Trainer Polly Grundy, who is now the trainer of Santini after he left Nicky Henderson in the summer, is pinning her horses chances of running in the Gold Cup down to his outing in the Grade Two Cotswold Chase at the Prestbury Park venue later this month.
Two seasons ago the 10 year old made a winning start on his seasonal debut at Kempton but did leave room for improvement, he was much better next time out after undergoing a wind op which saw him race on trials day in the Cotswold Chase and he put in a mighty performance to beat Bristol De Mai in what was a career best effort.
He then headed to the festival for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and although rallying in the final stages, had to settle for a narrow second behind dual winner Al Boum Photo.
The staying star for the yard made a satisfactory return to racing last season when having a good racecourse gallop at Newbury and then headed to Aintree for the Many Clouds Chase and finished a narrow second to Lake View Lad.
Although not winning the race he showed his staying ability in tricky conditions and with many fences being bypassed due to the low sun on the day it did not play to his strengths.
Connections and trainer Nicky Henderson at the time, decided to run him in the Kempton feature King George VI Chase and after forking out £5,000 to supplement him they were expecting a big run.
Unfortunately, having looked like he was coming with a challenge he could only finish fifth, fading in the latter stages of the race.
He was last seen in the Grade Two Cotswold Chase at Sandown, where the heavy ground went against him and he could only finish a long way third behind the veteran Native River.
Looking to go one better in the Gold Cup he was unfortunately pulled up before the finish, and that was the last time he was seen for Henderson.
Given to Polly Grundy this term, he made his seasonal reappearance in the 3m2f Grade Three Handicap Chase at the December meeting could only finish a long way back in fourth.
Grundy will now head back to Cheltenham for another crack at the Cotswald Chase and it will determine whether or not he is still good enough to compete in the Gold Cup.
(Credit ATR) “We’ve entered him in the Gold Cup, but he will aim for the Cotswold Chase first and if he runs well there then we will go for the Gold Cup,” said Gundry.
“We knew he was a bit short (of fitness) and he was going OK until Venetia Williams’ horse (Commodore) quickened and we tried to go with it, but he has come on for that run.
“He was just a bit too burly last time but if we can get him leaner and if he gets a bit of luck in running, he could go well.
“There were a few other options but Richard (Kelvin-Hughes, owner) wasn’t keen on going back in a handicap and he has run some good races around Cheltenham, so we saw no reason why not to go back.
“It is a great honour to have him as he is the most gorgeous horse and is a real gentle giant. He has been very well looked after by Nicky Henderson.”