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Can Paul Nicholls make it three in a row in feature handicap hurdle?

Paul Nicholls: runs four-year-old Hell Red
1 of 1

Monday: 2.45 Plumpton
Trevor Shearly Memorial Handicap Hurdle | 2m4½f | 3yo+ | Sky

The Bomber Liston returned from wind surgery to record his first career victory in a 2m4f maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter last month and the form was franked when the runner-up, Grand Lord, finished third in a stronger handicap hurdle at Wetherby on Friday.

Nicky Henderson's runners have a 24 per cent strike-rate on their first outing after a wind operation and, although that drops to 21 per cent with those having their second run after the surgery, the angle is actually more lucrative second time up, showing a profit of £21.31.

Franco d'Aunou looks the biggest danger, but Venetia Williams' runners have yet to hit top gear. However, the trainer did have a first-time-out bumper winner at Ffos Las on Thursday and the yard's runners tend to excel when the ground gets testing.

There is plenty of rain forecast for Plumpton and Franco d'Aunou landed his sole victory on heavy ground at Ffos Las in February. He could kickstart the winter season for Williams with victory here.

Paul Nicholls definitely has his string firing and the champion trainer has won the last two runnings of this race, with Dan McGrue and Amour De Nuit.

Nicholls saddles Hell Red, who was favourite for a hot-looking four-year-old handicap hurdle at Chepstow last month but finished only fifth.

There have been mixed messages from that form with Megan, who fell four-out when in contention, going on to finish a good fourth in a hot contest at Ascot on Saturday but the pulled-up Herbiers managed only fourth in a weaker race at Wetherby on Friday.

Hell Red's performance here should give us a better guide to the strength of that Wetherby form.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway 


What they say

Paul Nicholls, trainer of Hell Red
He's crying out for two and a half miles. He was flat out at Chepstow the other day. He'll be more effective going further and will hopefully run very well.

Dan Skelton, trainer of Shannon Bridge and West To The Bridge
I think Shannon Bridge is going to need the run. He's a bit older and last year it took a bit to get the ball rolling with him and I don't see why it would be any different with him this year. I don't think Plumpton is really his track either but I've got to get him started. I had him in at Cheltenham but I couldn't run him because the ground was too quick. West To The Bridge's form has completely tailed off.

Chris Gordon, trainer of Commanche Red
He's a course winner. He's well in himself. We've had a little bit of an eye on this race because I think Plumpton have done a fantastic job putting on such a good prize, so we thought it would just be a good track to aim him at.

Suzy Smith, trainer of Debestyman
He's been off a while. He ran really well at Cheltenham last year and I think his chances will be greater if we don't get too much more rain. Historically, he does normally sharpen up after the first race but we took him to Lingfield on Friday to gallop him, so we've done everything to make sure that is okay, but that would be my only concern.
Reporting by Charlie Huggins


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Paul Nicholls definitely has his string firing and the champion trainer has won the last two runnings of this race
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