Micheal Nolan confirmed for Thyme Hill ride with Tom O’Brien out injured

It is reported that Thyme Hill is on his way to the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in Cheltenham as he bids for his fourth attempt to open his festival account.

The nine-year-old, who was coached by Philip Hobbs for the partnership of The Englands and Heywoods, has a good festival record without a win on the biggest stage of National Hunt races.

After finishing third behind Envoi Allen in the 2019 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Thyme Hill has since been fourth behind Monkfish in the 2020 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle before returning to the meeting for a gallant second place behind Flooring Porter in last year’s Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

Having won two of his three starts as a rookie pursuer so far this season, including the Grade 1 Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day, Hobbs is hoping his current stable star could find his prime at Cheltenham on March 15.

He said: “We’ve had 20 winners from the Cheltenham Festival and Rooster Booster was obviously the most important, but if it all comes together for Thyme Hill we’d be delighted.

“Three runs over fences should be enough experience to go to Cheltenham and he’s in good form at the track. He stays but he has pace so I assume you want an even race overall.”

With regular driver Tom O’Brien suffering an early injury in a crash at Ludlow last week, Hobbs has been able to confirm that Micheal Nolan will be riding Thyme Hill for the first time in his career.

He said: “Micheal Nolan will ride him. He has home schooled him, he has been with us for 12 years and he was second in the conditional jockeys championship a few years ago.”

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It’s also likely that the cheekpieces worn for the first time will be retained in McFabulous’s 15-length win at Kempton at the festival.

Hobbs said: “I think the headgear helped him at Christmas, he had jumped a bit cautiously the first time in Exeter but he was doing well and getting more confidence as he went on.

“At Newbury, which was his second run of the season and on fast ground, he was cautious again and they went at a very even pace. When they got faster on the straight he couldn’t go with them and his jumping was cautious again so we had to sharpen his jumping.

“The cheek pieces did that and we got a better result at Kempton.

“Winning a Class 1 in that style was fantastic. He wouldn’t be the most obvious pursuer, he’s big enough but he’s not a huge strong horse – he’s athletic. He’s where we want him to be. The school is over Well his work has gone well and we couldn’t be happier with him.”

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