Masaccio will enjoy the soft ground at Newbury on Saturday

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December 28

Paul Nicholls tries to win the fourth Challow Hurdle in a row at Newbury on Saturday, courtesy of Captain Teague, but Alan hopes to spoil another Ditcheat celebration with Masaccio.

And Alan knows just what it takes to win this Grade 1 novice as he lifted the prize seven years ago with Messire des Obeaux. Like Niall Farrell and the McNeill family, the six-year-old’s owners, Alan was delighted to see his local course take a soaking this week as Masaccio is at his best when the mud is flying.

Alan said:”Masaccio was only beaten a nose by Jingko Blue over this course at the start of the month, giving 6lb to the winner, who is a horse I know Nicky (Henderson) thinks a lot of.

“Masaccio jumped very well on what was only his second race over hurdles, so he will improve for the experience. He was a smart bumper horse last season and made an excellent start to jumping when winning well at Chepstow in October. The ground would have been plenty quick enough for him at Newbury last time, and we have always thought that he is better when he can get his toe in.”

In contrast, Paradias, who takes on Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite Jeriko du Reponet  in the Introductory Hurdle, would not appreciate the ground deteriorating too much.

Paradias was close to Listed class on the Flat, and, assessing his prospects, Alan said:”He was an impressive winner of his hurdling debut at Lingfield last month, which did not come as a surprise as he has jumped well right from his first day’s schooling. This is a sensible next step rather than throwing him in with the big boys too soon.”

Our other Newbury runner on Saturday is Notachance in the Coral-sponsored Mandarin Chase. Once a prestigious Listed race – the mighty Mill House won two of the first three runnings with welter burdens and subsequent winners included Night Nurse and Jodami – sadly the Mandarin is now just an ordinary 0-135 handicap.

However, the £16,000 plus first prize is well worth winning, and Notachance represents Barbury here rather than running in Wednesday’s Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Alan said:”Notachance was travelling better than our eventual winner Major Dundee for much of the way in last season’s Midlands National at Uttoxeter, and he still has plenty of ability. He has been in good for since his comeback race at Exeter last month.”