Kim Bailey is convinced Vinndication is a “Gold Cup horse” – but he is also about to give his classy chaser an alternative Cheltenham Festival entry in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.
History is in danger of repeating itself for Vinndication this winter because, just as last year, an injury setback means time may run out for a prep run before March.
At Cheltenham in 2020, he put up a mighty effort under top weight in the Ultima Handicap Chase as he failed by less than three lengths to defy his four-month absence before the Festival.
This time, Vinndication injured himself again when unseating in a prominent position – once more under a welter burden – in November’s Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury.
Bailey has not given up hope of finding another race for him before mid-March but has already decided he will not be ready in time to test his course-and-distance credentials in the Cotswold Chase at the end of this month.
“To this day I don’t know what happened in the Ladbroke – but anyway, he parted company with his jockey,” he said.
“He banged the inside of his near-hind joint, which he was very sore on for a few days.
“Although he’s 100% sound, he spent time on Jason Maguire’s horse treadmill to try to help him.
“He’ll come back in time. The Gold Cup entry is very much there for the simple reason that I think he’s a Gold Cup horse.”
Bailey, a Gold Cup-winning trainer with Master Oats back in 1995 and who also briefly housed 1997 hero Mr Mulligan early in that horse’s career, is in no doubt the best is yet to be seen of Vinndication.
“He needs to go and have a run (before a Gold Cup),” he added.
“If he had completed the race at Newbury and gone and won, he’d be a very laudable favourite, or bang there for the race.
“(Jockey) David (Bass) is convinced he would have won, but it’s very easy to say that. Even if we’d have finished second to him (impressive winner Cloth Cap), we’d have run a great race, giving him all that weight.”
Entries for the Stayers’ Hurdle close on Wednesday, and Vinndication’s name is set to be among them – even though he has not run over timber since completing his unbeaten novice campaign with a third successive victory almost three years ago.
“He’s still a good hurdler,” said the Cotswolds trainer.
“So, from the owner’s point of view, what races have we got in mind for him? If I can’t get a prep race into him for the Gold Cup – which I’d like to have – I do have the option of the Stayers’ Hurdle.”
Asked if he has yet reached his full potential, Bailey said: “No. He’s had very little racing. He’s only run 12 times.”
His next will not be at Cheltenham’s Festival Trials day, however, because time is too short.
“No, definitely not,” said Bailey.
“Unfortunately, it could easily be (like last year).
“It is such a difficult situation. Do I go back the handicap route, do I go for the Gold Cup? It will have to work itself out.”
Vinndication will not be joined by stablemate Younevercall if he does take up the Stayers’ Hurdle option.
The latter was pulled up behind impressive winner McFabulous in the re-scheduled Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday – and will have an extended break before returning to defend his Sandown crown at the end of April in the Grade Two hurdle he won when it was last run two years ago.
Reflecting on Kempton, Bailey said: “He’s 10 years old, and there are very few races for him.
“The owners were very keen (to run at the weekend), and there was no reason to say the horse shouldn’t run.
“But it’s very obvious to me that he’s a horse that always takes a long time and needs a break between races – and that came too quick for him on Saturday.
“I’m not worried about that – you can eradicate that (run).”
Younevercall, who had performed with such credit to be fourth in the Grade One Long Walk at Ascot before Christmas, will have more than three months to freshen up for his big target.
“There’s nothing else for him to run in (for a while),” added Bailey.
“He doesn’t need to be going to Cheltenham – he doesn’t like going left-handed.
“So I should think our season with him now will be aimed at Sandown, (and) I’d think we’ll probably go straight there.”