Ahoy Senor will bid to gallop – and jump – his rivals into submission in the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree on Friday.
Though there are just four runners in the Grade One contest, the three-mile-one-furlong affair promises to be one of the highlights of the jumps season.
The Lucinda Russell-trained Ahoy Senor will bid to turn the tables on Bravemansgame and L’Homme Presse, having suffered defeat at the hands of each in his last two outings.
Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant, acknowledges the seven-year-old will need to be at the top of his game to overturn the form that saw him beaten seven and a half lengths by Bravemansgame at Kempton on Boxing Day, and three and a half lengths by L’Homme Presse at Cheltenham
“The other two are great jumpers, ours is a great galloper, but it is a jumping race and we have to get our jumping together,” said Scudamore.
“You have to be concerned. The better they are the more you worry about them.
“We are just beginning to get these better horses and it is more of a worry. You don’t have the good horses that Paul (Nicholls) and Gordon (Elliott) have got and it is anxious times, only because you care about them.”
Ahoy Senor got the better of Bravemansgame in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting 12 months ago and showed he was a force to be reckoned with over fences when when taking the Grade Two John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury in November.
Though he lost his unbeaten record at Kempton, he bounced back with an impressive win the Towton at Wetherby before L’Homme Presse had his measure in testing ground at Cheltenham.
Scudamore is delighted the trio will meet for the first time and added: “It is what racing is all about – the best taking on the best.
“We have probably the three best three-mile novice chasers in the country and it is fantastic for Aintree.
“I never thought the race would quite cut up like that, but we have been lucky.
“I just hope they all come back safe and sound. As long as it is safe ground, we should all be happy.
“We have to accept now and again we get beat. We are not Flat racing. National Hunt racing is a sport and while that sounds a bit blase, I am definitely nervous in the hope he comes back OK.
“He seems well after Cheltenham and all the rest of it. We’d love to see that these horses will go on and be the future, so let’s hope they get there.”
Bravemansgame is seeking to retain his unbeaten record over fences after swerving a clash with the pair at Cheltenham.
Nicholls was less than thrilled after Cheltenham officials watered the ground, only to see the heavens open on day two, eventually turning conditions heavy.
Chasing a 13th trainers’ title, the Ditcheat handler feels he has the advantage of a fresh horse following his cosy success at Newbury, conceding upwards of 16lb in landing a Limited Handicap in February.
“He hasn’t put a foot wrong all season, is unbeaten in four starts, has plenty of speed and his jumping has been mustard from day one,” Nicholls reported on his Betfair blog.
“Heavy ground put paid to our plans to take him to Cheltenham. I felt he had a big chance there but when conditions went against him it made sense to keep him for Aintree.
“It’s a bonus that Bravemansgame is fresh going to Aintree, a track that should play to his strengths, while two of his opponents had hard races at Cheltenham. I like to think he has a great chance.”
Connections of the bold-jumping L’Homme Presse have declared to run, but trainer Venetia Williams will make a final decision on Friday morning in the hope that conditions are soft enough for the dual Grade One winner.
“We 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, but fingers crossed the rain comes.”
Fury Road, who was well supported for the Stayers’ Hurdle last season, has also made a bright start to his chasing career.
Elliott’s eight-year-old, who won the Grade One Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, completes the high-class quartet.