Sceau Royal faces stiff task in the Champion Chase
Before leaving for day one of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, I caught up with Alan to get his thoughts on our day two runners, of which there are four, Sceau Royal in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Group Stage and Blacko in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (formerly the Fred Winter) and The Glancing Queen in the Weatherbys Bumper.
Sceau Royal has won three times here at Cheltenham, and 12 months ago he arguably produced a career-best performance when finishing third to Altior in this race, having jumped the last fence in front. Fingers crossed there will be no more rain as the better the ground the better he operates.
Alan said:”That was a huge effort last year, but he ran right up to his best when second to Altior in the Game Spirit at Newbury last month. He travelled well and his jumping was super, and he has had a straight-forward preparation since.
“He is a horse who always works well and he delighted Daryl Jacob when he had a pop on him over fences on Monday, but I am under no illusions about the size of the task he faces in what potentially looks the race of the meeting.”
Of our Boodles duo, Alan added:”Group Stage needed to run in Listed company at Musselburgh to earn him a mark for this race, and I was delighted with his second place. He was staying on well and finished his race strongly, suggesting he’ll be well suited by returning to Cheltenham, where he was a good fourth in a decent race in December.
“This race has always been the target for Blacko, who has pleased me since he joined us, winning his two races at Taunton and Warwick. It wasn’t ideal having to make his own running in the latter race, but he again travelled well throughout and deserves his place in the field.
“We were always only going to run Blacko just the twice as we did not want him to creep any further up the handicap, but unlike Group Stage he never ran on the Flat so whatever he does here he ought to improve still further.”
Finally, we have The Glancing Queen running her first race since winning the mares bumper so impressively at last year’s Aintree Grand National meeting.
Alan added:”The Glancing Queen has been brought along steadily after her bout of sore shins in the autumn. She has been working as well as ever and pleased us when we took her away to Lambourn last week, but there is nothing quite like match-practice and I just hope she gives a good account of herself as we are keen to take on the boys when she returns to Aintree next month.”