Hitman Likely To Swerve Cheltenham For Aintree


Paul Nicholls' new recruit Hitman is likely to miss the Cheltenham festival in favour of heading to the Grand National meeting at Aintree with the gelding said to be none the worse for his fall in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown on Saturday.

Having ran respectably over hurdles in France the son of Falco made his British/chase debut at Ffos Las in November in very tricky conditions.

The four year old took every fence in his stride, getting better as the race went on and went on to win the event by an eased down 30 lengths.

That performance was highly impressive and he looked to prove he was a Grade One horse in the making next time out at Sandown when being entered into the Henry VIII Novices' Chase.

Having a big reputation the yard thought he had a big chance but on the day he had to settle for second behind the impressive Allmankind, who landed the event in good style.

With that run under his belt in Grade One company he headed into the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase on Saturday, looking for the step up in trip to really bring him along.

However, when still looking full of running he fell with almost half of the race left to go, leaving a lot to be desired for punters.

(Credit ATR) “It was very frustrating – I don’t think I’ve seen Harry (Cobden, jockey) that frustrated after a race for a long time.

“He was travelling extremely well and jumped impeccably. He was just a bit unlucky he landed a little bit steep.

“He’s come out of the race fine and we’ve just got to make a plan as to what we’re going to do with him going forward.”

The French exploit was thought to be heading straight to the Cheltenham festival after his run at the weekend with entries in the Arkle Trophy and the Marsh Novices’ Chase, but it now looks as though Nicholls will hold off on those plans and instead save him for Aintree.

Nicholls added: “I wouldn’t mind saving him for Aintree. He’s a horse who doesn’t want a lot of racing this year. He’s only just turned five and he’s going to improve physically for another summer.

“You wouldn’t do Cheltenham and Aintree and Cheltenham might come a bit quick off the back of a fall. “I wouldn’t mind getting a clear round in somewhere on a small track and then go to Aintree.”