Threeunderthrufive are likely to head straight for the Cheltenham Festival where they will try to give the McNeill family a first win in the race they sponsor – the Ultima Handicap Chase.
A two-time sophomore scorer as a novice hunter, he was quietly fancied for the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury earlier in the season only for his foray into an open company over the greatest odds only to end in disappointment when the pilot regular Adrian Heskin was knocked down at the first fence.
However, after skipping a race in the Welsh Grand National over the Christmas period, Threeunderthrufive and Heskin were in perfect harmony in Warwick’s Classic Chase on Saturday – giving a bold view ahead before the proving ground made some havoc in the final stages.
Connections were encouraged with the display and confirmed the eight-year-old will now be targeted on the Festival’s opening day handicap – for which he is top-priced 25/1 – before a tilt at the one of the various national championships later in the spring.
“We were really pleased with what was really his first start on the fences this season after losing his place in the Coral Gold Cup,” said Iain Turner, race director for the McNeill family.
“You could say it was only his second start of the season and also quite a while since his first at Wetherby in October.
“I think the pitch was just testing for him and I think the big disappointment is he was good to soft when we came in and if he had stayed there it would have been great. But we don’t Can’t help it – he did well in the race and if he hadn’t raced at Warwick where would we have gone?
“It was a pretty tough race for him, so he will need some time now to recover and freshen up, and we have our eye on more three-mile chases in the spring.”
He continued, “It’s okay, we’ll probably go straight to the Ultima. Max (McNeill) has been sponsoring the race for a few years and we’ve had good representation before with riders who ultimately didn’t bother the top four. But I hope this boy can participate in his race and his feature film.
“It was a great experience to race in a big peloton (at Warwick). The way Novice races are run in the UK, you really only race three and four riders through no fault of your own. He therefore now has a little more experience to his credit in this field and there are still very few kilometers left on the clock.
“I think it will probably be straight to Cheltenham and then after the Nationals or the Bet365 Gold Cup (Sandown, April 29).”
Although a decision on which English, Scottish or Irish Grand Nationals to stand is far from finalized, Relations are aware that a daring display at Cheltenham could provide them with a golden opportunity to travel to Aintree on April 15. with a well-disabled competitor. .
“I think my immediate reaction would be that Scotland would be more likely than Aintree,” Turner added.
“But given that the weights are set for Aintree before the Ultima, if he goes out and wins or finishes second or whatever in the Ultima, he becomes fine for the Grand National while the Scottish National would be reviewed.
“We would also consider Ireland because he has a 100 per cent right-handed record – although that doesn’t matter at all as he doesn’t jump hard one way or the other.
“I think Warwick is a pretty good test jumper and his jumps have been no problem twice there now – they’ve been almost two of his best performances I’d say.”
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