Graeme McPherson hopes a return to Wetherby reignites Ami Desbois’ spark in today’s totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby.
The eight-year-old has won three times in as many starts at the Yorkshire venue, but ran no sort of a race at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when pulled up.
Having won his first two starts over fences, McPherson would like to see him regain the winning thread.
“I’m just hoping we get to Saturday afternoon thinking Cheltenham was a one-off, we can put a line through it and we’ve got the horse we always thought we had,” he said.
“He’s run well at Cheltenham in the past so I don’t think it was that, but it was very soft, the softest he’s ever gone in over obstacles, he was taken on for the lead and made a dreadful mistake at the first. He never looked comfortable.
“I’d be very disappointed if he ran anything like that on Saturday and going back to Wetherby is a plus – it’s difficult to better his record, he’s won all three.
“He won on this card last year in a handicap hurdle, thinking it might toughen him up before Cheltenham, and he won very well that day and he’s been back twice over fences.
“It’s a lovely track for novices, galloping with inviting fences. Hopefully he’ll put his best foot forward, but it looks competitive.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballyoptic brings Grade One form to the race having finished a well-beaten fourth in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
Dan Skelton’s Captain Chaos and Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds take their chances along with Nigel Hawke’s mare Pearl Royale.
Hawke has proved with the exploits of Speredek that he is not afraid of pitching his horses in at the deep end, and she was a clear-cut winner on her chasing bow at Wincanton.
“The plan has always been to go to Wetherby. Three miles round there would be perfect for her, I’d have thought,” said Hawke.
“I know she has only had one run over fences but, at this point of the season, we need to know what we are dealing with. I’ve made a couple of entries for Cheltenham, but she’s not there yet.
“I don’t want to chuck her in the deep end if we are not quite there yet. I won’t push her this season. Wetherby is the perfect stepping stone to see what level we’re at.
“She gets 7lb from the boys and is built like a gelding. At some stage, she will have to take them on, but if she gets beat fair and square on Saturday, then at least we know where we are.
“Everything has been good day since Boxing Day and the form of that was cemented on Saturday with the third (Theatre Territory) running so well at Cheltenham. We sat quiet for a bit, as the plan was to come here.
“The further she goes, the better she goes, and I have no worries about the step up to three miles. She is tailor-made for it.”