Tom George reports God’s Own is as enthusiastic as ever at the age of 11, as he bids to win Exeter’s Coral Haldon Gold Cup for the third time.
Only Travado has achieved the feat previously – in consecutive years (1993-95) – while the two victories by God’s Own were wide apart, 2014 and 2018, with a third place in 2015 thrown in for good measure.
“Let’s hope he’s the same as he was last year,” said Slad-based George, looking forward to his yard favourite’s high-profile seasonal return on Tuesday.
“One thing he’s always got is tremendous enthusiasm for the job, His heart’s in it – let’s hope his body can do what his heart wants him to.
“He’s no different to what he’s ever been, so let’s just hope he can do it again at the races.”
Charbel warms up for his bid to repeat last year’s win in next month’s Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon – where he got home by eight lengths from God’s Own.
Trainer Kim Bailey reports his stable stalwart to be refreshed following a wind operation.
“We’re very happy with him. He needed his races last year, so this is a start,” said Bailey.
“He should go well now he’s had his wind fixed – his season is all geared around the Peterborough.”
French import Janika had a frustrating first season for Nicky Henderson, running well four times without getting his head in front.
He was placed at both Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring, and connections believe this is a good race for him to start the campaign.
Daryl Jacob, retained rider for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: “He is a lovely horse.
“He crept up so much in the handicap last year without getting his head in front. We kind of need to know where we are with him this year, and it is a good starting point.
“The trip is probably a little bit short for him. But if the ground is soft enough it will be ideal – then and we can make more plans after that.
“Three times last season, he bumped into a well-handicapped horse – but he has given it his all and he is very tough and brave. His toughness just cost him a bit in the handicap towards the end of the year.”
Trainer Paul Nicholls put Dolos away specifically for this contest, after he won at Kempton in May.
“We’ve trained him for this race since his win at Kempton,” said Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham.
“He seems really well, and I don’t think it is the deepest renewal of the race.
“He seems fit, and we are hopeful of a very good run. He is a difficult horse to place in the sense that he is in the middle of the 150s, so you either run in Graded races or handicaps.
“He is a six-year-old, and we hope he is improving – if he has he will be right in there. He is a progressive horse. He won at Sandown in the soft, and put up some good performances off top weight.
“Two miles one round Exeter should suit him well. There are a few nice horse in the race against him, but none you would say are a champion. He is a rock-solid horse, and we are expecting a good run.”
Dan Skelton sends Destrier into the fray for what will be only the six-year-old’s fourth start over fences.
After winning the first two at Southwell and Ayr, Destrier put up a highly-creditable display on tackling Grade One company when beaten three lengths in third place by Ornua in the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.
This will be his first race since then, but Skelton has long had the early-season target in his sights.
“We’ve had the race in mind for him since he came back in,” said the Alcester trainer.
“It’s always a very competitive race, so no surprise it is again this year.
“The ground is ideal, and he’s ready to get going.”
Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor, well behind Destrier in sixth place at Aintree, completes the sextet.