Valdez tries to go one better than last year in the Greatwood

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February 21

Nothing beats a big Saturday winner to lift the yard, and Who Dares Wins erased the winter gloom when landing the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton last week-end, and the fact that the official assessor has left his mark unchanged on 147 has prompted Alan to favour a tilt at the Festival Handicap Chase from the horse’s three Cheltenham entries.

Alan has an impressive record in that race, having won it with Fork Lightning (2004) and Bensalem (2011). The former was a novice, giving Alan and Henry Ponsonby reason to be optimistic that lack of experience over fences won’t stop Who Dares Wins.

We have a strong squad going to Newbury on Saturday, so fingers crossed we might have cause for celebration again as we bid farewell to February.

Feature on our local track is the Greatwood Gold Cup, and, while Horus (2006) and Thomas Crapper (2011) were in the twilight of their careers when they won, Valdez, our big hope, is 13 years of age and would be the oldest winner in the 16-year history of the race.

Alan said:”Valdez was only beaten a length when runner-up in this race 12 months ago, so, hopefully, he can go one better. He ran well behind Native River in the Denman Chase at Newbury last time, but he did not quite get home over the three miles so coming back in trip should suit him.

We’ll also be rooting for another veteran, Loverboy, whose target is the Peter O’Sullevan Handicap Hurdle. Loverboy, though nine, has precioius little mileage on the clock, and he only joined us in January.

Alan added:”I was delighted with Loverboy’s first run for us at Chepstow last month. He’d been off more than two years and took a while to get over that comeback race, but he is fine now and has worked well since, so, while he is 8lb higher, he does go on soft ground so should enjoy the underfoot conditions.”

William H Bonney caught my eye on the gallops midweek and makes a belated return in the Mansionbet Handicap Hurdle, in which he finished seventh last year. “He had a stress fracture in the autumn, so his return was delayed, but he is ready to roll again now,” revealed Alan.

The same sponsors back the novices handicap hurdle, in which we run both Fibonacci and Nebuchadnezzar in separate divisions.

Assessing their chances, Alan added:”Fibonacci took a ferocious hold at Doncaster so we tried him in a hood at Newbury last time and the headgear certainly helped him to relax, and, though Nebuchadnezzar has been disappointing, he has been working well at home.”

Senior Citizen‘s long-term target this season has always been the £100,000 novice chase at Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting, but he needs another run in a novice chase to qualify and Alan, delighted how well he won at Fakenham, hopes this dress-rehearsal goes smoothly.

We have two in the bumper. Es Perfecto, an Irish point-to-point winner whom Alan tells me has come on for his promising third at Kempton, will be joined by newcomer Royal Pretender, who has been pleasing us at home and schooled well over hurdles on Monday.