Sue Smith reports Vintage Clouds to be in tip-top shape ahead of his return to Haydock for the Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase on Saturday.
The 11-year-old grey won the Ultima Handicap Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival – a race he had been placed in twice previously.
Vintage Clouds could finish only fifth of six runners on his seasonal reappearance at Kelso and was again down the field at Warwick last month, but Smith has been pleased with her stable stalwart since.
“He goes to Haydock. He seems in very good form with himself. He schooled on Wednesday morning and he jumped very well. We’re looking forward to it,” said the Bingley-based trainer.
“I hope the ground doesn’t get any heavier, which I don’t think it will.”
Vintage Clouds has an excellent record at Haydock, with his three course victories including a dominant display in last year’s Peter Marsh Chase.
In 12 previous visits to the Merseyside venue, the veteran has won or been placed on 10 occasions. He was third, albeit beaten a long way, in the Tommy Whittle in 2019.
Smith added: “With a bit if luck all will be well. He’s got a lot of weight, but he likes Haydock.”
The likely favourite is David Pipe’s Remastered, who was bang in contention when suffering a heavy fall four fences from home in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury three weeks ago.
“It was a horrible fall and he had a lot of treatment afterwards, but thankfully he came out of it in good order and this is the right race to go for,” said Pipe.
“He can take a lead or make the running, he’s versatile like that, so hopefully he can run well.
“The encouraging thing at Newbury was how he handled the better ground, but we know he handles soft.”
A summer wind operation appeared to have the desired effect for Olly Murphy’s Calipso Collonges judged on his successful return to action at Kelso.
The nine-year-old also has a Haydock victory on his CV and was runner-up to Lord Du Mesnil in the Tommy Whittle two years ago.
“I’m very happy with him. He’s been very well since his last win. Hopefully that will have done his confidence a world of good,” said Murphy.
“He stays well, handles soft ground and fingers crossed, he’ll run well.”
Anthony Honeyball is hoping the high-class Acey Milan puts his best foot forward.
He said: “He seems in good health and he obviously has some very good form – finishing fourth in a Champion Bumper and second in a £100,000 hurdle at Haydock.
“He had his excuses and needed it a bit at Ffos Las first time out this season.
“You can’t discount him. He’s been a bit below his best of late, but I think we’ve got him about right and it’s worth a go at a pot like this as he is a quality horse.”
Dr Richard Newland saddles Enqarde, and said: “He was running a nice race in the race last year when he unseated, so we thought we would have a go with him again.
“If all goes to plan, he should run a nice race and you’d expect him to have come on a bit for Exeter, as that was his first run for a while.”
When the mud is flying Venetia Williams is usually worth following and she runs bottom weight Fuji Flight.
“He is off a light weight and it is a big step up in class for him,” she said.
“The form of his lower grade third at Lingfield has worked out quite well, which is what encouraged me to have a go at a better race off a light weight. The soft ground would be helpful to slow the pace for him.”