Multiple Grade One winning trainer Venetia Williams is enjoying her best season for many years and heads to the Cheltenham Festival with a good team of horses as she bids to end a nine-year wait for a winner at the famous meeting.
Williams has already surpassed the £1m mark in prize money, the first time she has achieved that feat since 2014, helped by big-race wins already from L’Homme Presse, Royale Pagaille and Funambule Sivola.
All three head to the Festival this month, with L’Homme Presse a leading contender for either the Turners or Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, with Williams yet to make a final decision between the two.
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“He was in the Ryanair last year and I think it was a bridge too far for him at that point but he’s a better horse and better equipped to be competitive this year.
“It’s going to be fiercely competitive but he deserves to take his chance.”
Brown Advisory/Turners Novices’ Chase
“It will be a late decision based on the weather and what ground we get.
“The Turners is actually a little bit shorter than the Dipper that he won and he certainly wasn’t getting tired at the end of that.
“Having a step back in trip, however small, when going up in class might not be the thing to do.
“If we got plenty of rain and it’s properly soft then that is probably the answer but if it’s not soft then we’re better stepping up in trip.”
Image: L’Homme Presse runs out an easy winner of a Graduation Chase at Ascot
Grand Annual Handicap Chase
“He won one of those lovely races that ARC put on at Lingfield [Winter Million weekend] and this is the obvious next step for him.”
“It’s a big ask but at the end of the day he is not a big horse and carrying top weight in the Grand Annual is probably not a sensible move.
“I think he deserves to take his chance and, who knows, it depends which side of the bed they all get out on. We’ll be in the shake-up and see what happens.
“He’s run at Cheltenham before but over two-and-a-half [miles] and he made it quite clear that that was too far for him.”
Image: Funambule Sivola (left) and Charlie Deutsch see off the threat of Before Midnight at Doncaster
Grand Annual Handicap Chase/Arkle Novices’ Chase
“He could go in the Arkle but we haven’t made a final decision yet.
“He’s done really well this season. He came up short behind Edwardstone but Cheltenham is a unique course and it might play more to his strengths.”
Image: Brave Seasca wins well at Warwick in January, beating last year’s Grand Annual winner Sky Pirate
“He won the Peter Marsh for the second year running and had more weight to give away this time and more of a battle.
“I was very pleased with his second at Newbury in the Denman Chase when the ground probably wasn’t best suited to him. It ended up being a real speed test and I was pleased with what he did.
“It’s a fierce contest but it’s nice to have something to have a shot at it.”