There has been much debate in recent weeks about whether the best race to go for with him was the Gold Cup or the Ryanair, but I think going for the big one is the right call. It will be nice to try and put a few wrongs right after last year. I schooled him on grass on Tuesday morning and he felt great, fresh and well, and I couldn’t have been any happier with his jumping. He won this race four years ago and everything about this contest – not least the official ratings – tells you that he is the one to beat. As he has got older I think plenty of give underfoot has become important to him, and the ground shouldn’t be a problem at Ascot. The Gold Cup is only a month away but tomorrow is all that matters for now, and I couldn’t be happier with him going into the race. He definitely ran below his best when second to Thistlecrack in the 32Red King George at Kempton last time – I wasn’t happy with him as early as the second fence – but he should be far too full of class for the opposition here.
He has been beaten a long way in his last three starts and the handicapper hasn’t been overly-generous in only dropping him 2lb for two of those runs over hurdles. He needs to bounce back but if he returns to the form of his Chepstow win over this trip in November then he has each-way claims. And I suppose he didn’t run too badly when third over 2m5f at Wincanton last time, and this longer trip will suit.
Don’t Tell Val
She joined Fergal in the summer after showing very little first time out and she clearly improved no end when winning on her debut for us at Fontwell in October. It may have only looked a modest race at the time but the form has worked out pretty well – the runner-up won next time and finished second in a Listed bumper – and she showed a really good attitude there. She has been off since and I think the reason is that she had a wind issue of sorts, but presumably Fergal has addressed that problem, and hopefully she can go well under her 4lb penalty. It’s normally a big step up from a Fontwell to an Ascot bumper, though.
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