Britannia hero Bless Him back with another Royal Ascot raid in mind
Bless Him landed the ultra-competitive Britannia Stakes last year and trainer David Simcock is hoping Wednesday's 1m½f handicap at Nottingham (3.50) can provide the launchpad for another Royal Ascot success.
The four-year-old, who just scraped into the Britannia having been second reserve, was tried in Group 3 company on his only start after the royal meeting – finishing fifth in the Supreme Stakes at Goodwood – and Simcock retains the belief he has a Pattern-race performer on his hands.
But first he is targeting another red-hot handicap in the Royal Hunt Cup, via a comeback at Nottingham that should leave him in tip-top shape for the big day.
Simcock said: "He's come back in late this season and is slightly above his racing weight. The likelihood is that he'll be better for the run. The Hunt Cup is very much the plan."
Fitness may pose an issue for Bless Him on his first start for 276 days, but a mark of 100 is nothing to fear.
The trainer added: "I think when he steps up to a mile and a quarter we'll see the best of him. In time he'll end up being a stakes horse."
Among the eight runners in the £22,000 feature is an old rival of Bless Him's. Tricorn, who represents John Gosden. He was third in the Britannia and has race fitness on his side, having finished in mid-division in a nine-furlong handicap on 2,000 Guineas day.
Clive Cox is always a man to note with his two-year-olds and his newcomer Heartwarming, who runs in the opener at Nottingham (2.20), is sure to attract plenty of attention, being a half-sister to last year's Queen Mary Stakes winner Heartache.
Heartache posted an impressive performance on debut at Bath before routing the field, including highly touted US raider Happy As A Fool, at Royal Ascot.
Heartwarming is held in high regard by Cox, who has saddled three first-time-out juvenile winners this season, but expects her to improve markedly for the initial experience.
He said: "She's by Showcasing and is a half-sister to Heartache, who is by Kyllachy. She's a really nice filly. This is her racecourse debut and we're looking forward to her first day at school. I'm sure she'll build on it."
Not all horses prove effective at Ripon and handle its undulations. However, that certainly does not apply to Pipers Note, who has posted six of his ten victories at the course and put up one of the best efforts of his career when runner-up in last year's Great St Wilfrid.
The eight-year-old Pipers Note has been offered some respite by the handicapper and can compete off a 1lb lower mark than the one he defied to win last year's Directors Cup (8.10), something that gives trainer Ruth Carr grounds for optimism.
She said: "He's down to a good mark and seems in form at home. He enjoys it at Ripon – for whatever reason I don't know – and he handles the track well.
"He wasn't beaten far at York and I was quite pleased with that run. He's very genuine, straightforward and a pleasure to train – he's as enthusiastic as ever and loves the job."
Have saddle will travel
Regaining his jockeys' title clearly did little to sate Silvestre de Sousa's appetite for winners and he is in for a busy time on Wednesday with 11 rides booked across Beverley's afternoon meeting and Ripon's evening card.
Those riders attempting to hang on to De Sousa's coattails in the jockeys' championship will be hoping he is unable to repeat the 217-1 four-timer he managed at Ripon's most recent fixture.
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