Venetia Williams has set her sights on the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase for Royale Pagaille after his fine run to be second in the Betfair Chase.
The seven-year-old proved no match for winner A Plus Tard at Haydock, finishing 22 lengths adrift of Henry de Bromhead’s deeply impressive victor.
However, Williams took plenty of heart from the outing as Royale Pagaille was a clear second best – beating third-placed Chatham Street Lad by a further 22 lengths in a race that saw Imperial Aura fall with Bristol De Mai and Waiting Patiently both pulled up.
Having won a three-mile handicap chase at Kempton last Christmas, Williams would have no hesitation in heading back there for next month’s King George, as long as Royale Pagaille recovers sufficiently from an outing on ground that was a bit quicker than ideal.
She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled, we’ve won the English division and obviously the winner is an outstanding horse, so you have to be delighted.
“He goes on this ground, but I’ve got to look at his legs for the next fortnight, that’s really why we look for the softer ground.
“We’ll probably go for the King George next, he’s won twice round here and once round Kempton so we’ll try again.”
Michael Winters, trainer of third-placed Chatham Street Lad, was pleased with his charge’s effort, but admitted A Plus Tard was dominant under Rachael Blackmore.
He said: “It was about Rachael today. We were a bit anxious about the ground, but he has run well to be third.
“He can be a bit like a bulldozer with his jumping and take one or two fences with him. His jockey (Sean Quinlan) thinks that a sharper test will suit him and we could maybe look at something at Liverpool (Aintree) for him.
“His owner (Vivian Healy) is great and was keen to come here and have a go, so I’m pleased he ran well.”
Bristol De Mai was another for whom the unseasonably good ground was not ideal.
The popular grey was bidding to equal Kauto Star’s record of a fourth Betfair Chase success, but jockey Daryl Jacob pulled him up before the penultimate obstacle when his chance had clearly gone.
The rider tweeted: “Not Bristol’s day today. We’re all very disappointed but he doesn’t owe us anything.
“He’s absolutely fine, but the ground was too quick for him and I wanted to look after him.”
Simon Munir, who owns Bristol De Mai in partnership with Isaac Souede, added: “Bristol sound and well after his reappearance in the Betfair Chase. The ground wasn’t quite to his liking but the most important thing is that he’s OK and he’ll be back.”
Christian Williams had been hoping for a good showing from new recruit Waiting Patiently, but he was pulled up before the fourth-last fence by Brian Hughes.
The 10-year-old was also pulled up on his final start for Ruth Jefferson last season and Williams is planning a thorough examination.
He said: “It’s a bit of a headscratcher. Brian said that after he hit one he was never travelling. We’ll take him home, check him out and see if we can find anything.”
Imperial Aura fell at the 13th fence and trainer Kim Bailey reported him to be none the worse for his tumble.
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