Leading trainer Nicky Henderson has expressed that he is currently 50-50 as to whether he will send his Gold Cup runner up Santini to Cheltenham on Saturday where he would be looking to land back to back renewals of the Grade Two Cotswold Chase.
Last season the eight 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 over what was nearly the Gold Cup trip.
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 this 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.
The plan after that race was to get him ready at home for this event which he landed last term, but connections and trainer instead 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.
The Seven Barrows yard are looking to give the gelding another run before he goes into the Gold Cup looking to go one better than last season, but with the ground expected to be heavy Henderson has admitted that Santini in fact might not run and will head straight to the Cheltenham feature in March.
(Credit ATR) Henderson said: “I need to talk to Richard Kelvin-Hughes to be fair.
“I would be nervous about him in heavy ground because he doesn’t like it. These races are more about – it is called Trials Day – it is a trial. If he’s going to hate it it will do more harm than good.
“We’re just juggling balls and I’ve got to say it’s 50-50. If it was heavy ground, I’ve got to discuss with Richard, but I would say to him it’s not going to be ideal and he’s a horse you have to keep shovelling on the coal, so if he’s not having a happy time it’s not what he wants at this stage.
“You could bash on (to the spring). There are ways of doing it these days, there are various racecourses and all-weather tracks. The only problem with him is he loves work.
“We might have to think of something else, but the ground is heavy everywhere and it’s not going to be any better next week or the week after, I suspect. It is a nightmare at the moment.”