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.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“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.”

Summerville back to optimum trip as he defends Relkeel crown

Tom George believes the re-scheduled Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton is the perfect race for Summerville Boy.

The 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has been right back to his best so far this campaign, winning a decent event over two and a half miles at Aintree first time out.

He then stepped up to three miles when fourth to Thyme Hill and Paisley Park at Newbury, and showed his versatility with a fine run over two miles in the International Hurdle behind Song For Someone.

Summerville Boy won Saturday’s race last year, at its usual home of Cheltenham.

George said: “Summerville Boy is probably running over his optimum trip of two and a half miles.

“He’s very close to the best over three miles and very close to the best over two mile, but this is probably his optimum.

“He’s been running really consistently in some good races, and it’s nice to get him back over two and a half.”

McFabulous is likely to go off favourite for Paul Nicholls.

Impressive in the Persian War on his return, his last chance to run in novice company, he travelled extremely well before apparently failing to see out three miles at Newbury when just in front of Summerville Boy.

Kempton Park Races
McFabulous was an easy winner of the EBF Final last season (David Davies/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

“Switching this race to Kempton from Cheltenham’s abandoned card on New Year’s Day is a big plus for McFabulous,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I was a bit nervous about him on deep ground at Cheltenham, and he will be much happier on better ground at Kempton – where he was so impressive over this distance in the EBF Final just before lockdown.

“He ran very well when third to Thyme Hill and Paisley Park at Newbury, and this trip looks perfect for him.”

Kim Bailey’s Younevercall is 10 but does not have many miles on the clock, and ran a career best last time time out in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

He was still in front jumping the last, and Bailey believes coming back in trip may also suit him.

“We obviously had to redraw our plans,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“He wants to go right-handed – and if this race had taken place at Cheltenham then he wouldn’t be running.

“He’s there – my only concern would be if this race is coming quick enough after Ascot, but as he’s 10 years old now, we’ll have to see.

“I’ve no problem dropping him down in trip – his run before the Long Walk was over similar, and he only just got beat.”

Olly Murphy had hoped to send Thomas Darby to Ireland over Christmas for the three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown, but the travel ban put paid to that.

Thomas Darby had a short-lived novice chase career
Thomas Darby had a short-lived novice chase career (Mike Egerton/PA)

“This race is very much an afterthought, but he’s in very good form,” said Murphy.

“I’d have loved to have gone over three miles with him him – but there’s not a lot for him at the moment, so this looked the obvious race.

“He’s in good form, and I’m looking forward to running him, and he’s got an each-way chance.”

Paul Webber’s Cheltenham Festival winner Indefatigable is the only mare in the field and was third on her return at this track in a Listed race.

“She’s absolutely fine,” said Webber.

Paul Webber (right) celebrates Indefatigable winning at Cheltenham
Paul Webber (far right) celebrates Indefatigable winning at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

“I think they went no gallop in the Listed race – it was a very clever ride by David Bass from the front (on Bannixtown Glory), and I think they just did her for a bit of toe really.

“But she seems in very good form. There aren’t many options at the moment, with the weather as it is.

“She’s still well and needs a run, so we thought this was the only possible place, and she should have her chance.

“I don’t think it was necessarily the (three-mile) trip (that beat her), and this should suit her nicely tomorrow – hot race though it is.

“She’s won Listed races, and there aren’t many Grade Threes, so she’s got to have a crack at a Grade Two.

“Her 7lb weight allowance brings her right there on the ratings. On ratings, she’s right in there.”

Nicky Henderson’s duo of Call Me Lord and On The Blind Side complete the field.

Bailey ready to take plunge as Younevercall heads for Cleeve

Kim Bailey will send Younevercall back left-handed for the first time in almost five years, in next month’s Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Younevercall led over the last in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle on Saturday, proving himself up to competing at the highest level.

The lightly-raced nine-year-old has not raced left-handed since hanging badly right throughout at Doncaster in February 2016.

“I was absolutely over the moon with him,” said Bailey.

“I always said we wouldn’t run him left-handed, but we’re going to have to run him in the Cleeve Hurdle and find out whether he can go that way.

“If we didn’t run in the Cleeve (on January 30) to see we’d have to wait for Sandown or Punchestown (in the spring) – there’s not much else, and they fall too close together really.

“He proved he was up to that level and was only beaten seven lengths, so it was a phenomenal performance when you consider all the problems he’s had.

Imperial Aura was imperious at Ascot last time out
Imperial Aura was imperious at Ascot last time out (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“It’s a shame, it’s often the case the good horses have injuries, how good would he have been? The owners have been very patient with him – he’s been great for them, and they got a great thrill on Saturday.”

Bailey’s stable star Imperial Aura, a Grade Two winner last time out, will head to Kempton on January 9.

“Imperial Aura will go to Kempton next for the Silviniaco Conti Chase,” said the Cotswolds trainer.