HARRY WHITTINGTON is praying Saint Calvados will march into Gold Cup contention this weekend.
The King George fourth is one of ten entries for Saturday’s Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
And his trainer hopes any lingering stamina doubts can be put to bed.
Whittington said: “I think for some, the jury is out at the moment whether he stays, but he jumps very well which is a big plus.
“I personally don’t think there’s any reason he won’t stay if he gets into his comfort zone.
He puts horses under pressure if he goes well and settles.
“The race is going to tell us lots. He’s got a lot of speed, and there are plenty of Gold Cup horses in the past who have that trait.
“We hope he runs well, but if he doesn’t stay then so be it and we can go for the Ryanair. If he goes well then it could be the Gold Cup.”
Saint Calvados was an agonising second to Min in last year’s Ryanair and returned with an eye-catching run in the King George at Kempton.
The bookies have him as a 9-2 chance for Saturday’s feature, with Santini and Bristol De Mai vying for favouritism at a general 2-1.
Whittington added: “He’s got a run under his belt now and he shaped extremely well at Kempton even if he was probably a bit fresh.
“He’s come out of it very well and we’re looking forward to running him and finding out more about the trip.
“He got tired late on at Kempton but he was always going to, he was over enthusiastic early and it was his first run.
“He loves it at Cheltenham and he’ll come alive back at that track.”
One-time Gold Cup hero Native River could also return, while Paul Nicholls has given a surprise entry to Taunton winner Yala Enki.
Nicholls said: “If it poured with rain on Thursday and Friday I would be kicking myself if I hadn’t put him in the race, though it is a tentative entry.
“He is hard to place off his mark of 161 and he has not got any kind of penalty in this race.
“Some of the others that are going to run in the Gold Cup might not want a slog at this stage round Cheltenham so it could cut up.”
Meanwhile Whittington also had updates on stable stars Rouge Vif and Simply The Betts.
The Lambour handler said: “Rouge Vif is waiting for the spring. His last run was a bit close to the Tingle Creek and ran a little flat in conditions that didn’t suit him.
“We’ll have him ready for the Champion Chase but if it’s too soft then we”l wait and there’s the likes of Aintree and Sandown.
“Simply The Betts is in good form at home. He’ll have an entry in the Denman at Newbury but we’re still deciding what to do.
“He’s in the Champion Chase, Ryanair and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham so we’ll take a view.”
FREE BETS GET OVER £2,000 IN SIGN UP OFFERS HERE
Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to SE. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org
Remember to gamble responsibly
A responsible gambler is someone who:
- Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
- Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
- Never chase their losses
- Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
- Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
- Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org