Queens Gamble is in line to continue her hurdles education when making her first start for Harry Derham at Newbury on Thursday.
The five-year-old was an early fancy for the 2023 Champion Bumper after impressively winning a pair of Cheltenham bumpers when previously trained by Oliver Sherwood.
She suffered a narrow reversal at the hands of Fergal O’Brien’s subsequent Aintree scorer Dysart Enos in her Cheltenham Festival tune-up at Market Rasen and although struggling to land a blow on rain-softened ground at the Festival itself, she remains of real potential as she seeks further experience over timber.
With Sherwood having bowed out from his illustrious training career, Queens Gamble now finds himself in the care of Lambourn-based Derham, with chestnut’s former handler working alongside as the young trainer’s assistant.
Derham is keen to get a run into the talented mare before her first key assignment of the year in the Listed Play Coral “Racing-Super-Series” For Free Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury in early December.
He said: “She obviously did very well in her bumpers and it is very kind of Alex Frost and Ed Galvin and their families to send her to me and we hope that she progresses over hurdles this season.
“She will be entered for Newbury and we would like to go there, but I don’t think her owners or any of us would like to run her on bottomless ground and that would be something to consider.
“She’s ready to start her season now, so if we can go to Newbury that would be great and if not then we will find a suitable alternative quite soon.
“Her first big target is at Newbury during the Winter Carnival on December 2, the mares’ Listed novice hurdle, so we would love to get a run into her before then if we can.
“She’s obviously got to go and do it over hurdles and I’m confident she will. I don’t want to plan too far in advance but she’s looked very good in her bumpers and I’ve no reason to believe she won’t do well over hurdles.”
Queens Gamble was given an early introduction to hurdles at Warwick in May and although the manner of victory was far from emphatic, her training team feel there is a lot more to come.
Derham continued: “She won at Warwick and I think everyone was a little underwhelmed that day, but Oliver and the team there just felt she wasn’t quite at her best and won despite that.
“Obviously I’ve only known her since the beginning of this season and Oliver’s team seem to think she is a lot stronger this year. I’m certainly very pleased with what I can see and really looking forward to her.”
Although keen to take his time with an operator who could easily become the fledgling handler’s stable star, a return to the Cheltenham Festival for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle could be on the cards for the spring if Queens Gamble progresses as expected throughout the season.
“That would be a big target this season if she keeps improving,” added Derham.
“Her bumper form would make her a live contender for a race like that and her schooling this autumn has been really good.
“So I do have that in the back of my mind and I don’t want to over-race her this winter with the thought that if she keeps improving and we can get her to the spring in good form, then that would be lovely.”