Neil King hopes Nearly Perfect can continue his progression over fences this season by extending his unbeaten record at Wincanton in the Somerset National tomorrow (Thursday 21st January).
The improving seven year old took his record to two wins from as many visits to the track on his most recent start when running out a ready winner of the Lord Stalbridge Memorial Cup Handicap Chase on Boxing Day.
Although Nearly Perfect will have to overcome an 8lbs rise in the weights if he is to complete a hat-trick of wins this season, King is confident that the step up to an extended three and a quarter miles can bring about further improvement.
He said: “So far he has got a good strike rate around Wincanton as he has been there twice and won there twice. We nearly went to Warwick for the Classic Chase but we thought better of it and decided to run him here.
“He is a young horse that has only just turned seven so we wanted to look after him a bit and Warwick might have been a bit too much. He has just needed time as he is a big backward sort.
“Life will be harder this time as last time we had Jack Andrews claiming seven off his back while he has gone up 8lbs in what is a much tougher assignment. He is in good form at home though and this step up in trip will suit him better. Hopefully he can keep the bandwagon going.”
Among those lining up in opposition is the Christian Williams-trained Limited Reserve, who will bid to secure his first success since landing the Grade Three Betway Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown Park in February.
The nine year old has finished third on both his starts over fences this season, the most recent in a 2m 3f handicap chase at Exeter last month.
Williams said: “He won a good three mile hurdle at Sandown last season when I wasn’t convinced he would stay but he stayed quite well. He was disappointing at Fakenham and again at Exeter but he may have been rushed off his feet there over two mile three.
"I’m not 100 per cent sure fences are for him but we will stick at it for the rest of the season. He jumps them well but he hangs in the air and looks after himself a bit. This is the first time he has probably run over a trip that suits him over fences while we have also put the cheekpieces on which will hopefully help him.
Williams has an added incentive to win the race after stable star, and subsequent Midlands National and Welsh Grand National winner, Potters Corner, suffered a late fall during the 2019 renewal.
He explained: “We’ve got a little bit of unfinished business in the race as Potters Corner fell at the second last when still there with every opportunity. It would be lovely to get our hands on the trophy this time. We enjoy supporting the Jockey Club tracks and as a rider when I worked for Paul Nicholls I had a lot of success at Wincanton.”
Cyclop, who finished second in last month’s Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen, will bid to follow up his recent Plumpton success on his debut for Matt Sheppard, while the Gary Moore-trained Gleno is another one chasing a hat-trick of wins this season, having already scored at Lingfield and Fakenham.
The field is completed by Another Venture (Kim Bailey), Fauburg Rosetgri (Nigel Twiston-Davies), The Kings Writ (Kayley Woollacott), Midnight Tune (Anthony Honeyball), Dieu Vivant (Oliver Greenall), Dawson City (Polly Gundry) and One Of Us (Nick Williams).