as he sauntered up the straight to score easily by 31 lengths from the Henry de Bromhead-trained Mr Incredible.

Russell continued: "To start off he made a bit of an error at the water jump but he put himself right at his fences and jumped great. Derek gave him a great educational ride and it taught him a lot."

That experience has been borne out at home and Russell has been delighted with what she has seen in the interim.

Bravemansgame ridden by jockey Harry Cobden wins at Haydock
Image: Bravemansgame has won both his starts over fences for trainer Paul Nicholls

She said: "He's a funny horse and a horse that is very self-possessed. He's not in anyway anxious about things and he's very sure about himself.

"Derek and Cameron (Wadge) ride him at home, and he has an amazing cruising speed and just does all that is asked of him with ease."

Bravemansgame obviously has a seven-length deficit to make up with Ahoy Senor on their running over hurdles at Aintree.

Though he has looked mustard in his two wins over fences with a five-and-a-half-length victory from Fusil Raffles at Newton Abbot in October, backed up with a two-and-three-quarter-length win from Itchy Feet in a Graduation Chase at Haydock last month, Russell is clearly enamoured by what looks her main adversary.

She said: "I admire Bravemansgame and I think he is a fantastic horse. I respect him immensely and watched him win at Haydock and thought he was an awesome horse.

"In my time training to have Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame clashing I think is very exciting. I am looking forward to it and I think it will be a race worth going a long way to watch."

Russell 'can't contain excitement' for Mighty Thunder

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After twice filling the runners-up spot in the Welsh National, Russell is hoping for a change of luck as Mighty Thunder heads to Chepstow on Monday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

Russell's foray south will not end at Kempton on Sunday as she looks certain to be bidding for further National glory with Mighty Thunder in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Monday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

The eight-year-old Malinas gelding added the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh in February and the Scottish National at Ayr to his CV last season and was also second in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter in March in between those two successes.

Mighty Thunder finished fourth to Fusil Raffles in an incident-packed Charlie Hall Chase over three miles at Wetherby in October and Russell is looking forward to Mighty Thunder having a go at the Chepstow showpiece.

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Joe Tizzard says former Gold Cup winner Native River is as competitive and enthusiastic as ever with the team weighing up whether to head for the Welsh National on December 27, live on Sky Sports Racing.

She said: "He goes for the Welsh National and we only entered him in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby in the event at the Chepstow was frozen off or cancelled.

"I think he might well have gone a little under the radar and think he goes there with a very good chance.

"The race will suit him and I thought he ran a very good race at Wetherby and we took him out of the Becher Chase because of the combination of the fences and the heavy ground.

"I don't mind if it goes very soft at Chepstow and we wouldn't be scared of heavy ground. We know he will stay the trip and I can't contain myself with excitement."

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