Gary Moore has high-profile plans in place for both his BetVictor Gold Cup winner Baron Alco and big-race absentee Benatar.
Baron Alco led almost throughout under the trainer’s son Jamie on his way to a memorable two-length win in Saturday’s incident-packed feature race at Cheltenham.
The Moore stable was equally excited about the chances of Benatar in the run-up to the famous handicap, however, before ruling the six-year-old out at the last minute after an unsatisfactory blood analysis.
Moore confirmed there is unlikely to be a significant problem, and he hopes Benatar’s second run of the campaign will be delayed by only seven days – with Ascot’s Grade Two Christy 1965 Chase his amended target next weekend.
The Sussex trainer said: “He’s fine. If the ground is OK, he’ll run on Saturday – the two-mile-five (race) at Ascot.
“He won there first time out (last season), and the track suits him.”
That victory came on good ground and was the first in a novice chase hat-trick concluded back at the same course with a short-head success ahead of the ill-fated Finian’s Oscar.
Benatar completed his campaign with a fine third at the Cheltenham Festival – and Moore harbours hopes that he could be a Grade One prospect in open company.
He has made a speculative entry in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
Asked if that is a clue to his high opinion of Benatar, he said: “I think so. It is a bit of a wildcard, but we thought it was worth it.
“I think any horse that can put up the performances he did last year – those wins, then the run at Cheltenham where everything went wrong but he still finished third – has something about him.”
Benatar blotted his chase record with a defeat on his seasonal return in an intermediate race at Newton Abbot last month, when he repeated his habit of pulling too hard.
Moore admits that tendency remains a concern.
“That’s his trouble,” he said.
“If he was to settle, I think he would be a very good horse.”
There are no such caveats with Baron Alco, already like Benatar placed at a Cheltenham Festival and back this season after a suspensory injury to prove himself even better than ever.
In the short term, Baron Alco has booked himself another return to Prestbury Park next month for the Caspian Caviar December Gold Cup.
“That’s the plan – as definite as it can be with any horse,” said Moore, who is happy to keep the front-running Baron Alco to a similar distance but open to going further at some point.
“I think he could step up to three miles (one day),” he said.
“We’ll stick to two miles five for now, but there may be possibilities down the line if he shows us that’s the way to go.”