Annual Invictus is to be aimed at the European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown.
The six-year-old excelled himself to finish fourth to Soaring Glory in last week’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, but trainer Chris Gordon believes he would have been closer had the ground not dried out.
Annual Invictus put in excellent late work to get within five and three-quarter lengths of the winner, suggesting a return to a longer trip will suit him.
His Sandown target in mid-March is over two and a half miles, and Gordon’s charge won over a similar distance when completing a hat-trick on his previous start at Plumpton.
Gordon said: “He ran a blinder at Newbury. If it had been soft/heavy ground I think we’d have been very close.
“It dried up a lot. He finished like an absolute train and wanted a little bit further. With slower ground, he’d have taken some beating.
“He’ll go for the EBF Final at Sandown on the Saturday before the beginning of Cheltenham.
“He’s been a consistent horse all season. I’m looking forward to the EBF Final now.”
The Winchester trainer is also looking forward to Mount Windsor’s return, having been off the track because of a bug in the yard.
Gordon added: “I had a very quiet January because we did have a bug, a respiratory virus, in the yard.
“He was one who was hit very badly with it, but I think he’s two weeks off a run.
“I’ve got him pencilled in for a two-mile-three-furlong hurdle at Sandown on Friday, March 12. I’d imagine he’d head towards that.
“He would have gone for the Betfair if he’d been well.”
Before his absence, Mount Windsor chalked up a hat-trick in the space of a month at Lingfield, Fakenham and Taunton.