The victory of Present Man in the Badger Beers Silver Trophy at Wincanton two years ago proved the launchpad for Bryony Frost’s career as a professional jockey and, having won it again last year, the pair return on Saturday in an attempt for a hat-trick.
Here for the beer, he may be, but this is Present Man’s Gold Cup. He loves the extended three miles at his local track and, having won it on the back of a run in 2017, he went there fresh last year and that is the path Paul Nicholls has chosen again with Mark Woodhouse’s nine-year-old.
“He loves the race, it’s absolutely made for him,” Nicholls said on Thursday. “He loves the course, he always runs well there and he goes well fresh.”
Among his 13 rivals are his stable companion Give Me A Copper and the Colin Tizzard-trained White Moon, who was two lengths clear and only had to stand up when he stumbled and fell at the last in a chase at the course in October.
“Give Me A Copper will come on for the run,” Nicholls added. “Nothing happened for him last season, though he ran well in the Bet365 Gold Cup, and I’ve always thought a flat track would suit him. He will improve for the run, whereas you can get Present Man bang on first time out, but if he runs up to his best he is well handicapped.”
While there will be a certain amount of sentiment and local support surrounding Present Man’s attempt to win it a third time, the more informative race with a view to the hurdling scene this season is the Unibet Elite Hurdle, which Nicky Henderson, who saddled three winners at Newbury on Thursday, has chosen for the reappearance of Fusil Raffles.
The four-year-old, owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, won the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on his British debut, but sustained a nasty cut which ruled him out of Cheltenham and Aintree, but he was the good winner of Punchestown’s Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, where he beat Supreme Hurdle fourth Fakir D’Oudairies by two and three-quarter lengths.
Form-wise, that put him up there with Pentland Hills, his Triumph Hurdle-winning stablemate, and he remains one for the “could be anything” category. His trainer certainly believes there is more to come.
It is not a walkover, however, and Grand Sancy, who has won his past two starts at Wincanton, including the Kingwell Hurdle, sets a decent standard, even if he disappointed in the Supreme. He fell on his reappearance, but it was at the last hurdle and he will be not lack for fitness.
Doncaster’s November Handicap meeting, the traditional last day of the Flat’s turf season, succumbed to the heavy rain in South Yorkshire and failed its inspection for waterlogging on Friday.