Paul Nicholls believes Enrilo is “ready to run for his life” as returns to Sandown for another crack at the bet365 Gold Cup.
The eight-year-old was first past the post in 2021 only to be demoted after the stewards judged he had impeded Kitty’s Light in the finish. Enrilo was moved to third place, with second across the line Potterman promoted to the win and Kitty’s Light placed second.
All three will clash again in the last big jumps event of the British season, with Nicholls having had the race in mind ever since and he has campaigned Enrilo all year with the goal of returning to Sandown.
“He won the race last year, he’s been trained with this race in mind all year,” he said.
“He schooled on Thursday morning and I was really pleased with him, he looked really sharp. He’s ready to run for his life.”
Alan King has also had the meeting pencilled in for Potterman all term and the nine-year-old comes into the race having won a three-mile-two-furlong handicap chase at Kelso last time out.
“This has been the plan for Potterman all season really,” he said.
“He was awarded the race somewhat fortuitously last season but I was very, very pleased with his comeback at Kelso.
“He’s only 2lb higher than he was last year and I should hope he’ll run very well.”
King has another entrant in the shape of Fidux, last seen finishing fourth behind Win My Wings in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr earlier in April.
“I’ve always thought the handicapper has got a hold of him a bit, but it was a terrific run in Scotland and we were very pleased with that,” he said.
“He seems OK, even though he had a tough race at Ayr, but he’ll have a break after this, so we’ll see how we go.”
Christian Williams’ Kitty’s Light will take on his two adversaries from last season alongside a pair of stablemates in Win My Wings and Cap Du Nord.
Win My Wings was a seven-length winner of the Scottish Grand National on April 2, beating Kitty’s Light in the process, while Cap Du Nord beat the same horse in the Grade Three Coral Trophy in February.
“I think Ayr may have suited the mare (Win My Wings) better than him (Kitty’s Light),” Williams said.
“The Scottish National might have been Kitty’s Light’s cup final as we thought it might cut up a bit, coming before the Grand National this year. We thought it was a good target.
“The plan for Win My Wings was the Eider Chase – and Kitty’s Light was the Scottish National – but she was in such good form that we felt we should take our chance with her in that too. Nobody could have imagined they’d do that and I thought I was seeing things! You could pick her out as the winner at Ayr with a circuit to go.
“She’s gone up 14lb and I think it’s sporting of the owner (Sue Howell) to run her. She’s only a small mare, so to carry 11st 12lb at Sandown is a big ask, so all credit must go to the owners to carry on.
“Win My Wings’ owners have been great, it’s taken them four years for her to do what she did. We could have run her in a staying chase last year but she probably wasn’t ready for them. The first time we stepped her up was at Cheltenham last year and then she proved that day what we thought she could do.
“I think she just comes right at this time of year and Kitty’s Light is similar.
“Cap Du Nord wasn’t beaten far in the race last year (fifth) and maybe he was disappointing when being pulled up at Aintree, but he did the same at Kelso last year before running well in the bet365.”
Sean Curran’s Domaine De L’Isle was last seen running in the Grand National at Aintree, where he unseated Harry Bannister at the 15th obstacle.
Lee Power, co-owner of the horse, said: “You have to have a go at the National if you have a horse good enough and while it was only on the first circuit when he unseated, I felt he was going very well.
“Sean (Curran) is a little concerned about the quicker ground, but if he runs, we are hopeful he runs a nice race.”
David Pipe has two chances in Via Dolorosa and El Paso Wood, both of whom are owned by Judith Wilson and are at the end of their first British seasons having previously been campaigned in France.
“They have been busy this season.” Pipe said.
“El Paso Wood will like the better ground and he didn’t quite get the trip in the Midlands Grand National (fourth), he ran a decent race, though.
“Via Dolorosa won’t mind the trip or the track and is at the right end of the weights.
“He would probably prefer it a bit softer, but El Paso Wood will be fine on the ground.”
Dan Skelton is represented by Flegmatik, who will take a step up in trip for the contest if connections consider the ground to be suitable on the day of the meeting.
“We’re really happy with him, it’s a big step up in trip, but we won’t take too many chances with the ground,” the trainer said.
“If Harry (Skelton) rides round there before and thinks it’s too lively, we might not run, but at this stage we’re travelling down with the intention to run.”