GIFFORD CONSIDERING SPRING FESTIVAL OPTIONS FOR BELARGUS AFTER SANDOWN PARK SUCCESS By Graham Clark
The 2m5f Grade Three prize at Aintree on April 9th is one of a number of options the Findon handler is weighing up for the JP McManus-owned six year old who made it eighth time lucky over larger obstacles in the Elmbridge Handicap Chase under conditional Niall Houlihan.
Taking matters up late on in the two-mile contest, the 5-1 shot quickly put distance between himself and his rivals after the last before defeating Grey Diamond by nine lengths.
Gifford said: We have always loved this horse and he has been frustrating a few times. I think today was probably the first time he has got his jumping together. I think two miles is fine on this ground but I think on better ground you will be going up in trip. If he did not quite get in (at the Cheltenham Festival) it would not be the be all and end all. There are plenty of other nice races further down the line for this horse if he keeps improving. He will have entries at Cheltenham and if he didnt get in there is also the Silver Bowl at Kempton (the consolation race for horses that fail to get a run in a handicap chase at The Festival due to being balloted out) - thats an option. To run in the Topham, he would have to go up again but if he missed Cheltenham it is an option and that might just be a lovely race for him.
He is going to need to be high 130s to get in that. The race I would love to win with him is back here last day of the season (Josh Gifford Novices Handicap Chase).
I have been second in it and its a valuable race. The options are limitless.
Fergus Gillard made his 100th ride this season a winning one aboard the David Pipe trained Eamon An Cnoic, who ended his near two year spell in the doldrums when claiming the Greenwich Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle by 20 lengths.
Gillard, celebrating a first winner at the track, said: My horse travelled really well similar to Chepstow last time out. At the end he got a bit tired but at the same time he won nicely.
It is great to get his head in front today for all the connections as it has been a while since he has been in the winners enclosure.