Owners Andrew and Jane Megson have removed their horses from Ben Pauling’s yard as part of a thinning out process they hope will rekindle their enjoyment in racehorse ownership.

The Megsons enjoyed some great days alongside Pauling, with Global Citizen winning the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022 and their string growing in quality at a time the Naunton Downs handler has expanded his operation.

However, the husband-and-wife duo have come to the conclusion they need to “freshen things up”, with their string set to be split between a few select trainers as they seek to recapture the joy of ownership.

“The real driver is about making sure we enjoy it because it is a hobby and we don’t want it to be a grind,” explained Andrew Megson.

“So we decided to thin out and while we did that we took the opportunity to make a few changes. We know Jonjo (O’Neill), we know Fergal (O’Brien) and we thought we’d just have a change and freshen things up.

“We still have a business and we’ve built up a number of horses almost by accident. Our thinking was we have too many horses and can’t go and watch them – watching a horse midweek on my phone in the corner of my office is not the most enjoyable and my wife Jane doesn’t really want to be going racing on her own.”

He went on: “Accidently we’ve become quite big owners and we don’t really want to be the biggest owner in anybody’s yard. It’s not what we set out to do and Jane is very keen that when we do buy horses in the future, we spread them out a bit.

“Ben is doing really well and his yard is doing fantastic. He’s got some lovely horses and he’s grown exponentially and we wish him all the best.

“It’s all amicable with Ben and there’s been no falling out, in fact he sent me a lovely message. Ben is a great guy and I’m sure he will have a brilliant Aintree.”

Pauling, who won the closing bumper on the first day of the Grand National meeting, said he had “no inkling” of the move coming and was taken by surprise.

He said: “Everyone has their reasons for what they do and the Megsons have been huge supporters of mine for many years and I will always thank them for that. But, for whatever reason they have chosen to move them.

“I don’t know what they are but I wish them the best of luck. I had no inkling at all, genuinely.”

Part of the family’s plans to reignite their enthusiasm is to switch this season’s star novice hurdler Tellherthename to the Flat and he will join Ed Dunlop in Newmarket with staying aspirations this summer before a potential move to O’Neill to continue his National Hunt career.

He added: “We think Tellherthename is a rocket and this year (over hurdles) the ground has gone against him. We want to try him on the Flat in staying races as he’s not been over raced this year by any stretch of the imagination and on decent ground, we hope he could be quite smart.

“He’s gone to Ed Dunlop who is going to say if he is interesting for the Flat or if we should keep him over hurdles or fences.

“It’ll probably never happen, but you see what Alan King did with Trueshan and you think let’s dream about that and you have to dream when you own racehorses.”

As well as O’Neill, O’Brien and Dan Skelton will joining their small band of trainers, with some of the Megson’s current string of horses soon to be sold.

Megson said: “We are sending six or seven to the sales. We had 20-plus horses but now we will have five with Ed Dunlop on the Flat if you include Tellherthename, five with Jonjo O’Neill and potentially Tellherthename if he goes back jumping, five to Fergal O’Brien and we’ve decided to put Harper’s Brook and Storminhome with Dan Skelton.

“They were going to go to the sales, but what would be deeply disappointing would be if Harper’s Brook stopped being quirky and bolted up in a big race after we had sold him.”

Ben Pauling’s The Jukebox Man bids to build on a Cheltenham near-miss as he lines up for the Cavani Sartorial Menswear Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

The gelding, who is owned by Harry Redknapp, won his first two starts over hurdles and was then third at Grade One level in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury at the end of last year.

He was subsequently somewhat overlooked at 18-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but outran those odds when going agonisingly close, as he was beaten just a head by Stellar Story.

The Jukebox Man now returns at the same level in Liverpool, having proven in defeat that he is well able to mix it with the best.

“He’s come out of Cheltenham in good form and we’re really looking forward to seeing him run again,” said Pauling.

“Watching the race back, we felt we could have done a few things differently, but all in all he showed us he is a Grade One performer for the future, which is very exciting in itself.

“He’s not a flamboyant horse at home, he just does what he has to do, but he seems in good order with himself, so we’re looking forward to rolling the dice again.”

Nicky Henderson’s Shanagh Bob looks to demonstrate his promise again in the race and preserve his unbeaten record.

The six-year-old has run twice under rules, taking a Plumpton novice on debut and then stepping sharply up in grade to land the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.

He was due to return to the same track to contest the Albert Bartlett, but like many Henderson runners, he was withdrawn as the stable was suspected to be in ill health.

“I don’t really know how good he could be, he’s a horse that could fool you a little bit,” said Henderson.

“It probably tells you a little bit that we started at Plumpton first time out.

“It’s not the normal nursery ground we use, it’s a great track, don’t get me wrong, but you wouldn’t expect to see the Albert Bartlett favourite at that time of year.

“He was good and we moved straight into Cheltenham, when he was really impressive.

“He’s a lovely horse, he’ll jump a fence and I’d love him to come through this because if he does, we go novice chasing with a top-class horse on our hands.”

Gordon Elliott has a single runner in Croke Park, while Willie Mullins fields Naas Grade One winner Readin Tommy Wrong and Dancing City.

Readin Tommy Wrong was the favourite for the Albert Bartlett but was pulled up on an off day that Mullins’ son and assistant Patrick thinks he can be forgiven for.

“Paul (Townend) chose Readin Tommy Wrong in Cheltenham, he’s the horse with the touch of class in a staying race,” he told Sporting Life.

“He came from behind in a two-and-a-half-mile race in the Lawlor’s, he should be ideal for a staying race because he settles and a horse that settles is worth 10lb in one of these races.

“Nothing really came to light after Cheltenham, I think he just had an off day and you can draw a line through that. You can always forgive a horse one bad run.

“It’s obviously not ideal coming off the back of that but for me I’d still back him to get back to his Naas form. I just think he has that little bit of class that separates the real stayers from the other horses.”

Dancing City also contested the Albert Bartlett and was third, though the margin was wide and the younger Mullins feels he had luck on his side that day.

“Dancing City is more of a galloper, more dour,” he said.

“He ran really well at Cheltenham, but I think a lot went right for him and he was still well beaten, so I’m not sure where I’m going to see the improvement from him, but I could see him running a solid race.”

Ben Pauling dominated the European Breeders’ Fund Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final, saddling the first two horses home.

The winner Champagne Twist was ridden by Ben Jones at 11-2, whereas stablemate Pic Roc was the mount of Kielan Woods at a price of 10-1.

The latter horse made the running throughout, leading the 17-runner field over every obstacle and gaining himself a significant lead as the race progressed.

He was challenged by Champagne Twist in the home straight, however, who loomed up on the centre of the track to pass him just a few strides ahead of the post.

It was a special moment for Pauling who is enjoying a rich vein of form and he said: “It’s a brilliant result and I couldn’t split them beforehand. Woodsy wanted to ride one and Ben wanted to ride the other, so it kind of worked quite well.

“This is for a crew of my great mates so it’s pretty special, but Emma’s (Kendall, owner) horse Pic Roc ran a great race as well and probably just got a bit lonely having done plenty out in front and just got nabbed on the line. They both ran really well.”

Ben Jones has been one of the beneficiaries of Pauling’s fine string of results since joining the Naunton Downs handler and he was thrilled to have chosen the right mount.

He said: I’ve been very lucky with the opportunities I’ve been given and luckily it’s paying off.

“There wasn’t much between them and obviously coming down to the last there still wasn’t much between them!

“I think Pic Roc will end up being a lovely horse and Champagne Twist is probably a bit more streetwise and that’s why he’s won today. He’s not short of a turn of foot either and I think on better ground, you would see a better horse.

“We both jumped the last really well and there were no hard luck stories. Kielan said well done pulling up and he’s a good sportsman. He thought he was on the best one, I thought I was on the best one and luckily it worked out my way.”

Personal Ambition is likely to head for Aintree’s Grand National meeting after coming out on top in thrilling renewal of the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso.

Never far from the pace set by Choose A Copper, Ben Pauling’s charge – whose only defeat in three prior hurdle starts was when third in this Grade Two company at Sandown – soon had them all at it when Kielan Woods went for home.

To his credit, 9-4 market leader Jango Baie stuck to his task when giving chase, as at one stage it looked as if Nicky Henderson’s Boxing Day Grade One scorer might drop away.

Nico de Boinville’s mount had closed right up jumping the last, but try as he might he could not quite reel the leader in under his 5lb penalty, going down by half a length to the 3-1 winner.

Pauling said: “It didn’t exactly go to plan early doors, there was a good gallop down to the first, probably too much of a gallop I would say, and he missed the first and the second and I was thinking ‘this is not ideal’.

“Thankfully he got into a nice rhythm after that and it was great that he toughed it out, as he needed to today. It wasn’t a facile victory, he had to really dig deep and he hasn’t had to do that before really, so it was great to see him do it.

“He’ll probably go to Aintree, that would be the obvious route. We were never going to go to Cheltenham because I knew that he could make the sort of mistakes he did today.

“I still think he’s a horse that just needs time on the track and I think the flat track at Aintree will suit him more than the undulations of Cheltenham.

“He’s obviously got loads of ability and he’ll be a lovely horse in time.”

Woods only returned this week after serving a 45-day suspension related to his use of the whip.

He said: “This is massive. It’s not easy for Ben Pauling to convince owners to put me up after what I’ve been doing, but I’ve learned my lesson and it’s great that Angus and Lynne (Maclennan), who are big owners, have put me up. It means a lot.

“That was brilliant. He stuck at it really well, he was good and tough. He’s very talented, but he’ll be a nicer chaser, he doesn’t have much respect for hurdles. He’ll be a good horse when he gets fences.”

Henry’s Friend held off the late lunge of Kilbeg King to successfully move up in class and win the Sodexo Live! Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot, on a tremendous afternoon for trainer Ben Pauling and jockey Ben Jones.

Pauling fitted Henry’s Friend with cheekpieces for the first time, despite him winning his last two outings.

And it certainly had the desired effect, as he showed real determination in the closing stages to win the Grade Two in the hands of Ben Jones.

Brave Kingdom attempted to make all, but he was beaten a long way from home which left 13-8 favourite Apple Away in front.

She could never quite break away, however, as Henry’s Friend, Kilbeg King and outsider The King Of Ryhope all had a chance jumping two out.

It was Henry’s Friend (13-2) who toughed it out best, winning by a head and earning a quote of 10-1 for the National Hunt Chase with Paddy Power, although Cheltenham is unlikely to be on the winner’s radar, as Pauling explained.

“He didn’t jump well enough early doors and it was fortunate for him they didn’t go much of a gallop,” he said.

“I thought they would go a right gallop and if they had done he wouldn’t have been in it. But he was brave from the back of the last and his jumping got better and he keeps improving.

“I thought he was well handicapped, but I just thought he would be better off in a smaller field. I’m thrilled because he had to improve and he has.

“He wants every yard (of three miles) and he will be a lovely staying chaser in time. Stamina would never be a worry for me with this lad.

“He’s got an entry at Cheltenham in the amateur chase, but I doubt he wants to go there after that – that looked a bit of a ding-dong and to go there so quickly might be stupid.

“We might look at Aintree for him or something like that, but I think that will do for now.”

Pauling also claimed the opening Ascot Shop Novices’ Hurdle with Pic Roc (11-2) as he continues to add to his crack team of promising youngsters.

His second to Hasthing at Catterick saw him qualify for Sandown’s European Breeders’ Fund Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final and having downed the well-regarded 13-8 favourite Inthewaterside, his handler confirmed that would be his next assignment.

“He’s a nice horse who I’ve always thought plenty of but haven’t managed to win with him,” added Pauling.

“If you are going to lose your maiden status, here is a great place in a nice race.

“He will go to the EBF Final and he qualified for that at Catterick (when second to Hasthing). I just needed to get a run into him and tried that at Doncaster last week but it snowed.

“He doesn’t jump well enough to be a top-class novice this year – he needs a fence. But he will be a lovely novice chaser next year. He’s not a star of hurdles but he might be a nice staying chaser next year.

“We’ll just chuck him in the EBF, see how we get on and then maybe pull stumps for the year. We’ve got a lot entered in that race this year, but he would probably right towards the top of them now.”

The double marked a big Saturday afternoon for Jones, who has become a key member of Pauling’s Naunton Downs team following the retirement of Luca Morgan and steered home Harry Redknapp’s Shakem Up’Arry at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

“I’m absolutely delighted and it’s easy when you have nice horses underneath you,” said the 24-year-old.

“I’m just lucky that I’m able to go out and perform against the big boys and the big horses, so I’m delighted.

“As a jockey all you want to do is ride in the bigger races and at the bigger meetings and winners like that on the big stage mean a lot.

“The better the horse, the better the jockey and I’ve had a couple of willing partners today.”

And it was so nearly the stuff of dreams for the pair, with Bad going agonisingly close to giving them a quickfire hat-trick in the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards Handicap Hurdle but just missing out to Mothill in a bob of heads on the line.

Tellherthename is all systems go for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle having missed out on a shot at Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle on account of the testing ground.

Trainer Ben Pauling has never hidden his admiration for highly of his talented novice, who has won two of his four starts to date in taking fashion at Huntingdon.

The Cheltenham Festival opener has always been on the radar for the Megson family-owned five-year-old, but Pauling was keen to stop off at Newbury en route and try to exploit a rating of 135.

However, with persistent rain in the days leading into the prestigious handicap turning conditions in Berkshire heavy, connections made the decision to skip the contest in favour of heading to Prestbury Park without the risk of a gruelling race prior to his main objective.

“It’s ironic because the Betfair Hurdle is such a valuable race and takes a lot of thinking about, but the Supreme is one of the sort of blue riband events of our sport,” said Pauling.

“To have a horse we think is good enough to feature in it doesn’t happen very often and the owners were keen to save him for that day rather than end up at Cheltenham having had a harder race than necessary in the Betfair.

“We had always said to ourselves we would love to go via a Betfair Hurdle if everything fell right. So he was trained for the race and couldn’t have been in better form, but unfortunately the rain that Newbury got meant the ground was always going to be too testing.

“Actually, the fact the rain stopped and it started to dry out a little bit meant it was going to be quite tacky and hard work, so that even further secured our thoughts not to go there which was a shame because we thought we had him going there in great form and off a very nice mark and a good position to do himself justice.

“He’s at home in his stable looking magnificent and we will now prepare him for the Supreme.”

The Naunton Downs handler has tasted success three times at the Cheltenham Festival and heads to the showpiece meeting in four weeks time with the best squad of novice talent he has ever assembled.

His Festival hopes were enhanced by Handstands’ impressive victory in Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle last week and he will now head attempt to repeat Willoughby Court’s 2017 victory in the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, while Fiercely Proud and Challow Hurdle third The Jukebox Man are other smart prospects Pauling could unleash in the Cotswolds.

“We do seem to have a lot of novices that are going the right way at the moment and they are a very talented and progressive bunch. It’s nice to have such nice younger horses.” continued Pauling.

On Handstands, he added: “He’s come out of Huntingdon well and I was really, really pleased with his performance in the Sidney Banks.

“He’s a horse that previous to that race had only beaten what he had beaten, but Ben Jones who had ridden him twice before felt we were only scratching the surface and had not got to the bottom of him.

“You are not quite sure until you run them in that better grade what you have, but we were thrilled by the way he went about it and he put the race to bed quite nicely – when he got to the front he didn’t do an awful lot and probably won a bit cosily, so it was a good performance.”

Handstands appears to have earned himself a place on Ben Pauling’s Cheltenham Festival squad after maintaining his unbeaten record in the M1 Agency Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon.

Bought for £135,000 after winning his only start in the point-to-point field in October, the five-year-old made an immediate impact under rules at Hereford two months later before following up under a penalty at Newcastle early in the new year.

Pauling’s charge faced a step up in class for his hat-trick bid, with Nicky Henderson’s Grade One winner Jango Baie among his rivals, but he proved more than up to the task under Harry Cobden.

Bugise Seagull took the four-strong field along for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey before 9-4 shot Handstands took over before the home turn, at which stage Jango Baie was being niggled along by James Bowen and was briefly caught in behind the other two runners.

The 5-4 favourite, winner of the inaugural Formby Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree on Boxing Day, stuck to his guns in the straight and was not far behind Handstands at the final flight, but the latter never looked in any serious danger of being caught and had a length and a half in hand at the line.

“He’s so raw and looking at him walking around the paddock there against a couple of those he looked a shell,” said Pauling.

“He looks a horse for next year, but there is just no bottom to him and he has just lobbed round there as easy as you like and when Harry wanted him he’s come alive really – he didn’t pick up the bridle for the first two miles and it’s really pleasing.

“I don’t think he is short of speed either and I’m very pleased. I don’t think he has had to try too hard again there and I couldn’t be happier. He was a bit careful at the second but other than that he has jumped brilliantly and it was a brilliant ride from Harry.”

Coral cut Handstands to 16-1 from 33-1 for the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, while Paddy Power offer 10-1 from 20-1 in their non-runner money back market.

Pauling added: “It’s job done today and then we will see what we do next. He’s an exciting horse for the future and we might look at the Baring Bingham.

“I think we will probably go (to Cheltenham), why not? He doesn’t have to do an awful lot does he and that won’t have taken too much out of him. He’s won on good ground and he’s won on heavy ground – it doesn’t really matter to him.

“There’s not much to separate him and Tellherthename (runs in Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury). I still think Tellherthename is probably a bit better, but that isn’t to say this lad is not class in his own right.

“They are different horses – Tellherthename travels that bit sweeter, whereas this lad goes to sleep then comes alive afterwards.”

Henderson was far from disappointed with the performance of the runner-up Jango Baie, who was conceding 5lb to Handstands.

“James said it was a bit of a stop-start sprint,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“I’m sure he got the trip all right and he stayed on well. He got messed around a bit (in running) but I’m not making excuses. We were giving them 5lb and well done to the winner. I think they are two smart horses, it is always a decent race and I think it was.

“He probably wants all of this trip. He’s finished both of his races very strongly – he certainly did at Aintree when he stayed it out very well and finished very strong.”

On whether Jango Baie could run at Cheltenham, he added: “These are young horses and we’ve got to see who is coping with what.

“Aintree (over two and a half) would look the obvious place for him, but we will see. I will talk to the owner.”

Sixmilebridge could be added to trainer Ben Pauling’s small but select team for next month’s Cheltenham Festival following an impressive debut at Sandown last weekend.

The Naunton Downs handler is fast approaching the 50-winner mark for the current campaign and has unearthed several exciting prospects who are under consideration for the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds in five weeks’ time.

Pauling is particularly strong in the novice hurdle division, with Fiercely Proud and The Jukebox Man both placed in graded company and the unbeaten Handstands and dual winner Tellherthename both facing crucial tests this week in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon and Betfair Hurdle at Newbury respectively.

Point-to-point recruit Sixmilebridge was unraced under rules prior to running in Sandown’s bumper finale on Saturday, but was backed as if plenty was expected and duly justified favouritism with an impressive victory, teeing himself up for a potential tilt at the Champion Bumper.

“In everything he’s done at home he’s been impressive,” said Pauling.

“He’s not a keen horse, he’s just a good work horse, and we’ve struggled with him throughout the whole season in getting his lung health spot-on.

“He still wasn’t spot-on on Saturday, but it had got to the point in the season where we either rolled the dice to see how we got on or we shut up shop for the season. We decided to roll the dice and we were delighted to see what we got because there’s probably a fair bit of improvement to come when he’s 100 per cent healthy.

“If I can get his trach wash clean, he would be the sort that I would roll at the Cheltenham bumper because he seems to have that mental attitude you need and travels well without being too keen – he looks like he knows his job.

“We might let him roll in the Cheltenham bumper, which would be unusual for me, but I do think he’s potentially a bit special.”

Sixmilebridge’s victory was the second leg of a Sandown double for Pauling and his owners the Megson family, with the tricky but talented Harper’s Brook striking gold in a valuable handicap chase.

The eight-year-old had thrown away victory on his previous outing at Ascot when pulling himself up on the run-in, but having got the job done on Saturday, he too is Festival-bound.

Pauling added: “He is a horse with enormous ability, an unbelievable stride and the scope he has is just mad, but he is a bit of a character to say the least, so any day you get his head in front is a good day.

“I was thrilled with the way he travelled through the race off a strong pace. He was nearly taken out at the third-last by the loose horse and it was unfortunate at the last for the other horse to fall, but we can now look forward to going to Cheltenham with an exciting horse for the Grand Annual.

“He’s been given a mark of 140 which is spot-on as it’ll get you in, but you’ll be near the bottom of the weights. I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Harry Redknapp-owned The Jukebox Man has not been seen in competitive action since finishing third in the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury in late December, but he is also on Pauling’s Prestbury Park teamsheet.

“Jukebox will go straight to Cheltenham and I’d say he’s more of an Albert Bartlett horse than a Baring Bingham horse,” the trainer said.

“If the Baring Bingham came up on proper heavy ground then I’d probably stick at two-and-a-half, but I think he’s probably more of a three-miler.

“He ran a blinder in the Challow. It was pretty tough going that day and they went a proper, honest gallop considering the conditions.

“I just thought that even though that he seems great at home, he could do with a proper opportunity to freshen up. He’s in really good form and I think he’s only going to improve.”

Jeriko Du Reponet maintained his unbeaten record in the SBK Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster, but he was made to pull out all the stops in the process.

Sent off the 4-6 favourite, Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old was expected to book his ticket for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with the minimum of fuss following two effortless wins at Newbury.

He was in deeper company on this occasion though, with Ben Pauling’s Fiercely Proud and Sam Thomas’ Lump Sum also unbeaten over hurdles and Nicky Richards’ The Kalooki Kid a dual winner too.

The Grade Two was supposed to have been run at Haydock last week, without Jeriko Du Reponet, but as the race was rescheduled, Henderson rerouted his charge and Mark Walsh travelled from Ireland for the ride.

He travelled into the race supremely well, despite a few sketchy leaps, but still looked like winning quite comfortably.

However, Fiercely Proud lived up to his name and battled on gamely and then Lump Sum laid down the final challenge before Jeriko Du Reponet settled matters by a length and a quarter.

The bookmakers were not impressed, though, and Betfair pushed the winner out to 8-1 from 5s for the Supreme.

Walsh felt a slow early pace had gone against his mount and expects Jeriko Du Reponet to improve for the experience.

He said: “We went no gallop early, which didn’t suit, and he didn’t even jump great early considering we were going so slow.

“When we picked up going into the straight, he was electric over the last three (hurdles). Early on he was a bit sloppy, but I think that was because he thought he was just going round for a school.

“The race wasn’t run to suit, we went too slow and it turned into a sprint, that was the reading I got.

“In his other races he was just cantering around, but he really had to fight today and he put his head down when I wanted him.

“He’s a lovely horse, he can only beat what’s in front of him and he showed a good attitude.

“He’s only five and I think he’ll keep improving.”

Ben Pauling is confident Handstands will make the long journey to the north east worthwhile when he puts his unbeaten record on the line at Newcastle on Saturday.

A winner on his Irish point-to-point debut in October, the five-year-old subsequently went under the hammer at the Tattersalls Cheltenham Sale the following month and was knocked down for £135,000.

It did not take him long to make a successful debut under rules for for his new connections and it was impossible to be anything but impressed by the way he readily shook off his rivals at Hereford.

A penalty means he must give 7lb away in the Quinnbet Best Odds Guaranteed Novices’ Hurdle, but Pauling expects him to prove up to the task when he embarks on the near 500-mile round trip from his Gloucestershire yard as the trainer’s sole runner on the card.

He said: “He’s a lovely horse with plenty of ability and he’ll handle the ground. I think he’s quite versatile and I think he’s got a bright future.

“Hopefully it’s a good opportunity for him to get another win under his belt and a bit more experience and we could possibly look at qualifying him for the EBF Final or something like that. He might be better than that, I’m not sure, but I think he’s a nice horse with a bright future ahead of him.

“He’s very much a chaser, but hopefully he’ll be competitive in a few nicer races over hurdles later in the season.”

Handstands will be a hot favourite for the second of four races at Newcastle that will now take place in front of the ITV cameras following the abandonment of racing at Sandown.

The first is the QuinnBet Acca Bonus Novices’ Hurdle, in which Martin Todhunter’s recent Carlisle winner Forged Well meets Lucinda Russell’s Bangor runner-up Two Auld Pals.

Local trainer Rebecca Menzies is no stranger to success at Gosforth Park and she will be hoping previous course winner Attention All can get his season up and running in the Quinnbet Acca Bonus Handicap Chase, having failed to trouble the judge in two previous outings this term.

Mark Walford has a couple of chances in the concluding quinnbet.com Handicap Hurdle, with top-weight Tommy Johnson and stablemate Amber Gold both declared.

Walford said: “We’ve been happy with Tommy Johnson’s first few runs. He was second at Carlisle and then we ran him back too soon when he was pulled up at Hexham.

“He’s been progressing nicely and I was quite happy with his run at Catterick last time (finished fifth). I don’t think Catterick would quite be his track, but Newcastle should suit him well and he’s in good form, so we’re expecting a decent run.

“It’s Amber Gold’s first run of the season and she hasn’t run for a long time. She’s been going well at home, but we’d expect her to probably come on a bit for the run.”

Ben Pauling retains plenty of faith in Tellherthename as he attempts to get to the bottom of what caused his disappointing showing in Aintree’s Formby Novices’ Hurdle.

The five-year-old fetched £200,000 at the sales having got the better of recent Exeter bumper scorer and Envoi Allen’s brother Joyau Allen in the pointing field and backed up that promise in his opening outings under rules, pushing eventual Formby winner Jango Baie all the way at Ascot before bolting up at Huntingdon.

Tellherthename was sent off at odds of 5-1 when making the move to Grade One company on Boxing Day and was up with the pace before stopping quickly approaching three out, eventually being pulled up by jockey Kielan Woods.

Pauling has given the gelding a full MOT following that effort and if nothing comes to light from the extensive bout of testing, the Naunton Downs handler will be content to point towards the testing conditions at Aintree as a plausible reason for Tellherthename’s Formby no-show.

He said: “We’ve explored and turned most stones we can now because we were a bit perplexed at the time as we think he is a bit special. He was just beaten a long way out really for it to be right.

“At the moment we are still investigating but I would pretty much hang my hat on the fact he doesn’t handle that very testing ground.

“Everything so far, all his bloods and stuff, has been good, but we’ve got a few more little bits and bobs to check out.

“He seems very well in himself and if nothing comes to light, I will put it down to the fact he just can’t go on that very soft ground.”

Pauling went on: “I trotted off down the track to try to meet him to make sure he was OK and it was just very hard work.

“It was about as bad a ground I think I’ve seen in a long time and interestingly I shared a lift home with Felix De Giles who rode the French horse, July Flower, in the race and he said it was worse ground than Auteuil by a margin. His horse didn’t even handle the ground and travel to the second hurdle and she is proven on that very soft ground at Auteuil.”

Providing Tellherthename gets the all clear to continue his campaign, Pauling is keen to attempt to restore the talented novice’s confidence at the earliest opportunity.

He will be searching for an opening in calmer waters over the coming weeks where it is hoped the Megson Family-owned gelding can bounce back to his best and reignite spring festival dreams for all connected.

“If nothing comes to light, we will look to get him out in the next 10 days to two weeks in an ordinary novice somewhere, just to get his season back on track,” continued Pauling.

“We can then make plans from there whether we go straight to the Festival or look elsewhere, but as long as the horse is OK.

“From what he did at Huntingdon and before that at Ascot, the form is in the book. He just got touched off by Jango Baie at Ascot and I’m not overly worried about it all – if there is something to find we will find it, if not we will draw a line and go again.

“I think he is a very good horse and as good as we have had for a long time.”

The Jukebox Man will not be seen again until the spring following his fine third in Newbury’s Challow Hurdle.

Owned by football great Harry Redknapp, he was bought for £70,000 after impressing in the pointing field and since being beaten by the well-regarded Gidleigh Park on his rules debut, he has barely put a foot wrong for trainer Ben Pauling.

Two novice hurdle victories saw him stepped up in class for the final Grade One of 2023 and although failing to come away with victory, the six-year-old was less than two lengths adrift of eventual winner Captain Teague after being involved in a prolonged battle with both the Paul Nicholls-trained scorer and runner-up Lookaway up the Newbury straight.

That gives Pauling confidence that he has a special performer under his care and after being given plenty of time to recover from his Challow exertions, The Jukebox Man will be prepared for big-race targets in the spring.

He said: “We are really lucky at the moment to have some smart young horses, but he is definitely up there with the best of them.

“He’s particularly suited by that sort of ground and I’m not saying he does not have the speed or class for better ground, but I think he handles the soft very well.

“I thought he ran a lovely race and jumped particularly well and travelled strongly. Although four of them finished within two lengths of each other, rather than say the race wasn’t that strong, I think you probably have four nice horses.

“Lookaway brought very strong handicap form to the race and the others are very unexposed horses who have done nothing wrong in their preparation and are hopefully going to be smart horses for years to come.”

Pauling continued: “He won’t run again now until the spring. I just feel the Challow is always a gruelling enough test and I don’t think we can say this year is any different.

“Amazingly, he has come out of it very well indeed and is as fresh as a daisy. However, I think we will be saving him for something in the spring, whether that is Cheltenham, Aintree or even Perth.

“We will look to run once or twice max before the end of the season and although I think he will stay three miles very well, ground will probably determine which route we went really.

“I think he will definitely stay three, but if it came up soft I wouldn’t be afraid to leave him at two and a half and I think he is an absolute belter. He has a brilliant attitude, loves his job and I think he is going to be a very smart horse for the future.”

It was an exciting few days for both Pauling and Redknapp and although they fell short in the Challow, they received the perfect compensation package at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when Shakem Up’Arry landed the valuable Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase by an emphatic seven and a half lengths.

It was a long-awaited victory for the 10-year-old, who had been sent off favourite for the corresponding race in 2023 and had also placed over the course and distance at the Cheltenham Festival.

“He has always been knocking on the door of a big one without quite finding what is needed to get his head in front,” continued Pauling.

“Whether that be at the Festival or whenever he ran, he always seems to turn up, but has just fallen slightly short.

“We just gave him a tinker with his wind in the summer and whether it is that or not, I’m not sure, but it looks to be paying dividends and it is great for both Harry and the horse to get on the board in a big one and reap the rewards for almost Harry’s patience really.

“Harry couldn’t have been much happier, he was gutted not to be there, but he has always adored this horse – I think because he is named after him. He has owned him with me since he was a three-year-old and amazingly he turned 10 the other day which is frightening.

“He has always been fond of this horse and it was lovely to see him go and do it.”

Ben Pauling hailed the achievements of jockey Luca Morgan after the champion conditional announced his retirement from the saddle.

The 22-year-old has long been associated with Pauling’s Naunton Downs operation and enjoyed a stellar 2022-23 season which saw him not only lift the conditional jockeys’ title at Sandown in April, but also partner his sole Listed winner when steering Fiercely Proud to success at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

However, with an injury over the summer only adding to the stresses of Morgan’s career-long battle with the scales, he has now made the decision to hang up his boots and bow out.

“It’s a very sad day for all of us to be honest and Luca has been a huge part of the team for four years,” said Pauling.

“He’s not just been an able jockey who has delivered for us on so many occasions, but he has been a massive part of the team at home and has always been a very popular member and we have always loved watching his successes.

“I personally and everyone at home has taken massive satisfaction from seeing him win the conditional jockeys’ title. It was a dream of his from a young age and it’s a proud moment for all of us that we were able to achieve that with him.”

It is a decision Pauling knew was always around the corner and the handler is now keen to support Morgan in whatever way he can as he embarks on a new career out of the saddle, confident he will continue to thrive away from the racecourse.

He added: “He had an injury in the summer and it has been apparent that he had been struggling and we’ve had many conversations about it. He has really given it his best shot.

“We always knew there would come a time when his weight would get the better of him and I think we all dreamt of having this season and maybe one more.

“My thoughts are primarily with Luca and it is not an easy decision for a young man of his age who has only ever wanted to be a jockey. But he is a very intelligent young man and very quick witted and he will only go from strength to strength in whatever he does next.”

He went on: “We will be there for him in whatever he wants to do and if we can be a part of that going forward, we would be thrilled.

“It’s a sad day, but one we knew was coming at some point and it’s just a shame it has to happen.”

The Cheltenham Festival-winning handler praised Morgan’s “brave decision”, pointing out his talent as a jockey can never be questioned as he bows out at the peak of his riding powers.

“It is exceptionally brave and those of us who have never had to fight with our weight will never understand the stresses that can put on you personally, mentally and physically,” said Pauling.

“So it is a brave decision and it is the right decision and he goes out as champion conditional.

“Everyone can see the ability and talent that he has and he will be remembered for that.

“I’m hugely grateful for the days he has given me, my team, my wife Sophie, who adores him, and our owners. There have been some great times and he will be fondly remembered.”

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