Bailey in race against time for Gold Cup hope Vinndication

Kim Bailey is convinced Vinndication is a “Gold Cup horse” – but he is also about to give his classy chaser an alternative Cheltenham Festival entry in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

History is in danger of repeating itself for Vinndication this winter because, just as last year, an injury setback means time may run out for a prep run before March.

At Cheltenham in 2020, he put up a mighty effort under top weight in the Ultima Handicap Chase as he failed by less than three lengths to defy his four-month absence before the Festival.

This time, Vinndication injured himself again when unseating in a prominent position – once more under a welter burden – in November’s Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury.

Bailey has not given up hope of finding another race for him before mid-March but has already decided he will not be ready in time to test his course-and-distance credentials in the Cotswold Chase at the end of this month.

“To this day I don’t know what happened in the Ladbroke – but anyway, he parted company with his jockey,” he said.

“He banged the inside of his near-hind joint, which he was very sore on for a few days.

“Although he’s 100% sound, he spent time on Jason Maguire’s horse treadmill to try to help him.

“He’ll come back in time. The Gold Cup entry is very much there for the simple reason that I think he’s a Gold Cup horse.”

Bailey, a Gold Cup-winning trainer with Master Oats back in 1995 and who also briefly housed 1997 hero Mr Mulligan early in that horse’s career, is in no doubt the best is yet to be seen of Vinndication.

“He needs to go and have a run (before a Gold Cup),” he added.

“If he had completed the race at Newbury and gone and won, he’d be a very laudable favourite, or bang there for the race.

“(Jockey) David (Bass) is convinced he would have won, but it’s very easy to say that. Even if we’d have finished second to him (impressive winner Cloth Cap), we’d have run a great race, giving him all that weight.”

Entries for the Stayers’ Hurdle close on Wednesday, and Vinndication’s name is set to be among them – even though he has not run over timber since completing his unbeaten novice campaign with a third successive victory almost three years ago.

“He’s still a good hurdler,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“So, from the owner’s point of view, what races have we got in mind for him? If I can’t get a prep race into him for the Gold Cup – which I’d like to have – I do have the option of the Stayers’ Hurdle.”

Asked if he has yet reached his full potential, Bailey said: “No. He’s had very little racing. He’s only run 12 times.”

His next will not be at Cheltenham’s Festival Trials day, however, because time is too short.

“No, definitely not,” said Bailey.

“Unfortunately, it could easily be (like last year).

“It is such a difficult situation. Do I go back the handicap route, do I go for the Gold Cup? It will have to work itself out.”

Vinndication will not be joined by stablemate Younevercall if he does take up the Stayers’ Hurdle option.

The latter was pulled up behind impressive winner McFabulous in the re-scheduled Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday – and will have an extended break before returning to defend his Sandown crown at the end of April in the Grade Two hurdle he won when it was last run two years ago.

Reflecting on Kempton, Bailey said: “He’s 10 years old, and there are very few races for him.

“The owners were very keen (to run at the weekend), and there was no reason to say the horse shouldn’t run.

“But it’s very obvious to me that he’s a horse that always takes a long time and needs a break between races – and that came too quick for him on Saturday.

“I’m not worried about that – you can eradicate that (run).”

Younevercall and David Bass en route to their Sandown victory in the 2019 bet365 Select Hurdle
Younevercall and David Bass en route to their Sandown victory in the 2019 bet365 Select Hurdle (Julian Herbert/PA)

Younevercall, who had performed with such credit to be fourth in the Grade One Long Walk at Ascot before Christmas, will have more than three months to freshen up for his big target.

“There’s nothing else for him to run in (for a while),” added Bailey.

“He doesn’t need to be going to Cheltenham – he doesn’t like going left-handed.

“So I should think our season with him now will be aimed at Sandown, (and) I’d think we’ll probably go straight there.”

Plans fluid for Vinndication

Kim Bailey is in no rush to formulate the next plan of attack with Vinndication after unseating in the Ladbrokes Trophy.

After filling the runner-up spot behind the top-class Cyrname on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the seven-year-old was one of the leading fancies for Newbury’s prestigious handicap, but parted company with David Bass before the business end.

Bailey reported earlier this week that Vinndication was found to be lame following the race, but with X-rays having showed no fracture, he was back on the gallops on Friday morning.

“He’s back cantering. I don’t know where we’ll go next, we’ll just see how he progresses from here,” said the trainer.

Vinndication retains an entry in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, for which he is 25-1 with the sponsors.

Vinndication on easy list following Ladbrokes Trophy run

Vinndication is on the easy list as he was found to be lame after unseating his rider at the fifth-last fence in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.

The seven-year-old was in second place behind all-the-way winner Cloth Cap when parting company with David Bass.

After initially looking to be none the worse, Vinndication became lame, prompting trainer Kim Bailey to have the horse X-rayed on the way back to his stables near Cheltenham.

As the X-rays showed no fracture, Bailey will give Vinndication a rest and see how he is in a few days’ time.

“Vinndication was running the race of his life on Saturday, but when coming to the cross fence at Newbury something happened, and however many times I watched the replay I am still not sure, but it all went wrong,” the trainer told his website blog.

“David Bass initially thought that he had lost his iron and just fallen off, but on the replay it looked like Vinny either slipped and lost his propulsion – either way he lost his jockey and almost came down. Hugely frustrating.

“Vinny seemed fine after, but then he stiffened up and became lame behind after an hour. A visit on the way home to Donnington Vets for x-rays showed no fracture, so rest is the immediate cure and see how he is a in a few days time.”

Bailey’s other runner in the race, Two For Gold, will revert to shorter distances after failing to last out the extended three and a quarter miles.

“Two For Gold ran a blinder but just did not stay. I rather suspected that might happen. We have learnt something and he will be back over a shorter trip,” he said.

Bailey looking to Vinndication for Ladbrokes Trophy triumph

Kim Bailey believes Vinndication is capable of filling a glaring omission on his CV by giving him a first victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday week.

The Andoversford handler, speaking in front of the media at Tuesday’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gallops morning at the track, hinted the Grade Three prize is likely to be the next target for the eight-year-old – who found only Cyrname too strong on his return in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby.

Having won a Grand National, Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle, Bailey has only placed in the Grade Three heat – with Mr Frisk and Docklands Express finishing third in 1989 and 1991 respectively.

Newtide (right) and Vinndication schooled at Newbury
Newtide (right) and Vinndication schooled at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Bailey said: “I won’t make a decision until next week (over Vinndication’s participation). I think if all things go to plan next week, you are more likely to see him here. He is an out-and-out stayer, so three and a quarter miles is no problem.

“I think I’ve only had two or three runners in it. I had Mr Frisk placed in it and another horse called Man O’Magic finish sixth in it. Docklands Express was also third in it.

“I’ve yet to win it. It’s a lovely race to win and it would be great on my CV.”

Although Vinndication was not foot perfect in a schooling session alongside Grade Two-winning stablemate Newtide at Newbury, Bailey believes it will have taken some of the freshness out of him and sharpened him up.

He added: “I wanted to school him today as when I brought him here two years ago to school, he wasn’t very good.

“He was very fresh today, and I was desperate to get a school in today to see how he reacted.

“By the last fence he got himself sorted out – he took the first two miles outside the wings.

“We will school him between now and then at home and make a decision after the weekend on where we go.”

Two For Gold, right, is rated no better than a 50/50 chance to line up in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA Images)
Two For Gold (right) is rated no better than a 50/50 chance to line up in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA Images)

Bailey could also be represented in the race by Two For Gold, who has the option of Newcastle’s Listed Betfair Rehearsal Chase on the same day.

He said: “I would think it is 50/50 he runs. When we make the entry for the Rehearsal Chase, we will see the two races and see where we are.

“He definitely fits the profile, but it would be nicer if he was a year older.

“It’s a big ask for him to go from two and a half miles at Wetherby to three and a quarter miles around here, because he hasn’t been that trip before.”

Tom George believes Grade One-winning hurdler Black Op will have no issues racing beyond three miles for the first time in the handicap feature.

George said: “He had a nice run up at Carlisle in an intermediate chase there. He wasn’t ready that day – that would have put him spot on hopefully.

“He won’t have any problems with the trip. He loves a big, flat track. He has got a good weight, and this has been the plan for quite a while with him.

“In the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton (last December), we should have maybe in hindsight made a bit more use of him as he was only beaten a short distance in the end. I can’t see stamina being a problem.

“He hasn’t done that much chasing for an older horse, but he seems to be going the right way.”

Ben Pauling is confident he has Kildisart, another in action at the gallops event, exactly where he wants him on his return to fences – having finished third in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his reappearance.

“We went to Wetherby as a bit of a prep race – and he ran a mighty race, to be honest, against some good hurdlers,” said Pauling.

“He will come on for that run, and he came out of the race very well. It was nice to see him just stride on today.

“He was very relaxed – and Holly (Osborne), who rides him every day, said when he got upsides, he just locked on. That was job done for him.

“He does seem to be getting better with age. I think he is in as good a place as he can be to come here in 10 days and give it his all.”

Bailey sets sights on Gold Cup as long-term Vinndication target

Kim Bailey plans to work back from an outing in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup with Vinndication.

The Andoversford handler believes the seven-year-old is capable of competing against the best staying chasers on a regular basis, after finding only Cyrname too strong on his return in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.

Although Vinndication – a general 40-1 shot for the prestigious Grade One at the Cheltenham Festival in March – needs to take another step forward on official ratings, Bailey is confident he can make the required progression.

Bailey said: “I was delighted with his run at Wetherby. He slipped into the first fence, and it took a while to get his jumping back, but I was very happy with the horse.

“The ground wasn’t ideal up there, because it was pretty soft, but it confirmed in my mind that he is good enough to run in a Gold Cup – and I think we will be working back from that.

“Wetherby is two long straights with two tight bends. It is only just three miles, and all he was doing was finishing to good effect, so the Gold Cup trip of three and a quarter miles will be much more his distance.”

Kim Bailey was impressed with Cyrname who denied Vinndication a winning return at Wetherby on Saturday (Simon Cooper/PA Images)
Kim Bailey was impressed with Cyrname, who denied Vinndication a winning return at Wetherby on Saturday (Simon Cooper/PA Images)

While delighted with Vinndication’s seasonal bow, Bailey had plenty of admiration for his Wetherby conqueror Cyrname – who was claiming his first victory since defeating Altior in a Grade Two at Ascot last November.

He added: “It was a very good performance by Cyrname, and I take my hat off to him.

“It was a brave shout by Paul Nicholls to do what he did, but that is why he has been champion trainer so many times.”

Bailey, who won the Gold Cup in 1995 with Master Oats, has not ruled out returning to handicap company with Vinndication for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury later this month.

He added: “He will have entries in all the big races like the King George, but I  would say that the Betfair Chase at Haydock might just come too soon.

“He is in the Ladbrokes Trophy, and that could be an option, but I’m not saying he is going there for definite. It will be interesting to see how the handicapper assesses it.”

Carlisle return in offing for Imperial Aura

Kim Bailey has earmarked next month’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase as the first potential target for Cheltenham Festival winner Imperial Aura.

The Andoversford trainer may choose the two-and-a-half-mile prize on November 1 as his starting point for the lightly-raced seven-year-old’s season.

In a productive first campaign over fences, the Kalanisi gelding rounded off with victory at the Festival in the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Bailey said: “Imperial Aura has come back from Ireland and he looks very well.

“He will possibly go to Carlisle for the intermediate chase there next month. He will have an entry in the BetVictor (Gold Cup, at Cheltenham), and we will see where we go from there.

“It won’t be an easy season for him, but I certainly feel at home he is a stronger horse.

“He didn’t have any issues with his shins last season – which he has done before – but the owners were patient, and we backed off, allowing him to do what he has done.

Vinndication could be stepped back up in class on his return, with Bailey looking to the Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

He said: “He will probably go for the race he didn’t go for last year, which was the Charlie Hall – because the race he won last year on the same day at Ascot (Sodexo Gold Cup), he will probably be a bit high in the weights for.

“I was disappointed he got beat at in the Ultima at Cheltenham. We were due to take him to Newbury two weeks before, but they cancelled it – which just tipped the scales away from us.

“I hope this is his year – he has to improve another 10lb to be a Grade One horse, but it would be nice to think he could be.”

Two For Gold (right) is likely to start back in handicap company (Steven Paston/PA)
Two For Gold (right) is likely to start back in handicap company (Steven Paston/PA)

Two For Gold claimed Grade Two honours on his penultimate start last season in the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick. However, he could revert to handicap company on his return – with Bailey considering a number of options.

He said: “He will either go to Chepstow next weekend or Market Rasen a few days later – where there is a new extended two-mile-five £36,000 handicap chase.

“He is a horse that, all being well, will be entered in the BetVictor Gold Cup as well. He has won over three miles, but he has got bags of speed.

“We were planning to go to Cheltenham, but he had a hard race at Ascot on bottomless ground in the Reynoldstown. So we left him alone – and that would have been one race too many.”

Newtide was another to strike at Grade Two level over fences last season, in the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby, and Bailey believes he could be tailor-made for this year’s Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

He added: “He has had a wind operation since the end of last season and showed he needed that when his wind cut out on him in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

“He likes soft ground and he could be a Welsh Grand National-type horse. It will be a hard season for him, because he is high in the handicap for what he won, two novice chases, and the second of them at Wetherby was a bit of a messy race.”

The Gold Cup-winning trainer expects First Flow to continue his progression over fences when getting his ground conditions, having rattled up a hat-trick at the end of the season.

He said: “First Flow is a good horse, but he is so reliant on heavy ground. He ran some cracking races at Ascot and Sandown, where I never thought he was a good enough jumper to go round. His schooling was good towards the end of the season.

“If he gets his ground this season he will be a contender for the good races over two miles.

“He is a bit like (1995 Gold Cup winner) Master Oats. They were not bred to be speed machines – but they just try and jump.”