Nicky Henderson’s brilliant chaser looked back to his best when making a successful reappearance at Cheltenham in November and confirmed that resurgent display was not a one-off when beating Sire De Grugy in a pulsating Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
The 10-year-old was given an entry for Ascot’s Grade One feature on January 23, but Henderson is keen to keep his stable star fresh to give him to best possible chance of regaining the Queen Mother Champion Chase he claimed in such scintillating fashion three years ago.
“He’s taken that (Kempton) race well. I did put him in the Ascot race, but I’m sure he won’t go there. We’ll let Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy have a fight over that,” Henderson said.
“I would think he’ll almost certainly go straight to Cheltenham. He can get ready that way.
“Kempton wasn’t him in his real mode. He found it tight enough and sharp enough, whereas he loves the Cheltenham scenario.”
Meanwhile Coney Island is likely to be stepped up markedly in class after opening his account over hurdles at Leopardstown recently.
One of three winners from just three runners at the big Christmas meeting for trainer Eddie Harty, he showed the benefit of two previous runs by sprinting to a nine-length win in a maiden hurdle over two miles.
“I was delighted with him, he was very impressive,” said the County Kildare handler.
“He’d learned a lot from his first couple of runs when he bumped into a couple of nice types.
“He took something from those runs and looked much more like it.
“The ground was very testing but I loved the way he quickened up after the last. We’ll freshen him up and I’d imagine we’ll step into Graded company now.
“There are three or four races for him, like the Michael Purcell at Thurles, the Deloitte (Leopardstown) and there’s one at Naas, I think.
“We’ll try to get him out at the end of January or early February and anything from two, to two and a half miles, will do.”