Santini not certain to line up in Cotswold chase

Horse Racing

Ground poser for Nicky Henderson with Gold Cup runner-up.

Last season’s Gold Cup runner-up Santini is only “50-50” to run in the Paddy Power-sponsored Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson is not keen to run the nine-year-old, who was second to Al Boum Photo in March, on very testing ground so close to his main assignment.

He will hold discussions with owner Richard Kelvin-Hughes and a decision will be taken over whether he heads straight to the Festival or not.

“I need to talk to Richard Kelvin-Hughes to be fair,” Henderson told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

“I would be nervous about him in heavy ground because he doesn’t like it. These races are more about – it is called Trials Day – it is a trial. If he’s going to hate it it will do more harm than good.

“We’re just juggling balls and I’ve got to say it’s 50-50. If it was heavy ground, I’ve got to discuss with Richard, but I would say to him it’s not going to be ideal and he’s a horse you have to keep shovelling on the coal, so if he’s not having a happy time it’s not what he wants at this stage.

“You could bash on (to the spring). There are ways of doing it these days, there are various racecourses and all-weather tracks. The only problem with him is he loves work.

“We might have to think of something else, but the ground is heavy everywhere and it’s not going to be any better next week or the week after, I suspect. It is a nightmare at the moment.”

Henderson could have waited for Newbury’s Denman Chase, but he already has a runner pencilled in for that who has not been seen this season.

“Champ is definitely going for the Denman at Newbury, that is a definite plan,” said Henderson.

“He’s had a big away day where he jumped very well. He needed it, and it was our attempt to have a sort of race before the Denman so it won’t take so much out of him come the day. He’s in good form.

Shishkin is heading to Doncaster
Shishkin is heading to Doncaster (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We haven’t got as far as who will ride him.”

Adding another complication to the Santini situation is the fact red-hot Arkle favourite Shishkin is due to run at Doncaster on Saturday, leaving Nico de Boinville with a potential dilemma.

“Nico and I think the one thing we must do is run Shishkin at Doncaster. Whether Nico will be at Doncaster, I suppose we have to decide what Santini does,” added Henderson.

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