All roads will lead to an outing in the Randox Health Grand National for Rocky’s Treasure provided he passes his first test over the famous Aintree fences in December’s Becher Chase.
Trainer Kim Bailey is keen to give the eight-year-old gelding an outing in the three-and-a-quarter-mile Grade Three contest, ahead of a potential return to the Merseyside track in April for a shot at the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Rocky’s Treasure enjoyed a prolific first season over fences, winning half of his eight starts, including a Grade Two at Doncaster in December.
Bailey said: “Rocky’s Treasure is being aimed at the Becher Chase and he may have a run before that at Cheltenham’s first meeting.
“He had a very good season last year and although he did all of his winning on good ground, he ran one of his best races on soft ground when finishing second behind Santini at Newbury.
“We always felt he might be a Grand National horse, but we will take in the Becher Chase first and that will tell us one way or another.”
Stable stalwart Charbel will attempt to secure back-to-back victories in the John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase at Chepstow on October 12 before attempting to defend his title in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.
Bailey said: “Charbel had a wind issue in the second half of the season, but we have dealt with that as he has had a wind operation since the end of last season.
“The plan is to head back to Chepstow for the race he won last season before heading back to the Peterborough Chase which will be his ultimate aim.”
The Andoversford handler expects dual bumper winner Subway Surf, who is part-owned by former Countdown star Carol Vorderman, to make her mark in mares novices’ hurdles this season.
Bailey said: “Subway Surf hasn’t schooled over hurdles yet this season, but she schooled over them last season and will be ready to run at either the end of October or early November.
“She will stay three miles, as she is already a point-to-point winner. She will run in mares’ novice hurdles and I’d like to think she will take high rank in them.”
There are a number of other horses Bailey is excited about taking the wraps off again, including dual hurdle winner Imperial Aura.
He said: “Imperial Aura is a nice horse and did nothing wrong last season. He broke the track record at Carlisle, but he got sore shins afterwards and that’s why he didn’t run again until Newcastle in February.
“There is a nice handicap hurdle at Chepstow next month for him and he will probably have one run over hurdles then go chasing.
“We also have Commodore Barry, who has already had one run over fences, and Minella Warrior to go chasing, while Prince Llywelyn looks a lovely type to go hurdling.”
Bailey is leaning towards the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle as a starting point for Vinndication.
He has identified the two-and-a-half-mile Listed prize on November 3 as one of two potential options for the six-year-old, along with the Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby 24 hours earlier.
After winning his first two starts over fences, including a Grade Two at Ascot, Vinndication came up just short in two outings at the top level, most recently finishing fifth in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Bailey said: “Vinndication seems happy in himself and he will probably go to the Colin Parker Intermediate Chase. I’m very happy with him and he has had a wind operation since the end of last season.
“I’m sure he will get three miles this season and he might have an entry in the Charlie Hall as well. It will all depend on the ground where he starts.”
Vinndication may have suffered defeat on both his previous attempts at Grade One level, but Bailey is confident he is up to racing at that standard again this season.
He added: “At Cheltenham he made a bad mistake at an important part of the race, then he was beaten by just over three lengths by two of the best novices in the country at Sandown in a race I thought he should have won.
“I sincerely hope he will be better this season. I certainly think he looks more of a horse now and we know he has a fair amount of ability.”
One horse Bailey will not able to call upon this season is Grade Two-winning hurdler Younevercall, who has suffered a setback.
The eight-year-old was last sighted giving Bailey a rare runner on the Flat in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
He added: “Sadly Younevercall is on the sidelines as he met with a setback after Royal Ascot.
“He is very fragile and he won’t be back until the second half of the season, and even then that may come too soon.”
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