Tag Archive for: L’Homme Presse

Connections issue L’Homme Presse ground warning

L’Homme Presse has been declared in a top-class field of four for the Betway Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree on Friday – with connections hoping for suitable conditions in order for him to run.

A hugely impressive winner of the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, the Venetia Williams-trained gelding requires sufficient cut in the ground to take his chance.

“We are declared and want to run in what will be a marvellous race,” said co-owner Andy Edwards.

“However, if there is not enough juice in the ground when we get there on Friday, we won’t run.

“The ground must be safe for him. Fingers crossed the rain helps, along with the officials’ watering policy.”

On Thursday morning the going on the Mildmay course was described as good, good to soft in places with selective watering set to take place.

Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame had been the leading novice chaser in the UK in the lead up to Cheltenham, but was taken out of the Brown Advisory when the ground turned very soft on the second day of the Festival.

He has been declared along with Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor, second to L’Homme Presse last month.

Gordon Elliott’s Fury Road, a Grade One winner who missed Cheltenham, completes the quartet, who are all Grade One winners.

Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies will face nine rivals as he attempts to follow up last year’s victory in the Marsh Chase.

Won by the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Don Cossack and Min in recent seasons, the two-mile-four-furlong Grade One is better known as the Melling Chase.

Fakir D’oudairies was in a different parish to his rivals 12 months ago, winning by an eased-down 11 lengths, and arrives on the back of another Grade One success at Ascot. He missed Cheltenham to be kept fresh for this.

The Williams-trained Funambule Sivola produced yet another career-best last time out when second to Energumene in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

That came on the back of his win in the Game Spirit Chase and he steps back up in trip having finished second in the Peterborough Chase earlier in the season.

Allmankind needs to bounce back to form having disappointed twice since winning the Old Roan over this course and distance before Christmas, while Captain Guinness represents Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

Sceau Royal, Editeur Du Gite, Hitman, Mister Fisher, Paint The Dream and Saint Calvados complete the field.

Jonbon at least will not have to face Constitution Hill on Friday
Jonbon at least will not have to face Constitution Hill on Friday (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jonbon stays at two miles for the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle. Nicky Henderson had also given him an entry in Saturday’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles.

He lost his unbeaten record to stablemate Constitution Hill at Cheltenham, but time may prove he faced an impossible task that day.

“He’s had a fantastic year, the only horse who’s beaten him is Constitution Hill and he deserves a Grade One before we put him to bed. He’s going to make a lovely chaser next year,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing.

Henderson also runs First Street and there is a strong Irish challenge.

Willie Mullins sends El Fabiolo, Elliott runs Vina Ardanza, Imperial Cup winner Suprise Package goes for Peter Fahey and Salamanca Bay represents Jonathan Fogarty.

A maximum field of 30 will line up in the Randox Topham Chase over the Grand National fences, with the Mullins-trained Royal Rendezvous tops the weights.

Forecast rain encouraging L’Homme Presse team to head to Aintree

Connections of Cheltenham Festival hero L’Homme Presse are warming up to the idea of an Aintree outing if the forecast rain falls in Liverpool next week.

The gelding is unbeaten over fences in five runs so far, a campaign that has included a 21-length Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase success and a decisive win in the Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival.

Co-owner Andy Edwards had previously stated that a run in the three-mile-one-furlong Mildmay Novices’ Chase was not ruled out entirely after the gelding’s Cheltenham heroics, but that his participation would be reliant on wet weather before the Aintree meeting.

Those conditions may now materialise as rain is forecast over Merseyside this week and therefore L’Homme Presse’s chances of lining up on Friday are increased.

“With the forecast rain coming and assurances from Aintree that it will be very safe ground, we are very much leaning towards running him in the three-mile-one-furlong novice chase on Friday,” Edwards said.

“He wants to run and is ready to run and we would love him to be there.”

L’Homme Presse not ruled out of Aintree action

L’Homme Presse needs plenty to go his way if he is to line up in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree on Friday, according to connections.

The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old produced one of the finest displays of jumping ever witnessed at Cheltenham when landing the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in deep ground last month.

Co-owner Andy Edwards, who bought the horse from France, is not ruling out the possibility of running the spectacular jumper in the three-mile-one-furlong Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

Edwards said: “We are leaving the door ajar, because he is very well. I saw him yesterday and he is very well in himself and if he goes anywhere, it will be Aintree next week.

“The door is ajar, it is not wide open. There will have to be a lot of ‘ifs’ that come into play for him to actually run.

“It has got to rain – we need plenty of liquid sunshine – and the entries would have to cut up a little bit, so we will have a look and take a view.

“The trouble is, the Mildmay is a very tight track and it is not a big, galloping track. It would not be perfectly ideal, so the ground would have to be very ideal for him to go there.

“He is very bright-eyed, he was standing very tall and proud, as he should be, so everything is good.

“It is funny how suddenly they know how good they are.”

Andy Edwards
Andy Edwards says L’Homme Presse is lapping up the limelight (Andy Edwards/PA)

Edwards will likely still have a runner in a Grade One contest at the Liverpool track next week, however.

He revealed: “Fingers crossed, Fautinette will be running in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle on Thursday.

“She ran three times in France for me last year as a four-year-old and she is with Venetia as well.

“The entry has gone in. It is her first time out since running last May and she is in a Grade One, so it will be very difficult for her. But she is very well and she deserves her chance.”

No hurry to make plans for L’Homme Presse, but Aintree unlikely

Connections of L’Homme Presse are in no rush to decide his next outing, as they plot their path to next season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old remained unbeaten in five races over fences when taking his second successive Grade One of the season, landing the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase by three and a half lengths.

While the horse has taken the race well, co-owner Andy Edwards was still feeling the after-effects of the celebrations on Sunday.

“I’m in recovery… and I never, ever want to recover from this!” he admitted.

The Gold Cup is now the long-term target, a race for which he was initially quoted at 16-1. Immediately after the race, Edwards suggested that would be his target and told ITV viewers, “Back him (for next year’s Gold Cup)”. L’Homme Presse is now a general 8-1 chance.

Edwards said: “People can get so negative and defensive about racing. If he doesn’t go to the Gold Cup no doubt I will be berated for it, but at the end of the day it is a sport.

“Sport is about being positive and Venetia Williams is going to do her utmost to get him to the Gold Cup next year. So am I.

Andy Edwards, Owner of L'Homme Presse
Andy Edwards makes good use of the trophy (Andy Edwards)

“If people want to back him, then back him, because he is a great horse. Why wouldn’t you back him? He has just won the Festival Chase, which is the novices’ Gold Cup. Go for it!

“He has just won twice at Cheltenham, why shouldn’t he go for the Gold Cup next year?”

L’Homme Presse has lived up to his name, a literal translation being ‘the man in a hurry’, having had five races since the start of December.

Having won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and the Brown Advisory in quick succession, Edwards is in two minds about going to the well once more with L’Homme Presse.

He admitted: “My thoughts leading into the race were, ‘Let’s not be greedy’. Whatever happens, let’s not be greedy, because this is going to be a championship race and let’s see how he goes.

Venetia Williams could give L'Homme Presse a break
Venetia Williams could give L’Homme Presse a break (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think, from Venetia’s way of thinking, she likes to keep the horses ticking over, but then pick up opportunities as they come up.

“I said to her, ‘We’ll probably be putting him away, won’t we?’, but she just said, ‘We don’t need to have the conversation just yet’.

“I have had a look at the programme and I can’t really see anything in the programme, but like all these things, you do have to see how they come out of the race.

“We ran at Exeter and ran 15 days later at Ascot and we both said we’ll have to see how he is. He didn’t have blow at Exeter, he didn’t have blow at Ascot, he barely had a blow after the Dipper (at Cheltenham) and he certainly didn’t at Sandown.

“He is a horse that normally recovers very quickly, but this is first time where he has had a hard, proper race, where he has had to go and go and run a full championship race, in the mud. That was hard work.

“If you look at it, he was jumping like he was jumping out of good to soft, not heavy ground, which it was. He likes Cheltenham and leaning in on that left-handed course.”

Thoughts of a quick return at Aintree appear to be diminishing.

Edwards explained: “Not only does Aintree come up quick, but the ground will be watered, quick ground and it is not about will he recover in time, I would imagine it is more about how has he come out of the race and do we need to be greedy?

Andy Edwards/co-owner of L'Homme Presse
Edwards says L’Homme Presse will take on bigger fish next season, but is enjoying every minute of the gelding’s success (Andy Edwards)

“Giving him rest was my view before the race and it is still my view now, but I haven’t spoken to Venetia. We’ll have the conversation sometime this week.

“She might be thinking about another race, but I’m not sure what.

“And it’s not a novice chase at Aintree. You will be taking on the big boys at school. Is that what we want to be doing?

“I’m not sure she has Aintree in her mind, but it isn’t the be all and end all.

“For now, we can dream of next year.

“There are only so many miles an engine can do before its performance starts dropping off.

“Some people have Ford Mondeos, some people have Mercedes’, and if you have got a really good one, the chances are you can go a bit further with that engine before the performance starts dropping off, but it is a limited amount of mileage you are going to get. You have got to look at the miles that have been clocked up this season.

“He has won two Grade Ones, a Grade Two and a graduation chase. He has run at the top of the tree five times. You don’t want to start pushing that engine too far, too fast.

“The horse will tell us what he want to do. I have a pretty good feeling, already, as I have been to see him, but I will know more when I see him again.”

L’Homme Presse just brilliant in Brown Advisory

L’Homme Presse completed a five-timer over fences to remain unbeaten when cruising to success in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

There was drama 20 minutes before the race as ante-post favourite Bravemansgame was pulled out by Paul Nicholls, owing to the increasingly soft ground, along with Irish challenger Fury Road.

That left the Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse, who had won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase by 21 lengths at Sandown, facing eight rivals under Charlie Deutsch and he duly put them to the sword.

Ahoy Senor made the running in the early stages, tracked by L’Homme Presse, who took it up at the seventh of the 19th fences and jumped his rivals into submission.

Though Farouk D’alene threw down a challenge turning in, he came down after jumping the penultimate fence, but it never looked like the winner would be beaten.

To his credit, Ahoy Senor, whose jumping at times was still a little novicey, continued to stay on but in the end was still three and a half lengths adrift, with Gaillard Du Mesnil sticking on for third, a further length and three-quarters back.

Williams said: “I don’t think I’ve felt so sick during a race, which is rare, but I’m really looking forward to watching it again. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

“He’s such a spectacular jumper and even though he was favourite, it was lovely to hear the crowd cheer every time he put in a big leap.

“I think this race was always the most likely, but the only thing which would have changed our minds was if it was going to be heavy ground and even this rain has made it just soft ground.

“The horse was recommended to Andy (Edwards) after two runs in France, but then he picked up a tendon injury so he had to be very patient.

“He didn’t show a lot at home at first, it wasn’t until about three weeks before his first run for us that he showed us anything but he’s gone on and improved with every run.”

Charlie Deutsch celebrates
Charlie Deutsch celebrates (Tim Goode/PA)

Deutsch said: “He just travels easily, jumps well and he was just having a look around going to the line.

“It was the first time over the trip on the ground, but he just felt comfortable the whole way.

“It’s just wonderful to have such a good season and then get a winner at Cheltenham. Venetia’s done such a good job of just handling this horse and Andy, the owner, is so easy. He’s very laid back and just leaves it to you.

“It’s a huge moment for me, it’s just wonderful and I’d like to thank anyone who has helped me.”

L’Homme Presse earned a 16-1 quote for next year’s Gold Cup, and Edwards added: “I burst into tears when he went over the line, that’s for sure! I was very calm all the way through and as soon as he jumped the last, that’s when the emotions came out. We’ve always believed in him so it’s just fabulous.”

Lucinda Russell, meanwhile, was thrilled with the effort of Ahoy Senor in defeat.

She said: “I’m totally proud of him. He’s grown up today. He’s always won his races by jumping better than everyone else, but today he had to knuckle down and be a racehorse.

“He made a mistake along the way and the ground is probably not perfect for him, but there were no excuses.

“He’s a good horse L’Homme Presse and well done to Venetia. She’s a good mate, so it’s nice she’s won.

“Ahoy Senor is a lovely, lovely horse and I can’t wait for next year.”

L’Homme Presse confirmed for Brown Advisory

L’Homme Presse will definitely take on Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on Wednesday following discussions between connections on Sunday.

The Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse also holds an entry in the Turners Novices’ Chase on Thursday, although with the weather forecast set fair, the decision was an easy one for Herefordshire-based trainer.

The seven-year-old produced an eyecatching performance in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and backed that up with another sparkling display in taking the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase over a similar trip at Sandown.

However, the unbeaten L’Homme Presse, who is owned by Andy Edwards, his wife, Pam, and Peter and Patricia Pink, will go up in trip and tackle the extended three-miles on Wednesday.

Edwards said: “We were always going to be dictated by what the ground was going to do and if the conditions were softer, we would have gone for the Turners.

“We said to Venetia to do what is best for the horse and after having a discussion earlier today, we have agreed that the Brown Advisory is the right race for him.

“If you look at the start of the Brown Advisory, they start at a more gentle pace. They get into a nice rhythm, as it is a long run to the first fence and it is nicely presented. It is much more confidence-building. That is one of the main reasons why he goes there.

“There is no question L’Homme Presse has loads of natural ability, but this is going to be another big test for him. He has done nothing wrong so far and hopefully he will run well.”

L’Homme Presse – proper ‘gent’ who has been nurtured on the way to biggest stage

L’Homme Presse is much like a freshman university student – the raw ability needs honing. Yet any concerns about whether he can fulfil that massive potential diminished markedly at Sandown.

Having produced a taking performance to land a hat-trick over fences in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, he backed it up with an imperious display in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

Standing in the winner’s enclosure at the Esher track, his tutor, Venetia Williams, looked on with a mixture of joy, relief and pride, as though her student had just been given an A-star for his first meaningful examination.

As for the seven-year-old, he wondered what all the fuss was about, seemingly in his own little bubble, unaware of the concerns of worried guardians, ears pricked, fascinated by the proximity of the crowd and enjoying every bit of attention that came his way. The exuberance and naivety of youth was palpable.

L’Homme Presse has had his problems, including a tendon injury and four-inch screw piercing through his hoof, among them. His patient guardians are unsurprisingly emotionally invested.

Andy Edwards, doing his best to ignore the grit that had made his eyes water (rather unsuccessfully), co-owns L’Homme Presse with his wife, Pam, and Peter and Patricia Pink (best known for their involvement with triple Grade Two-winning chaser Nordance Prince around 20 years ago) under the DFA Racing banner.

Edwards has been a jumps fan for as long as he can remember. His parents had horses with David Elsworth and Philip Mitchell in the 80s and he had horses with Mitchell until his retirement.

“I remember the excitement and ‘Elsie’ (Elsworth) taking us to the King George when Desert Orchid first won,” said Edwards.

“Another memory was at Goodwood when Sonic Lady won the Fillies’ Mile. I stood at the half-furlong pole when Sonic Lady came past and the speed and magnificence of a horse coming past me… that is still stuck with me now. I have been a racing fan since I was a child.”

A heart attack gave the former property developer a new perspective.

“We moved to France and I was going to buy us a really nice jumper and take my time. Of course, I bought another one,” said Edwards.

“I was sitting in the armchair recovering for a few weeks and I thought, ‘Do you know what? It has been my passion all my life, I have always been very passionate about how horses should be looked after, not just in a physical way, and I want to do something about that’.

“I believe 20 per cent is the core physical attributes, and 80 per cent is mental and emotional.

“Horses have a soul, they are not simply a commodity. I’m very determined about how a horse should be brought up and educated as a racehorse.

“My message that I am trying to put across as DFA Racing is that we can do better.

“I genuinely do this for the horses. I am trying to promote the mental and emotional requirements they need.”

Edwards spends his summers travelling around stud farms in France, spending every moment he can with the horses he buys. He is the one constant in their lives.

“If they go on a holiday somewhere, I make sure it’s me that puts them on the box and when they come off at the other end, I’m there for them, giving them carrots and cuddles. They are constantly reassured.

“My golden rule is that after they have worked in the morning, they go out to the paddock. If you don’t offer me that, you don’t get a horse.

“The point is, if they stand by a gate when turned out, it is their choice to do that. They have a choice and they make the choice. So, mentally, they are happy to choose to stand there rather than run up to the top of the field. If they are in a box, they don’t have a choice.”

Edwards knew instantly L’Homme Presse was a special soul after Felix de Giles had tipped him off about a nice horse who had suffered an injury and was about to go to the sales.

“I call L’Homme Presse ‘Gent’,” said Edwards. “The minute I walked round the corner of the yard in Normandy, I just smiled and he put his head in my chest. I just looked at him and said I’m going to call you ‘Gent’. My dad’s first hunter was called Gent and he is not dissimilar, so that is his stable name.

“I negotiated the deal and asked my good friend Robert Walford if he could come over and get him for me and help me begin his recuperation, which he did.

“Robert and (his wife) Louise were instrumental in his two-year recuperation. I can never be grateful enough to them for what they did for him.

L’Homme Presse in full flight at Ascot
L’Homme Presse in full flight at Ascot (Nigel French/PA)

“People ask me, ‘Why have you gone to Venetia Williams with this horse?’.

“The first few times I have not been able to answer, because I can’t believe people are asking such a stupid question.

“Yet the answer is: I fully believe Venetia Williams is the best trainer of a chaser in this country.”

While he will not overlook the physical make-up of a horse or its pedigree, Edwards has a sensory antenna, for him an emotional connection is paramount in any decision to buy a horse.

“I have a little phrase for myself, but it is what I believe. I say, ‘I know nothing, but I sense everything’,” added Edwards, who also has horses with Emmanuel Clayeux, Roger Teal, Michael Scudamore, Jamie Snowdon, Rebecca Curtis and Rebecca Menzies.

“I am humble enough to say I know nothing, but I have learned in my moment in time to feel and sense everything. Every day, I am very grateful of that.

“People say to me, ‘How do you connect with horses?’.

“The way to do it is to empty your mind and body of all thoughts, and listen.

“Horses have a deep wisdom of the eco-system and the planet. They are not bothered about whether they have a Mercedes or a BMW, they have basic core needs, which is food and shelter. Then they have mental and emotional needs of safety – and love, for want of a better word – for feeling part of something and not abandoned.”

Edwards sees his horses needing small steps in their life journey before they become racehorses.

“They need to be at a breeder that can teach them how to be handled, just like children need parental guidance before they go to school.

“Then they are at pre-school. They need primary school, secondary school, and college or university, depending on their ability and their mental and emotional aptitude.”

Edwards believes, rightly so, it is our responsibility to give racehorses the patience to build the mental and emotional fortitude for their demanding athletic career ahead.

“There is no question L’Homme Presse has loads of natural ability. He knows he is the best,” said Edwards. “I also know he has a few sceptics.

“Yet I think it is slightly unfair the way L’Homme Presse has been portrayed as jumping left, especially as a novice!

“If you look at the way he jumps a fence, he is clever. He sometimes moves himself so that he meets the fence on a stride that is right for him. And then you watch the next fence – he gets the stride right.”

As with most parents or guardians, Edwards is fiercely protective and cannot understand how L’Homme Presse has not received the plaudits his undoubted ability deserves after four unbeaten chase starts.

“He has won a Grade One by 21 lengths on the bridle. He just trotted in. What more can the horse can do than that?” he added.

L’Homme Presse will run in either the three-mile Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (formerly the RSA) on Wednesday, March 16, or the shorter Turners’ Novices’ Chase a day later and will be a force to be reckoned with in either.

“If it is soft, he can go in the Turners and if the ground is quick, he can go in the Brown Advisory. The weather will decide for us,” insisted Edwards.

“We will make the decision of what race he goes in at 9.45am on Monday, March 14. We have to choose the right race for the horse.

“The start of the race is important. In the Turners, they go on the B of ‘Bang’ and meet the first fence quickly, going quickly, and they are still going the same speed to the second fence which is at the bottom of the downhill section. The first two fences come quickly.

Trainer Venetia Williams
Trainer Venetia Williams (Mike Egerton/PA)

“If you look at the start of the Brown Advisory, they start at a more gentle pace. They get into a nice rhythm, as it is a long run to the first fence and it is nicely presented. It is much more confidence-building.

“So, if the ground is soft, the Turners is OK as they will not go as fast into the first two fences. If it is Cheltenham good to soft, which is pretty quick, you have novices running very quickly into the first two fences.

“The best novice last year at the meeting, by far, was Envoi Allen. He was out of his comfort zone at the first three fences in the Turners, made a mistake at the fourth and came down.

“I don’t care which race he runs in, as long as it is the best race for him.

“It is our responsibility to give him the best platform so that he can be the best he can be.”

It will be another big test, yet thus far L’Homme Presse has come out on top in every class he has been in. The hope is he will graduate with honours. Keep the faith!

Williams admits to some concerns over well-being of her string

With the Cheltenham Festival barely two weeks away, Venetia Williams admits she is “concerned” that a virus at her Herefordshire yard could jeopardise her plans.

The Grand National-winning trainer has some serious cards to play, including L’Homme Presse, who holds entries in both the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and the Turners Novices’ Chase, and Funambule Sivola, who is in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Williams revealed her worries on social media last week, posting an image of Grade One winner L’Homme Presse with the caption: ‘L’Homme Presse preparing for Cheltenham, and hoping to steer clear of the run of dirty noses streaming through the yard’.

She said on Monday: “With L’Homme Presse and Funambule Sivola, the jury’s out.”

Asked if that pair had been scoped, she added: “If I could give you the answers to everything, it would be easy.

“But for sure we are concerned. This started about a couple of weeks ago, I suppose.”

The yard was in flying form with five winners in two days up between February 15 and 17, yet concerns about the health of some of her string have been underlined with one winner form her last 20 in the last nine days.

Funambule Sivola is a Champion Chase contender
Funambule Sivola is a Champion Chase contender (Steven Paston/PA)

“We won’t shut down, definitely not,” said Williams.

“We are trying to run those that are healthy, but you have probably seen that we have had five non-runners recently.

“We have to declare 48 hours before. We will just try to be careful to run those that are all right.”

Andy Edwards, owner of L’Homme Presse, says his horse seems OK at present.

“He is fine. I have just left him,” he said. “I’ve been out in the field with him this morning and given him some carrots.

“They are all worried about it, but it will be what will be will be. I just told them to relax.

“They are doing their best and there is no point in worrying about it.

“My belief system is that while it may not be what we want, everything is as it should be. If he doesn’t make it, he wasn’t supposed to. So, I won’t worry about it.

“I haven’t even seen Venetia this morning, I’ve just seen the horses. There is nothing to talk about, really. We know we will make a late decision on which race he runs in – it will be a weather-watch, but I’m not even watching the weather. It will be what it will be.

“If the meeting starts good to soft, you have no chance for Thursday or Friday of soft ground in the going description.

“But it really isn’t anything to worry about in the realm of what is going on in the world.”

L’Homme Presse all set for Grade One assignment

Venetia Williams is hopeful the unseasonably dry weather takes a turn for the worse ahead of the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown on Saturday.

L’Homme Presse bids to enhance his claims for Cheltenham by maintaining his unbeaten record over fences, and any rain would be to the advantage of the seven-year-old.

“The plan is to run and it looks like there will be a bit of rain on Friday and it is much needed they way things are at the moment,” said Williams.

“Obviously, we are happy with him. He has done nothing wrong and are looking forward to it.”

Having made a tremendous start to his career over fences with victories at Exeter and Ascot, L’Homme Presse left a big impression when making all to win the Dipper Chase at Cheltenham by 10 lengths last month.

However, the in-form Kings Caple trainer is under no illusions about the task at hand.

She added: “It was a good run at Cheltenham. He hasn’t taken on the likes of Pic D’Orhy before though, so it is a tough race, but then it is a Grade One and therefore should be.”

The Esher track was expecting between three and five millimetres of rainfall from 7am on Friday morning before a cold night and a mild, clear day on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls is unconcerned by the likelihood of rain on a track that has not seen significant rainfall since the last meeting on January 8.

Venetia Williams says any rain will be much needed
Venetia Williams says any rain will be much needed (David Davies/PA)

In the two-and-a-half-mile level weights contest, he saddles Pic D’Orhy, who has won two out of three this season.

Having scored at Ffos Las in October, he blotted his copybook when falling four out when looking set to score in a Grade Two at Newbury the following month.

Yet he looked back to his best when dishing out a nine-length beating to Faivoir at Ascot just before Christmas.

Nicholls said: “It looks like he’ll get good ground, which is just what he wants. He won’t mind it if the ground stays as it is.

“He was a little unlucky at Newbury when he fell, otherwise he would have won three on the bounce, but he ran well and jumped well at Ascot last time. We were very happy with that.”

A last-minute decision will be made over Adrimel
A last-minute decision will be made over Adrimel (Michael Steele/PA)

Tom Lacey could leave a decision on whether to run Admirel until the last minute.

The seven-year-old won two bumpers and three of his five over hurdles, but was pulled up twice in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle when last in top-class company last spring.

However, first-time blinkers appeared to work the oracle at Haydock in December, when he took an extended two-mile novice chase at Haydock by 15 lengths on his second try over fences.

Lacey is also concerned about the drying ground, and said: “It was a good solid round of jumping at Haydock.

“He has had point-to-point experience and has had plenty of runs over hurdles. He seems to have a very solid, economical way of going.

“The ground is the biggest issue. A lot of tracks are riding a lot slower than the official descriptions would suggest they are. The ground is often riding more dead than described.

“If it was genuine good ground, the likelihood is he wouldn’t line up, but I’m of the mindset that we will declare and see what the jockeys say after the first race.

“At some point we do need to try him on better ground, because at Cheltenham and Aintree, you can just draw a line through those two runs.

“I don’t think that was necessarily (good to soft) ground.

“He just copes on softer ground when others don’t. He can really serve it up to other horses on deep ground.”

Nicky Henderson’s string remains in top form and he is represented by the Nico de Boinville-ridden Mister Coffey, who jumped left on occasions and lost a shoe when a narrow runner-up to Jacamar in at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nicky Henderson is set to run Mister Coffey
Nicky Henderson is set to run Mister Coffey (David Davies/PA)

Henderson said: “We’re planning to run. He did a lot wrong last time and still nearly won.

“He did go left-handed at Kempton which probably cost him, but Nico is confident that with some company on a bigger track he’ll be much more tractable.

“I don’t know if he will but we’ve got to go somewhere and I’m happy to go there. He’s got loads of scope, he’s capable of some huge leaps.”

Fugitif has won two from three outings over fences, including when taking a minor novices chase at Newcastle in good style last time.

Trainer Richard Hobson said: “He does and he doesn’t deserve his chance in a Grade One. I just can’t get my head around all these expensive horses which are bought week-in and week-out and it is such a small entry system.

“Two horses are 20lb superior and the rest are round about his mark, and I just felt it was worth popping him in.

“He is a stayer in the making, and the step up in trip, whether it is right now or wait until next season, is the right thing to do.

“The small field for such a prize is crazy. The pace of the race will be hot early on. Anything can happen and if we slot in somewhere, you never know.

“You only get one chance as a novice to run for that sort of pot.

“He is very well and a big baby, but I have always felt he is a Saturday afternoon horse from day one. Whether it now or next year, I don’t know.”

The line-up is completed by the Jane Williams-trained Gladiateur Allen, who was a faller in the Dipper Chase at Cheltenham last time, having previously been beaten 30 lengths by Pic D’Orhy at  Ascot.

L’Homme Presse tops six in Scilly Isles reckoning

L’Homme Presse is one of just six entries in Saturday’s Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

Venetia Williams’ impressive seven-year-old has improved out of all recognition this season since being sent over fences.

Having made a winning chasing debut at Exeter from a mark of just 128, he went to Ascot where he won off 8lb higher and then progressed to win the Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

The handicapper now has him on a mark of 154, which is of course irrelevant in Grade One company, but it does mark him out of one of the best novices in Britain.

His main rival, should both show up, would be Paul Nicholls’ Pic D’Orhy.

Winner of the 2020 Betfair Hurdle, he would be unbeaten in three over fences this season but for falling at Newbury when clear.

He got back on an even keel in the Grade Two Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot last time out with an easy success.

Jane Williams’ Gladiateur Allen was back in fourth that day and the two could meet again.

Adrimel was a useful novice hurdler last season
Adrimel was a useful novice hurdler last season (Michael Steele/PA)

The Tom Lacy-trained Adrimel bounced back to winning ways last time out at Haydock winning by 15 lengths. He had been pulled up on his previous three runs but early in his career looked a promising type.

Nicky Henderson has entered Mister Coffey, just denied in a handicap at Kempton over Christmas, while Richard Hobson’s Fugitif, who is two from three over fences, could also run.

The Virgin Bet Contenders Hurdle has also attracted six possibles, with Olly Murphy providing two of them in Hunters Call and Hardi Du Mesnil.

The pair are at completely different stages of their careers with Hunters Call now 12 and Hardi Du Mesnil having had just three runs in his life.

“They couldn’t have more different profiles and I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” said Murphy.

“Hardi Du Mesnil is a gorgeous young horse, but he lost his novice status after one run and had to run in an introductory hurdle. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place with him really.

“He hasn’t got enough experience to be running in handicaps, so I don’t know if I run him and see how we get on. He’s a lovely horse who does everything well at home. It’s probably the right race for him but the wrong conditions.

“As for Hunters, Haydock just never worked out for him, they went a million (miles an hour) on a tight track and he couldn’t keep up.

“I’d love an extra week but on his Cheltenham run (third in the International Hurdle), he’d be bang there. With such a small field I had to enter him really as where else do we go – his mark now (143) makes life in handicaps very tough.”

Easysland could have his first run for Jonjo O'Neill
Easysland could have his first run for Jonjo O’Neill (Simon Cooper/PA)

Tom Symonds’ Song For Someone, second on both his outings this year, is the highest-rated of the entries.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Guard Your Dreams, winner of the International Hurdle and third in the Relkeel, Global Citizen and Goshen complete the sextet, with the latter set to run.

“Goshen could do with some rain but as long as he scopes clean and his bloods are OK, he will run,” said trainer Gary Moore.

Elsewhere on the card, Easysland could have his first outing for Jonjo O’Neill.

Tiger Roll’s conqueror in the 2020 cross country chase at the Festival, holds entries in the Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle and the Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase.

L’Homme Presse stakes Festival claim with dominant Dipper run

L’Homme Presse continued his progression with a splendid round of jumping as he dominated his rivals in the Paddy Power Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham .

The Grade Two contest, registered as the Dipper, had attracted a strong field with some promising types taking part in The Glancing Queen, Come On Teddy and Millers Bank.

But L’Homme Presse was sent off the 7-4 favourite off the back of wins at Exeter and Ascot – victories which had seen him rise 20lb in the ratings.

Having guessed at a couple of early fences, Charlie Deutsch let him stride on and he appeared to benefit from that, lengthening into his fences and stretching out the field.

The Glancing Queen had been smuggled into contention by Tom Cannon and at the second last was only two lengths down, still looking a threat.

But Deutsch just got a little lower in the saddle, gave his mount a squeeze and L’Homme Presse scooted clear to win by 10 lengths.

Fantastikas was prominent throughout and stayed on for third, just ahead of Oscar Elite.

The Venetia Williams-trained winner was cut to 10-1 from 16s for the Turners Novices’ Chase, formerly the Marsh, at the Festival in March.

“It was lovely to see him jump like that after the mare (Destinee Royale) had tripped up in the previous race,” said Williams.

“I was pleased with the way he quickened up, but he’s had three relatively quick races.

“I don’t think we need to be going up in trip just yet given he’s doing what he’s doing, but I really liked the way he quickened to the line.

“He’s won off 148 and was best in at the weights, but I don’t know where he will go or which race he could come back here for.”