Imperial Aura provided Kim Bailey with a first Cheltenham Festival success in five years at the 2020 event, producing a stunning victory on the opening day of the week.
The Andoversford trainer is aiming his eight-year-old at Grade 1 glory this time around, and boasts a seven-strong team of candidates for Prestbury Park success in 2021.
We caught up with Kim to run through his potential Cheltenham festival candidates.
Entries: Ultima Handicap Chase, National Hunt Chase, Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
He’s most likely to go for the handicap as the novice races look very competitive. The horse has not run over the winter on purpose as we ran him at Sandown on very soft ground last season and it took a long time to recover. He’s a proper professional little horse considering he’s got so little experience. He ran very well at the Cheltenham Festival last year, and he should probably be unbeaten this season.
He was unlucky to get beaten at Fakenham, the track didn’t really suit him; we went there to take on Getaway Trump who had some in-and-out form, and we caught him the first day with cheekpieces on and on a really good going day. We jumped the last in front and went badly left after the fence, and as the run-in is so short at Fakenham he just got done on the line.
Does He Know
Entries: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Coral Cup, Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle
I don’t know what he’s going to do yet. He’s got two handicap entries and he’s in the novice race and we’re two weeks away from making the final decision as to what we’re going to do with him.
His last run didn’t go to plan as we were hoping to get him qualified for the Pertemps to add another string to our bow, but that went belly up very quickly. He turned into the straight at Exeter like he was going to win by half the track, but just didn’t get home on the ground. The time before he ran out, and it was unfortunate. As much as I don’t want to blame David Bass, I can certainly tell you I’m going to; he just got too close to the wing!
Entries: Queen Mother Champion Chase
I hope we won’t have to make a decision on the ground. If it’s good to soft we’ll run. I obviously [believe he’s got it in him] because that’s what life’s all about. The Clarence House was a shock to a lot of people, including me - I thought the ground was quick enough for him at Ascot. He’d go to Cheltenham with every chance. The horse is in really good form, he has grown in stature, mentally and physically for his Ascot win. Confidence is very high, and we’re looking forward to seeing him run.
Entries: Ryanair Chase, Gold Cup
Ian Robinson, who runs the syndicate who own him, said to put the Gold Cup entry in, but it’s hugely unlikely we’ll run there, and the Ryanair is very much where we’re looking to go. I’m really happy with him. He did a really good piece of work last week, where he jumped really well and we can forget what happened to him at Kempton. I don’t think it makes a difference to him whether we get a small field or a big field in the Ryanair. His first run over fences at Fakenham where there were three runners and the only problem he had was trying to avoid everybody else. He’s been around Cheltenham three times, and has handled the course and obviously won round the course. I’m thrilled with him. It’s a big step up on what he has achieved as it’s hard to work out how good his form is, because although the manner of how he did it at Ascot, the race hasn’t worked out great, while the form of his Cheltenham win last year is red hot.
Entries: Stayers’ Hurdle
He will go for the Stayers. He’s got no form left-handed, he’s a 10-year-old and there’s only one other race he can run in this season and that’s at Sandown five weeks later. The horse has been in training all winter and on his Ascot form he has every right to be there at Cheltenham, and who knows, he might run into a bit of prize money.
Entries: Stayers’ Hurdle, Gold Cup
He’s in the Gold Cup and the Stayers’, and again, no decision will be made until nearer the time. Whichever race he runs in, he will run very well. He was lame after Newbury and I had to wait for him to become sound before I could do anything with him. If I had got him sound a week earlier than I did, he would have run at Ascot last week. But we did a piece of work the Monday before Ascot and we decided it would have been the wrong thing to run him, as he wasn’t ready for it. But he went round Warwick last Friday after racing and did a really good piece of work, I’m absolutely delighted with him.
Entries: Kim Muir Challenge Cup
He will certainly run as he’s a charity horse and they’d be very keen for the publicity. He’d want it to rain to bring out the best in him.
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Entries are open now, with players able to make changes to their stables up until 10pm on Monday 15th March. Remember, in the event of a dead heat the stable entered earliest will be declared the winner.