English stalwart Simply Ned back in Leopardstown for a sixth time

Days shy of turning 13 Nicky Richards’ veteran chestnut looks as formidable as ever

It is a Christmas curio that the festival’s staple dish doesn’t come from Carlow or the Curragh but Cumbria.

For a sixth year in a row the veteran Simply Ned has made the journey to Leopardstown from Nicky Richards’ yard near Penrith in the north of England to line up in Friday’s Grade One feature.

Not only that but just days shy of officially turning 13 the veteran chestnut looks as formidable as ever and has a hat-trick of victories in his sights in the €125,000 Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase.

That Simply Ned lines up at all is an astonishing feat of durability. His first attempt at the race came in 2014 when finishing third to Twinlight. A year later he was runner-up to Flemenstar.


In 2016 the English outsider again placed in third, filling “extra” status behind the two-mile division’s next big thing, Douvan. It appeared to be his role; a rare and welcome but rather quixotic visitor to Leopardstown’s Christmas festivities.

However in 2017 he ran a blinder to push another Willie Mullins trained star, Min, to the pin of his collar. It took only seconds for the full merit of his performance to become apparent. On the run in, Min interfered with the English raider's chance to such an extent the Leopardstown stewards reversed the placings.

If that first Grade One success looked to put a seal on an admirable career then last year’s victory over yet another Mullins star, Footpad, didn’t require luck, the stewards or anything else.

Instead the veteran travelled beautifully through the race and with perfect timing pounced on the hot favourite in the closing stages to win by half a length.

So Simply Ned is back in the race for a sixth time, as ubiquitous as a “freebie” ticket on Paddy Power day, and once again faced with a new tyro Mullins superstar.

Chacun Pour Soi’s first appearance since bursting on the scene at Punchstown last Spring might be the most eagerly anticipated of the week.

He is already being talked up as the one to finally end Mullins’s drought in Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase this March.

Chacun Pour Soi is the excitement of this race: Simply Ned’s rugged qualities will be the real test of whether or not he’s the real deal.

“Everybody is writing him [Chacun Pour Soi] up so who am I to doubt him!” Richards smiled.

Defy the years

The Englishman has ventured where compatriots have feared to tread in recent years and been rewarded handsomely with a horse who continues to thrive and defy the years.

“He did his last bit of work and I said to someone he’s as good as last year. I think there’s plenty left in the tank so let’s find out,” Richards said.

“I’ve no doubt this is a starting point for Willie’s horse. He’ll be thinking Cheltenham and Punchestown for him. But this is our horse’s big day, his Gold Cup.

“This is our horse’s time of year. He seems to be fine until the back end of January and then he starts to tail off a little bit, for whatever reason I don’t know.

“He runs his heart out every time and you can only give your all so many times. He always puts everything he’s got into it. So we don’t run him too often,” he added.

Friday will be Simply Ned’s 43rd career start and an opportunity for an 11th victory.

Last month he once again ran a fine race at Cheltenham when third to Defi Du Seuil in the Shloer Chase. Now though he is back on “home” ground.

“The old bugger would swim there for if we didn’t put him on the ferry!” Richards has joked.

“Any horse should enjoy Leopardstown. It’s a fantastic racecourse, a lovely galloping track where you’ve got to jump. He’s a big, long-striding horse and it seems to suit him well,” he added.

Defi Du Seuil is in the front line of English-based two-milers having gone on to land the Tingle Creek at Sandown earlier this month.

That Simply Ned was able to get within half a dozen lengths of him prior to that represents a potential mid-season form link between the two countries.

If Chacun Pour Soi can brush as stalwart a performer as Simply Ned out of the way then the hype surrounding him may be justified.

Give the English horse a hot pace to aim at however and it is a rare opponent that doesn’t know they’ve been in a Christmas battle with Simply Ned around Leopardstown.