Jockey Tom Cannon believes Notachance is “coming to the boil nicely” ahead of his bid to become the first dual winner of the Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick this Saturday (January 15th).
The Alan King-trained gelding is defending the crown he won at the track 12 months ago and despite only completing one of his four starts since, connections are hoping he can become the first back-to-back winner of the Grade Three feature.
Cannon, 30, is enjoying a season to savour in the saddle having secured the first Grade One win of his career aboard Edwardstone in the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park last month and is looking forward to partnering Notachance again.
With a total prize fund of £100,000 not only is the 3m 5f contest Warwick’s most valuable race of the season, but it has also been Notachance’s main target since the start of this campaign.
Notachance was pulled up in his three starts after winning last year. But having shaped more encouragingly when sixth in the Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock Park last month, Cannon is expecting a promising run from his mount on Saturday.
Cannon explained: “He was good in the race last year as he entered it on the crest of a wave. He had won his previous race at Bangor and things were going his way. He was an up and coming horse.
"He won the Classic Chase then after that he pulled up slightly lame at Haydock next time out.
“He just lost his confidence a bit and when he went for the Scottish National he had not had the best preparation going into it, so you can draw a line through the end of last season with him.
“He went to Newcastle first time out this season and was probably always going to need the run but he showed a bit more at Haydock last time.
“This has been the plan since the start of the season. It was nice that he showed that bit more at Haydock the last day and hopefully he is coming to the boil nicely.
“He is back off his mark of 139 that he won the race off last year and I’m expecting a decent run out of him.”
Cannon, who last season equalled his seasonal best tally of 52 winners which he previously achieved in the 2014/15 campaign, believes both the application of a first-time visor and a step back up in distance are further reasons to be optimistic that the eight year old can put in a strong performance.
He added: “He has had cheekpieces on before but they never really did much for him as he never really does much in front.
“I schooled him with the visor on and he seemed fine. He is still a relatively young horse and if the visor sharpens him up he should go well.
“He definitely wants a bit of cut in the ground and as long as it is on the slow side it will be okay for him. Going back up in trip will suit him as he has always been a good stayer as he is economical through his races.
"He won the race last year but it is probably a slightly better race this year on paper. He is going there with every chance if he re-finds that bit of form.”
Cannon is also looking forward to being reunited with the Hughie Morrison-trained Third Wind later on the same card in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (3m 1f), a series qualifier for the final at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The pair teamed up to good effect last season when running out ready winners of the Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park in February.
And Cannon said: “He ran in the Long Walk at Ascot for his seasonal opener. He is back in a handicap at the weekend and he is a class horse on his day.
“I won the Rendlesham on him at Haydock last season and he won nicely. He needs things to go right as I remember at Haydock they went a good gallop and that helps as he has to be delivered late on. Hopefully it will be more of the same here.
“Hughie Morrison knows the horse inside out and he goes there with every chance.”
Looking ahead, Cannon believes there is “plenty more to come” from Edwardstone, who could return to Warwick next month for the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (Saturday 12th February) before a tilt at the Grade One Sporting Life Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Cannon continued: “Edwardstone gained a lot of experience running in those big handicap hurdles last season and he really has been expertly handled by the boss (Alan King).
“I think running in those races did him the world of good and it toughened him up. He has taken to chasing really well and hopefully there is still a lot more to come.
“He is having a little break now and I think the plan is to go to Warwick for the Kingmaker then onto Cheltenham for the Arkle after that. We know he likes Warwick so it seems the right thing to do.”
After securing his breakthrough Grade One success Cannon is eager for more success at the highest level and he added: “Getting the Grade One was not really like getting a monkey off my back as I had not ridden in many Grade One races.
"It was something I wanted to do but it was something I was not that conscious of. I hadn’t really had it where I had hit the crossbar in one and if things had gone a different way I might have won one.
“It was nice to get a chance on a horse like Edwardstone who is up to that level and it was nice to win it for the owners and the boss.
"The boss has been there and done it and when you win one you want to do it again and if I manage that I will be delighted.”
Since the retirement of Wayne Hutchinson in 2019, Cannon has seamlessly filled the vacant role of stable jockey to multiple Grade One-winning trainer King.
But although he is enjoying what he describes as his “dream job”, he admits he will remain forever thankful for the support of fellow trainer Chris Gordon in helping him achieve what he has with King.
He added: “I grew up watching the boss having these big winners at Cheltenham and Robert (Thornton) and Wayne (Hutchinson) riding them and you want to emulate that.
"It is nice that the bit of faith the boss is putting in me is being rewarded. It is nice to ride winners for anyone but it is good to see the hard work pay off.
"It is a dream job to have and I’m very lucky the position I am in and I want to try and make the most of it. I would not be where I am riding for Alan if it was not for the foundations I had with Chris.
"I still get plenty of support from him and ride him plenty of winners which is great.”
With his first Grade One winner now in the bag Cannon hopes he can keep his good run going and end the season on a high by setting a new seasonal best.
He added: “I’ve had a good start to January. You can’t get ahead of yourself but it would be great if I could keep it going.
"You go through peaks and troughs, riding on a high one minute then you can’t ride a winner for love nor money. It would be nice to beat my best total of 52 though come the end of April.”