Borders-trained Seeyouatmidnight chasing Cheltenham Festival dream

Seeyouatmidnight clears the last to win the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in 2016. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Seeyouatmidnight clears the last to win the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in 2016. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
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Sandy Thomson is “dreaming” that Seeyouatmidnight makes it to the Cheltenham Festival as he prepares to make his return from retirement at Kelso on Thursday.

Borders-based trainer Thomson had hoped to run at Musselburgh last weekend, but that came just too soon for the 12-year-old, who was a classy performer in his day.

A Rendlesham Hurdle win was achieved before he went chasing, which saw him account for Blaklion in the Dipper Novices’ Chase and give Bristol De Mai a 12-length beating at Carlisle.

“He wasn’t quite ready for Musselburgh, but we’re delighted with where we are now,” said Thomson.

“The forecast is not too brilliant for next week as we might have some snow around come Thursday – that might put some of the southerners off anyhow!

“He’s been back in since the middle of September and this was always in the back of my mind as a possibility. He was hanging together when we upped his work and we’re going hunter chasing as hopefully he won’t be under as much pressure.

“If Kelso is off, then we probably wouldn’t be able to qualify for Cheltenham, but that is just the dream – we’re taking it one day at a time as always with him.

“He ran in the Grand National, so Aintree could be where we end up if he doesn’t qualify for Cheltenham. We’re ruling nothing out, but Kelso is the first part of the plan.

“There’s a point-to-point on 23 February and that would hopefully qualify him for 
Cheltenham, that’s the dream anyway.”

Meanwhile, Philip Hobbs is wary of a resurgent Altior in next month’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, but will need further evidence before he is convinced Nick Henderson’s dual title-holder is yet back to his best.

Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil remains more likely to contest the two-mile championship than the alternative Ryanair Chase over four furlongs further at the Cheltenham Festival.

But after Altior’s return to winning form at Newbury on Saturday, Defi Du Seuil has been deposed as outright favourite with many bookmakers – despite his unbeaten season to date in three runs at Grade One and Two level.

Reacting to Altior’s three-and-a-quarter-length victory over Sceau Royal in the Game Spirit Chase, Hobbs said: “He’s obviously run a much better race than he did first time.

“If he is back to his best, then it would be a concern in the Champion Chase.”

Altior endured a frustrating first half of the campaign – losing his long unbeaten record over fences when coming off second best up in trip against Cyrname at Ascot in November, and then missing planned engagements at Kempton because of an abscess.

“It was obviously a big improvement, and he’s run a very good race,” Hobbs added of Henderson’s great champion. “(But) I think it’s impossible to tell from that whether he is totally back to his best.”

l Plumpton has announced a precautionary inspection at 8am for today’s card. Winds are expected to ease but up to 20mm of rain is forecast on ground already described as heavy, soft in places.

Catterick’s card has already been called off though, with flooded stables forcing the cancellation.