DEFENDING CHAMPION Lake View Lad will attempt to become the first dual winner of Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day, the horse’s trainer Nick Alexander has confirmed.
However, he says the grey, owned by Trevor Hemmings, will have to be at his very best if he is to overcome a steep rise in the handicap following his Boxing Day triumph last year.
Pulled up in this year’s Grand National because the ground at Aintree was unsuitably quick, Lake View Lad was a far from disgraced fifth on his seasonal reappearance in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase last month.
And, though the nine-year-old had also won the Newcastle contest the previous year, Alexander is also realistic about expectations ahead of next Thursday’s race at Wetherby that celebrates Rowland Meyrick, a former clerk of the course at the track.
Once again the horse will be partnered by North Yorkshire jockey Henry Brooke who will be bidding to win the Rowland Meyrick for an unprecedented fourth time following the successes of Sue Smith’s Wakanda in 2016 and Dan Skelton’s Get On The Jager in 2017.
With Wakanda and Get On The Jager also amongst the entries for a potentially high-class renewal, all three previous winners of the three-mile race could line up next week.
“The plan is to definitely run and he should be in good form,” Alexander told The Yorkshire Post.
“This has always been the plan since the Rehearsal Chase and we were happy enough with his comeback.
“We did not have a straightforward preparation compared to last year – he had a lot of weight and he got tired on holding ground.”
Looking forward to Wetherby, the Scottish-based trainer added: “Everything will need to be right, but the ground should be perfect for him.
“We’ll try and break the stats. It’s great to have a horse that can run at this level – I wish I had 10 of them.
“It’s great for the stable to have a flagbearer who is running at this level.
“Hopefully it shows people that we can produce the goods if we have the horses.”
Confirming that next year’s National is the main objective, subject to the going at Aintree being soft, Alexander would like Kalashnikov, a surprise Rowland Meyrick entry, to line up next week.
A Grade One-winning novice steeplechaser last season, Amy Murphy’s stable star has been runner-up on his two outings this season and would carry top weight if she opts for Wetherby.
She and Kalashnikov are no stranger to the track – the horse made a winning racecourse debut at the track in March 2017 under regular rider Jack Quinlan before landing a novice hurdle at the 2017 Charlie Hall Chase meeting at the same track.
Other entries include Guitar Pete, another course specialist, for in-form trainer Nicky Richards.
The aforemetioned Sue Smith has also entered I Just Know while the frontrunning Top Ville Ben could represent Phil Kirby.
Meanwhile, Clan Des Obeaux, Cyrname and Lostintranslation are three of just seven possible runners in the feature King George VI Chase at Kempton on the same afternoon. Cyrname and Lostintranslation dispute favouritism having made the perfect start to their respective campaigns on the same afternoon last month.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname inflicted a first defeat over jumps on Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, while Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation proved himself a top-class staying chaser with victory in the Betfair Chase.
Nicholls is also set to saddle last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux as he bids to add to his record haul of 10 King George triumphs.
Tizzard has a second string to his bow in Thistlecrack, who won the Kempton showpiece in 2016.
Irish hopes are carried by Footpad, who bids to provide Willie Mullins with his second victory in the race following the success of Florida Pearl in 2001. The potential field is completed by Aso, trained by Venetia Williams, and Warren Greatrex’s star mare La Bague Au Roi.