SANDY Thomson would like the ground to be softer next time for Seeyouatmidnight after his stable star made a superb start to the campaign at Carlisle on Sunday.
The Betfair Chase at Haydock and Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup are among the possible next ports of call for the highly-regarded eight-year-old, one of the North’s top National Hunt horses.
Ridden by North Yorkshire-based Brian Hughes, Seeyouatmidnight put in an impeccable jumping display to comfortably dispose of solitary rival Bristol De Mai in the prestigious Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase.
“He’s out in the field and he’s fine,” said the Berwickshire trainer who harbours Cheltenham Gold Cup dreams with a horse purchased by his wife Quona at Doncaster Sales. “He jumped brilliantly and I couldn’t be happier.
“We’ll have to keep our options open. Obviously he’s in the Hennessy and we’ll probably give him an entry in the Betfair, but that might come a bit quick. We’ll just play it by ear.
“It was good ground (on Sunday), but I would prefer it to be softer for him.
“We wouldn’t go for the Betfair if the ground wasn’t soft enough anyway.”
Though Seeyouatmidnight made all of the running at Carlisle, Thomson will be surprised if his horse gets his own way in front next time, especially over a longer trip.
“He just has a high cruising speed, but he might be allowed to do again what he did at Carlisle,” said the trainer. “I don’t think he’d get an easy lead over three miles. He doesn’t have to make the pace for it to be a stamina test.”
Meanwhile Paul Nicholls is confident Dodging Bullets is fit enough to do himself justice in the 188Bet Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter today.
The eight-year-old completed a hat-trick of Grade One victories when claiming Queen Mother Champion Chase glory at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival before failing to lay a glove on the resurgent Sprinter Sacre in this year’s renewal.
He has to concede almost a stone all round in what is his first handicap start over jumps, but the champion trainer is hopeful of a bold show.
“He’s in good shape. He’s a lot fitter than he was on his first run last season at Newbury and he’ll be running on better ground,” said Nicholls.
“He’s carrying top weight in a handicap, but he’s a Champion Chase winner and must have a chance.
“It’s a prep run for the rest of the season and he probably wants a bit further now, which is why we’re running him on a stiff track like Exeter.”
Garde La Victoire returns to jumping fences following a confidence-boosting victory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle less than three weeks ago.
The Philip Hobbs-trained seven-year-old fell on his final two starts of last season at Cheltenham and Aintree, but champion jockey Richard Johnson is hopeful his mount, owned by Grahame and Diana Whateley, can reignite his chasing career.
Johnson said:“Dodging Bullets is a Champion Chase winner, so he’s the one we’ve all got to beat, but it is a handicap and hopefully our horse has a great chance.”
Jockeys injured in fall at Kempton: Page 6.