Nigel Hawke is confident his Cheltenham Festival contender Repetitio “ticks all the boxes” for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
It is part of Hawke’s long-term plan that his course winner has had a mid-winter break since prevailing against his elders – including top handicap yardstick Oakley – in December.
Already successful in his own age group last summer, Repetitio will not lack for experience – with seven hurdles runs under his belt – and he appears sure to make the cut and carry a favourable weight on Wednesday.
He also has an entry in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, having outrun odds of 33-1 to finish third to Allmankind – one of the market leaders for that Grade One – on a previous visit to Cheltenham in November.
But Hawke said: “At the moment, all being well, he will definitely run in the juvenile handicap.
“It was always the plan (to have a break). He’s done his running – we won last time out at Cheltenham, we were then on a nice mark of 130, and basically thought we’ll just sit on him for this one particular race.
“It’s been the plan since December to go straight to this race.”
Hawke is highly encouraged by the four-year-old’s evident improvement through the autumn.
“You look at his form, and it’s absolutely solid- very, very good form,” said the Devon trainer.
“He’s improving all the time. He chased home the favourite for the Triumph the time before, when he was too keen. We’ve put a hood on him, and he’s improved for that.
“He ticks all the boxes at the present moment – and that’s the simple reason why we sat on him.”
Repetitio, who ran four times on the Flat in Ireland without success for Jim Bolger, has been a revelation since going jumping for his new yard.
“I think he’s very much up to it,” said Hawke, who has played the percentage game that his juvenile’s rating would be high enough to make the Cheltenham field.
He added: “It is taking a risk. But over the last few years, horses off 130 have nearly always got a run in that race.
“With a mark of 130, we didn’t want to expose it – if he’d gone and won again next time out, we’d be up to high 130s or 140s. Then you’re putting some weight on the horse.
“January and February are always wet months, and this year there have been a lot of juveniles that have had a hard couple of races in the last couple of months.
“We’ve done our racing for the spring in the autumn – taught him a job.”
Repetitio has proved adaptable to contrasting conditions, so Hawke is not spending too much time scanning next week’s weather forecast.
“It was always a set plan – we teach these horses a job through the summer and the autumn,” he said.
“He won on soft ground. He might be an even better horse on better ground – either way, I don’t think it’s an issue for him in any way at all.
“You’ve only got to look at his form, and it’s very good. Even when he won last time at Cheltenham, the second and third have certainly franked the form, you couldn’t knock it too much at all.”
Before the Repetitio project is completed, Hawke has another one in hand this weekend, when Alminar heads to Warwick for a feature handicap on Sunday.
The improving chaser was all set for last month’s Eider Chase at Newcastle, until a series of storms made the ground there unraceable – and he therefore reverts to “Plan A”.
“It’s a shame Newcastle was called off, because the way that race was working out looked absolutely ideal for him,” said Hawke.
“But this was originally Plan A – it was only when the Eider Chase started cutting up a bit that we looked at it.
“The three-mile-five round Warwick will be the ideal race for him.
“It was annoying about the Eider Chase, but at the end of the day, he is only a seven-year-old.”
Hawke, a former Grand National-winning jockey and trainer of Tiger Roll in that Aintree great’s earliest racing days, hopes he has another stayer of significant potential on his hands in Alminar.
“I wouldn’t want to go to the well too quick,” he said.
“I’d rather wait 12 months and have a look at those races next season.
“Everywhere you go now it’s ‘National this and National that’ – but he’s that type of horse for those races.
“There’s a nice one in him somewhere, in time, that’s for sure.”