Sceau Royal dips his toes in deeper waters at Sandown

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  Friday December 8

We could have done without Thursday’s rain for Sceau Royal, who jumps up in class for the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown tomorrow, but the forecast is for the Esher area to remain relatively dry for the rest of the week and maybe even a spot on sunshine for Saturday, so all is not lost for the Barbury youngster, who is at his best on a decent surface.

Sceau Royal, a smart hurdler who has taken well to fences, winning two of his three races over the larger obstacles and finishing a good second in the other, is a quick horse, so, while he does act in the soft, he will always be more effective on decent ground.

Alan said:”Sceau Royal only won a ‘match’ at Warwick last time, but he has come out of that race fresh and well and his confidence is sky-high.

“Trying to give 5lb to North Hill Harvey at Cheltenham previously was probably a nigh impossible task, so, though he is again mixing it with the big boys, he is in good order and we just want that rain to stay away.”

Alan pulled Fidux out of Newbury last week to wait for the Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown. “He’s run well the twice he’s been to Sandown and would have finished either first or second had he not unshipped his rider at the final flight there last time,” said Alan, adding: “We also run William H Bonney who finished behind our own Elgin in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. That was an encouraging start to the season and he travelled really well through the race and just got tired up the hill.

“The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February is a race we have our eye on and we are working backwards from that, but I remain convinced that there is a big handicap in William H Bonney somewhere along the line, so we go there with two decent chances.

“We also run Awesome Rosie in the mares handicap hurdle. She had been due to switch to fences, but we had a little blip with her at home so we’ll stay hurdling for the time being. She ran well under a big weight at Southwell last time and the ground should suit her.”

Rain earlier in the week has prompted us to declare Chatez for the two-mile handicap hurdle at Huntingdon on Sunday. Alan said:”He loves soft ground and, given his history, he will always need that word in the going report. He was a smart juvenile hurdler, winning two of his four races and he then won the Spring Mile at Doncaster in 2015, but he was off the track for more than 900 days until running a cracker to finish second on his comeback at Leicester last month. He’s been working well at home and is ready to resume his hurdling career.”

Remember, Alan, who incidentally has also declared Sula Island for the maiden on the tapeta surface at Wolverhampton tomorrow night, is again the weekly winter columnist on The Racing Post Weekender, so in case you missed his last two offerings here are a couple of nuggets that might interest you.

There has been much talk about trainers having to declare wind operations in future, and Alan’s view was as follows. “I have no issue with the BHA’s request, but I would warn punters that for every one operation that works there are probably five or six that don’t. Nine times out of 10 the reason a horse doesn’t win is because he or she isn’t good enough.”

On a sadder note, Alan revealed the death of one of heroes from yesteryear, Crystal d’Ainay, who has died from colic just a month short of his 19th birthday.

Alan said:”It was a great shame for everyone, especially Charlotte Burke, my PA who has had him since his retirement and absolutely adored him. She had hunted him and done some team chasing with him.

“Crystal d’Ainay won eight races, five over hurdles and three over fences, and was one of our first high-profile horses here. He beat dual Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and was also third in a Stayers Hurdle, not to mention several epic battles he had with Baracouda.”