Alan Hill’s I K Brunel could be in line for a Cheltenham-Aintree Hunter Chase double after winning both starts on the circuit so far.
The nine-year-old was bred by Zara Tindall and formerly trained by Olly Murphy, winning three times before changing hands last spring.
His first start for Hill came at Larkhill in late November, a race he won by two and three-quarter lengths when ridden by Izzie Marshall.
Hill was intending on finding another race for the classy gelding shortly afterwards, but extreme weather caused the abandonment of several meetings and I K Brunel had to wait until late February to run again.
Eventually running at Taunton, he beat the useful Not That Fuisse with the minimum of fuss.
That success leaves him qualified for both the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase at Cheltenham and the Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase at Aintree.
Both races are under consideration, with the ground likely to be a factor and a run in both not ruled out as the calendar falls in such a way this season that there is a nearly a month between the two meetings.
Hill said: “He came out of his race very well, he’s a horse we feel might need a bit of freshening up.
“Since he’s had his run he’s come back, been in nice steady work and he’s going to do a couple of bit of work this week. If we do go to Cheltenham, that will hopefully put us right for that.
“We were very pleased, we took him to the point-to-point before Christmas and it went very well. We then decided that we wouldn’t rush to run him quickly but then through the unfortunate weather we missed a couple of opportunities.
“We were hoping to run a little bit quicker than we did, we were hoping to aim to get a run in at the end of January or the beginning of February, but with Ludlow off and Fakenham off we lost our opportunities.
“Taunton came along and it looked, I felt, probably a little bit of a stronger contest than ideally we wanted compared to the other two, but it worked out well. He was fresh, we took a lot of positives out of it, his jumping was good.
“Our main criteria at that point was that we were desperately trying to get him qualified for Aintree, so that also helped and around a nice, fast course we could have a look at his speed and his stamina. We were very pleasantly surprised with how well he ran and won.”
He went on: “The bottom line at the moment is that our main avoidance would be if it came up really heavy ground, I don’t think we would rush to run him on that.
“That’s something that we’re taking into consideration with Cheltenham and it would be to his liking at the minute, I know he’s a Midnight Legend but I just feel he’s too nice a moving horse to see the best of him on heavy. When Olly had him he said he always found he was a better horse for running on nice ground.
“At the moment we’re going to confirm for Cheltenham on both a weather watch and to see what else is in it. We’re very much more thinking that we could go to Cheltenham and we could also go to Aintree because it’s the one year, which comes up about every four or five years, where there’s a month between the races.
“Normally it’s the three weeks so that’s another string to our bow and I’m sure a lot of the other horses going to Cheltenham will be thinking that as well.”