Cheltenham Trials Day remains one of the most anticipated meetings in the National Hunt calendar with clues aplenty for the main event in March. Last year, Simply The Betts and Imperial Aura went on to win the Brown Advisory and Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase having finished first and second on Trials Day.
The Cotswold Chase is one of the standout Gold Cup trials of the season, with Santini following up his win last year with a second in the big race. This year, the Many Clouds Chase winner, Lake View Lad will be hoping his big day in the sun is still to come. We spoke to trainer Nick Alexander ahead of his run this weekend
Lake View Lad at Aintree after his Many Clouds victory
Lake View Lad primed for this
“This has been his target since the day of his Many Clouds Chase victory at Aintree.” Lake View Lad, owned by Grand National superfan Trevor Hemmings won the Many Clouds Chase back in December, the race renamed in honour of his very own Grand National hero.
He beat Santini, Native River and Frodon that day in a gripping finale where the fences in the home straight had to be omitted due to the low sun but used his bagfuls of stamina to get his head in front.
Brian Hughes and Lake View Lad cross the line in front at Aintree
Lake View Lad has only run once at Cheltenham previously, when finishing third behind Beware The Bear in the Ultima in 2019. “Aside from at Aintree this year, you’d have to say that the Ultima was probably the best run of his life, so we know that he won’t be fazed by the track.”
There is an argument to suggest that we are seeing the best of Alexander’s 11-year-old. “He did his last piece of work yesterday and he always works well. He had a short hack today and is in great form. He would have to find more, there is no doubting that, but improving is not out of the question.”
The slow ground that awaits will help his cause. “Bristol De Mai will go ahead and set a strong gallop, but we are keen to take him on and then run our own race.” If the closing stages of the race become a bit of a scrap, then you know Lake View Lad has the stamina to stay up the hill on the tacky ground. “Brian Hughes takes the ride, he’s getting lots of them, and they worked well together last time. I feel sorry for Henry Brooke who is injured at the moment, but that is racing.”
Unfortunately the ground has not worked out in his favour before, the Grand National in 2019 for example when it was just too good and too quick. “If it stays this wet and soft then there is always a fighting chance.”
Do not rule the Gold Cup out
It is fair to say that Hemmings will probably favour the big one at Aintree come the end of the season rather than the Gold Cup, but Alexander was not ruling anything out.
“We all know about Trevor Hemmings’ affiliation with the Grand National so that is his most likely target, but why not make the entry for the Gold Cup? If he runs a blinder then you’d have to think about it.”
Clan Legend is good place value
Alexander expressed he has struggled to place Clan Legend a touch this season. “We’ve missed a few races already this season because of the conditions.” Having his setup in Scotland makes declarations a little challenging at times. “It is a tricky call to make. You enter a horse, travel for hours only for races to be called off. We’ve seen so many meetings get the go ahead last minute, but more often than not they get called off.”
The Kinneston based trainer expressed his delight when looking at declarations. “At first I thought there was going to be a relatively unexposed young horse that could sweep the field away.” Frodon and Siruh Du Lac both won this race as six-year-olds the prior by 17L in 2018.
“When I saw the entries I was really pleased, there are currently three seven-year-olds and that is it.” The field is still filled with quality with Cepage, Al Dancer and Oldgrangewood setting the standard, but more so Caribean Boy who beat Fiddlerontheroof at Ascot in November.
“He has got a huge challenge on his hand but is definitely place value. He likes the soft ground, we saw how well Danny McMenamin got on with him last time and he is claiming 3lbs so it is a great opportunity to go and grab some prize money.”
Clan Legend wins at Aintree under Danny McMenamin