Young Master and Southfield Theatre square up again
Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase | 3m1f30yds | Listed | C4 and RUK
The bet365 Gold Cup on the final day of last season ties several of these together, including Sandown winner The Young Master and 2015 RSA runner-up Southfield Theatre, who put up a big performance to be fourth after 13 months off the track.
Notoriously, The Young Master's name is absent from the roll of honour for this race due to his ineligibility when running out a ready 'winner' two years ago.
Neil Mulholland also saddles Carole's Destrier – another horse whose most recent run was in the Bet365 Gold Cup – and Fingerontheswitch, who has yet to win in three chase starts but who his trainer insists should not be dismissed lightly.
Of those to have had a run already this autumn, Gentleman Jon finished 12 and a half lengths adrift of the re-opposing Present Man here in mid-October, before returning to the same venue nine days later to score over slightly further than this trip.
Classy types can prosper
Five of the last eight winners carried 11st or more – even the disqualified The Young Master ran off 10st13lb – and the 9lb gap between Southfield Theatre and Ziga Boy in the weights suggest the top four may have a significant class edge on the rest.
What They Say
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Cocktails At Dawn
He's in good form and loves the ground. He's paying the penalty for winning a race at Chepstow last year and has a massive task in the handicap. But I like him over three miles and think the distance might help him.
Neil Mulholland, trainer Of The Young Master, Carole's Destrier and Fingerontheswitch
It's a nice place to start The Young Master back as he likes the track. He seems well and to have got a bit stronger, so I'm happy with him. They didn't go quick enough for Carole's Destrier in the Bet365 at Sandown but he's in good order. It's a shame this is his first run of the season because he always improves. At the same time, he's straighter than last year. The plan was to give him a run but, with the way the ground has been, that hasn't happened. If Fingerontheswitch gets jumping and into a rhythm I can see him running a very big race.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Southfield Theatre and Present Man
Southfield Theatre has form in the highest grade and was second to Don Poli in an RSA Chase. He had an injury after that and it took him a while to get back. He ran very well at Sandown last time and loves Wincanton's flat track, so I'd say he has a very good chance. Present Man won an ordinary race last month and has to improve on last year and prove he gets the trip.
Alan King, trainer of Ziga Boy
The aim is to get him started and then head to Aintree for the Becher Chase to see if he's a genuine Grand National horse. He's in very good form and I'm looking forward to running him.
Tom George, trainer of Roc D'Apsis
This has been the target for a while and he got a run under his belt to blow the cobwebs away, which is important because he's not always straightforward. He ran well at Kempton last year over this trip despite making some jumping errors.
Colin Tizzard, trainer of Gentleman Jon
For a big horse he loves faster ground, and he likes Wincanton. He just gets into the handicap and I always thought there was a nice race in him. He's teed up well for this.