Alan King has pinpointed Godsmejudge as one of his best hopes for success at this month’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Barbury Castle trainer expects to have only “10 or 11” runners at a meeting he has enjoyed great success at in the past.
After just losing out in a pulsating battle for the Classic Chase at Warwick, Godsmejudge returned to the same course to win a novice event and is being aimed at the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase.
“He’ll get the four-mile trip well, although he wouldn’t want it to dry up too much,” King said. “I think he’d have to be one of my best chances of the week.”
McVicar and King Of Dudes are likely to represent the yard in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle rather than L’Unique, while the smart Smad Place has another crack at the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
“I’ve been pleased with him,” King added. “I had him in at Fontwell on Sunday but I thought it was a bit close, but he worked very well this morning.”
Former Festival winner Bensalem has been ruled out for the season and last year’s top-class juvenile Grumeti will also miss Cheltenham but not the whole season. “He’s fine – he’s not going to be ready for Cheltenham but he’ll probably go for the Scottish Champion Hurdle,” said King, whose other runners include Walkon (Byrne Group Plate) and Kumbeshwar (Grand Annual).
Meawnhile, Harry Fry admits it is “doubtful” last weekend’s Racing Plus Chase hero Opening Batsman will be at the Festival.
The seven-year-old has gone up eight pounds in the weights after winning one of the most prestigious staying handicap chases of the season at Kempton, a hike his trainer believes is a “fair rise”.
Opening Batsman holds four entries at Prestbury Park but, if he is to make the trip, he will contest either the JLT Specialty Chase or the shorter Byrne Group Plate. Fry is not prepared to ask his charge to carry a huge burden in either the Kim Muir or the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase. He said: “It’s a fair rise and no decision has been made about whether he’ll go to Cheltenham or not. We’ll let the horse tell us, see how he is and then make a decision next week. The owners are still on cloud nine after last Saturday, so we haven’t had a proper discussion about it yet.
“We were delighted with him last weekend and, whether we want to throw him into another really competitive handicap in the space of three weeks, I’m not sure. It’s probably doubtful at this stage, but we’ll see.
“The main thing is he has come out of Kempton in good form and there is always Aintree and Punchestown later on.
“If he is to go to Cheltenham, he definitely won’t be running in the novice handicap or the Kim Muir. He’d have to carry 12st 6lb and 12st 1lb [respectively] in those races and he won’t be doing that.”
2.20 Italian Master (nap)
2.55 Silver Roque
3.30 Shuil Royale
5.10 Woodland Wal
2.10 Mecox Bay
2.45 Lets Get Serious
3.20 Grimley Girl
3.50 Brave Spartacus
4.25 Life And Soul
5.00 White Diamond
5.30 Favorite Girl.
6.10 Modern Lady
6.40 Hannahs Turn
7.40 Bert The Alert
8.40 Angelena Ballerina