I K Brunel has Alan Hill dreaming of a Cheltenham-Aintree Hunter Chase double after success at Larkhill and Taunton… despite lost opportunities at abandoned meetings
- The nine-year-old was taken over by Hill last spring from trainer Olly Murphy
- Hill will look to avoid ‘really heavy ground’ but is positive about his prospects
- Trainer sees opportunity to race Cheltenham and Aintree as too good to miss
Alan Hill will have his sights on a Cheltenham-Aintree Hunter Chase double for I K Brunel after the nine-year-old won both starts under the trainer.
Hill took on the horse, who was bred by Zara Tindall, last spring from Olly Murphy, who trained him to three victories.
But he won his first start for his new trainer at Larkhill in November, beating Grageelagh Girl by two and three-quarter lengths by jockey Izzie Marshall.
Marshall rode him against Taunton in late February, after extreme weather cancelled a number of meetings that Hill had intended for the gelding.
The break proved no hindrance, with I K Brunel putting in another well-burnished performance, beating Not That Fuisse by an unfussy five and a half lengths.
Success has gained him qualification for both the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase in Cheltenham, and the Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase at Aintree, with Hill eyeing a run at both due to the near-month between the two races.
I K Brunel thrilled at Taunton after shaking off his rivals to finish five and a half lengths clear
Paddy Power has I K Brunel as a 20/1 shot for the race at Cheltenham, scheduled for the final day of the festival on March 17.
Hill remained sanguine about his prospects, despite not having had the preparation that the trainer had planned for.
‘He came out of his race very well, he’s a horse we feel might need a bit of freshening up,’ said the Oxfordshire-based trainer.
‘Since he’s had his run he’s come back, been in nice steady work and he’s going to do a couple of bit of work this week. If we do go to Cheltenham, that will hopefully put us right for that.
ST JAMES’S PLACE FESTIVAL HUNTERS CHASE
Vaucelet 2/1 fav
Ferns Lock 4/1
Winged Leader 9/2
Famous Clermont 5/1
Chris’s Dream 7/1
I K Brunel 20/1
Odds via Paddy Power
‘We were very pleased, we took him to the point-to-point before Christmas and it went very well. We then decided that we wouldn’t rush to run him quickly but then through the unfortunate weather we missed a couple of opportunities.
‘We were hoping to run a little bit quicker than we did, we were hoping to aim to get a run in at the end of January or the beginning of February, but with Ludlow off and Fakenham off we lost our opportunities.’
Hill felt that Taunton was ‘a little bit of a stronger contest’ than initially expected compared to the two abandoned meetings, but stressed that there were ‘a lot of positives’ from his win.
‘Our main criteria at that point was that we were desperately trying to get him qualified for Aintree, so that also helped and around a nice, fast course we could have a look at his speed and his stamina. We were very pleasantly surprised with how well he ran and won.’
He added: ‘The bottom line at the moment is that our main avoidance would be if it came up really heavy ground, I don’t think we would rush to run him on that.
‘That’s something that we’re taking into consideration with Cheltenham and it would be to his liking at the minute, I know he’s a Midnight Legend but I just feel he’s too nice a moving horse to see the best of him on heavy. When Olly [Murphy] had him he said he always found he was a better horse for running on nice ground.
‘At the moment we’re going to confirm for Cheltenham on both a weather watch and to see what else is in it. We’re very much more thinking that we could go to Cheltenham and we could also go to Aintree because it’s the one year, which comes up about every four or five years, where there’s a month between the races.
‘Normally it’s the three weeks so that’s another string to our bow and I’m sure a lot of the other horses going to Cheltenham will be thinking that as well.’
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