Harry Whittington is set to send his stable star Saint Calvados into the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham and he is hoping that off the back of that run it will give him a clearer picture as to what race he will head for at the festival.
The seven year old was a smart hurdler in France and then was bought over to England and continued his good form when sent chasing, landing his first three events as a novice with the highlight being the Grade Two Kingmaker Chase at Warwick.
Since then he has got slightly lost in his career having been outclassed in better company when running poorly in the Arkle, Champion Chase and Shloer Chase over the years.
However, last term he was upped in trip from two miles and it bought improvement out of the gelding finishing a bold second in a Grade Three Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in January and then heading to the 2020 Cheltenham festival and a narrow second to Min in the Grade One Ryanair Chase, which was a career best run.
Although that was a smart run, he was an outsider for his seasonal debut in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and remarkably he ran a stormer to finish fourth, in what was a superb renewal of the race.
(Credit ATR) Whittington said: “Plan A at the moment is to go for the Cotswold Chase to see if he stays the trip. It was Andrew’s idea to give this a go and it makes plenty of sense.
“This will give us a good gauge as to whether he stays, as we are under no illusion that he has plenty of speed.
“If he runs a cracker and comes through this trial then we could go look at the Gold Cup, but if he doesn’t we can come back down for the Ryanair.”
Saint Calvados was prominent throughout the race, running well to be near the front near the finish and although fading in the latter part of the race still did well to stay on for fourth and that has left Whittington in Limbo in whether to drop him down for the Ryanair Chase or step him up for Gold Cup.
He said: “He travelled the best in the King George, but he hadn’t run since March and he was doing too much in the race compared to Waiting Patiently, who was also having his first run and ran his race towards the end.
“Turning in, I was surprised he was still going as well as he was.
“He just went a bit left at two out, but he was staying on at the death and nearly got back up for third on the line.”
The seven year old will be returning to a left handed track after his exploits at Kempton was right handed and Whittington is excited to see how will handle the step up in trip at Cheltenham.
He added: “He was as fit as I could get him first time out, but you can’t beat having a race to get them spot on.
“He loves Cheltenham and got better and better in four starts there last year, ending up finishing second in the Ryanair.
“The Cotswold Chase will be tough as there are some good horses going there, but we will learn plenty and it will do him no harm. He is raring to go.”