Connections of Santini have been persuaded to delay his retirement after the 10-year-old produced a superb fourth-placed effort in the Randox Grand National.
The gelding started as a 33-1 chance for the big race on what was his fourth start for Polly Gundry after switching from the Lambourn stable of Nicky Henderson.
Henderson trained the horse to a string of graded-race successes over both hurdles and fences and to be beaten a neck by Al Boum Photo in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
His progress seemed to stall thereafter and in 2021 he was returned to the Exeter base of Gundry, a handler he was already well-acquainted with as he was broken in and frequently pre-trained at her yard.
The move seemed to have revitalised Santini when he was an excellent second in the Cotswold Chase in January, after which he finished eighth at 66-1 in the latest running of the Gold Cup.
In preparation for the National, Santini was taken hunting and on hunt fun rides to fine-tune his jumping in lieu of experience over the famous fences, something that stood him in good stead as he tackled the spruce obstacles and ditches with aplomb.
Eventually fourth when just failing to collar Delta Work for third on the run to the line, Gundry reports Santini to be happy and well as he prepares for a summer break following his exertions.
“He’s very well, he just slightly nicked his hind coronet band but he’s as sound as anything and we’re very happy with where he is,” she said.
“We were thrilled with him, I felt I might have over-done the jumping because I was very aware that horses that go there not having been around the National fences aren’t always as good as the horses that have experience, so I was trying to play catch up a little bit.
“I couldn’t have been prouder of what he did, he was pretty perfect.
“He is such a professional horse and Nick Scholfield just did the most amazing job.
“They have a very lovely bond, the two of them, and they just admire each other so we are very lucky.”
Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes, Santini’s owners, had mooted the idea of retiring the horse at the end of the campaign but his National performance was enough to halt those plans and he is set for another season in training.
“Initially Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes thought this might be his last season, but on Saturday evening Richard said ‘what do you think about another season?’ and I said ‘I’m game if you are!’,” Gundry explained.
“We certainly haven’t got any plans yet or possible races, but he will stay in training
“He’s been very, very well looked after by Nicky Henderson and he’s not a difficult horse to love to bits, so as soon as Richard felt he wasn’t going well last year, he changed things and decided to send him to me.
“He’s been very well looked after throughout, firstly by Nicky Henderson and then hopefully by us before and after.”
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Santini has always been considered an ideal type for the Grand National, possessing a touch of class to go with his stamina.
It was just over two years ago that the strapping son of Milan finished second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Nicky Henderson.
The 10-year-old, owned by Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes, is now again in the care of Polly Gundry, who broke him in and pre-trained him at her small yard near Exeter.
There are few better qualified to know the unique Aintree fences provide than her, fewer still who would elope to Gretna Green with a horse if they could.
“He is the most divine person – if he was human, I’d definitely marry him,” insists Gundry.
“He is so beautifully mannered, but he has got a bit of spark about him as well. He is charming.”
He pays his way too, winning three times over fences and placed on another six occasions from 13 starts. He has never fallen or unseated his jockey, which will doubtless ease any concerns Nick Scholfield may have.
Though Santini is set to tackle the National obstacles for the first time, he has run at the Liverpool track twice before, winning the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in 2018 and finishing a length runner-up to Lake View Lad in the Many Clouds Chase in 2020.
The switch in stables after being pulled up in the Gold Cup last year came as no great surprise, since he won a point-to-point for Polly’s husband, Ed Walker, before going to Seven Barrows.
“He has quite often come back to us at the beginning or the end of the season, just to be let down,” said Gundry.
“Richard Kelvin-Hughes has his young horses with us. We got to know him and I’ve always thought he was the most wonderful horse, even as a three-year-old.
“I think it was that I have always been a bit soft on him and I think Richard was soft on me by letting me have him.
“To be honest, I am really soft on a lot of them. I’ve spent a lot more time telling people to pat horses, because they are misunderstood. If you can get a horse trying for you, you are 98 per cent of the way there.
“Horses have to enjoy the job and enjoy life to want to try, and that is what I believe in. The horses have got to run because they want to do it. I can’t make them do it.”
There was a time when you needed an assured jumper, rather than an out-and-out stayer, to win the Grand National.
Over the years, in the interests of safety, modifications to the take-offs, landings and fences themselves have been made and yet while the race is not the severe test is was, it is still not for the faint-hearted.
Gundry is anything but that. Champion lady point-to-point rider eight times, she rode over 300 winners, with her most high-profile victory coming aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Torduff Express in the 2002 Fox Hunters’ Chase over the same National fences, beating Gunner Welburn by 13 lengths so she knows what lies in store for Santini.
“I have been told they have changed a bit. The last time I rode over them was 2008 and they have made the landings and the drops not quite as substantial as they were,” said Gundry.
“I think it is now a fairly glorified handicap, but I think horses either love it or they aren’t sure about it, and the ones who are not sure about it are not going to relish four and a quarter miles of it.
“It is whether he takes to it on the first circuit. Hopefully, Nick will get him used to the fences for a circuit and we’ll ride a race on the second circuit.”
There was brief and premature talk of Santini being retired should he not show the zest that saw him finish third in the Albert Bartlett at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival or when a fine second to Topofthegame a year later in the RSA Chase.
He has always threatened to win a big one over fences and flashed that ability when landing the 2020 Cotswold Chase, before his neck second to Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup.
However, he has not won since and is a general 33-1 chance for Aintree glory.
“Richard, Lizzie and I train him purely by committee, the three of us – and I am quite happy with whatever Richard Kelvin-Hughes is comfortable with.
“I think he was thinking Santini was probably too young to retire at nine, coming 10.
“So, he gave me an opportunity to see if there was a spark left. We both feel that Santini still enjoys it and has got more to give.
“He has had issues with his feet in the past when at Nicky Henderson’s, but they are okay at the moment. They are big feet and he has to have a lot of work, so they can suffer a bit. But we think they are good at the moment, so as long as that all stays together…”
Many good horses have been defeated in the Gold Cup before going on to win at Aintree, such as Miinnehoma, Rough Quest and Many Clouds, and Gundry is hoping Santini will show that he is better than his eighth to A Plus Tard at the Festival last month.
“He is a very high-class horse,” insisted his trainer. “I was really happy with his first circuit in the Gold Cup because they all travelled beautifully and then on the second circuit, I could feel we were having to put a bit more pressure on than was comfortable going out on the second circuit.
“Then, of course, when they turned the taps on, they just flew away from him. My immediate reaction was, ‘Oh, I’ve made another horse slow,’ because that is what I think I do with them.
“But when I looked at the replays and listened to some of the pundits saying it was one of the slower first circuits of a Gold Cup, it slightly let me off the hook, as the race probably had not been run quite to suit him.
“I thought Nick Scholfield did a lovely job and looked after him when he realised he wasn’t in it, and popped him home.”
If he handles the fences, this classy staying chaser would appear to tick plenty of boxes and could place Gundry alongside alongside Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams and Lucinda Russell as the only women to train a Grand National winner.
Gundry added: “He has been bouncing and happy, and we think we’ve used the Gold Cup as a prep run for the National.
“I certainly think he is crying out for a trip, so that is a good reason to go for it.”
For Henderson, who has yet to win a National, a Santini victory would be as bittersweet as walking your daughter up the aisle to give her away.
Not that Gundry would mind. She would marry Santini in a heartbeat, if only she could.
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Santini appears to have earned himself a third tilt at the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup after bouncing back to form with an excellent effort in defeat at Prestbury Park on Saturday.
The 10-year-old was beaten just a neck into second by Al Boum Photo in the 2020 running of the blue riband, but subsequently lost his way for Nicky Henderson and was pulled up in last year’s renewal.
Owners Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes elected to send Santini to Polly Gundry last summer in the hope it would reinvigorate his career and the move appears to have had the desired effect.
Having shown up well before tiring on his return to action at Cheltenham in December, the Milan gelding gave a bold sight for a long way in Saturday’s Cotswold Chase and rallied on the run-in to give eventual winner and hot favourite Chantry House a real fight.
Gundry said: “He seems to have come out of it fine and hopefully we’ll go forward again.
“I was really pleased that he seemed to enjoy himself. Nick (Scholfield) got a great tune out of him and he’ll tighten up again. I’m pleased with the direction we’re going in.
“I think we’re keen to have a crack at the Gold Cup. Richard Kelvin-Hughes is very happy to do that and I can’t see another race that looks a sensible option.
“We entered him for the Stayers’ Hurdle, but I think we’ll probably scratch him out of that this week. He might have an entry in the Grand National, we’ll see.
“We did wonder about the cross-country race at Cheltenham, if there was a lack of interest on his part, but actually I think he’d like something a little bit more straightforward.”
On the prospect of saddling a runner in the Gold Cup, she added: “It’s amazing, but I don’t think about it much. It’s all about getting the horse right and healthy – that’s my job.
“There’s no point thinking about it too much as all it does is do your head in!”
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Polly Gundry is to test Santini’s claims for the Cheltenham Gold Cup by running him in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at the Prestbury Park venue later this month.
The 10-year-old is no stranger to either race, winning the Cotswold in 2020 before finishing a neck second to Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup.
Santini was trained by Nicky Henderson then but has been moved to Gundry’s stable in Devon and made his debut for the yard when fourth to Commodore in a handicap chase at Cheltenham last month.
“We’ve entered him in the Gold Cup, but he will aim for the Cotswold Chase first and if he runs well there then we will go for the Gold Cup,” said Gundry.
“We knew he was a bit short (of fitness) and he was going OK until Venetia Williams’ horse (Commodore) quickened and we tried to go with it, but he has come on for that run.
“He was just a bit too burly last time but if we can get him leaner and if he gets a bit of luck in running, he could go well.
“There were a few other options but Richard (Kelvin-Hughes, owner) wasn’t keen on going back in a handicap and he has run some good races around Cheltenham, so we saw no reason why not to go back.
“It is a great honour to have him as he is the most gorgeous horse and is a real gentle giant. He has been very well looked after by Nicky Henderson.”
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Polly Gundry admits to feeling the nerves ahead of Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini’s return to Prestbury Park for Friday’s Betfair Handicap Chase.
The nine-year-old was only beaten a neck by Al Boum Photo last year’s renewal of the blue riband, while he has also won a novice hurdle and the Grade Two Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
But having lost his way for Nicky Henderson last season – most recently pulling up in the Gold Cup in March – Santini was sent to join Gundry’s small team in the hope it will rekindle his enthusiasm.
“I couldn’t be happier with him. I’m nervous about his comeback and I think he’ll come on in confidence for the run, but otherwise I’m very happy with where he is,” said Gundry.
“All my horses come on for a run and he’ll be no different, but we’ve done lots of different things with him – a bit of hunting, cross-country schooling – and I think he’s in good nick.
“I’m satisfied that we might have got some more winter ground, rather than the ground we’ve until now, so I’m grateful that we’ve waited until the stage.
“He’s a big horse, so hopefully he’ll be able to carry the weight and have a nice run.”
Santini is no stranger to his current home in Devon, having won a point-to-point for Gundry’s husband Ed Walker in the spring of 2017.
Gundry added: “He went to Nicky Henderson’s as a young horse and he said he was just too big and backward, so he came back to Ed and ran in a point to point at Didmarton and won really nicely.
“I thought a huge amount of him as a three coming four-year-old, when we had him in pre-training. Ed rode him all the time as he was such a big horse – even as a four coming five-year-old he was a big boy.
“We know him and he’s fitted into our way of doing things really well.
“It’s all very well enjoying the days out when Nicky’s training him. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having him and riding him, but when he’s my responsibility it is different.”
Santini must concede upwards of 12lb to each of his nine rivals, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Enrilo the likely favourite.
The seven-year-old turns out just under a fortnight after falling when well fancied for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
“I was expecting a big run from him in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and he was travelling really well until he came down just after halfway,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“He was fine afterwards, was quick over his fences when we schooled him on Tuesday morning, and good to soft ground will be fine for him.
“I’d say he has strong claims in a race that doesn’t look particularly strong.”
Other leading contenders include Fergal O’Brien’s Badger Beers Chase third Hurricane Harvey and Pat Fahy’s Irish raider Mister Fogpatches, who was last seen finishing third in the Troytown at Navan.
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Champ and Santini give Nicky Henderson a strong hand in his bid for a third victory in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Long Run provided the Seven Barrows handler with his first taste of success in the blue riband in 2011, before the popular Bobs Worth repeated the feat two years later.
The shortest priced of his two runners this year is Champ, who is out to claim a second Festival victory following his memorable last-gasp effort in last year’s RSA Chase.
An autumn wind operation meant the JP McManus-owned gelding missed the first half of the season – and when he did return, he unconventionally ran over just two miles in the Game Spirit at Newbury, performing with huge credit to finish second to Sceau Royal.
“Champ had his wind done, which consequently put us on the back foot,” said Henderson.
“We were aiming for the Denman at Newbury, but when the meeting got put back a week, we came up with the wacky idea of running him over two miles in the Game Spirit. We just felt he was going to have an easier race over two miles rather than over three.
“I was hoping we’d see what we saw as my head was on the chopping block for this ridiculous idea if it didn’t work. Thankfully it went well and his jumping at that pace was exceptional. We all came away very happy and he has been fine since.”
Champ’s stablemate Santini went down by a diminishing neck to Al Boum Photo in last year’s Gold Cup.
The nine-year-old has been a little underwhelming in three starts so far this season, but better is expected on his return to Cheltenham in a first-time visor.
Henderson added: “The Cotswold Chase (at Cheltenham) was off. Sandown took it on, but the ground was desperate on the day. I was satisfied with how he ran and it put us where we wanted him.
“He ran a fantastic race in the Gold Cup last year and I see no reason why he won’t run well again.”
Henry de Bromhead is also double-handed, with Savills Chase winner A Plus Tard joined by Minella Indo.
The latter was only narrowly denied by Champ at last year’s Festival and could hardly have made a more impressive start to this season in winning at Wexford and Navan.
However, he will return to Prestbury Park with something to prove, having fallen when favourite for the Savills Chase and finished only fourth behind Kemboy in last month’s Irish Gold Cup.
“Our plan with Minella Indo was to be busy with him up to Christmas because we thought he lacked experience. He had two great runs at the start, winning a Grade Three and a Grade Two at Wexford and Navan, when he was very impressive,” said De Bromhead.
“Then we went to the Savills and it was disappointing he fell. It wasn’t the plan to run him again before the Gold Cup, but obviously we couldn’t go off the back of a fall, so looking at all our options we plumped for the Irish Gold Cup and I thought he ran respectably.
“We were adamant he needed a clear round and we got that. Kemboy got away from us after a mistake, but he still ran well.”
Native River, who won an epic Gold Cup in 2018, is out to become the first horse since Kauto Star to regain the crown.
The popular Colin Tizzard-trained 11-year-old also finished third in 2017 and fourth in 2019, but missed out last year through injury.
Tizzard, who will hand over the licence to his son Joe in the coming weeks, said: “He’s beaten the better English chasers and he’s the top-rated chaser in England.
“The fact that he’s 11 is why he’s a 16-1 shot. If he was an eight-year-old I’m sure he’d be in the first three in the betting.
“He’s in cracking form. He’s a Gold Cup winner and a class horse and we know he stays three miles and two furlongs.”
Native River is joined by stablemate Lostintranslation, who was a close-up third in last year’s Gold Cup but has failed to recapture that form so far this term.
Tizzard added: “I wouldn’t dismiss Lostintranslation. He seems in absolutely great form – the best he’s been since I can remember.
“I’m sure you’re going to see him turning in as though he might win it, but as we’ve seen here before, horse have got to get up that hill.”
Runaway Peter Marsh Chase winner Royale Pagaille is a fascinating contender for Venetia Williams, who also saddles outsider Aso.
Connections deliberated long and hard as regards which race to go for with the Rich Ricci-owned Royale Pagaille, who is technically still a novice.
In the end they plumped for the Gold Cup, and jockey Charlie Deutsch is relishing the opportunity of a lifetime.
He said: “I’ve loved riding him this season. I was gutted to miss out on him at Haydock last time, but I’m just really happy to keep the ride on him. Numerically it has been my best season to date and it would be a nice touch if I could win this on top.
“I didn’t get much of a say in which race he would run in, although I spoke to Venetia. However, I didn’t really find out what race he would run in until everyone else did. The horse is in good form and you have to have a go at a race like this when they are in good form – hopefully the hype will be right.
“I’m really lucky that I’ve had the support of Venetia and I’d like to think I’m doing my best to reward her as much as I can by riding her winners.”
He added: “You have to remember it was still a handicap he won last time. I think, like Venetia said, with the horses that finished in behind it was hard to know what sort of performance it was, but it was hard not to get excited by it as he won by a long way and quite easily.
“Like Venetia said, any of those good horses in the Gold Cup would have put in a similar performance at Haydock and Kempton.”
Altior will sport first-time cheekpieces as he bids to regain his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase title at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
The 11-year-old secured the second of his back-to-back victories in the two-mile showpiece in 2019, but has endured mixed fortunes subsequently – losing his unbeaten record over obstacles when stepped up in distance in November of that year, before his Festival run last spring was scuppered by injury.
Altior returned to action over Christmas with a second place at Kempton, and trainer Nicky Henderson felt his jumping that day was not quite up to scratch – hence the application of headgear when he lines up at Prestbury Park on Wednesday.
Henderson told Unibet: “It did occur to us that his jumping, in particular at Kempton, wasn’t as deadly as it should be. If you see him here schooling, you won’t see anything faster or quicker.
“We are going to put some cheekpieces on him. It is something that we have discussed for a long time over the last few weeks since Kempton.
“The race is going to be fast and furious, (so) he has got to be just that little bit sharper.
“I think they will help particularly over the first three fences, which they will go quick (at), and he has got to be there with them. He also sometimes has a little bit of a flat spot, two or three furlongs out.
“We did some work with him the other day, and (jockey) Nico (de Boinville)felt it made a nice difference, so that is what we are going to do. If he can get some decent ground, and the cheekpieces do their bit, he is in good form.”
Henderson also plans to furnish Santini with headgear in Friday’s WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, as he tries to improve on last year’s close second to Al Boum Photo.
The trainer wrote on Twitter: “Santini schooled with some headgear on yesterday, and I can confirm he will wear a visor in the Gold Cup.”
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Nicky Henderson is glad his “ridiculous” idea of running Champ over two miles as a prep for the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup did not leave him with egg on his face.
Having had an interrupted season and his intended reappearance in the Denman Chase postponed by the weather, Henderson came up with the plan of running last year’s dramatic RSA winner over the minimum trip in the Game Spirit, once Altior had been ruled out.
Always prominent under Nico de Boinville, Champ exceeded nearly all expectations in finishing second to Sceau Royal and connections are now dreaming of winning the big one.
“It was an extraordinary performance in the RSA last year, reminiscent of dear old Might Bite,” said Henderson.
“I was watching what was going on up front, but then he came back into sight and swept by them. That proved one thing – his stamina.
“When we brought him in earlier this season, he was loose-schooling at Henrietta Knight’s and we could hear a noise we’d never heard before. It makes me wonder whether it had anything to do with what happened last year. Round about the second-last is where it could catch you out. It’s just a Henderson theory.”
After a wind operation, Henderson went about planning the second half of the season for Champ.
“The Cotswold Chase was his alternative, but we thought that was better for Santini, certainly in that (soft) ground, then Champ would have come in for the Denman at Newbury – on the original weekend,” he said.
“The move back a week, as commendable as it was, just interfered with plans and we decided against Altior running. Sometimes crazy ideas come into your head in the middle of the night and it occurred to me that three miles, first time out, three weeks and five days before his objective, put him in the ‘bounce factor’ bracket.
“He’s an extraordinary horse because a week before the race he was working with On The Blind Side, a three-mile hurdler who isn’t good enough for the Stayers’ Hurdle. He’s not a good work horse, but it took Champ all day to get to him.
“My assistant, Charlie Morlock, said he didn’t exactly look like a horse to run over two miles, but Champ at home and Champ on a racecourse – you wouldn’t know it was the same horse as he does nothing at home.
“I was hoping we’d see what we saw as my head was on the chopping block for this ridiculous idea if it didn’t work. It worked because he could do it, but I didn’t know where he’d finish. It went well and his jumping at that pace was exceptional. We all came away very happy and he has been fine since.”
Henderson confirmed De Boinville will stay on Champ for the Gold Cup, with Aidan Coleman riding last year’s runner-up Santini.
“Santini has had a difficult season. He started at Aintree when it was essentially a Flat race when they took the fences out. He’s a huge horse, he ran a very good race that day and in fact Frodon was behind him,” he said.
“We had no intention of running him in the King George, but there was just too much of a gap between Aintree and the Cotswold. He’s not a horse that sits still, he loves racing.
“Not surprisingly he found the track sharper than ideal, but it was still a good exercise for him. Then the Cotswold Chase was off, Sandown took it on but the ground was desperate. I was satisfied with him in third.”
While Champ is a much shorter price for Cheltenham, Henderson feels Santini may be going in under the radar if the ground is on the good side.
He said: “Champ’s run was obviously more eyecatching as he was running over the wrong trip. I’m very happy with Santini as it’s been a difficult winter with him. It’s not as if he’s coming in off three wins, but this is what he’s been waiting for.”
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Run at Cheltenham racecourse – normally in the third week of January at their Trials Meeting – the Cotswold Chase is run over a trip of 3m 1 ½ furlongs. The race is deemed as another Cheltenham Gold Cup trial, but maybe only in name as the last horse to land both races in the same season was Looks Like Trouble in 2000, while Master Oats took both prizes back in 1995.
Being Staged at Sandown Park in 2021 - Note, the 2021 running of the Cotswold Chase will now be run at Sandown Park on Saturday 6th Feb 2021, after the original race day at Cheltenham (30th Jan) was called off.
Twelve months ago in 2020 we saw the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini win the race under jockey Nico de Boinville – that was the first winning favourite in the last 17 runnings, while Santini went onto finish a close second in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Here at GEEGEEZ we take a look back at past winners of the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase and give you all the stats that mater ahead of the 2021 renewal – this year run on Saturday 6th February 2021.
Cotswold Chase Past Winners
2020 – Santini (13/8 fav)
2019 - Frodon (9/4)
2018 - Definitly Red (7/1)
2017 – Many Clouds (8/1)
2016 – Smad Place (9/2)
2015 – Many Clouds (4/1)
2014 – The Giant Bolster (6/1)
2013 - Cape Tribulation (7/1)
2012 – Midnight Chase (11/2)
2011 – Neptune Collonges (11/2)
2010 – Taranis (16/1)
2009 – Joe Lively (11/1)
2008 – Knowhere (16/1)
2007 – Exotic Dancer (6/1)
2006 – See You Sometime (18/1)
2005 – Grey Abbey (10/3)
2004 – Jair Du Cochet (11/4)
Cotswold Chase Betting Trends
17/17 – Officially rated 151 or higher
16/17 – Ran at Cheltenham over fences before (8 had won)
15/17 – Won over at least 3m before (fences)
15/17 – Raced in the last 8 weeks
14/17 – Won between 2-6 times over fences
12/17 – Priced 7/1 or less
12/17 – Went onto race in that season’s Gold Cup (no winners, all placed 8th or better)
11/17 – Aged 9 or 10 years-old
11/17 – Ran at either Wetherby (3), Cheltenham (4) or Kempton (4) last time
11/17 – Placed favourites
9/17 – Winning distance – 6 lengths or more
8/17 – Won last time out
7/17 – Unplaced last time out
7/17 – Won by an Irish-bred horse
6/17 – Winners from outside the top 3 in the market
6/17 – Won by a French-bred horse
3/17 – Won by the Paul Nicholls yard (5 wins in total)
2/17 – Won by the Oliver Sherwood yard
1/17 – Went onto win the Grand National (Many Clouds, 2015)
1/17 – Went onto win the Ryanair Chase (Frodon, 2019)
1/17 – Favourites
10 of the last 13 winners were aged 9 or 10 years-old
The average winning SP in the last 17 runnings is 15/2
Looks Like Trouble (2000) was the last winner to go onto win the Cheltenham Gold Cup
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Aidan Coleman will partner Santini for the first time as he puts his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials on the line in Saturday’s rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown.
Saved from Cheltenham’s abandoned Trials Day last weekend, the blue riband warm-up has attracted three genuine top-notchers.
Nicky Henderson’s Santini was second in the Gold Cup last year to Al Boum Photo, while the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai is fresh from winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Colin Tizzard’s 11-year-old Native River has also scaled the heights, not least when winning the Gold Cup in 2018.
Coleman will get the leg up on Santini at the Esher venue, with regular rider Nico de Boinville lined up to take the mount on Champ, Henderson’s other Gold Cup contender, in the Denman Chase next week, after which a decision will be taken over who rides which horse at Cheltenham.
“We’re keeping all options open really because we’ve got Champ to come out next weekend,” said Henderson.
“The idea is that Aidan will then know Santini, Nico will ride Champ next week and then everything is covered – that’s the gist of the plan.
“Hopefully all horses return safe and sound and are on course for March, and they can both run in the Gold Cup and then I’ve got two jockeys.
“It’s for obvious reasons, Nico obviously knows Santini very well already, so it was an opportunity for Aidan to get to know him.”
Adding further intrigue to the rescheduled event is the Harry Whittington-trained Saint Calvados, second in the Ryanair last season and fourth in the King George on his only outing this campaign.
Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki will enjoy the extremely testing conditions, while Nick Alexander’s Lake View Lad makes the journey down from Scotland. Both are arriving on the back of wins last time out.
Yala Enki proved his durability when he won the Portman Cup at Taunton, just two weeks after finishing third in the Welsh National.
Lake View Lad had Native River and subsequent King George winner Frodon behind when winning at Aintree.
There is also Grade One action on the card in the form of the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, with Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue the headliner.
An impressive winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Christmas, he faces six rivals headed by Alan King’s Messire Des Obeaux, who has seemingly returned from a long absence as good as ever.
Nicholls’ Hitman, second to Allmankind in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase over two miles and Henderson’s mare Dame De Compagnie will ensure it is a true test of his ability.
Paint The Dream, Sporting John and Up The Straight complete the field.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2.39980820-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-02-04 11:25:532021-02-04 11:25:53Aidan Coleman teams up with Santini in Cotswold contest
Last year’s one-two Santini and Bristol De Mai are among eight horses declared for Saturday’s Paddy Power “45 Sleeps To Cheltenham” Cotswold Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s Santini saw off the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai by three and a half lengths in last year’s renewal of the Grade Two contest, before going on to finish a close second to Al Boum Photo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He has failed to rediscover that level of form so far this season – most recently finishing fifth in the King George at Kempton – and Henderson has already voiced concerns about the prospect of ultra-testing conditions in the Cotswolds this weekend.
Henderson told Sky Sports Racing: “Our feeling, even at the beginning of the week, was if it was heavy ground we’d have to think again.
“It is a trial and it’s very important with him that he enjoys it.
“He loves work and loves jumping and loves racing, but I don’t want to take that away from him by giving him a very tough race in really heavy ground – I want to find a race that he’s actually going to enjoy.
“I’m not saying I want an easy race for him as there’s no such thing. The only alternative would be to wait for the Denman Chase at Newbury and we have Champ going there, but you can’t not run a horse just because you have another one in the race.
“You’ve got to go where is right for the horses and we are short of options”
With stable jockey Nico de Boinville heading to Doncaster to partner star novice chaser Shishkin and Jerry McGrath sidelined by injury, Aidan Coleman has been booked to partner Santini for the first time.
Bristol De Mai is a couple of pounds better off for the rematch and loves nothing more than a slog in the mud, as he proved when winning his third Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.
Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River returns to the Cotswolds for the first time since finishing fourth in the 2019 renewal of the blue riband, having missed the race last season through injury.
The 11-year-old proved he retains plenty of ability when a close-up third behind Nick Alexander’s Lake View Lad and Santini in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last month, although several fences were missed because of low sun.
Lake View Lad gets the opportunity to prove that triumph was no fluke under champion jockey Brian Hughes, while Harry Whittington saddles King George fourth Saint Calvados.
The Conditional (David Bridgwater), Yorkhill (Sandy Thomson) and Yala Enki (Paul Nicholls) are the other hopefuls.
Paisley Park is set to face five rivals when bidding for a third straight victory in the Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle.
Emma Lavelle’s stable star suffered a well-documented heart problem when defending his crown in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but has bounced back to finish second in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and win the Long Walk at Ascot this term.
His biggest threat could be Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet, who reverts to the smaller obstacles after displaying high-class form over fences.
David Pipe runs the prolific Main Fact, although he has plenty of ground to make up on Paisley Park on their Ascot meeting last month.
Pipe has a second string to his bow in Ramses De Teillee, with the teenage Unowhatimeanharry and Irish challenger Decor Irlandais completing the field.
Nassalam looks to have a good opportunity to regain the winning thread in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial.
Gary Moore’s dual Fontwell scorer was no match for Pipe’s Adagio in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow three weeks ago, but will be widely expected to account for his three rivals this weekend.
Aso heads a field of 11 runners for the Paddy Power Millionaire Trophy Handicap Chase, while Nicky Martin’s stable star Bear Ghylls puts his unbeaten record on the line against four opponents in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2.49833867-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-01-28 11:41:352021-01-28 11:41:35Santini and Bristol De Mai face Cotswold Chase rematch
Last season’s Gold Cup runner-up Santini is only “50-50” to run in the Paddy Power-sponsored Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson is not keen to run the nine-year-old, who was second to Al Boum Photo in March, on very testing ground so close to his main assignment.
He will hold discussions with owner Richard Kelvin-Hughes and a decision will be taken over whether he heads straight to the Festival or not.
“I need to talk to Richard Kelvin-Hughes to be fair,” Henderson told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.
“I would be nervous about him in heavy ground because he doesn’t like it. These races are more about – it is called Trials Day – it is a trial. If he’s going to hate it it will do more harm than good.
“We’re just juggling balls and I’ve got to say it’s 50-50. If it was heavy ground, I’ve got to discuss with Richard, but I would say to him it’s not going to be ideal and he’s a horse you have to keep shovelling on the coal, so if he’s not having a happy time it’s not what he wants at this stage.
“You could bash on (to the spring). There are ways of doing it these days, there are various racecourses and all-weather tracks. The only problem with him is he loves work.
“We might have to think of something else, but the ground is heavy everywhere and it’s not going to be any better next week or the week after, I suspect. It is a nightmare at the moment.”
Henderson could have waited for Newbury’s Denman Chase, but he already has a runner pencilled in for that who has not been seen this season.
“Champ is definitely going for the Denman at Newbury, that is a definite plan,” said Henderson.
“He’s had a big away day where he jumped very well. He needed it, and it was our attempt to have a sort of race before the Denman so it won’t take so much out of him come the day. He’s in good form.
“We haven’t got as far as who will ride him.”
Adding another complication to the Santini situation is the fact red-hot Arkle favourite Shishkin is due to run at Doncaster on Saturday, leaving Nico de Boinville with a potential dilemma.
“Nico and I think the one thing we must do is run Shishkin at Doncaster. Whether Nico will be at Doncaster, I suppose we have to decide what Santini does,” added Henderson.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2.49833866-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-01-26 11:52:332021-01-26 11:52:33Santini not certain to line up in Cotswold chase
Star staying hurdler Paisley Park is among nine entries for Saturday’s Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Emma Lavelle’s stalwart got back to winning ways last time out in a thrilling finish with Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
Philip Hobbs has not entered his charge this time around, but the Ascot form was boosted at the weekend when Roksana, who was third, was an easy winner.
“On paper it might not look as tough as the Long Walk, that’s true, and he’s in great order,” said Lavelle.
“What will be nice will be to go back to Cheltenham and have a nice experience after what happened at the Festival last year.
“While I’m glad there’s not going to be a massive field, I want him to have a nice experience. I certainly wouldn’t say it looks easy, though – all races at this level are difficult.
“We’ll be giving weight away, but he seems in great order and the timing of this race is absolutely perfect as we can let him down a bit after it.
“Obviously the ground looks like being testing, but we can’t do much about that. We’d love it if the forecast was a bit better and it wasn’t a real slog, but it is what it is. He loves racing, this horse.”
Harry Fry’s veteran Unowhatimeanharry is among potential opponents, along with the David Pipe duo of Ramses De Teillee and Main Fact, who had his long winning run ended in the Long Walk.
Itchy Feet could return to hurdles for Olly Murphy, with Third Wind (Hughie Morrison) another possible.
Nicky Henderson’s Gold Cup runner-up Santini is among 10 contenders in the Paddy Power ’45 Sleeps To Cheltenham’ Cotswold Chase.
He has yet to win in two outings this season, at Aintree and when fifth in the King George VI Chase.
Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados, fourth in the King George, rates as a serious danger as does Bristol De Mai, fresh from this third win in the Betfair Chase.
One who could be out again quickly is Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki, who only won at Taunton on Saturday.
“If it poured with rain on Thursday and Friday I would be kicking myself if I hadn’t put him in the race, though it is a tentative entry,” said Nicholls.
“He is hard to place off his mark of 161 and has not got any kind of penalty in this race.
“Some of the others that are going to run in the Gold Cup might not want a slog at this stage round Cheltenham, so it could cut up.”
Rehearsal Chase winner Yorkhill, David Bridgwater’s The Conditional and a previous Gold Cup winner in Native River (Colin Tizzard) are among the entries.
Nicky Martin’s Bear Ghylls is among 14 in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, with Lecale’s Article and Wilde About Oscar in the mix.
The Pipe-trained Adagio, already a Grade One winner this season, is one of 15 in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle along with Gary Moore’s Nassalam, who was second to him at Chepstow.
Heross Du Seuil, Honneur D’Ajonc and Sage Advice ensure plenty of strength in depth.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2.41763367-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-01-25 14:01:332021-01-25 14:01:33Paisley Park all set for Cheltenham return
Champion jockey Brian Hughes is hoping to “sneak in under the radar” with Waiting Patiently in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
Ruth Jefferson’s nine-year-old has not run since finishing third in the Tingle Creek last December and unseated in this race in 2018, but he is a Grade One winner in his own right and the lack of a recent outing is of no concern to Hughes.
He also has winning course form, and Hughes is taking encouragement from his Ascot Chase victory that he will see out the three-mile distance in the Boxing Day highlight at Kempton Park.
He told VBet: “It’s obviously a good race. There’s the likes of Cyrname and Clan Des Obeaux, who has won the last two King Georges, and lots of other very talented horses.
“But he’s in really good form at home. He hasn’t run since last December, but that’s never been a barrier for him before and he’s always done well after a long lay-off.
“I’ve had three away days with him and he’s schooled really well each time. Ruth is really happy with him and he’s as fit as you can physically get him at home.
“He’s always been the forgotten horse, probably because he’s not trained by a big southern yard but that suits us nicely as we can just sneak in there under the radar.
“The big question is whether he’ll stay. I guess the fact is no one really knows, but he got two (miles) five (furlongs) at a track like Ascot so that has to give you confidence.
“Everything’s gone well and we’re hoping he can run a huge race.”
Nico de Boinville warns it would be folly to “underestimate or write off” the chance of Santini.
While accepting Kempton would not be the ideal track for the eight-year-old, the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up has a CV that merits plenty of respect.
And trainer Nicky Henderson’s decision to supplement him for £5,000 was the right thing to do, according to De Boinville.
“Obviously, it was a late call by the guv’nor as to whether we supplemented him, but it made complete sense,” the jockey told Unibet.
“We know this isn’t his ideal track, as we saw in the Kauto Star at this meeting a couple of seasons ago, but it is not as if he ran a shocker that day and he is the third-favourite in a King George and that tells you it is well worth a roll of the dice.
“He also happens to be one of the best staying chasers in the country, as we saw in the Gold Cup in March, and I am sure the Aintree run last month will have done him the power of good.
“I obviously wasn’t riding him there, but he clearly ran a very solid race from which to build from. The top two in the market clearly have big claims – my slight preference would be for Cyrname – but if people write my horse off or underestimate him, then so be it.
“The form book says they shouldn’t, and any more rain will not harm his chances either, as that would clearly put the emphasis more on stamina.”
Sam Twiston-Davies won the race 12 months ago on Clan Des Obeaux from his Paul Nicholls-trained stablemate Cyrname and is just as thrilled to be involved again.
“It’s nice to be at Kempton, first and foremost, on Boxing Day,” he told William Hill Racing.
“Christmas is obviously great and then when you’ve got that at the back end of it, it just makes it even more exciting.
“I’m lucky being born in a racing family – once you’d got that Christmas lunch out of the way there was only one thing you were thinking about and that was the runners the next day and was dad (Nigel Twiston-Davies) going to have a winner.
“To then be jumping in the car when we were kids to go to Boxing Day, with Imperial Commander and stuff in the past.
“Now to go and ride a horse with a good chance is literally the stuff you dream about when you’re young.”
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2.35041782-1-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2020-12-25 11:58:092020-12-25 11:58:09Hughes believes ‘forgotten horse’ Waiting Patiently can make his mark in King George
Santini will seek to justify an entry that initially “wasn’t the plan at all” when he takes his place in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up was not considered for the Boxing Day highlight originally, and Nicky Henderson still has his doubts about whether three miles at Kempton Park will see his stout stayer to best effect.
However, such is Santini’s appetite for the game, Henderson feels he is ultimately best served by having a tilt at King George glory before bidding for back-to-back victories in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in late January.
The Seven Barrows trainer said: “We were monitoring the entries, we knew what they all were and we knew there wouldn’t be a million runners. We’ve got to finish fifth to cover the supplementary fee (£5,000).
“We’ve got to be positive and he’s in very good form, so we’re up for it. Richard Kelvin-Hughes (owner) is a sportsman.”
Santini had to settle for second spot behind Lake View Lad in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree earlier this month, a Grade Two contest in which nine fences were omitted due to low sun.
Henderson said: “Aintree wasn’t really a satisfactory race – if I wanted to run him in a bending race, I’d have sent him to the gymkhana!
“He did run a very good race, though. Last year he began in a graduation race at Sandown and was desperately unimpressive, but he wakes up for racing – you can’t work him enough.
“If we had to wait another month to run it would have been so boring for him. I hope he’ll be sharper than he was at Aintree, but my worry is the track, it’s not a big, galloping track for a big, galloping horse.
“It wasn’t the plan at all, but it’s something to do before the Cotswold Chase. The more you throw at him the better he is, and within two days he’ll be bucking and squealing again.”
The Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation was well fancied for last year’s King George off the back of winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock, but never really travelled with much zest and was eventually pulled up by Robbie Power.
He bounced back to his best to finish third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – but again has something to prove on his return to Kempton after finishing tailed off in heavy ground at Haydock last month.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “We are quite happy with where he is and he is ready to run.
“The only thing that came out of Haydock was that it was really heavy ground and though he is a big horse, Robbie mentioned he has always been a horse better on better ground.
“There is a bit of rain due to go through Kempton, but the ground won’t be like it was at Haydock. The horse has schooled well since then and he is in good form and we are looking forward to running him.
“He has got some good horses to take on that have been in really good form, but he was only beaten a length and a half in the Gold Cup and he looked like he was travelling the best for a long way, so we know he is a very good horse.”
Waiting Patiently is an interesting contender for Ruth Jefferson as he makes his first competitive appearance since finishing a close-up third in the Tingle Creek at Sandown 12 months ago.
The Flemensfirth gelding has only tackled three miles once before, when unseating Brian Hughes in the 2018 King George.
Jefferson said: “We took him for an away-day because he hasn’t run for a little while and he seems to have come out of that well. We weren’t desperate to get a run in as he’s not a stuffy horse, and he doesn’t want a lot of racing, so we could have given him a prep run and that could have been it for the season!
“The horse is fine and the ground is fine. As far as the distance is concerned, who knows? We hope this will tell us a lot, although last time we tried three miles we learnt nothing.
“If we didn’t have a go we’d always be wondering, so we’ll try it and see how we go.”
Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados was last seen pushing Min all the way in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, having missed an intended prep run for the King George after suffering a setback.
“He is good fresh and we have done plenty of work with him at home. He was ready for the Betfair Chase, but he picked up that infection,” said Whittington.
“A King George first time out is not ideal, but with his rating (167), where else do we go?
“He is ticking all the boxes at home, so we will roll the dice.”
Black Op completes the nine-strong field – and his trainer Tom George suggests he is no forlorn hope.
“On face value you’d probably say he was up against it, but he’s run against some of these horses before and run well against them,” the Stroud handler told Sky Sports Racing.
“In the Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy), he didn’t quite see out the trip. He’s a Grade One winner over hurdles. He definitely warrants taking his chance and we came close to causing an upset with Double Shuffle a couple of years ago.
“He’s in good form, he’s a high-class horse. He wasn’t beaten far in the Grade One novice chase there last Christmas.
“He liked the track that day and is ready for a good run.”
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