Ascot possible as Kings Palace targets Festival

TOP novice chaser Kings Palace is likely to have just one more run before the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Kings Palace, right, winning the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novice Chase at Cheltenham last month

The David Pipe-trained seven-year-old has already turned in two hugely impressive displays at Prestbury Park over fences this season, beating Sausalito Sunrise in November and December.

Kings Palace – the mount of Tom Scudamore – has also been given an eye-catching entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

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However, the RSA Chase, the three-mile championship race for novice chasers, remains his most likely objective.

Connections are currently mulling the best route to the Festival, with the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot on February 14 among his options.

Harry Drew, son of part-owner Bryan Drew, said: “I think the plan is to give him one more run before the Festival and there are a few options.

“There’s a race at Newbury and also the Reynoldstown race at Ascot that O’Faolains Boy won last year.

“He’s been entered in the Gold Cup today, but it’s just an entry and everyone wants to keep their options open.”

Assessing the potential opposition in the RSA Chase, Drew said: “Don Poli looked to win with a lot in hand in Ireland the other day and Coneygree was very impressive in the Feltham on Boxing Day. I think they’re probably our two main dangers.”

Drew was speaking after handicap hurdler Saint John Henry’s win at Sedgefield yesterday under the aforementioned Scudamore.

Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle is a possible next port of call for At Fishers Cross after he returned “slightly sore” following his run at Leopardstown over Christmas.

The dual Grade One winner disappointed on his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby on Charlie Hall Chase day when well-beaten by the Gavin Sheehan-ridden Cole Harden, but was sent off favourite to get his season back on track in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 28.

The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old could only manage fourth place under AP McCoy.

Trainer Rebecca Curtis is looking forward to welcoming her stable star back to Wales this week and the Cleeve Hurdle on January 24 is the next objective.

Curtis said: “He was slightly sore after Leopardstown and something was slightly niggling him.

“He jumped out to his right, so there was obviously something at him.

“We left him in Ireland for the vets over there to have a look at him and the plan is for him to come home this week.

“We’ll see how he is when we get him home, but if everything is looking good, we could possibly aim him at the Cleeve Hurdle.”

Two Middleham jump jockeys continued their fine recent form with winners at Sedgefield yesterday for local trainers.

John Kington was recording his third win since Christmas when Zazamix prevailed for Andrew Crook, while Henry Brooke – buoyed by a Newcastle double on Saturday – partnered Libby Mae to victory for Micky Hammond.

The latter success completed an across-the-card double for Hammond after Just Cameron’s win earlier in the day under conditional rider Joe Colliver.