By Simon Jackson.
Paul Nicholls has said he is ‘thrilled’ with Dodging Bullets ahead of his belated return in the Grade 2 Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury on Saturday.
Dodging Bullets has not raced since winning the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at last year’s Festival and the two mile chasing championship on the second day of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival on March 16 is once again the main target.
The eight-year-old missed his intended comeback after he was discovered to be lame following a schooling session. A splint problem was later found to be the cause of the unsoundness. He has responded well to treatment and is reported to be in good order ahead of Saturday’s race.
“Dodging Bullets, the reigning two-mile champion chaser, looks absolutely amazing – we are thrilled with him at the moment,” Nicholls said at a stable visit organised by Betfair this week.
“It has been one of those seasons for us, with the injuries to him and several others – it has not been plain sailing.
“He was going to Cheltenham in November before we ran him in the Tingle Creek and the Clarence House but we schooled him one morning and two days later he was hopping lame.
“But for a week afterwards, we could not work out what was wrong with him. Then he threw an enormous splint so we had to give him a month stood in his box and treat it. He had lots of walking and bits and pieces as we waited for him to come sound again.
“For the last eight weeks, we have had absolutely no problems with him and he has had a racecourse gallop as well. So he is all ready to go on Saturday. He looks in great shape and is good in his skin. He has done loads of work and is fit enough to run really well on Saturday. But whatever he does, a race will make a big difference to him ahead of Cheltenham.”
Dodging Bullets is best-priced at 8-1 to win this year’s Champion Chase, where the betting is headed by Un De Sceaux who is best-priced at 4-5 and will be facing Nicholls’ charge for the first time.
“Last year he needed his first run and then won three Grade 1s,” Nicholls continued. “He seems every bit as good as he was last season and we are very pleased with his work.
“I don’t think we have ever had him quite so fit and well going into his first race of the season. Of course, he will come on for the run – he has to – but I am happy he is in good enough shape to run tidy on Saturday.
“He should be at the peak of his powers now. Un De Sceaux will be the one to beat when defending his title at Cheltenham – we haven’t taken him on yet.”