Alex Hales weighing up best route to Cheltenham with For Pleasure

Alex Hales is weighing up a number of Grade Two options at Haydock later this month for stable star For Pleasure.

Having saddled the five-year-old to victory at the same level at Cheltenham last month, the Edgcote handler is now considering an outing in either the Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial or Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle on January 23.

Alternatively, Hales could swerve both races at Haydock and head straight to the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury the following month, ahead of an outing in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

For Pleasure had his Grade Two victory given a timely boost on Boxing Day after runner-up Third Time Lucki returned to winning ways at Kempton.

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Hales said: “I was going to go to the Morebattle at Kelso then the Supreme, but it is only 10 days before Cheltenham which will be no good.

“He will either go to Haydock for the Champion Hurdle Trial or the Rossington Main, then the Betfair Hurdle then on to Cheltenham.

“If he didn’t go to Haydock he would go for the Betfair Hurdle then Cheltenham for the Supreme.

“He has had a break so he might be a bit tight for Haydock, but if he is bursting to run and one of those look the right races we will go there. ”

With front-running tactics serving For Pleasure well, Hales believes they could be even more potent if a campaign over fences is embarked upon next season.

Hales added: “He is a fascinating horse. They keep knocking him, but no one has come to him yet. He just doesn’t go right-handed which I can’t understand.

“It would be interesting next season if we decide to jump a fence with him. He is so athletic you wouldn’t think they would get near him in a two-mile novice chase.

“He could be a bit like Dan Skelton’s horse Allmankind.”

Hiconic, who could head to the Cheltenham Festival in March (David Davies/PA)
Hiconic, who could head to the Cheltenham Festival in March (David Davies/PA)

An outing in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at the Festival remains an option for Hiconic, but Hales is leaning towards running the four-year-old mare in races either side of the prestigious meeting.

He said: “Hiconic is great, she is having a little break. I probably shouldn’t have run her at Aintree.

“I suppose she will be trained for the Fred Winter, but there is a race at Sandown the week before and a four-year-old race at Ascot just after Cheltenham. Those two races would probably be better for her.

“She didn’t cost much, but she has been great and has her black type so it doesn’t really matter what she does now.”

Hales eyeing Aintree Listed aim for Hiconic

Hiconic could have a second attempt at a Listed success over hurdles after she went down with all guns blazing at Wetherby.

The three-year-old made a gallant bid to make all the running in the Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle on Friday, only to find Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten Irish raider Duffle Coat too strong in the closing stages.

Trainer Alex Hales will look at a fillies’ juvenile contest at Aintree on December 5 as long as Hiconic gives the right signs following a busy spell, in which she has run a total of eight times on the flat and over hurdles since June.

“She’s an absolute darling. I was chuffed to bits with her. I thought she left everything out there. She’s as tough as nails, so I was delighted,” said the Banbury handler.

“We claimed her out of a Wolverhampton race and she’s had six runs over hurdles, won four and been second in two and is now second in a Listed race. She’s been a revelation.

“I suppose the obvious target is to go to Liverpool at the beginning of December for the juvenile Listed race for fillies’ only.

“Then she’ll have a holiday, but if she tells us she needs a holiday now, she can have one. She doesn’t owe us anything.”