Nicky Richards decided to swerve Saturday’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham with previous winner Guitar Pete in favour of a step up to three miles at Wetherby on Boxing Day.
The nine-year-old took the Cheltenham prize two years ago and was third in the contest last season.
He was expected to take his place again, but after disappointing in the BetVictor Gold Cup in November – when Richards feels he ‘bounced’ following a winning reappearance after almost a year off – he will be given a chance to prove his stamina in the Racingtv.com Rowland Meyrick Chase.
Adding to the disappointment for the Greystoke handler was the fact Guitar Pete had accounted for BetVictor winner Happy Diva at Wetherby before heading to Cheltenham.
“He’s perfectly fine, they just haven’t had enough rain for him down there – over that trip I think he needs it now,” said Richards.
“We’ve been tempted to put him up to three miles for a while now and Mr Sloan (owner) said he likes Wetherby, so why not give him his first shot at three miles in the Rowland Meyrick.
“I think he bounced in November. He was off for nearly a year. In the past we’ve given him a run on the Flat to get him fit for Wetherby, but this year we went straight there. We should have been near the winner (Happy Diva) after where they finished at Wetherby.
“It was too bad to be true, but he seems to be bouncing, so we’ll go again on Boxing Day, he runs like he’ll get three miles – normally anyway, I know he didn’t last time.”
Smart novice hurdler Ribble Valley will be out before then with a date booked in at Ascot on Friday.
“He goes to Ascot for the (Sky Bet Supreme Trial) Kennel Gate,” said Richards.
“He seems very well, everything has gone great all season and he’s learning with every run.
“I thought he was fairly impressive last time, beating two horses from down south who were pretty decent on the Flat.
“It was very pleasing the way he did it and and he deserves to step up in grade.”