Ben Pauling will play a strong hand at Warwick tomorrow (Thursday 22nd April), including a horse who was last year compared to the legendary Best Mate by Henrietta Knight.
Your Darling will take his place in the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle and, while Pauling has been disappointed by the now-six year old since he won a bumper at Newbury last season, he still believes he is a horse with a bright future.
Henrietta Knight, who trained Best Mate to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups in 2002, 2003 and 2004, bought Your Darling for the late Lord Vestey, her brother in law and the longstanding Chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse who sadly passed away in February this year. He was put into training with Pauling and speaking last year Knight said: “This is as good a horse as Best Mate – I bought him in Ireland from the same place.”
The gelding, who now races for the current Lord and Lady Vestey, has since been pulled up another bumper and then finished third and fourth in his two starts over hurdles. However, after wind surgery and a 165-day break from the track, Pauling is now hopeful of a good performance from a horse he plans to send over bigger obstacles next year.
Pauling said: “He’s a very nice horse. His two novice hurdle runs were very much below what we were expecting and Nico de Boinville reported him to have made a whistle, so we gave him a holiday and hopefully that will have brought out the improvement.
“We’re keen to get a run into him before he finishes for the season because it will be all roads to novice chasing next season. He’s a very nice horse with a big future so it will be good to get his career on track on Thursday.”
Another of Pauling’s runners tomorrow is Mister Watson, who runs in the Join Racing TV Now Maiden Hurdle.
The seven year old disappointed as an odds on favourite at Carlisle last month, but looks to have a good opportunity to open his account.
Pauling said: “Ultimately, he was very disappointing at Carlisle. He’s a lovely horse with, I think, a big future ahead of him but he’s had a bit of a stop-start season health wise and I think that’s been pretty obvious in his runs as well.
“He seems very well in himself but I will be walking the track as he’s a proper winter type and so he wants it to be the safe side of good. If he runs, I’d expect him to put his head in front.”
Pauling also sends out Unai in the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede for the Watch On Racing TV Novices' Handicap Chase and is hopeful that the six year old can take a step forward after a string of solid performances.
He said: “He’s been holding his form well and I think he’s just maybe not always that fussed about giving you everything necessarily, but I think he’s got enough to win at this kind of level. I’d expect him to run very well and it should be a good opportunity for him to put his head in front and record his first victory.”
Meanwhile trainer Graeme McPherson is hopeful that Ratfacemcdougall can end his season on a high with another good performance in the South West Syndicate Handicap Hurdle at Warwick.
The eight year old has been in fine form this term, winning four times from nine outings, and produced his best effort to date when securing a valuable prize in really good style at Musselburgh last month.
Ratfacemcdougall will arrive at Warwick off a career high mark as a consequence, but McPherson is hopeful that his charge can sign off for the campaign with another good display.
He said: “He’s been a revelation this year. He was struggling at the beginning of the autumn off a mark of 100 – he failed to win off that around Hereford – and since then he’s won four and gone up to 133.
“Max (Kendrick, jockey) has really got the key to him and it’s been lovely to see him progress and see the horse get his confidence. It will be his last start of the season. It took him longer to bounce out of Musselburgh than usual, so we’ll run him on Thursday and then he’ll have his break.
“He won well at Musselburgh - it probably wasn’t the strongest of races for the value of it and the handicapper has put him up 11lbs for that, which looks harsh, but he’s in good form and that counts for a lot at this time of year.”
A victory for Ratfacemcdougall would see McPherson reach a landmark £200,000 in prize money for the season for the first time and he added: “We’ve got close to £200,000 in the past and to be fair I think we may be over that with the Flat earnings as well, but that would be a lovely achievement if we can get there. Either way it would be lovely if ‘Ratface’ can finish the season on a good note.”
McPherson also sends out Sister Michael for his debut in the concluding racingtv.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race and was happy to see the five year old make the track after a few issues at home.
He said: “We bought him as a store and he got injured within days of arriving and as a result we’ve just had to take an absolute age to get him ready as he’s such a big horse.
“He’s going to be fantastic over obstacles and although I’m not sure two miles on good ground will see him to his best, it’s just lovely to see him on a racecourse.”
Meanwhile, Gouet Des Bruveres will be looking to put in another good performance in the two-mile Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Chase for the Oliver Greenall team after a good recent run of form.
Things seem to have clicked into place over fences for the five year old, who backed up a victory at Wetherby on April 1st with a good run at Market Rasen three days later, and Greenall is hopeful that he can continue his rich vein of form here.
He said: “He’s fine (after his last outing), the run probably just came quite quick for him and he wasn’t suited by the track as well as Wetherby but he’s come out of the race very well and we think Warwick will suit him.
“He seems to be progressing and the drying ground will help him, so I think he’s on the right track.”