Richard Hobson’s Lord Du Mesnil will seek to defend his Haydock Grand National Trial title via a tilt at the Peter Marsh Chase.
The nine-year-old was the runner up in the Grade Three Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, coming home a length and three-quarters behind Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Good Boy Bobby.
The performance marked a return to form for the gelding, who had not completed a race since his victory in the Grand National Trial at Haydock last year.
The latter race is on the agenda for the horse come February, but first he will head for the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at the same track at the end of the month.
“He’s in even better order than that, he was just coming to hand on Boxing Day and we’ve got him just right, as long as we get the rub of the green now,” Hobson said.
“He goes next to the Peter Marsh and then the Grand National Trial, he’ll be taking on Royale Pagaille and I’d really fancy him because obviously he won’t be lugging top weight around there.
“We’ll go back to Haydock then probably to Auteuil or maybe Cheltenham.
“He’s won over £200,000 now in prize money and it’s not about constantly racing him, it’s about trying to win one big race a year if we can.”
Hobson will continue to look for a winning opportunity for his veteran chaser Valadom, who was fifth in the final race of the Veterans Chase Series at Sandown on Saturday.
The front-running grey has developed something of a fan base for his gung-ho manner of running and still seems to retain his enthusiasm at the age of 13.
Hobson felt the going at Sandown was softer than the gelding would have liked and explained that his wind has often prevented him from throwing down a challenge in the closing stages of a race.
“It was touch and go whether he was ever going to run because he doesn’t like that ground, no matter what, and he never has in his whole career,” he said.
“He was always going to get a little bit tired but we thought he might hold on, I thought Lilly (Pinchin) gave him a brilliant ride, though she got a little bit criticised for not giving him a breather or going too quick.
“That’s his way of going and it’s hard to give a horse a breather in those conditions.
“What stops him at the end of a race is his wind, his wind has never been 100 per cent.
“That’s why he’s better on better ground because his wind doesn’t affect him as much.
“It wasn’t Lilly’s fault, he chokes at the end of a race and no matter what procedure we’ve done over the years, it’s always been the same.
“It was a great run, we’ll go back to Newbury now and see if we can go out on a win.”
Hobson has previously said that the 13-year-old would retire if he landed the Sandown race, but that decision would have been led more by sentiment and less by any decline in Valadom’s zest for his job.
“He doesn’t want to retire, the reason I said I’d retire him is because it was £52,000 to the winner and if he’d have won that, what more can he actually do?” Hobson said.
“He’s already won £110,000 so it would just be a nice way to go out.”