Santini must pass Cotswold test to make Gold Cup line-up

Santini, who finished second to Al Boum Photo in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, will have his blue riband credentials tested in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham later this month.

The 10-year-old won the Grade 2 Cotswold in 2020 under Nico de Boinville, when trained by Nicky Henderson.

That turned out to be his most recent success and, after being pulled up behind Minella Indo in the 2021 Gold Cup, owners Mr & Mrs Richard Kelvin-Hughes decided to give him a change of scenery. The son of Milan was switched to Polly Gundry's stable in Devon and made his debut for the yard when fourth to Commodore in a handicap chase at Cheltenham last month.

Despite weakening late on under pilot Harry Skelton that day, it was a satisfactory first run for his new stable and he could come on for it when tackling the Cotswold at Prestbury Park.

At present, he is out in the cold in the Cheltenham Gold Cup market, but a second success in the Festival trials day contest would change all that.

"We've entered him in the Gold Cup, but he will aim for the Cotswold Chase first and if he runs well there then we will go for the Gold Cup," said Gundry.

"We knew he was a bit short (of fitness) and he was going OK until Venetia Williams' horse (Commodore) quickened and we tried to go with it, but he has come on for that run.

"He was just a bit too burly last time but if we can get him leaner and if he gets a bit of luck in running, he could go well.

"There were a few other options but Richard (Kelvin-Hughes) wasn't keen on going back in a handicap and he has run some good races around Cheltenham, so we saw no reason why not to go back.

"It is a great honour to have him as he is the most gorgeous horse and is a real gentle giant. He has been very well looked after by Nicky Henderson."

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