Saint Palais is set to return to Wetherby for the Towton Novices’ Chase next month after being hiked 10lb by the handicapper following success at Newbury last week.
The Richard Bandey-trained five-year-old made it three wins from four outings over fences, completing a hat-trick, with a comfortable win under Harry Bannister in a competitive renewal of the Mandarin Chase.
Having previously scored at Wetherby, the Tadley handler hopes the diminutive Saint Palais can take a step up to graded company in his stride with a return to the West Yorkshire track.
Bandey said: “The handicapper has put him up to a mark of 145 now. He is absolutely fine. He’s been bucking out in the field since the race.
“He will be back in training on Wednesday, but he is in great form and we are looking at Wetherby for the (Grade Two) Towton Novices’ Chase on February 5.
“We don’t want to over-face him, but with his new mark, we just have to see how he fares in a race like that. It will tell us where we go with him until the end of the season.
“We are not going to run him at Cheltenham. He liked Wetherby the other day and it is a 10lb rise from what he was running off last time, but we will see how he fares.
“Either that race or the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot (February 19) – that is another race we have got on our mind. They are both going to be slightly differently-run races with smaller fields, but not unlike a handicap, and so he has to step up again, probably.”
While Saint Palais took time to warm to the task in soft at Newbury and his winning margin over Gericault Roque was just a length and a quarter, he could be called the winner a long way from home in the three-and-a-quarter-mile event.
Bandey has no qualms about the lackadaisical way he raced early on.
“We have watched the replays of Newbury plenty of times! He looked like he wasn’t jumping and wasn’t travelling early on, but that is him,” said Bandey.
“He just switched off. Actually, he jumped fine and just wasn’t exuberant until Harry put him into the race and then you watched his jumping come to life.
“Jumping the last three in the home straight – he was awesome and didn’t put a foot wrong and jumped the last probably the best of all of them.
“When you have got a horse like that who can switch off and then jump like that, it is lovely.
“It was a competitive enough Mandarin and they went a good gallop end to end and then the front two quickened quite significantly. That is when the jumping did what it had to do. It was there every time you asked for it.
“I’m not going to say he is going to improve another 10lb at all because that would be dreaming, but talking to Harry, if he had asked him to go on another five lengths or so, he could have done. He only does enough when he gets to the front and his ears start flicking.
“We will look forward to the next step up because that will tell us where we go afterwards.”