Kim Bailey has earmarked next month’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase as the first potential target for Cheltenham Festival winner Imperial Aura.
The Andoversford trainer may choose the two-and-a-half-mile prize on November 1 as his starting point for the lightly-raced seven-year-old’s season.
In a productive first campaign over fences, the Kalanisi gelding rounded off with victory at the Festival in the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Bailey said: “Imperial Aura has come back from Ireland and he looks very well.
“He will possibly go to Carlisle for the intermediate chase there next month. He will have an entry in the BetVictor (Gold Cup, at Cheltenham), and we will see where we go from there.
“It won’t be an easy season for him, but I certainly feel at home he is a stronger horse.
“He didn’t have any issues with his shins last season – which he has done before – but the owners were patient, and we backed off, allowing him to do what he has done.
Vinndication could be stepped back up in class on his return, with Bailey looking to the Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
He said: “He will probably go for the race he didn’t go for last year, which was the Charlie Hall – because the race he won last year on the same day at Ascot (Sodexo Gold Cup), he will probably be a bit high in the weights for.
“I was disappointed he got beat at in the Ultima at Cheltenham. We were due to take him to Newbury two weeks before, but they cancelled it – which just tipped the scales away from us.
“I hope this is his year – he has to improve another 10lb to be a Grade One horse, but it would be nice to think he could be.”
Two For Gold claimed Grade Two honours on his penultimate start last season in the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick. However, he could revert to handicap company on his return – with Bailey considering a number of options.
He said: “He will either go to Chepstow next weekend or Market Rasen a few days later – where there is a new extended two-mile-five £36,000 handicap chase.
“He is a horse that, all being well, will be entered in the BetVictor Gold Cup as well. He has won over three miles, but he has got bags of speed.
“We were planning to go to Cheltenham, but he had a hard race at Ascot on bottomless ground in the Reynoldstown. So we left him alone – and that would have been one race too many.”
Newtide was another to strike at Grade Two level over fences last season, in the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby, and Bailey believes he could be tailor-made for this year’s Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
He added: “He has had a wind operation since the end of last season and showed he needed that when his wind cut out on him in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.
“He likes soft ground and he could be a Welsh Grand National-type horse. It will be a hard season for him, because he is high in the handicap for what he won, two novice chases, and the second of them at Wetherby was a bit of a messy race.”
The Gold Cup-winning trainer expects First Flow to continue his progression over fences when getting his ground conditions, having rattled up a hat-trick at the end of the season.
He said: “First Flow is a good horse, but he is so reliant on heavy ground. He ran some cracking races at Ascot and Sandown, where I never thought he was a good enough jumper to go round. His schooling was good towards the end of the season.
“If he gets his ground this season he will be a contender for the good races over two miles.
“He is a bit like (1995 Gold Cup winner) Master Oats. They were not bred to be speed machines – but they just try and jump.”