Owner John Dance has stressed the pride he felt in watching Bravemansgame finish a gallant second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
An impressive winner of the King George VI Chase, the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old subsequently finished a fine runner-up to Galopin Des Champs.
However, whether he runs again this season remains up in the air with connections not convinced he has shown his best at the Grand National meeting in the past.
Dance is mindful the high-class chaser has produced two below-par races at Aintree in successive seasons following runs at the Festival, finishing runner-up in the 2021 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle and last of four in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase last term.
He said: “He is possible for Aintree or Punchestown. We’ll have to see.
“The last couple of years, he’s had late-season ulcers. We have obviously campaigned him and peaked him less often this year.
“Hopefully that allows him to go a bit deeper into the season, but maybe we just want to do a few more pre-race checks.
“Even when he came second at Aintree as a hurdler behind Ahoy Senor, he never looked happy all the way round, so we will just have to see how he is.
“If he is bucking fresh, I would imagine we will scope him before and if he looks healthy, then we’ll give something a go, I’m sure.”
Any disappointment at Bravemansgame’s seven-length defeat in the Gold Cup was eclipsed by the pride Dance and his fellow owner Bryan Drew felt.
“It was kind of weird,” said Dance. “Bryan had very similar emotions, in that we’ve come runner-up in a race we dream of winning, but there wasn’t really any disappointment. We were just thrilled and proud of how he ran. We’d obviously come across a potential superstar.”
Though some questioned if he would stay the extended three-and-a-quarter-mile trip, Nicholls’ star was only run out of it after jumping the last.
Dance added: “I would argue whether he stayed the last 100 yards or so. He was just treading on water a little bit and the third and fourth were regaining some of the ground they lost on him, but I wouldn’t say he didn’t stay, but he certainly didn’t stay as well as the winner, who was a better horse over the trip.
“Watching them both take off together at the last was an incredible buzz. Our guy landed a bit tired then galloped on for a little bit before he was out-stayed.”
The feeling of finishing runner-up in the Gold Cup could not compare to when his six-times Group One-winning mare Laurens was defeated by Billesdon Brook in the 1000 Guineas five years ago.
“Despite coming second, it was a very enjoyable one, if that makes sense,” he added.
“I remember when Laurens came second in the Guineas, that was considerably more disappointing, possibly because we were beaten by a bit of a freak result.
“To this day, I still suggest the winner didn’t get enough credit for that particular run. Everything worked out for her to run the race of her life and in terms of quantifying the performance, she never got as much credit as she deserved.
“Everything about Bravemansgame was just very different, because we were all just incredibly proud of what a huge run he put in.
“We all instantly appreciated it. If you take the winner out, he would have hacked up and probably put in a performance that would have won the last 10 renewals.
“You can’t help the generation or the opposition.”
Dance is nearing the final stages of completing the renovation of Manor House Farm, a private training facility and development stud for yearlings in Middleham. The historic yard is the birth-place of Derby winner Dante.
Sir Michael Stoute’s former assistant James Horton is his private trainer and they cannot wait to get going, once the finishing touches are complete.
“I’ll be proud when it’s finished,” said Dance. “It is all taking a bit longer than we hoped and expected, but we are excited. It has gone so well with James, so it will be great to just give him even better facilities.
“He’s a lovely guy and I would definitely say he has a touch of genius about him. He has learned from some of the greats, but individually, he definitely has a touch of genius.
“I think James and I are probably thinking, depending on runners, we’ll be set after Royal Ascot.
“We had hoped to be in for new year, then they were saying March or April, and there is still quite a bit to do, but we’re looking forward to it.”
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