'I don't know how a horse can improve that much' - El Presente stuns Kim Bailey
It is not just punters who enjoy a gamble in competitive Saturday handicaps, as a stunned Kim Bailey realised following El Presente's brave success in Wincanton's Badger Beers Silver Trophy.
It was no gamble in punting terms – Bailey did not even fancy his chances – but it was a quick decision to postpone a planned winter break and take his chance in this prestigious handicap chase.
The seven-year-old was coming here after a fine summer campaign, winning three of his four starts, and the trainer wanted to strike while the iron was red hot.
El Presente travelled in midfield, with David Bass able to stalk the leaders as the race drew to an action-packed conclusion. First the strong-travelling Sizing At Midnight blew his hopes with a fall three out and the dual race winner Present Man had to go wide to avoid him, a move that kept him in the race but made his task much harder.
Sizing At Midnight's departure left the big gamble My Way in the lead and he held a handy advantage over the last. However, he could not sustain his effort as El Presente and Potterman charged home late. Little separated that pair in a hard-fought finish, which in normal years would rock this quaint Somerset venue, but on the line Bailey's hope claimed the verdict by a short head.
Bailey, recording his first win in the 58-year-old race, said: "We had more or less roughed him off after his last run, then it rained and I thought he had his season. But then it started to dry up and I thought we'll throw an entry in, then I thought we'll give it a go. We didn't think he'd win, we really didn't. He's so tough.
"Life's all about fate. We ran him in a novice chase and he got a rating of 124. Then he came here and we thought he was an absolute certainty but he unseated his jockey. Next we had a wet winter, he went to Huntingdon and David came back and said he has a wind problem. We've got that sorted and Bob's your uncle."
Bailey added: "We thought when he got beat at Market Rasen in August that was probably his limitation but I don't understand how a horse can improve that much – it's fantastic."
'How he handles him is just extraordinary'
The win continued an outstanding run for the Bailey team, whose last 24 runners have yielded eight winners and three seconds. But praise for Saturday’s win went to El Presente's jockey.
Bailey added: "David Bass adores this horse and how he handles him is just extraordinary. He's not very big but he's agile and is a great little jumper. He's had a phenomenal season, I'm so pleased for his owners they've been so supportive, especially last season when the ground was against him."
The Gloucestershire-based trainer says El Presente will have a deserved winter break with the bet365 Gold Cup at the end of the season at Sandown rating his next big target.
"We've always thought of him as a Whitbread-type [bet365 Gold Cup] horse. That's what we'll aim him at. He'll run first somewhere, he likes to go right-handed and on fast ground," he added.
Runner-up Potterman came close to giving Alan King a big Saturday treble after wins in the November Handicap and Elite Hurdle, while the Christian Williams-trained Kitty's Light stayed on to beat My Way for third spot.
The 4-1 favourite Danny Whizzbang finished seventh, with the better ground not to his liking according to Harry Cobden. Sizing Midnight was reported unscathed following his nasty fall.
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