Captain targeting further Cheltenham glory
Captain Cattistock will bid to enhance his fine course record when he lines up in the Dahlbury Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Since joining Fergal O’Brien the nine-year-old has run three times at Prestbury Park, scoring twice – including over the course and distance – and finishing a gallant third at the track in his most recent appearance during October’s Showcase meeting.
Having skipped the November meeting, he returns from a 48-day break off the same mark looking to scoop the £39,865 first-prize in the hands of Liam Harrison.
O’Brien said: “It will hopefully be more of the same as he likes Cheltenham. He’s won twice there and ran well there the last day.
“He’ll love the ground and hopefully he will go well there again. He’s in good form, we’re very happy with him and fingers crossed, with a bit of luck he’ll run well.”
The nine-strong field is headed by Venetia Williams’ Commodore who was a 15-length winner of the contest 12 months ago and makes his seasonal reappearance off a 9lb higher mark, while Tim Vaughan has high hopes for Eva’s Oskar, who was a runner-up over an extra furlong and a half here last month.
He said: “He ran a belting race for us last time and he seems in great order at home – he’s really fresh and well. We hope he can take another step forward and run a massive race.
“We would prefer a bit softer ground, but the last time we were there it rode like good ground and it actually ended up being a bit tacky. I think with the frost covers being down, it might end up being a bit tacky again.
“We will take our chance and see how we get on and we can look at the Welsh National after that if all goes to plan.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies won this in both 2018 and 2019 with Cogry and is represented by Undersupervision, while Switch Hitter is off a mark only 2lb higher than his last chasing success and adds further spice to the contest for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
“The plan was to get him out in the autumn but he cut himself schooling which delayed his return to action,” the Ditcheat handler told Betfair.
“He’s a fun horse, is fine now, loves decent ground and stays well but the setback cost him a couple of weeks, so he might just come on for the run.”
Nicholls also has a strong chance in the British EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle that opens proceedings at Prestbury Park when Timeforatune continues his hurdling education.
He continued: “He has been running well, won by 13 lengths at Exeter last month and should have won again 10 days later at Taunton where he ran around in front through greenness, then rallied strongly and was just chinned on the line.
“We will try different tactics on Friday and if he concentrates better, then he is capable of being competitive at a track where he was successful in a bumper last season.”
In the Catesby Estates Handicap Hurdle, there is a clash between Milton Harris’ Mullenbeg and O’Brien’s Punctuation as both look to extend a three-race winning run.
“I think we could have picked an easier place to go for a four-timer! But I think he deserves to take his chance,” said O’Brien of his hopes for Punctuation.
The last day Paddy (Brennan) had to keep taking him back a little bit and I'm hoping he can use his stride
“He’ll go there in good form and the drop back in trip will help him as well I think, because it will allow him to stride on a little bit. The last day Paddy (Brennan) had to keep taking him back a little bit and I’m hoping he can use his stride.
“He’s a lovely horse and we’re very happy with him.”
However, the Ravenswell Farm handler did add a note of caution about conditions and added: “We will have to take a look at the ground for him as he does want soft ground and if it was in anyway too good for him, he wouldn’t be a runner.”
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