Ryanair Chase hopeful Imperial Aura is likely to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival without another run following his early departure at Kempton.
However, trainer Kim Bailey has yet to emphatically rule out the possibility of the Ascot Chase for his still inexperienced yet highly-promising chaser.
Imperial Aura remains near the top of the ante-post market for the Ryanair Chase, behind title-holder Min – despite parting company with jockey David Bass when he made an uncharacteristic error at the second fence on Saturday.
Bailey will scour the fixture list for any alternative option which has previously eluded him, but feels there is not enough time between Ascot on February 20 and the Ryanair on March 18.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
“I haven’t really looked (again yet), because I want to be sure how the horse comes out of it – but from what I saw beforehand, there were only two races he could possibly run in.
“The reason why we went for that race yesterday was it gave him a longer break to Cheltenham.”
Reflecting on the early departure, his trainer said: “It’s happened – you can come up with all sorts of theories as to why.
“But at the end of it, he parted company with his jockey! It was very unfortunate, not something we expected to happen.”
He was beaten into second last year on his only attempt beyond three miles, and has since excelled over shorter, but has been given an entry in the Gold Cup.
Bailey said: “Ian Robinson (of ownership syndicate Imperial Racing) was the one who wished for the horse to be entered (in the Gold Cup) – which is absolutely fair enough.
“It’s to cover all options, in case things happen – you’ve got to do that.”
Bailey’s Two For Gold at least completed the course at Kempton but had to settle for a hard-earned two-length third in a competitive handicap chase.
He too is fine after his exertions, and is also exercising his trainer’s thought processes over where to run next – with more game time necessary to help him learn to jump more fluently at speed.
“He gets three miles – I wasn’t terribly sure he’d get the distance in the Ladbroke,” said the Cotswolds trainer.
“Yesterday, and the Ladbroke, they were fast-run races. He’s a horse that tootled round in his novices last year, very much in his own control. The Ladbroke, they broke the track record, and he struggled to jump off that pace.
“Yesterday, he was harassed from the word go, never got into a rhythm to be able to jump (well) – he did remarkably well to finish third, quite honestly, and it shows what a nice horse he is.
“Going forward there are plenty of races to be won with him.
“I need to see how he comes out of the race. It took him a while to get over Newbury. He’s sound and fine this morning, but he’d want a bit of time between his races.”