Neil King is hopeful Lil Rockerfeller can follow up a smart seasonal debut with victory at Market Rasen on Saturday ahead of a possible Stayers Hurdle tilt in March.
The admirable chestnut did have the option of the Classic Chase at Warwick, but his Wiltshire-based handler has opted to head to Lincolnshire and stay over the smaller obstacles.
“Market Rasen looked a better opportunity for him with the ground less taxing and I’d like to think he goes there with a good chance,” King told Tote.
“He’s been in great form since Newbury. We just haven’t been able to run for various reasons such as meetings being off, but he’s been ready to go again.”
That Newbury run saw the 10-year-old put up a bold sighter on his first run for 370 days, carrying top-weight in a competitive three mile handicap.
While he wasn’t able to get his head in front, he continued his impressive record of finishing in the first three on 32 of his 46 starts.
But what his trainer was most impressed with was how his stable star went through the contest.
“The nicest thing about Newbury was how he travelled through the race,” King said.
“He jumped brilliantly and was enjoying himself with his ears pricked, whereas he can often make things hard for himself in races, but he just travelled so sweetly that day; it was a great comeback run.”
Fifth Festival appearance an option
While his trainer is keen to not look too far in advance with his flag bearer, he couldn’t resist sowing the seed for a possible crack at the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race in which he finished second in back in 2017.
“We’ll take one thing at a time with him, although we have made a speculative entry in the Stayers Hurdle in hope more than anything.
“One doesn’t know what will happen with covid, who can race and who can’t, so we thought it was worth making a speculative entry for him. Other than that, we are just taking it race by race.”
While Lil Rockerfeller approaches the 50-race marker, for King, he’s just the same as he was when he came into the yard as a three-year-old.
“He enjoys his work, we give him plenty of variety, he goes hunting every now and again to keep him sweet.
“He’s just a joy to have, he’s a lovely character of a horse. The only time I get to sit on him is on work mornings, otherwise Kiri Snell who comes from an eventing background rides him out everyday and has done an marvellous job with him.”
Lil Rockerfeller has seven rivals to beat in the 2:40 at Market Rasen with Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side perhaps the biggest threat.
Patience is key for Nearly Perfect
Another resident of Upper Herdswick Farm who might have lined up in the Classic Chase on Saturday is Nearly Perfect, who was not among the final declarations for the Warwick race.
A winner of three of his last four, the son of Malinas was among the favourites for the 3m5f contest. However, his trainer is now eyeing up a more modest event at Wincanton next week for his seven-year-old.
“As tempting as it was to go to the Classic Chase with him, he’s probably a horse that wants minding for the time being,” King told Tote.
“If we can just hold his hand and keep the winning thread going, the better he’ll be for it, rather than having a hard race at Warwick this weekend.”
Before coming to the Neil King yard, Nearly Perfect had kept esteemed company in the pointing field, and while he might not have yet reached the top, time is on his side.
“He’s a big scopey horse whose claim to fame was to chase home Envoi Allen in his Irish point-to-point before we bought him. He hasn’t quite matched those heights just yet, but maybe our turn is to come.
“You’d love to think that in time he’d make into a Grand National horse, but even then next year might be too soon for him. He’s a big rangey horse so might just need a bit more time.”
Winter holiday for Perfect Myth
Time is what Neil King will be giving Perfect Myth as she is geared up for a spring campaign which could possibly include a run in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham.
She had gone up 33lbs in the weights after a series of excellent runs through the summer and the autumn before being beaten as favourite when lining up for a Taunton Listed event last month.
While punters may have been left disappointed, her trainer was happy enough with the run in the circumstances.
“It was a combination of the soft ground and the fact that the trip was a bit short for her as she’s better over two and a half miles and further these days.
“The plan was to go to Kempton the week before, but the ground was so rotten there and over three miles off top weight, we thought better of it. Taunton was very much plan B or C to be honest.
“We took her there with the aim of getting some black type, she did that, and she’ll now have a break through the winter months and bring her back for the spring racing.”
Whether she lines up alongside her more established stablemate at Prestbury Park in March remains to be seen, but the daughter Midnight Legend remains a promising mare for the future.