After serving a 6-year training apprenticeship as assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson, Ben Pauling is now in his fourth season with his own training licence. He’s already established himself as a patient trainer who knows the time of day, and his winners seldom go unbacked.
The 2016/17 season started with a cruel blow however, with stable star Barters Hill pulling-up injured on his much-anticipated chasing debut – and he’s now side-lined until next season. Pauling has got plenty of less known horses to go to battle with though and, with 14 winners at a strike rate of 18%, his runners are always worth a look in the market. Here are some of his horses to take serious note of.
A HARE BREATH
Rated 137 over hurdles, he won his novice chase debut a winning one when beating two higher-rated ex-hurdlers. Should pick-up another novice chase or two, or a handicap chase, though would also be interesting if reverting to hurdles at some point after starting the season with a fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle.
A small injury stopped him in his tracks last year but that may mean he’s now well-handicapped. Not been back in training long, and I expect he’ll be brought along slowly with a big Spring target in mind – perhaps the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
The stable think a lot of him, but he didn’t seem to like the downhill gradients at Cheltenham. There’s talk of getting him qualified for the EBF Final at Sandown, so he may not be winning before that big target.
A highly-regarded bumper winner that was considered desperately unlucky when second in a listed-event at Cheltenham. Wants decent ground, so Pauling is likely to put him away for a one of the big festival bumpers at Cheltenham or Aintree.
High hopes that he’ll rate higher over fences than he did over hurdles (132), but blotted his copybook when falling at Doncaster on his chasing debut, when the winner was much better than a class-4 horse. Best on flat-tracks over hurdles, and looks sure to be found one or two winning opportunities in novice chases.
His 38-lengths win over Fletcher’s Flyer on his stable debut marked this fragile horse down as one who could win a big-handicap. Could be best caught fresh, and well-worth watching in the market when he makes his seasonal debut.
Highly-tried in the Hennessy where he struggled against quicker horses, however he’s much better going right-handed and should pick-up a decent handicap this season when running that way round.
Not made much impact at Cheltenham or in the Becher Chase at Aintree in two runs this season, but didn’t hit top-form until around the New Year in the last two seasons, so one to keep an eye on over the festive period and afterwards.
The stable left their money behind when second on his hurdling debut, but got it back and some when winning at Warwick next time. 2½-miles or further likely to suit, and no surprise if this one was ideally suited by big competitive festivals typically found at Cheltenham or Aintree later in the season.